Want to see Alabama and Clemson play in the big game? The Ultimate Road Trip Guide to the National Championship is what you need!
Top ranked Clemson and second ranked Alabama are set on a collision course in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. We have just a little more than a week remaining before kickoff, so I have decided to go ahead and plan out the ultimate road trip guide for all of you who are planning on road-tripping it out to Glendale, Arizona.
Below is a screen shot of our planned route. Yes, it is not the most direct way to get to Glendale. However, this route will provide you with the best opportunities to get the most out of your road trip. (PS you might want to go ahead and hop in the car, because we have a lot to see.)
As we head down Interstate 20, our first stop is not too far away: Jackson, MS. There is an abundance of unique stops that a majority of us probably did not know existed. To appease our former high school literary teachers, we find ourselves sitting in the gardens Eudora Welty’s House – the author of The Death of a Traveling Salesman. Fans can take part in learning about Welty’s personal life and sit and attempt to breath in the inspiration from the beautiful gardens that surround Welty’s humble abode. Just down the road from the Welty house, we can check out the Old Capital Museum which rests near downtown Jackson. The beautifully restored building offers a cheap and educational stop on our journey. To close out our day, we will make a final stop at the Lucky Town Brewing Company. This stop is probably a necessity for the parents who are making this trip to just be able to unwind a bit. Alas, don’t go overboard, as we have to get back on the road again in order to keep on track!
After driving through some of the night and settling down for the night, we wake up to find ourselves in Vicksburg, MS. Now, a lot of you are probably wondering what we are doing stopping in Vicksburg, but there are a few hidden gems that can be found in western Mississippi. The U.S.S. Cairo is a national treasure whose remains rest just outside of the Vicksburg National Cemetery.
"“The U.S.S. Cairo was one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannon). On them rested in large part, Northern hopes to regain control of the lower Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.” – National Park Service Website"
As we visit this treasure and gaze around the cemetery, we remember those who have fought and died fighting for our freedom and for privileges we enjoy every day. Down the river, we can stop and see the outstanding Vicksburg Riverfront Murals. These murals present a beautiful backdrop while meandering down the Mississippi River’s flood wall. It is quite a colorful pathway broadcasting the south’s rich history and culture. On our way out of town, we can make a quick stop to wet our whistles at the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum. Joe Biedenharn built this building in 1890 as a wholesale candy store, and Biedenharn first started bottling the Coca-Cola soft drink there in order to take the drink to people, rather than have people come to him.
Continuing westward across the Louisiana swampland, we have our scheduled pit-stop in Shreveport. I’ll admit there is not too much in Shreveport, and where we are going to check-in is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. However, the Shreveport Water Works Museum is a technical wonder for those of us with science and engineering backgrounds. After 100 years, the water system could still be operational if needed. This engineering marvel was years ahead of its time and is still in place for us to enjoy. For those of you railroad buffs, there is also a free railroad history museum next door!
Three hours west will land us in Dallas, Texas, and boy is there a lot to see in this first stop of the Lone Star State. As we come into downtown, the first stop is the Cotton Bowl – this is the Ultimate Guide to the National Championship mind you. The Cotton Bowl, as many of us remember, used to play host to the Cotton Bowl Classic before being moved to AT&T Stadium in 2010. It is a historical site, especially for college football fans. Upon snapping a few photos in front of the stadium, we can go ahead and head down to Dealey Plaza where we can leave our car for the remainder of the day, as we can walk and enjoy downtown Dallas. Atop the Texas School Book Depository is a wonderfully constructed museum showing the life, career, and assassination of President John F. Kennedy. An audio tour is included; however, no pictures are allowing inside the facility. While inside, one can see exactly where Lee Harvey Oswald was kneeling fifty-three years ago. Before going, I highly recommend watching the scientific unbiased documentary JFK: The Smoking Gun (2013) available on YouTube and Netflix. Down Elm Street, the Dallas Holocaust Museum offers visitors an audio experience leaving the listeners feeling as though they had a true experience. Although the museum is small, it will take you on a heart-rendering journey. Across Dealey Plaza and the railroad, you will see one of Dallas’ most iconic landmarks: Reunion Tower. For a small fee, visitors can ride up the exterior elevators and reach the observation deck to see some spectacular views of the Dallas downtown area. While towering 561 feet above Dallas, you may have seen our last walking stop to Pioneer Plaza. Pioneer Plaza is a unique city park that offers a quick stop and wonderfully fun photo opportunities with large cattle/steed sculpture pictures. The large cattle sculptures show Dallas heritage at its finest nestled beneath the towering skyline above.
As we head out of town, we have two more brief stops that are definitely worthwhile and inexpensive. Again, since this is indeed a guide to the National Championship, it would be appropriate to see where the Alabama Crimson Tide suffocated the Michigan State Spartans 38-0 at the AT&T Stadium. The stadium offers self-guided tours to guests for a small fee that will give you a chance to visit the Cowboys’ & cheerleaders’ locker rooms, as well as go out onto the field and run a few pass plays pretending you are Jake Coker throwing a deep bomb to Calvin Ridley. This is an experience every Alabama fan should have the opportunity witness. After burning off a few calories on the field, we head out of town to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing just north of Fort Worth. This is where all the US currency is designed, printed, and engraved. The audio walking tour is free to visitors and is incredibly educational as to what all goes into the security and design systems of our nation’s currency.
Approximately three hours north of Fort Worth, we have our next scheduled stop at Lacy Park, where we can see the beautiful Falls. The Falls aren’t much, but it allows for some beautiful picture opportunities with the family and a chance to stretch your legs before the 4 hour trek to Amarillo, TX. Be prepared, there is not much during this stretch of highway. However, once arriving in Amarillo, take some time to see the Cadillac Ranch. Even if you have stopped before, go ahead and stop again. The graffiti is always changing on the classic automobiles. Also, this is a great opportunity for you to leave your mark on an unique landmark…bring a can or two of spray paint and go to town!
When we leave Amarillo, we can imagine ourselves following the Historic Route 66, which travels all the way from Chicago to the west coast. In order to not take too much time off of our trek, we can really experience the local old town feel of the historic route when we travel through Tucumcari, New Mexico. The New Mexico Route 66 Museum & Monument is settled within the town and offers some fun sights for history buffs in and around town.
Albuquerque, New Mexico is the next major city on our tour. We can take some time here and stretch out and lounge a bit, as there is more to Albuquerque than meets the eye. While we are here we have an exciting opportunity to learn about Indian Pueblo culture while visiting the Indian Pueblo Culture Center. Also, for those of us rock buffs – like me – there is the Petroglyph National Monument. There are no fees to see these exquisite art features carved into the soft lava formations. Also, before leaving Albuquerque, everyone should experience the longest sky-lift in the world: Sandra Peak Tramway. It takes 14 minutes to travel up to the plateau. During the trip, one can see beautiful landscapes and amazing ridges.
After leaving Albuquerque, we cross into the state of Arizona and come up on the town of Holbrook, AZ. There are two stops in Holbrook that I know I would find particularly interesting: The Petrified Forest National Park & the Navajo County Historical Museum. Both of these stops will appeal to individuals with a sense of outdoors and a penchant for historical sites. A family can spend as much time as they wish in this area before moving on to our next geological treasure near Winslow, Arizona.
Approximately 50,000 years ago, an asteroid traveling at 26,000 miles per hour struck the earth a few miles north of what is today Winslow, Arizona. The asteroid left a scar on the Earth’s surface that is approximately a mile wide and 550 feet deep. This is a geologic wonderland for rock hounds around the world and definitely a site to see for everyone. Within the town of Winslow itself, there are a couple of local attractions that might catch a visitor’s eye. The first is the Standin’ On the Corner Park. This small park is a public park that commemorates the song Take It Easy famously recorded by the Eagles. Before getting back on the interstate, take a moment and visit the 9/11 Remembrance Garden. The garden is small but offers visitors a sight of two beams that were entrusted to the citizens of Winslow by the city of New York, as well as the flag that was flown above the Pentagon is available for viewing. This is a very sobering place reminding you to never forget the tragedy that occurred in 2001.
The small 140 acre community of Winona, Arizona is our next stop on our journey. Although the community may be easily passed up by many travelers on Interstate 40, there is so much packed into such a small area. Just north of Winona, there is a splendid waterfall that is generated from the Little Colorado River. This is a great place for some beautiful photographs of the scenery. During our biggest detour of the trip to see the Grand Canyon, we can stop off and see the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. This awe-inspiring cinder cone dormant volcano is unknown to many and is a wonderful sight to see. The trails around the volcano are short enough to keep even the young ones entertained, and offers breath-taking views for the “experienced” members of the family. Definitely a must see.
How often do you really get an opportunity to be so close to the Grand Canyon? Exactly. Therefore, we are making a day trip up to the great exhibit of earth’s geologic history. The Grand Canyon offers once in a lifetime views and fulfills your outdoor sense of adventure. While there if you have some time, I highly recommend spending the cash and going on the Colorado River Rafting expedition. Or perhaps, if you are not as much of a thrill seeker, there is the Grand Canyon Railway adventure that is fun for the whole family. While near the Grand Canyon Village, I definitely recommend stopping at the Hopi House and browsing through some of the Native American crafts and artifacts for sale.
While traveling back south through the Flagstaff, there are two brief stops that I recommend making on your way to Phoenix, AZ before January 11. The first is the Lava River Cave, which is a literal cave that was created from magma flowing out from the Earth’s mantle. It is now safe for visitors to explore in and around the cave for those interested in rocks and paleo-volcanic activity. The last stop in Flagstaff is the Lowell Observatory. The Lowell Observatory is among one of the oldest observatories in this United States. You can plan to arrive in the afternoon and still manage to catch all the presentations, then take a dinner break and still be back in time for the evening festivities. If you are into astrology this is definitely a sight to see.
Finally, we can head into Phoenix, AZ for the National Championship Game between Alabama and Clemson. If you still have time before the game, or perhaps on Sunday on your way out, there are a couple of sights that I highly recommend while in Phoenix. Some of these sights include the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Wells Fargo History Museum, and St. Mary’s Basilica.
For all of you who are headed out to the National Championship Game, I hope that you have a safe and enjoyable journey. Feel free to use any of the information that I have provided you in order to plan for and to get the most out of your trip.
Be safe! Have fun! Roll Tide!