Let’s Travel: Des Moines, IA to Jacksonville, FL

Traveling across the country by vehicle is becoming less and less popular with the convenience of flying and is now often overlooked as the best means of traveling. In this blog series, I would like to advocate for why a trip on the road is better than a trip through the sky.

I can’t argue that flights are more time efficient and depending on the length of your trip and what your intended purpose of travel is, flying may be a better option in some cases.

I’m talking about the cross country vacations. For me, half of the fun is the journey and not necessarily the destination.

For example, I recently took trip to Florida for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament with my family. Our final destination was Jacksonville. We began in Des Moines, Iowa and took five days to get to our destination, but the memories we made and the incredible places we saw along the way were well worth the extra time it took to get there.

There were several places we went that I hadn’t even heard of and probably would have never visited in my life, had my family not stopped along the way and with the 1,500 mile distance broken up between five days, we never spent too much time in the car.

I’m going to quickly walk you through our journey and some of the eccentric and beautiful places we visited.

  • Starved Rock State Park, near Utica, Illnois

This state park is stunning, equipped with a plethora of waterfalls, and small canyons to hike into and gorgeous views of the Illinois River. This park has many miles of well maintained hiking trails, paved, dirt and even boardwalks.

It is perfect for a day time getaway, and is conveniently located just over an hour outside of Chicago.

Make a stop here if you get the chance!

  • The West Baden Springs Hotel, West Baden Springs, Indiana

One very unique thing about this hotel is that upon entering the building you are greeted by a two hundred foot wide atrium. This dome structure is absolutely spectacular with an abundance of natural light. The atmosphere is calming as the hotel hires a pianist to keep the room alive with the lilting of music.

There are 243 rooms at the West Baden Springs hotel. They pride themselves on being a luxury hotel and have complimentary valet services.

They also have a full service spa, and restaurant as well as two pools: one inside and one out. Both of the pools are heated.

This hotel is a gem, located in the heart of Indiana. Who could have guessed?

Click here to learn more about the history of the hotel.

  • Little River Canyon National Preserve, Alabama

This park offers absolutely stunning views. The waterfalls and overlooks allow you to see much of Alabama’s natural beauty. I was shocked at how gorgeous this park was. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, but still had a sizable tourist population.

There were miles and miles of road to drive and several overlooks into the canyon. This combined with the waterfalls created a full day of hiking and site seeing.

However, it was so worth the stop. Not many of the trails are super long and are easily accessible for those with disabilities. I would highly recommend this park to anyone.

We also stopped to eat at the Little River Canyon cafe. They make an excellent burger. While eating, we ran into Alabama’s lead singer, Randy Owen.

Such an incredible experience!

  • Jacksonville Beach, Jacksonville, Florida

We spent a lot of time in Jacksonville though most of it was spent in an arena. However, when we did get out, we saw some amazing things. We went to Jacksonville Beach for sunset on the last night we were in town. It was a lovely night, the perfect temperature and surprisingly, uncrowded. We had the beach pretty much to ourselves, in mid March, which tells me that this beach doesn’t get a ton of traffic.

It was a very relaxing night. The beach is also very well maintained, so it looked almost pristine. After our beach visit, we decided to grab some grub before turning in. We headed to a highly acclaimed restaurant called Singleton’s Seafood Shack.

This has to be one of the best places I’ve ever eaten. It was so good. The scallops were amazing, the shrimp, even better. I got crab stuffed shrimp and they were so good, I’m hungry just thinking about it. I would highly recommend this place if you are ever in town. It’s a tiny bit pricey, but you get your money’s worth.

That’s all for this blog, but I hope you enjoyed my mini road trip guide. These are just a few of my favorite places on the road from Iowa to Florida. So, if you ever find yourself with that drive in mind, check these out!

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