Travel With Bender

Uncovering the best family holidays

Midwest, USA

Phase 5 #motherofallroadtrips: North Coast-To-Coast USA

Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York

27th November – 22nd December

Total approximate miles: 3,434 (5,527 km)

Total fuel: US$407 (fuel got so much cheaper the further south we went)

Total tolls: US$60

Phase five continues our #motherofallroadtrips.

In phase 1: We toured Eastern Canada for over one month.

Phase 2: A little under one month in the Midwest USA.

Phase 3: We made our way from Oregon to Vancouver, Canada.

Phase 4: We discovered Western Canada with a quick side trip to Alaska.

This phase covers a fast-paced journey through the north of the USA from the west coast to east coast, including more than 10 states in less than 1 month

 

Phase #5 – North Coast-To-Coast USA: 

Kennewick, Washington, USA

27th November

Accommodation: Econolodge Kennewick (check latest prices...)

We started our mammoth journey in Kelowna, British Columbia. We had been very happily living there for over a month, but it was time to resume our road trip.

Arriving at the Oroville, Washington border crossing was pretty nerve racking considering we had been in and out of the US all year. We were finally about to put our visas to the test.

We were asked to pull over and go into a small office on the side of the highway. Inside an official asked what we wanted, we said 6 months, he stamped 6 months and we were on our way. Quicker and easier than any airport immigration check we’ve ever done. Phew!

It was a beautiful drive passing the last of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and reaching Kennewick for a quick one-night stop. 

Boise, Idaho, USA

28th – 30th November

Accommodation: La Quinta, Boise (check latest prices...)

We had breakfast at our hotel and then checked out for the long drive to Boise, Idaho.

While in Idaho I met Josh’s cousin and family for the first time. Josh had not seen him since he was 13 so it was new and fun for everyone. We enjoyed a combined family dinner at 10 Barrel before checking into our hotel for the night. 

Boise Benders

The following day we also spent with the family of Josh’s cousin, checking out Famous Dave’s and taking the kids to Planet Kid indoor playground. We spent some time at the hotel pool before saying goodbye to the Boise Benders to resume our #motherofallroadtrips across north US. 

Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA

30th November

Accommodation: Super 8 Idaho Falls  (check prices in area...)

After breakfast at our hotel we packed up and drove to Idaho Falls with a stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument. An otherworldly landscape which was exactly like it sounds - a barren landscape similar to that of the moon. It’s volcanic features represent one of the best-preserved flood basalt areas in the US.

The area covers three major lava fields about 1,117 square miles (2,893 km2). We didn’t have time to cover all of it and unfortunately the Loop Road was closed for the winter season (between mid-Nov to mid-March), but what we did see was incredible. 

Just beautiful

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA

1st – 4th December

Accommodation: Grand Teton Lodge (check prices in area...)

After breakfast we did a little bit of shopping for warm outfits before taking a snowy mountain drive to Jackson Hole

Surprisingly the roads were not as bad as we had been forewarned, however we did get more and more excited as the snow increasingly covered the ground. 

Driving into Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will forever remain with me. You must read about our first time skiing here at Jackson Hole and the best places to eat while there.

We spent 3 days enjoying the area and let me tell you skiing is not the only thing on the menu! 

Apres at The Handle Bar in Four Seasons

Casper, Wyoming, USA

4th December

Accommodation: Best Western Plus Casper Inn  (check latest prices...)

We were so sad to leave Jackson Hole and the snow gently descending from the sky confirmed our mood.

Spent most of the day in the car today before stopping for a Chinese buffet and a night in a hotel in Casper

Quiet snowy road in rural Wyoming

Rapid City, South Dakota, USA

5th – 9th December

Accommodation: Hilton Garden Inn (check latest prices...)

After another long drive it was with much relief to reach a destination we had very much been looking forward to. 

On the way we stopped at the mysterious Devil’s Tower. Gorgeous scenery, a burnt orange sunset and white snow scattered all over the place. 

We spent 4 nights in Rapid City visiting well-known sites like Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, exploring the dark Wind Caves and discovering prehistoric mammoths at Mammoths Hot Springs

The famous Mount Rushmore

It was Mia’s birthday during our visit so we also took time out for kids fun at the WaTiki Indoor Waterpark, a visit to the Dino Park & The Journey Museum, plus ate possibly some of the best food ever at Kol.

Kol in Rapid City, SD – you have to eat here

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

9th – 12th December

Accommodation: TownePlace Suites Sioux Falls South (check prices in area...)

It was time to continue our journey across South Dakota and on the way we made two must-do stops:

1. Wall Drug – the largest pharmacy in the world and one of the weirdest roadside attractions, ever. It’s unlike anything else and a one-sentence description will not suffice. An upcoming post about Rapid City will reveal more.

2. The Badlands - Some of the most scenic vistas in the US. So barren and sparse it can be seen from space. 

During our 3 nights in Sioux Falls we checked out the Washington Pavilion and took a scenic helicopter ride over the city to see the Christmas lights. The added bonus of that tour was delicious wine tasting at the Strawbale Winery. Highly recommended!

Sioux Falls from above

Other visits included the Sertoma Butterfly House & Marine Cove and a personal favourite was our afternoon at the Outdoor Campus

Mall of America, Minnesota, USA

12th – 15th December

Accommodation: Radisson Hotel Bloomington By Mall Of America (check latest prices...)

Radisson Hotel Mall Of America (check latest prices...)

We said goodbye to South Dakota and all it’s amazing outdoor-ness for 3 nights indoors at the largest mall in the United States. On the way we made a quick stop at the Badlands Pawn Shop, as seen on TV. Gee, there were a lot of guns!

We also managed to find the Jolly Green Giant at Blue Earth, MN

When we arrived at our hotel we met some friends at the Water Park of America (that we originally met on a Caribbean cruise). We had such a lovely night hanging out with them that we went back the next day. 

The next 2 days we enjoyed staying at the hotel that enabled us to saunter straight into the Mall of America completely undercover – no need to venture into the chilly outdoors. The mall was incredible, so many delicious food options and so many things to do. We played at Legoland, took a round of mini golf, got up close to sharks at Sea Life, rode some of the scariest indoor roller coasters at Nickelodeon Universe, spent time at the Minnesota Children’s Museum (temporary exhibit) and attempted to find our way out of the Amazing Mirror Maze.

3 days was not enough for all we could have done at the Mall of America, because I didn’t even get time to shop! 

Bettendorf, Iowa, USA

15th December

Accommodation: Family (check prices in area...)

So much fun, but it was time to continue on so we said goodbye and drove to Westgate, Iowa. An unusual stop, but Josh’s dad was born and raised in the small farming town of Westgate so it was a sentimental moment for us. 

We continued on to Bettendorf to visit another round of Josh’s cousins that I had never met. They invited us to spend the night and we enjoyed a really great night talking and hanging out with them. 

Chicago, Illinois, USA

16th – 19th December

Accommodation: Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago (check latest prices...)

We said goodbye to the Bettendorf Benders and drove straight to Chicago. We picked up my little sister there and spent 3 days visiting Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and The Field Museum. Read more...

Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA

19th December

Accommodation: Hilton Fort Wayne (check latest prices...)

As we headed east we wanted to visit Fort Wayne again since we enjoyed it so much in August. We took my sister to our favourite pizza joint and the next day hit Science Central for a few hours of educational fun for the kids. 

Streetsboro, Ohio, USA

20th December

Accommodation: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Streetsboro (check latest prices...)

We continued our drive across the US with a short stop at the bizarre giant Campbell soup can at their factory in Napoleon, OH before stopping for the night south of Cleveland at Streetsboro, OH. 

Danville, Pennsylvania, USA

21st December

Accommodation: Super 8 Danville (check latest prices...)

More driving, but this time we stopped off at Daffin’s Candies in Sharon, PA which bills itself as the world’s largest chocolate candy store. And then rested at a sweet little town for the night. 

New York, USA

22nd December – 10th January

Accommodation: Family (check prices in area...)

Cambria Suites, Chelsea (check latest prices...)

Finally our last day on the road (for a little while).

Our first pitstop, Paulinskill Viaduct in New Jersey was the world’s largest reinforced concrete structure of its time back in 1910. We also stopped at the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

Across a fair few tolls, over a couple bridges, and we ultimately pulled into Josh’s family’s home in Great Neck on Long Island. Elegantly, this was the original starting point for our epic road trip and now our halfway mark.

I was ready and excited for my family to arrive from Australia.

In preparation for them Kia offered us to try out their brand new Sedona. The 7 seater came in perfectly for airport pickups, grocery runs and family day trips. It's also very handy having two cars for those times when family want to go in different directions. It drove so beautifully, possibly almost convinced Josh we could have a third kid with a car like this! 

Over the next few weeks my parents, my other sister and her husband arrived and all 9 of us we spent time touring New York, celebrating Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and just enjoying each other’s company after the long year (since we last all met in Bali). Josh and my Dad even found time to do a New York City Photo Safari with Zim. It was unforgettable. 

We finalised our stay in New York by moving into the city for the New York Times Travel Show where I spoke on How To Work With Travel Bloggers and met up with dear blogging friends like The PlanetD, HoneyTrek, Backroad Planet, What Boundaries? and many others.

It was nice to have family around, be stationary for a few weeks and enjoy a city we have visited several times, so it felt more familiar. Unlike last time, we didn’t have a pram to push around which was a relief.

Rockefeller Plaza on Christmas Eve
View of Empire State Building and Downtown from Top of the Rock

 

This brings to a close phase 5 of our #motherofallroadtrips and the first half of our yearlong road trip around Canada and the US. 

What a crazy year!

But it’s not over!

Stay tuned for our next phases as we navigate south and loop back west across the bottom half of the US discovering Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and more! 

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