Day 1: From SLC to Denver

Stop 1: Salt Lake City, UT

When we arrived to SLC on Friday’s evening we took a train ($2.5) to the downtown area where our hotel was. Our plan was to drink some local beer on Friday night and then pick up a car on Saturday morning. Rental offices work until 12pm on weekends so we rushed to get a car first thing in the morning. Probably because that rental location is not very busy, instead of a standard car we got this:

Idaho

Somewhere in Idaho

Then to save some money during our trip we went to Costco to build a stock of food for sandwiches, snacks and water. It was a great thing to do and we always had some quick snacks when we had to drive the whole day and there was nothing around.

Finally, we visited Utah State Capitol and Temple Square and then drove to Jackson, WY.

Salt Lake City Utah State Capitol

Utah State Capitol

Salt Lake City Temple Square

Salt Lake City Temple Square

Salt Lake City Temple Square

We can be wedding photographers too ūüôā

Stop 2: Idaho Falls, ID

We made a very quick stop here to rest from driving and take a short walk along the river.

Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls

In general, I was nicely surprised with the views of Idaho. Everything around looks very green and well maintained. As an example, some of the views on our way:

Idaho

Idaho

Idaho

Idaho

Stop 3: somewhere in Wyoming

When we reached Wyoming, we were surprised by the weather. We thought that we packed for the wrong season ūüôā

Wyoming

Wyoming

Wyoming

Wyoming

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Day 2

9 States and 6 National Parks in 10 Days: Yellowstone, Glacier, Badlands and Much More

Flight: Orange County,¬†SNA¬†‚Äď> Salt Lake City; Denver, DEN ‚Äď> Orange County, SNA
SLC to DenverDuration
: 10 days
Mileage: ~3200
Starting point: Salt Lake City, UT
States: UT, ID, WY, MT, ND, SD, NE, KS, CO
Budget for 2 people: $1953 ($22.5* flight,  $500 car rental, $700 hotels, $300 gas, $330 food, $100 other)
Map

  • Day 0:¬†flight from Orange County, SNA to Salt Lake City, SLC; night walk in the downtown
  • Day 1: explore Salt Lake City, UT;¬†drive to Jackson, WY via Idaho Falls, ID¬†(300 mi, 5 h)
  • Day 2: explore Grand Teton National Park and¬†Yellowstone National Park; stay in Jackson, WY
  • Day 3: continue exploring Yellowstone; drive to Hungry Horse, MT (550 mi, 10 h)

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3 Days Trip to Albuquerque and Sedona

Duration: 3 days Albuquerque Old Town
Mileage: ~1600
Starting point: Irvine, CA
States: AZ, NM
Budget for 6 people: $834 ($184 hotel, $250 gas, $350 food, $50 other)

  • Day 0: drive from Irvine, CA to Phoenix, AZ¬†(360 mi, 6 h)
  • Day 1:¬†drive from Phoenix, AZ to Albuquerque, NM (430 mi, 7 h)
  • Day 2: explore Albuquerque, NM; drive to Sedona, AZ (360 mi, 6 h)
  • Day 3:¬†explore Sedona, AZ; drive home to Irvine, CA (470 mi, 7.5 h)

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New York, Boston, Washington DC and Philadelphia in 14 Days

Flight: Orange County,¬†SNA¬†‚Äď> New York, EWR¬†‚Äď> Orange County, SNA
Duration: 14 days
Mileage: 0, used buses and public transportation MIT
Starting point: Irvine, CA
States: NY, NJ, PA, MA, Washington DC
Budget for 2 people: $3000 ($1316 flight, $176 buses; $275 hotel, $1000 food, $230 other)

  • Days 0-4, 7, 11-14:¬†New York
  • Days 5-6: Boston
  • Days 8-9: Philadelphia
  • Day 10: Washington DC

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3 Days in Yosemite, CA

Yosemite Nevada FallDuration: 3 days
Mileage: ~800
Starting point: Irvine, CA
States: CA
Budget for 6 people: $2100 ($1300 chalet rental, $250 gas, $400 food, $150 other)

  • Day 0: drive from Irvine, CA to Yosemite, CA¬†(350 mi, 7¬†h)
  • Day 1: explore Yosemite Valley, Lower Yosemite Fall, Mirror Lake
  • Day 2:¬†do all day Panorama Trail hike
  • Day 3: visit Mariposa grove with giant sequoia trees; drive home (350 mi, 7 h)

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2 Days in Death Valley, CA

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley, CaliforniaDuration: 2.5 days
Mileage: ~1000
Starting point: Irvine, CA
States: CA
Budget for 2 people: $440 ($160 hotel, $130 gas, $100 food, $50 other)

  • Day 0: drive from Irvine, CA to Lone Pine, CA¬†(250 mi, 4¬†h)
  • Day 1: Stovepipe Wells Area:¬†Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (80 mi, 1.5 h);¬†Scotty’s Castle Area:¬†Scotty’s Castle (40 mi, 1 h), ¬†Ubehebe Crater (9 mi, 25 min); back to Lone Pine, CA (130 mi, 2.5 h)
  • Day 2: Furnace Creek Area: Salt Flats (115 mi, 2.2 h), Artist’s Drive (10 mi, 30 min), Zabriskie Point (12 mi, 20 min), Dante’s View¬†¬†(20 mi, 40 min); drive back to Irvine, CA (290 mi, 5 h)

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5 Day Trip to Seattle and Olympic National Park

Flight: Orange County,¬†SNA¬†‚Äď> Seattle, SEA¬†‚Äď> Orange County, SNA
Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Forest, WashingtonDuration: 5 days
Mileage: ~500
Starting point: Irvine, CA
States: WA
Budget for 2 people: $1530 ($613 flight, $57 car; $330 hotel, $80 gas, $250 food, $200 other)

  • Day 0: late flight from the Orange County, SNA to Seattle, SEA;¬†sleep close to the airport to pick up a rental car next morning
  • Day 1: drive to Olympic National Park, WA; see Port Angeles, Clallam Bay (200 mi, 5¬†h); stay at Port Angeles
  • Day 2: continue exploring Olympic National Park, WA; see La Push, Hoh Rainforest and get lost taking a wrong road (400 mi, 8¬†h)
  • Day 3: explore Seattle; see Space Needle, Science Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pike Place Market
  • Day 4: see¬†Waterfront Park, Olympic Sculpture Park, downtown, Gum Wall; take a ferry¬†to Bainbridge Island (35 min)
  • Day 5: walk to and¬†take pictures from Kerry Park; fly back home

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Day 15: 12 States in 15 Days

This day we only visited NASA Space Center. If you decide to visit it ask for some guidance at the entrance. You need to reserve tram tickets in advance before they are all given away (they are free). There are also several theaters with scheduled shows. The shows tell you a lot of details and we found them very motivating. But most of all we enjoyed flight simulator ($7 / 4.5 min). Makes you feel in a military aircraft where you are controlling it and firing at the enemies.

 

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Day 14: 12 States in 15 Days

This day we drove to Dallas, TX via Oklahoma state. We stopped¬†in Paris city, TX with their local version of Eiffel tower ūüôā

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Dallas is a huge city which offers a variety of art museums, amusement parks, shops, restaurants, zoo, and aquarium. It is a modern city and a significant business hub. The city is split into several districts. We only explored the most touristic areas РDallas downtown and uptown in the evening. Klyde Warren Park looked cozy at night with all the lights and Christmas decorations. We walked from the uptown to the Thanksgiving square and back. Uptown is a popular area for going out to the upscale restaurants.

Dallas

Dallas

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Day 15

Day 13: 12 States in 15 Days

This was December 31st so our plan was to quickly visit Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs downtown, buy champagne and food and go to our hotel room with a hot tub to enjoy the rest of the day.

I think Hot Springs mostly attracts local people. The park is not so big, you can visit bath houses if you’re into something like this. There are several of them on the main street. There are multiple driving routes in the park, observation tower and hiking trails. But for us¬†this day¬†was more of a relaxation¬†stop after a long trip.

Park details can be found here: http://www.nps.gov/hosp/index.htm

 

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Day 14

Day 12: 12 States in 15 Days

The weather was terrible and Mississippi river was creating a lot of flooding which forced us to cross the river quickly and go to Arkansas. We chose to drive through Missouri state to have an understanding of how it looks like. I think the difference between some states is clearly seen once you cross the border. Missouri was covered in water everywhere and looked like an agricultural area. Arkansas looked a little more organized and orderly.

Our final stop for the day was Little Rock, the capital of AR. Some of the places to see are Big dam bridge, Riverfront Park and State Capitol. If you want some exercises or walk you can try their downtown Arkansas River Trail.

AR, everything around was flooded

AR, everything around was flooded

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Day 13

Day 11: 12 States in 15 Days

Stop 1: Gatlinburg, TN

Gatlinburg is a small town located in the mountains close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is also a popular gateway destination as it offers great views of the mountains, several amusement parks, lots of restaurants and hotels.

The most popular places to view the mountains are the Space Needle and the Sky Lift. However, you can also drive on Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook to get the same nice views for free. This is what we did and were not disappointed.

View from Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

View from Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

Stop 2: Great Smoky Mountains, TN

One of the most popular hikes is 4 mi Chimney Tops. It was our original plan to climb to the top of it, but because of crowds and heavy rains a day before we adjusted our plan. We were advised at the visitor center to drive to the Newfound Gap for the views and quick hike. Unfortunately, there were no leaves on the trees nor snow so we missed the most beautiful views.

For more details about the place, I am again recommending national parks website http://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm.

 

Stop 3: Nashville, TN

Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and is often called “Music City”. If you are interested in music and its history you can visit such landmarks as Grand Ole Opry¬†(the oldest radio program in the United States),¬†Ryman Auditorium¬†(hosted the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974), Country Music Hall of Fame, RCA Studio B or Symphony Center.

If you are mostly interested in getting the feel of the city then go to the downtown. It is an amazing place for an evening walk, lively Broadway, lots of musicians, bars, pubs, people. We were there during the New Year celebration period and were lucky to attend their free concerts. Our final stop was this accidentally found a cool place with great beer and good people РHops & Crafts Taproom.

 

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Day 12