Planning a US Road Trip: The Southern Route from Cali to Florida

A Warm, Sunny Road Trip Along US I-10

If you love warmth and sunshine, this is the perfect US road trip for you where you’ll get to see 8 different states.

i-10 mobileSome of the most unique areas of the country are all easily accessible from I-10, a highway that begins in Los Angeles and ends in Jacksonville, Florida. Use I-10 as your launching pad for several smaller side trips like the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park, Big Bend National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, and the entire state of Florida.

What Can You Expect to See on a Southern Road Trip?

Sites from California to Florida Along I-10

Along this route, you will pass through the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. In California, you’ll pass through the metropolis of Los Angeles, and enter the arid desert region of Coachella Valley. Next, you’ll enter the even drier and remote areas of Arizona and New Mexico and into western Texas.

A long stretch on I-10 through Texas will bring you to the eastern side of Texas, as the humidity increases. Next is Lousiana’s southern side, as well as a look at Missippi and Alabama’s brief coastline. Finally, you’ll reach the sun-filled Florida panhandle and Jacksonville.

Going the Road Less Traveled

What lies ahead…  off the exit ramps?

Inserting side destinations off I-10 will make or break your trip. It’s essential that you plan some fun things to do off of this main route! Think of I-10 merely as a roadway that you get back on between the really cool stuff, like the national parks, weird towns like Roswell, or the beautiful panhandle coastal cities. Plan as many destinations off I-10 as time will allow, like the Grand Canyon, a trip to Austin, Texas, a paddleboat tour of the Mississippi, or a jaunt over to historic Savannah, Georgia.

Los Angeles

A cultural centerpiece of the West Coast

There aren’t many areas of the world where you’ll encounter such a diverse culture as Los Angeles (okay, maybe New York). The best of everything can be found right in the city limits of LA, from restaurants to zoos, skyscrapers to mountains, busy roadways to tranquil parks.

Los Angeles skyline and San Gabriel mountains
Los Angeles skyline and San Gabriel mountains, picture by Navid Serrano

On the northern side of LA are several famous beach communities, like Venice Beach, Santa Monica, and Malibu, while on the southern side lies Long Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach.

What’s Cool: A unique culture all its own, LA is made of many smaller cities that each have their own personality. Beach towns like Huntington Beach and Long Beach differ greatly from the inland parts like Hollywood and Beverly Hills, or nearby Anaheim.

How About Yosemite?

What’re 4 1/2 hours? That’s how long it will take to drive to Yosemite National Park from Los Angels, CA. You won’t be disappointed.

Yosemite National Park

The Crown Jewel of the Sierra Nevada There is over 3.5 million visitors yearly that come to take in the awe-inspiring panorama of Yosemite National Park. The California National Park of the High Sierras is one of the best places to camp, kayak, sig…

Yosemite National Park

Where to Stay In and Near Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is one of America’s premier National Parks, known for its majestic granite cliffs like Half Dome, the rushing Merced River, and the stunning valley view. Yosemite is relatively far from any major city, the closest being Fresno….

Not too Far Away: San Diego

Beachside paradise in Southern California

121 miles separate the two large California cities of San Diego and Los Angeles, and an easy drive south along I-5. This drive will take approximately 2-3 hours, depending on traffic. The drive down has many places to stop and enjoy the scenery, from the amazing mansions and seaside bliss of Newport Beach, the town MTV made famous, Laguna Beach, and the endless beaches of Oceanside (the half-way point between LA and San Diego).

San Diego has many attractions to keep you occupied. On the northern side is “Old Town” San Diego, with the early settlers’ influence still ingrained in the community. Also on the northern side is La Jolla, a beautiful shorefront community with small shops and restaurants. Further south, you’ll find Sea World and the best zoo in the United States, the San Diego Zoo. Most everything can be accessed by a short walk. To the west of San Diego lies Coronado Beach, connected via the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge. Directly to the south lies Tijuana, Mexico, only a 20-minute drive and a surely unforgettable experience.

What’s Cool: San Diego Zoo is not to be missed, it’s one of the best in the world. San Diego is renowned for its excellent beaches, so take advantage. San Diego has a much different feel than LA, a more laid back approach. You’ll never be more than 5 miles from the ocean no matter where in the city you are, so the ocean is a huge part of the culture and lifestyle.

Headed to California?

Read this California road trip post!

California Coast Road Trip: California has some of the most famous, scenic, and fun places to visit in the USA. The proximity of the destinations in California makes sense for a road trip getaway across the state…but don’t let the number of destinations fool you! It’s still the…

Arizona

Desert serenity in the Grand Canyon state

Don’t let the dry climate and openness of Arizona fool you–there’s plenty here to see. Along I-10, you’ll pass through the largest city in Arizona, Phoenix. Temperatures here regularly pass 100 daily on summer days, so be prepared! Further to the east, you’ll pass Tucson and Saguaro National Park, which is divided into two separate sections.

Route 66 Arizona

What’s Cool: Amazing towns like Sedona, relatively new desert cities like Phoenix and Tucson, National Parks like Saguaro and Grand Canyon, ghost towns like Tombstone, border towns like Nogales and Yuma, and amazing mountain scenery everywhere in the state!

An Essential Side Trip: The Grand Canyon

Make this stop one of your southern road trip destinations!

What road trip through Arizona would be complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon? The Grand Canyon is one of the “7 natural wonders of the world,” and if you see it in person (not from a plane), you’ll understand why.

Sightseeing Grand Canyon

A Fun Side Trip: Sedona

Secluded beauty in the red rock canyons of Arizona

115 miles to the north of Phoenix and 120 miles to the south of the Grand Canyon lies a town in the middle of scenic Red Rock Country called Sedona. Red rock formations tower into the air, surrounding the open, upscale desert community. Road trip lovers take note: Oak Creek Canyon, a designated “scenic highway,” is one of the most breathtaking rides in the state, if not the country, and well worth the drive.

Sedona is home to a large, impressive art community, as well as some of the state’s well-known spas and state parks.

What’s Cool: An art community all its own, beautiful rock buttes, parks, and the alleged “energy vortex” that lies within the boundaries of the red rock area.

New Mexico

Much to see off the small stretch of Interstate

Only a small portion of New Mexico is on Interstate 10, however, to the north are several natural wonders like White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns, and unique modern cities like Albuquerque. Heavy Hispanic and Native American influence are felt statewide, with a cool style all its own.

New Mexico Visitors Guide

What’s Cool: Santa Fe defines the southwest. When you think of the southwest, you think Santa Fe. The unique desert experience of the city is unparalleled, with a great art community, Spanish reminiscent architecture, top-notch dining, and excellent hiking.

Southwestern USA

A guide to help you see EVERYTHING in this massive region of the United States

America’s Southwest includes the states of Arizona, New Mexico, southwestern Colorado, southern Utah, and the city of Las Vegas, Nevada. This varied landscape has been shaped by erosion, water, volcanic eruption, and plate shift. Hidden canyons, grasslands teeming with unique wildlife, towering buttes, and rolling mountainscapes comprise this arid region. Cities, hiking, hotels, native food, driving, parks, architecture, casinos, and culture are all thoroughly analyzed in this essential, well-received guide.

The Grand Circle

America’s Southwestern States

These destinations of the famed southwestern states, the Grand Circle, lie far off the Interstate, and really deserve their own separate vacation to be fully appreciated. If you have the time to kill, you can plan an excellent trip to these destinations in around 7-10 days. A nice add on to your current road trip route.

grand circle road trip

Texas

Big cities, long highways, and a one of a kind section of U.S. culture

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the long stretch of roadway between El Paso and Houston–over 900 highway exits and nearly 900 miles…that’s comparable to driving the distance from Providence, Rhode Island to Charleston, South Carolina!

Upon entering Texas and the El Paso area, the mountainous region will provide some stellar views of the Chihuahuan Desert. This course, the jagged countryside will soon become more populated upon venturing closer to the epicenter of Texas, San Antonio. This large city of 1.3 million acts as an unofficial divider between the eastern and western parts of the state.

Texas Hill Country
Texas Hill Country Visitors Guide

On the eastern side of the state, the air becomes gradually more humid as you approach the Gulf area of Houston, America’s 4th largest city.

What’s Cool: Large cities like Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, San Antonio and Houston each have plenty of different things to do, and each has a mind of their own, While all of these cities have a Texas feel, they all have their own niche…like Austin’s music scene, or Dallas’ amusements like Sea World, or Houston’s Space Center.

The Oldest Southwest Mission is the spectacular San Xavier del Bac Mission in Arizona. Adobe brick towers into the open desert sky in this Spanish architectural gem. Amazing patios, domes, altars, chapels, towers, painted ceilings, stonework, and native cacti make this a fun trip just 10 miles south of Tucson on I-19.

San Antonio

Do you remember the Alamo?

At the midway point on I-10 between Florida and California (and the midway point of Texas) lies the 2nd largest city in the state, San Antonio. San Antonio’s historic Alamo was the

The oak-lined sub-city level River Walk is an important segment of San Antonio’s tourism and attractions. Here the San Antonio River winds underneath the city, with towering palm trees and oak trees lining the paved banks. Complete with pedestrian walking, fine restaurants, and fun, lively bars, the River Walk is one of the must-sees of San Antonio.

Free Things to do in San Antonio

If you’re looking for fun in the form of amusement parks, San Antonio also has its own Sea World, as well as Six Flags Fiesta Texas. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park preserves some of the 17th-century Spanish missions of the city, while the nearby San Antonio Botanical Garden displays beautiful plants and gardens.

Louisiana

Crossroads of culture in the deep South

Lousiana is a crossroads of cultures, and you can see it in its cities and towns. Varying from built-up cities to sprawling plantations and swamps, the state knows variety. It’s also one of the warmest states in the country. The humidity makes it feel even hotter…it’s about as “deep south” as you can get!

Louisiana Visitors Guide

What’ s Cool: The home of Cajun culture, this state has a blend of many influences around the globe. There’s Native American influence, old French ancestry, Creole and Southern charm, it’s unlike anywhere else in the country! Take a look at the architecture, and stop by a restaurant for some authentic Cajun cuisine for the complete experience.

Mississippi

Beautiful coastline in Mississippi

It’s hard to talk about the Mississippi Coast without talking about the devastation of Hurrican Katrina. The coast is beginning to rebuild, but if you’re on I-10, stop by! The areas of Gulport and Biloxi and other small towns need your business and support. New buildings and casinos have emerged from the rubble and provide excellent views of the Gulf Coast’s amazing beaches.

Mississippi Visitors Guide

What’s Cool: Beautiful coastline and the famed Mississippi River are what the state is known for. Try taking a river tour, or explore the roads along the Mississippi.

Alabama

The short but sweet Alabama coast!

What’s Cool: Alabama’s coastline may look short, but it has many inlets and bays, enlarging the overall distance of shoreline. Lighthouses dot the bays leading to Mobile, making a great scenic opportunity.

Florida

Sunshine, beaches, warmth and southern charm on the Panhandle

Florida has hundreds of destinations on the coast as well as inland Orlando, but some of the best beaches lie on the panhandle. Lesser crowds, pure white sands, and southern flavor are abounding on the shores of the Florida panhandle.

Venice Florida Golf courses

What’s Cool: Try visiting one of the many coastal panhandle towns, like Pensacola, Tallahassee, or Panama City for some of the best beaches for miles.

A Fun Side Trip: Georgia & South Carolina

Travel the beautiful beaches and historical towns

South Carolina and Georgia have some of the most spectacular coastlines in the country, with unspoiled beaches like Tybee Island and Hilton Head Island, and historic cities like Charleston or Savannah. Further north, the beachside town of Myrtle Beach is a favorite for those looking for a fun and relaxing atmosphere in the south.

Tybee Island travel guide
Tybee Island travel guide

A Fun Side Trip: Key West

Florida’s near tropical island destination!

About a 9-hour drive south of Jacksonville is the string of islands known as the Florida Keys, and the final island of Key West. Just 90 miles from Cuba, this tropical destination is connected via bridges to the mainland of Florida. A trip over these bridges will last a lifetime…give it four hours from start to finish.

cheap honeymoon spots - key west

What’s Cool: A Caribbean-like atmosphere in the southernmost area of the United States, all without leaving the country! Guaranteed warm weather, year-round.

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