Austin, TX to Anaheim, CA Roundtrip
Total Mileage: 1,560 miles (one way)
6 nights, 7 days (one-way)
Saturday, May 24th: Austin, TX to Fort Davis, TX; 440 miles, 7 hours driving time
OR Austin, TX to Carslbad, NM; 530 miles, 8 hours driving time
6:00am Depart Austin
12:30pm Lunch and Play Break at Balmorhea State Park
Balmorhea State Park (Exit #206 from 1-10W onto FM 2903 south to Balmorhea; then State Hwy 17 West 4 miles to the park) has the largest spring-fed swimming pool in the world; the water is 72-76 degrees year round and the park is open until sunset daily. Eat picnic lunch here.
3:30pm Depart Balmorhea
4:30pm Arrive Fort Davis State Park
Fort Davis is a bit out of your way off of I-10 but is the highest elevation town in Texas and is the scenic gateway to the Davis Mountains. I think it is worth the stop if you are trying to see as much of the beauty of the route as possible, but not stopping lessens total driving time. Davis Mountains State Park (1 mile north of Ft. Davis on Hwy 17, then west ofnHwy 118N for 3 miles to the Park Road 3 entrance; 432-426-3337) has campsites with water and electricity hook ups, a picnic table and a fire pit or grill with restrooms nearby for $20/night. TripAdvisor (TA) awarded the park a Certificate of Excellence in 2013. You would have time to hike and explore the park after setting up camp. You can book day and night tours and viewings at The McDonald Observatory.
Don't want to grill dinner? The Fort Davis Drug Store (113 State Street, Ft. Davis, TX; 432-426-3939) has a full dinner menu and an old fashioned soda fountain and fudge shop.
3:30pm Depart Balmorhea
6:00pm Arrive Carlsbad, NM
Carlsbad KOA Campground (2 Manthei Road, Hwy 285, Carlsbad, NM; 575-457-2000) has a pool, laundry and a community room in addition to sheltered tent sites with water and electric hook ups, a picnic table and a privacy fence for $40/night. They can also deliver a BBQ dinner to your site 7 nights a week. TA awarded the campground a Certificate of Excellence in 2013.
Sunday, May 25th: Fort Davis, TX to Alamogordo, NM; 280 miles, 4.5 hours driving time
OR Carlsbad, NM to Alamogordo, NM; 150 miles, 2.5 hours driving time
8:00am Depart Fort Davis, TX
Eat a packed lunch in the car or stop in Las Cruces. A great place to try would be Mexican diner Andele! (1950 Calle del Norte, Las Cruces; 575-526-9631). If you had lunch in the car but are still looking to make a stop around this time, the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum is highly recommended with displays, livestock and live demonstrations in milking, blacksmithing and weaving.
2:00pm - 3:00pm (depending on how long you stop) Arrive Alamogordo, NM
Spend the afternoon in the White Sands National Monument (19955 Highway 70, Alamogordo, NM). There are junior ranger books and adventure packs available in the Visitor Center for the kids. Do the hiking trails, sled down the hills, attend the “skulls and skins” presentation at 3pm all about the animals that live in the park and the sunset stroll with a ranger an hour before sunset. There are picnic tables on site. You could set up camp beforehand and pack a picnic dinner to eat in the park before the sunset stroll. Camping at the Monument is one mile hike in/out only.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park (409 Dog Canyon, Alamogordo; 575-437-8284) is the closest State Park with camping facilities; it is 24 miles SE of the Monument. It has tent sites with restrooms and hiking trails. There are only 30 reviews on TA, but none of them are poor or terrible.
Want restaurant dining instead of a picnic? The Pizza Patio and Pub (2203 1st St., Alamogordo; 575-434-9633) should have something for everyone. Nuckleweed (526 La Borcita Canyon Rd, La Luz Canyon, Alamogordo; 575-434-0000) gets great reviews for its American food but it sounds like service is on the slower side so don't go if you are in a hurry. Memories Restaurant (1223 New York Ave, Alamogordo; 575-437-0077) also looks like a good bet for American food.
8:00am Tour the Carlsbad Caverns
There are self-guided and ranger-guided tours of the Carlsbad Caverns starting at 8:30am.
11:00am Depart Carlsbad, NM
Looking for a lunch spot? Try The Wellhead (332 West Main Street, Artesia NM; 575-746-0640) in historic downtown Artesia.
2:30pm Arrive Alamogordo, NM
Spend the afternoon in the White Sands National Monument and camp at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park (see Option A for details).
8:00am Depart Alamogordo
11:00am Lunch Break
Eat packed lunch on the road or stop for a sit-down at Kranberry's Family Restaurant (1405 Main St, Lordsburg NM; 575-542-9400) in Lorsdburg, which is about halfway to Tuscon. It is a basic family diner that reviewers seem to think is the best choice for a sit-down meal in the area.
2:30pm Arrive Tuscon
Catalina State Park (11570 North Oracle Road, Tucson, AZ; 520-586-2283) is at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, just outside Tucson. It has tent camping sites with electric and water hookups, a table and a grill for $25/night. There are restrooms with showers, hiking trails and a small gift shop at the campground. TA awarded it a Certificate of Excellence in 2013.
Looking for a nice dinner spot? The Abbey Eat + Drink (6960 E. Sunrise Drive, Tucson; 520-299-3132) is a moderately priced, casual but upbeat American eatery in the foothills of Tucson.
9:00am Visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson (2021 N. Kinney Rd; 520-883-2702)
Frommer's calls this one of the best zoos in the country. Spend the morning and lunch here if arriving at 8pm in Carlsbad doesn't seem too late an arrival time the night before a full day in Legoland. If you want to arrive in Carlsbad earlier, skip the Tucson sights and get on the road much earlier.
1:00pm Depart Senora Desert Museum
Need an easy half-way stop? Carver Park (385 South 13th Ave, Yuma, AZ) in Yuma has a community pool, water features, bathrooms, a playground, open space and trails. There is also an In-N-Out Burger in Yuma (1940 E 16th, Yuma) or try Kneaders Bakery (1651 E Castle Dome Ave, Yuma) for sandwiches and salads if you didn't spend the morning and lunch in Tuscon.
8:00pm Arrive Carlsbad, CA for three nights
Friday, May 31st Arrive Anaheim, CA for three nights
8:00am Depart Anaheim, CA
1:00pm Lunch in Kingman, AZ
Eat at Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner (105 E Andy Devine Ave, Kingman; 928-718-0066) for classic diner food and breakfast served all day. Visit the Powerhouse Route 66 Museum (120 W Andy Devine Ave, Kingman; 928-753-9889) to learn about the Mother Road.
3:30pm Depart Kingman, AZ
5:00pm Arrive Williams, AZ
Williams is directly on Route 66 (tour the downtown for souvenirs) in the middle of the Kaibab National Forest. Camping options include the Kaibab Lake Recreation site (Exit 165 off of 1-40 East, North onto Hwy 64 one mile; 928-635-5600) and the Williams Circle Pines KOA (1000 Circle Pines Road, Williams; 800-562-9379).
Didn't get enough Route 66 kitsch yet? Eat dinner or breakfast at Cruiser's Route 66 Cafe (233 Historic Route 66, Williams; 928-635-2445).
8:00am Depart Williams, AZ
If you want to grab pastries and coffee in Flagstaff about 30 minutes east of Williams, Macy's European Coffee House and Bakery (14 Beaver St, Flagstaff; 928-774-2243) is supposed to be delicious.
2:00pm Arrive Albuquerque, NM
Lots of options here, depends on what strikes your interest! On the west side, visit Petroglyph National Monument (Unser Blvd. At Western Trail; 505-899-0205) to see rock carvings 400- 700 years old. The Boca Negra Canyon is a short paved loop where you can see large groupings of the carvings. The Albuquerque BioPark (2601 Central Avenue NW; 505-764-6200) is part aquarium, part botanical gardens and part heritage farm located on the riverbank just west of Old Town. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (2401 12th St. NW; 505-843-7270) traces the history of the first settlers along the Rio Grande. For a great view, head over to northeast Albuquerque and take the world's longest tramway to the top of Sandia Peak. Eat lunch at the casual Mexican restaurant, Sandiago's (38 Tramway Rd.; 505-856-6692) at the base of the tram. Just need a lunch spot? Sophia's Place (6313 4th St. NW; 505-345-3935) is a fresh food bohemian cafe that Moon calls “exceptional”.
**The “slow way” home: You could easily spend a night in Albuquerque and have lots to do. You could camp at the conveniently located Albuquerque Central KOA (12400 Skyline Road NE; 800-562-7781) for tent camping or a cabin rental. It is a 10.5 hour drive from here to Austin. So you could stay one night in Albuquerque and then one night in Lubbock, camping at Buffalo Springs Lake (FM 835; 806-747-3353). Otherwise, stick to the following plan as the “fast way” home.
4:00pm Depart Albuquerque, NM
6:30pm Arrive Sumner Lake State Park to camp for the night
Sumner Lake State Park (32 Lakeview Lane, Sumner Lake NM; 575-355-2541) has tent sites with views of the lake, a playground and hiking trails. If you need dinner or breakfast out, your best bet is in Fort Sumner a few miles south on Hwy 84. Probably best to stock up on groceries before leaving Albuquerque.
9:00am Depart Sumner Lake State Park, NM
12:00pm Arrive Lubbock, TX
Visit the Buddy Holly Center (1801 Crickets Ave; 806-775-3560) to learn about his life and music and see the Texas Musicians Hall of Fame. The Lubbock Lake Landmark (2401 Landmark Lane; 806-742-1116) is a natural history preserve with an interpretive center detailing human history in the area and nature trails with an outdoor sculpture garden depicting the animals that once roamed the area. The Science Spectrum Museum (2579 S. Loop 289; 806-745-2525) aims to educate children about science and technology. Grodski's Loft (2009 Broadway; 806-744-2391) is a local favorite for great sandwiches.
3:00pm Depart Lubbock, TX
10:00pm Arrive Austin, TX