So you wanna go on an American Road Trip? I urge you to, I implore you! It’s so much fun.
I had the absolute pleasure of going on a road trip from Seattle to Austin visiting some of the most amazing places along the way. My jam (Chan’s Jam, Could be a bestseller in the future) is people watching, relaxing, good food and drinks, sightseeing and shopping and this is what the majority of my trips focus on, especially this one. It was truly a trip of a lifetime and I am already starting to plan the next one.
So this post will tell you all about what we did, what we ate and where we stayed.
Our trip was Seattle to Portland to Redding to Yosemite to Death Valley to Las Vegas to Austin (Phew) over nearly three weeks. This first post is Seattle to Las Vegas.
I’ve embedded the links so if you like the look of something through the posts it’ll (I freaking hope so) take you to the page in question.
We flew to Seattle from London Gatwick with Norwegian in about 12 hours on their Dreamliner.
Having booked about 8 months in advance we got the ticket for £250 one way which included luggage, meal and seat allocation. As we’d booked so far in advance we managed to secure Exit Row seats, which on Norwegian you don’t pay extra for an on such a long flight if you can get them grab them!. My recent trips to the States have all been with Norwegian and I have always had a great flight and service. If you are flexible on dates Norwegian offer a low fare calendar so you can plan your trip around the best price you can get.
Arriving into SeaTac I could barely contain my excitement, to me one of the best pleasures in life is arriving in the US knowing you have a whole host of adventures (SHOPPING TIME) awaiting you.
We grabbed the Light Rail Link for $2.50 and as we were staying in the Belltown area were able to get within a 10 minute walk of our hotel.
It’s the cheapest route into town and while I sometimes go with an Uber/Taxi/Lyft I also really like getting the public transport links as it starts to give you a real feel for where you are arriving into.
Seattle Hotels aren’t cheap but we managed to get an absolute steal for this lovely little hotel, Belltown Inn We booked for four nights and with a cheeky little discount code on Booking.com we got it for £239 for two for four nights. The hotel is basic, clean, the staff are great and it’s in a fanastic location.
Now, my Seattle recommendations are:
Biscuit Bitch – For the best Breakfast Biscuits around. My head nearly exploded with joy in this tiny place not just through the utterly lardAlicious breakfast but Nirvana came on the radio over Breakfast (I mean seriously sitting in Seattle, a place I’ve always wanted to visit, eating a truly wicked breakfast with my lovely friends and BAMM as if it couldn’t get better, here’s some Lithium for you Mrs)
5 Point Cafe Is so Seattle, it’s grungy it’s divey and it’s open 24 hours. Epic breakfast with fricking awesome people watching and some truly offensive wall graffiti, it’s a must to go to.
Mamma’s Cantina in Belltown This place for some Blackened Cod Tacos and Dive Bar drinks in Belltown
Dicks Drive In for some Old School Seattle Burgers. We went after a night out, huge Q’s great atmosphere and tasty AF Burgers.
Lava Lounge This epic little dive bar with Chad the Barman (OK, he may not have been called Chad) But this was my favouite bar in Seattle. Great people watching and good drinks.
Belltown Pizza for a little slice of absolute heaven, this place is next to Lava Lounge (How Handy)
Diller Room This cute bar for some strong drinks and beer cheese pretzel dip. It’s right near Pike Place and it’s painfully cool.Bill Speidels Tour This came highly recommended, it was interesting and gives an entirely different perspective to Seattle.
Shutter Tours This tour company for the Snoqualmie Falls and Seattle City Tour, the tour was epic and the guide great. You get out of the city to Snoqualmie which is stunning and some views of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos pads along the way. Back into Seattle it’s the Salmon Locks, Fremont Troll then stunning views from Kerry Park.Pike Place Market For Snow Crab Legs and Oysters and Beechers Mac and Cheese. It’d be criminal if you didn’t while you were here.
guide will give you the low down on all the shopping opportunites that await you.
Drawing a close on our first few days we then moved from Seattle to Portland via Amtrak and got the train. It’s about four hours and has stunning scenery along the whole route.
We then got a Lyft from Portland Union Station to our Hotel, Staypineapple – Hotel Rose
This hotel is EPIC and I loved the rooms! Now we had a skinny 24 hours in Portland and it being a place I’d always wanted to visit we had to pack it in.
First stop was Powell’s Books If you are a bookworm like me then this is the place you need to go, the World’s largest book store. It’s freaking awesome I could have spent a week in this place.
Then onto Voodoo Donuts, I wasn’t leaving Portland without trying this place and even the large Q didn’t put me off. It moved quickly and before I knew it I was walking away clutching my Pink Box (Favourites were Bacon Maple and Memphis Mafia) After this I had a brief but accidental visit to a gay strip club (Me still clutching the donut box) If you ever meet me I’ll tell you the story.
A few cocktails and Oysters at this cute little place, Pepe Le Moko our time was nearly over.
The Denali was huge and I felt like I possibly owned one of those houses from MTV Cribs when we first drove away. The car was booked in advance from the UK and we had chosen a people carrier type one, but often is the case we had a few to pick from when we arrived. The Denali came with Sat Nav but we didn’t know that so first top tip is don’t always buy Sat Nav, check that your car doesn’t already have it! (Whoops)
Leaving Portland we had decided on making our way down to California and stop overnight on route, deciding later as our goal was to get to Yosemite over the next couple of days. The scenic off major freeway route was chosen by our friend who is also a wizard with maps. An image below, but I will happily share the route with anyone if needed.
After somehow managing to pick our jaws back up from the floor and continue on route we were treated to a continuous snowy forest feast for the eyes, if you do the journey from Portland down you must do this route. We travelled in March which meant it was snow-capped throughout, the roads were clear but the snow added the winter magic. I tend to get over-excited on holiday anyway however at this point I was nearing having to be sedated from the sheer joy and excitement this trip was bringing to me.
Driving through a small town called Chemult in Klamath County, I really felt privileged to be seeing a totally different side of the US from the big cities I had been so used to visiting and really felt like, Toto we’re not in Kansas anymore. This entire drive is a feast on the senses and I would highly recommend trying to time it as Oregon is coming out of winter. Oregon is a stunning state full of so much beauty and I hope in the future to visit again but before we knew it we were crossing over the border into California.Katy Perry, California Gurls, I’ve linked it for your musical pleasure)
No culinary delights on route for lunch, we stopped at McDonalds. This is where Redding, CA was decided as our overnight stop. We had thought of heading to Sacramento but our night porter in Portland said unless we wanted Meth then don’t bother (Sorry if anyone from Sacramento is reading this, I’m sure it’s lovely) We found and booked a hotel online again using a discount code, this time from hotels.com.
We continued on route and then low and behold we came upon another unexpected site, Mount Shasta. Rising completely out from the hills around this stunning potentially active (thanks Wikipedia) Volcano was incredible.
One of the very essences of travel for me is the people you get to meet along your journey. At Mount Shasta we happened upon a man who had a rather squawky box and being nosy we of course went to ask him what was in it. It turned out he was a Pidgeon Fancier who was about to race his pigeons home, now you weren’t expecting that were you, well neither were we. We ended up chatting to him and found out his day job was in conservation, specifically protecting the Mountain Lions of that area – I mean come on how cool is that. We watched him release the birds, with a few flying off in a different direction to what he had hoped, awkward (hopefully they came back). Then back on our way for the final stretch to Redding.
Arriving into Redding we had booked the Fairfield Inn and Suites, a standard hotel but nice and clean. Staying for one night we decided to head straight into town for some food. We had some drinks in Shameless O’Leary’s before deciding on Jacks Bar & Grill which was practically across the road. Jacks’ is a Mom and Pop dinner affair and while the blinds were down outside we took a chance and ended up having a great night. Sat at the bar we discovered they had Tuaca (I’ve never seen it outside of Brighton) and Metaxa, a Greek Brandy. Being the creative types we cajoled the Bar Man into making a cocktail and he created the ‘Chandelier’ similar to a Lemon Drop with Metaxa. If you stop by have one, it’s named after yours truly and one day I’ll be famous! After sharing a family style dinner of steaks, blue cheese salad and more potatoes that the state of Idaho, we Uber’d back to the Fairfield. Redding CA, you’d treated us well.
Continuing on the next day to YOSEMITE (Sedation would be needed for this next bit) we drove via the outskirts of Sacramento (We didn’t stop for Meth) and Modesto heading towards Mariposa. Now this is where we had our first diversion from a planned route. Nearing Mariposa we were diverted due to recent landslides from the snow melt into Yosemite and diverted to a route which would take us on a near vertical ascent and decent into the park. Due to one of my friend’s incredible driving skills we made it, if it had been my responsibility I would still be outside Mariposa chopping wood or something similar for a living having refused to drive.
Before we knew it BAM we were driving up to the Park entrance, we’d arrived in Yosemite.
Heading onwards we’d just arrived into Yosemite, with me clutching the handles inside the car and internally screaming with visions of careering over the edge on the drive through. I will touch on this as despite extensive research nowhere had I read of the bum squeaking drive in and out of the majority of Yosemite.
By no means does it detract from the utterly magnificent park but I had known I would have packed a balaclava and some rescue remedy (I am one of those people scared of heights with a penchant for dark thoughts of visualising flying over the edge Thelma and Louise style).
As the detour had unexpectedly taken us through the park we stopped at a couple of vista points on the way out of the park heading to Oakhurst, our home for the next two nights. Nothing I had read prepared me for the sheer beauty of Yosemite, it’s beyond amazing. The skies were blue and the sun was shining for us and there was still an abundance of winter snow fall.she’ll be coming round the mountain, we were thrown back into 1980’s Ski Lodge spectacular. Everything about this hotel was kitsch from the pine wood panelling, floral covered wicker furniture to the huge picture of Ronald Regan beaming down at us upon check in.
First things first we needed a selfie with the bear outside and once taken we headed to our rooms.
The rooms here are huge and while the expression room to swing a cat could be used, I absolutely think you could have tango’d with a Grizzly and still had room for an audience of spectators. Two king sized beds and a bathroom the sized of most normal hotel rooms greeted us. After a quick bear check under the beds it was straight back out.
The restaurant & bar attached to the Hotel is the Oakhurst Grill and we decided to head there for a few wines, upon swinging open the bar doors it was at this point I emitted the final bum squeak; I had relaxed and returned to solid ground, Yee Haa.
Something worth noting is this hotel has a great cheap laundry attached so I popped there to freshen up the clothes after a quick gulp of wine. Laundries in the US are great, they are quick cheap and it means you bring fewer clothes on holiday which enables you to buy more, win win.
Arriving back at the bar our friends were chatting to an older couple who had heard their UK accents and wanted their opinion on Yosemite. This started a wonderful few hours and the couple, I’ll call them E and S. This delightful couple became one of the very highlights of our trip. They were the true embodiment of why I love visiting the states; generous, kind, warm and friendly.
They were an octogenarian couple with E being a Veteran and S having taught for her career. S hadn’t left California until after her 80th Birthday yet her liberal views could rival that of the most millennial hipster wandering the streets of Brighton. She’d recently broken away from her church as they weren’t supportive of a Tran’s member of the congregation and had formed a breakaway group open and accepting to all. We had the pleasure of discussing everything from their nickname for the president to how S ordered her medical Marijuana from Amazon for her arthritis. After a few hours we bade them farewell with warm hugs and fond memories and headed into the restaurant for some food.
The Oakhurst grill was an unexpected treat. We thoroughly enjoyed solid US classic food with steaks, burgers and Ceaser salads galore. I highly recommend the restaurant if you are staying in Oakhurst even if you’re not checked in at this hotel. Retiring to our rooms with beaming smiles and for me to spend some time googling car safety in Yosemite we’d closed off another epic day.
Next morning we went for breakfast at this place, Pop’s Oakhurst. A true old school diner with as many coffee refills and pancakes as you could manage. As we were leaving the diner the adorable elderly waitress called out her in soft American accent ‘Y’all should come back at lunch for the soup, its homemade’. Alas we couldn’t but if your reading this and planning a trip to Oakhurst please go and have the soup and let me know what it’s like.
Heading back into the park we had plans to spend a full day visiting everything we possibly could. Tunnel View, Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, Valley View, Tuolumne Meadows and Bridaveil Falls were all on our list for today and we managed to get to them all. Due to it still being early in the season Glacier Point was out of bounds.
A further night in our massive bear free rooms in Oakhurst with dinner drinks and many laughs at the Oakhurst Grill our time in Yosemite had come to a close.
Waking up the next morning we stocked up on Starbucks drive through a couple of minutes from the hotel and then we were back on the road heading for Death Valley. Bypassing Fresno and Bakersfield we headed into Gold Mining Canyon land. This was an experience, driving through amazing valleys going from lush green California to barren desert in just a couple of hours.
Heading towards Beatty we arrived in this strange little dusty town ready to meet some friends who’d flown into Vegas and were meeting us for one night here before heading into Town together. We’d booked the Death Valley Inn and RV Park.
Checking in was a little on the odd side with a lengthy time delay waiting for anyone to turn up. Slightly apprehensive about the rooms we had nothing to worry about as they were clean and relatively modern; the only very odd thing being the wash basin was not in the bathroom but on the other side of the bedroom.
Beatty is an odd little town sitting on the edge of Death Valley with a direct freeway out to Las Vegas. An older RV driving man at check in had told us the only real place to eat was Denny’s which was situated inside the only casino in town. We skipped off into the desert night heading towards The Stagecoach Casino.
The meal at Denny’s was the only poor meal we had on this trip, I know it’s Denny’s but it was even worse than normal Denny’s.
Heading back towards the hotel area we were able to see the most amazing stars in the desert night sky with my lovely friend giving me a mini astronomy lesson and pointing out Orion’s Belt. On our way back we weren’t quite ready for bed so stopped off at a little dive bar, The Happy Burro. Now if you’re ever in Beatty you must come here.
Kitty Kat the waitress is lovely, they serve Mexican food from a hole in the wall and I could have kicked myself for not coming earlier. A few cocktails and beers in the garden with a tippy cup to go gratis from Kitty Kat we headed back to the hotel with a quick check for rattlesnakes under the bed before sleep.
Up bright and early the next day we were due to spend the morning cruising around Death Valley before heading to the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Our friends on the way in from Vegas had spotted an Area 51 Alien Themed diner on route and sensing this would be a one of a kind place we headed there for breakfast.
Well this place did not disappoint, a dinner, gift shop and Brothel, only in the US of A I hear you cry. We enjoyed breakfast while people watching the punters visiting the ‘Alien Cathouse’. The man who owns this also runs in local government, so you can be a pimp and involved in politics in Nevada.
After purchasing a lap dancing alien fridge magnet (I mean COME ON GUYS) we were back on route to visit Mars, sorry I mean Death Valley.
Leaving Death Valley it was onto LAS VEGAS for a Easter weekend we’d never forget.
A US roadtrip is a must experience for anyone wanting to see the real USA.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this even half as much as I have enjoyed writing this.