How to Plan the Perfect Heartland Road Trip
Sometimes a long road trip is good for the soul, especially if it’s full of good food, fun attractions, and plenty of photo-ops. Perhaps there is no better route than the 1500-mile trip from Texas to Minnesota on Interstate 35, where there will be continuous opportunities to enjoy driving along uncrowded roads through wide-open spaces.
Interstate 35 is the ninth-longest throughway in the US, and third-longest going south to north. It begins in Laredo, Texas and continues north all the way to Duluth, Minnesota. The route seemingly splits the Americas straight down the middle, and is full of sites to see, ranging from small towns to popular cities. Discover a variety of interesting things that are sure to create great memories of your heartland road trip.
To ensure you experience some of the best pit stops along the way, check out these suggestions.
The drive along I-35 in the Lone Star State will take you through San Antonio, Austin, and Waco, across 400 miles. So, without a doubt you’ll need to plan on some sustenance, which there is no shortage of in Texas.
For starters, the Taco Palenque in Laredo made the “Best Breakfast Tacos” list, as did Lolitas Tortilleria in Waco. Or perhaps you’re in San Antonio, in which case you should consider Biff Buzby’s Burgers or Mi Tierra Café & Bakery. All conveniently located just off the interstate.
While in San Antonio, a visit to the Alamo is sure to delight any history buff. Relive the fight that changed American history, and tour the battlefield and former Spanish mission that was transformed into a fortress during the famous battle of 1836.
A slight detour from I-35 will take you to Government Canyon in San Antonio. In the midst of 12,000-acres of nature, you can enjoy hiking or biking and possibly catch a glimpse of birds, wildlife, and even dinosaur tracks.
From Texas, you’ll soon arrive in Oklahoma where stopping at the Arbuckle Mountains, in Davis, should be a priority. The mountain range is more than 1 billion years old and is made up of sandstone, granite, shale, and limestone. Lots of photographic views among the beautiful rock formations, pristine lakes, waterfalls, and rolling hills that span over 35 miles.
Oklahoma, like Texas has an array of restaurants that will tantalize the taste buds. One of the most well-known Oklahoma City stops is the Iron Star Urban BBQ. From wood floors and brick walls to being named after a notorious outlaw, Belle Starr, The Iron Star will satisfy you with traditional comfort foods.
Kansas City, Missouri offers a variety of budget-friendly attractions including the National WWI Museum, American Jazz Museum, and open-air Starlight Theater performance. While in Kansas City, you’ll pass over the Missouri River via the Christopher S Bond Bridge that replaced the former Paseo Suspension Bridge. From arts and culture to shopping, entertainment, and dining, there is something for everyone.
Once you arrive in Iowa, take time out to visit Mason City, home to the writer of the classic musical, “The Music Man,” Meredith Wilson. Mr. Wilson grew up in Mason City and, in addition to the Music Man museum, you can visit the footbridge that they filmed in the show and tour his childhood home.
While in the state, it’s also worth taking a small detour to Walcott, Iowa where you can see the world’s largest truck stop. The Iowa 80 Truckstop should be on the must-see list for any trucker at some point, with multiple restaurants and comfortable seating for hundreds. It also has plenty of amenities and an interesting trucking museum where you could easily kill all the spare time you wish.
Minnesota may be the last leg of your trip, but there’s still plenty of places to explore. For instance, the historic town of Owatonna features a zoo and museums. While in Owatonna, plan to visit the “Village of Yesteryear.” You’ll feel as though you stepped back in time as you look upon building replicas of a general store, railroad station, and traditional log homes.
And finally, once in Duluth, enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Superior from the North Shore Scenic Drive. Duluth is also home to America’s only fresh water aquarium, known as the Great Lakes Aquarium. It’s three stories large and has plenty of exhibits to keep you interested, pass the time, and even teach you a thing or two about the freshwater fish of Minnesota and beyond. That means it would be a great, affordable way to conclude your trip along I-35 as you wrap up your journey.