From the northern border to its southernmost point, wind down the east coast from Chicago to Miami

Brush up on your music knowledge, practice your ‘yeehaws’ and your ‘howdys’, and bring your beach gear and taste for adventure on road trip from Chicago to Miami. Cross the northern ridge of the United States, taking in the metropolises of Chicago, Detroit, New York, and the natural wonders of Niagara Falls and Finger Lakes. Get historical in Washington D.C., wind across the Appalachians, through the musical hub of Memphis, and on to New Orleans. Watch the ocean flash by as you drive the endless highway to Key West and seek out a six-toed cat before you dance the night away in Miami. This is the east coast done right.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Chicago, United States
Finish
Miami, United States
Country
United States
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
SSOMC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 13

Why we love this trip

  • Sandusky is a place for the child and thrill seeker inside you. Feel your stomach drop on one of the world’s best rollercoasters at Cedar Point Amusement Park

  • Worship at the sublime altar to Mother Nature that is Niagara Falls, taking an optional wet and wild boat cruise

  • Enjoy a full day to explore Washington DC. There's lots to see and do in the US capital, and most of it is free. Visit the White House, Capitol Hill and the National Mall, and feel small next to the statue of Abraham Lincoln

  • The cities of Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans are notorious for their rich music and nightlife scenes. See live performances of blues, jazz, country and rock in celebrated musical venues

  • Summon your inner child in Orlando with a visit to Universal Studios or Disney World

  • The tropical island of Key West may be known for its idyllic snorkelling and diving spots, but its also home to the delicious key lime pie. You'll have enough free time to search out the best pie in town, even if every shop in the Keys claims to sell the original recipe

  • Throw yourself into Miami's world famous nightlife. The city's Cuban population, beachside setting and balmy nights set a sultry scene

  • Soak up the sun on Panama City Beach and paddle in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re looking for space to spread out, there’s 27 miles of white sandy beach along which to do it

Is this trip right for you?

  • This is a participatory trip. That’s a fancy way of saying you’re not just along for the ride – you’re part of a team! You know the phrase ‘the more you put in, the more you get out’. Well that’s extra true on this trip. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and help out with camp activities like food prep and washing up. It’s all about giving your new travel mates a hand – everyone knows there’s nothing worse than trying to put up a tent on your own!

  • That teamwork also extends to our optional food kitty of approximately US$10 per day, run to cover the cost of meals. This kitty saves you worrying about stuff like where to get food or what exactly sales tax is, and actually helps keep your costs down. Instead of paying individually as you go, it means we can bulk purchase items and cook our own food – though there’s always the chance to use it for the occasional pizza night! The kitty is optional and for your convenience, so if you've got specific dietary requirements you can opt out and purchase (and cook) your own food.

  • The United States is a world of endless possibilities – that’s why our Basix trips are designed so they fit together as (not quite endless) combinations. That means while you might just be starting your trip, some of your new travel mates may have been travelling together for a week or more (and so have some great tips for you). You can see how our trips fit together and all the different possible combinations at www.intrepidtravel.com/brochures. Simply click view/download on the North America brochure and look at the combo map on page 12.

  • On this trip you'll be spending a fair amount of time in a van with other travellers, so conditions may feel a little cramped. This is all part of the adventure, however, and you might even make some long-term friends.

  • Travel times between some destinations can be long and tiring, taking between five and seven hours in some instances. The journey through the Appalachian Mountains is particularly long, but the scenery is spectacular.

  • The weather in Key West can be extremely hot and humid, so it’s a good idea to bring sun protection and drink plenty of water.

  • As we’ll be travelling between multiple locations at a fairly quick pace, there won’t be too much time spent at Panama City Beach. While there will be some time to relax on the beach, you won’t get a full day here.

  • Traffic in and out of New York and Chicago can be hectic, especially during holiday periods. There may be delays, so be prepared to take part in car games to keep you entertained.

  • During this trip you'll find you have some free time within the cities you visit. These are best explored on foot, so you'll get the most out of your trip if you're reasonably fit and able to walk moderate-to-long distances. However, public transportation in these cities is also modern and reliable.

Itinerary

Welcome to Chicago, aka ‘The Windy City’, aka ‘Chi-Town’. It’s laidback, lakeside and has a famously friendly local vibe. You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until your welcome meeting at 6pm. Please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details, food kitty and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. As there's no time spent in Chicago on this trip, we recommend you arrive a few days earlier to see the sights.

This is one of the country’s most walkable cities, and days can be spent wandering the lakefront paths, checking out the soaring buildings, dropping into the top-notch museums, or cruising down the river. In the evening after the welcome meeting, maybe head out with the group for a slice of the city's legendary deep-dish pizza and some blues music.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Chicago - Adler Planetarium - USD12
  • Chicago - Art Institute of Chicago - USD23
  • Chicago - Field Museum - USD15
  • Chicago - History Museum - USD14
  • Chicago - Museum of Contemporary Art - USD12
  • Chicago - Museum of Science and Industry - USD27
  • Chicago - Navy Pier - USD16
  • Chicago - Willis Tower Skydeck - USD18
  • Chicago - Bobby's bike hike - USD35
  • Chicago - Baseball game (in season) - USD40
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend the welcome meeting. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Leave the state of Illinois and head east into Michigan and Detroit (approximately 4.5 hours). The city is gritty and urban, but it also has an undeniable energy that its recent bankruptcy hasn't been able to dim. More recently, Detroit has been reinvented with young artists and entrepreneurs moving in, as well as the opening of quirky bars, urban farms, and street art installations like the Heidelberg Project. You could also pay a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts for a look at one of America's most significant art collections. Alternatively, head to the Motown Museum and Ford Museum for an insight into two of the city's famous exports. The balmy evenings in the city are also perfect for strolling riverside paths and sitting on brew pub decks.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Detroit - Eastern Market - Free
  • Detroit - Heidelberg Project - Free
  • Detroit - Institute of Arts - USD8
  • Detroit - Ford Museum - USD20
  • Detroit - Motown Museum - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Skirt the edge of Lake Erie and cross the Midwest into Ohio, with Sandusky as your destination (approximately two hours). Make your way to Cedar Point Amusement Park, the so-called ‘Roller Coaster Capital of the World’. Cedar Point also features the Millennium Force, which has been voted the greatest roller coaster in the world, making it the place to be if you love an adrenaline hit. If the thrill of the ride gets too much for you, head to the nearby beach and simply stretch out on the sandy shoreline. In the late afternoon, set up camp near Lake Erie and wander down to the lakeshore for a memorable sunset.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Sandusky - Cedar Point Amusement Park
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Visit one of the country's greatest natural attractions – Niagara Falls. Follow the edge of Lake Erie all the way up to this famous sight, which sits sandwiched between the borders of the United States and Canada (approximately 4.5 hours). There are numerous viewpoints from which you can appreciate the power of this amazing set of falls, but there's no better way than to approach them from the water. Don a blue poncho and experience the full force of the falls with an optional Maid of the Mist cruise. A word of warning though, prepare to get a little wet. For the ultimate show, head to the falls at night and see them lit up in all of their glory.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Niagara Falls - Maid of the Mist boat tour - USD16
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Cross into upstate New York and drive to the town of Seneca Falls on the Finger Lakes (approximately three hours). This area is named for its 11 finger-like lakes that stretch north to south between Lake Ontario and the state boarder. As New York’s largest wine producing region, the Finger Lakes region has over 100 wineries to discover (just don’t try and visit them all today!) Perhaps indulge in a wine tasting session or head out on a hike to a nearby waterfall. Taughannock Falls State Park is home to a 215-foot waterfall, 33 feet higher than Niagara Falls itself! The park's walks are dotted with little waterfalls along the way and the surroundings are just beautiful. Set up camp for the night in the state park.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Finger Lakes - Wine Tasting - USD15
  • Finger Lakes - Waterfall hikes - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Leave the natural setting of the Finger Lakes and head to the urban jungle of New York. This journey usually takes around five hours, but as the traffic can be really busy, please be prepared for delays. While in New York, we actually stay across the Hudson River in Newark, New Jersey. It is a short subway ride over to Manhattan for your evenings and free day, and your leader will assist you with directions for getting around.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This is a free day in New York. Take the subway over to Manhattan and spend the day exploring this bustling metropolis. Perhaps check out the view from the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center, take a stroll around Central Park, or be moved by the World Trade Center museum and memorial. Tonight, why not see what's playing on Broadway or head to one of East Village's craft cocktail bars?
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, your leader and the composition of your group may change at this point. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary. You're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new travel companions. After the meeting, you'll be free to enjoy your last night in this energetic city.
Today, drive south towards the nation's capital of Washington DC, stopping at Philadelphia on the way for a quick look at some of the highlights of the Old City, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the 'Rocky' steps. After touring around Philly, continue onto DC. The total driving time from New York to Washington DC will take about seven hours.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Philadelphia - City highlights stop
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free to explore Washington DC, with the city being easily discovered on foot. To see as much as you can today, it may be an idea to get a map and make a plan. Choose from any of DC’s almost 100 world-class museums – the National Air and Space Museum, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Newseum are just a few. There are also many other small fascinating museums hidden around the city. The city is overflowing with iconic monuments and buildings, so don’t miss the White House, Capitol Building, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, MLK Monument, FDR and Jefferson Memorials. You’ll most likely do a lot of walking today, so maybe reward yourself with a relaxing evening.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Washington DC - Arlington National Cemetery - Free
  • Washington DC - Bike and Roll Tour - USD45
  • Washington DC - International Spy Museum - USD21
  • Washington DC - National Air & Space Museum - Free
  • Washington DC - National Archives - Free
  • Washington DC - National Gallery of Art - Free
  • Washington DC - National Museum of American History - Free
  • Washington DC - National Museum of Crime and Punishment - Free
  • Washington DC - National Museum of Natural History - Free
  • Washington DC - Newseum - USD22
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Journey into the breathtaking scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains (500 km). Shenandoah National Park is one of the highest and most scenic portions of the Appalachian Mountains. Taking the Skyline Drive along the crest of the mountains, travel through deep woods and past spectacular vistas. Stop to stretch your legs under the impressive oak trees and admire the gorgeous views. Later in the afternoon, drive to your campsite for the night. Total driving today will take around eight hours including stops.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Shenandoah National Park
Optional Activities
  • Shenandoah National Park - Hiking - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drive for around six hours further south today to Nashville, Tennessee. Once settled into the campground perhaps visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, which contains the golden Cadillac that once belonged to Elvis. Another point of interest is Music Row, where more than 50 recording studios and approximately 200 music publishing houses are located. The Wildhorse Saloon is a great spot in the evening to experience authentic southern food and live music.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Nashville - Country Music Hall of Fame - USD25
  • Nashville - Ryman Auditorium Tour - USD14
  • Nashville - Tennessee State Museum - Free
  • Nashville - Wildhorse Saloon - USD10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Head west this morning to Memphis, which should take around four hours. Just out of the city you can visit Graceland, Elvis Presley's former home and the site of his tomb. Here you can see the famous jungle room, as well as his cars, private planes and much more. In the evening, consider heading down to check out Beale Street's traditional blues clubs, made famous by legends such as W.C Handy, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King. For those with an interest in history, there's the National Civil Rights Museum (at the former Lorraine Motel) where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

If you have time, a must-see in Memphis is Sun Studio - the 'Birthplace of Rock'. It boasts the first recordings of legendary performers like Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Memphis - Graceland Museum - USD35
  • Memphis - Sun Studio - USD12
  • Memphis - Sun Studio tour - USD13
  • Memphis - National Civil Rights Museum - USD13
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today make the long drive across the state of Mississippi to New Orleans (the 'Big Easy'), which usually takes around eight hours. After checking in to your hotel in the French Quarter, use your free time getting to know the ‘Big Easy’. An eclectic mix of European, Creole and Cajun culture manifests in the city's architecture, cuisine and music scene. Possibly take a walk down rowdy Bourbon Street or through the former plantation area of the Garden District. Perhaps join the rest of the group tonight for a typical Cajun-style dinner and toast to your adventure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is free to fit in as much of New Orleans as you can. Founded by French traders in 1718, there are many layers of history in this city and its many attractions combine to make it one of the most visited cities in the USA – a trend that was only momentarily halted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tour the Honey Island Swamp (watch out for ‘gators), cruise the Mississippi on a riverboat or visit the fascinating little Voodoo Museum. In the evening, perhaps check out a jazz show and dance the night away in the bars along Frenchman Street.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, your leader and the composition of your group may change at this point. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary. You're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new travel companions. After the meeting, you'll be free to enjoy your last night in this energetic city.
It's quite a long drive today to Panama City Beach, which should take around six hours. Once there, the best way to recover is to flop on some of the 27 miles of white sand beach, or go for a dip in the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Panama City Beach is also renowned for its night clubs and parties, so if you have enough energy left at the end of the day you may choose to hit the town.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Leave Panama City Beach behind today for another long drive of around seven hours, as we head into the heart of Florida to Orlando. With its large Latino population, including many from Cuba, Orlando has an exciting and varied nightlife, as well as a plethora of shops and outlet malls. If there's time on arrival, you may like to go out and explore the town.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day to explore the amusement parks and attractions of Orlando. Most people opt for Walt Disney World or Universal Studios, but there are a host of other parks that might take your fancy. Islands of Adventure is one of the world's best theme parks and if the weather is nice, Orlando has a handful of water parks such as Wet'n Wild, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Each park is a full day's worth of action, so choose wisely.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Orlando - Walt Disney World Day Pass - USD110
  • Orlando - Walt Disney World Park Hopper - USD140
  • Orlando - Universal Studios - USD100
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Get comfortable today for a long drive to Key West, which can take up to eight hours. As Florida's southernmost point, you'll travel across the Oversees Highway to this little slice of American paradise. On arrival to the island city, use your free time in the evening to recharge after a long day's drive.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is free to explore. Key West is a town that has long been a haven for artists. The local area is famous for its pastel houses and laid-back attitude, and this combines to give the whole area a bohemian and relaxed feel. With the tip of Key West sitting around 90 miles north of Cuba, the water is warm and perfect for snorkelling and swimming among the reefs.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Key West - Hemingway House - USD13
  • Key West - Sunset Sail - USD35
  • Key West - All Day Action Watersports Adventure - USD140
  • Key West - Glass-bottom boat tour - USD40
  • Key West - Snorkelling (half day) - USD49
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drive back across the Overseas Highway this morning to Miami, which will take around four hours.

The trip finishes on arrival into Miami and no accommodation is provided tonight. The arrival time depends on each group, but if you decide to fly out on this day, please don't book a flight before 8pm. This will give you enough time to catch a shuttle from the hotel to the airport and be there two hours before departure. If you are staying in town for the evening, get another fix of sandy beaches and glorious sunshine down at SoBe (South Beach), stroll the art deco seafront or pose with the beautiful people in ultra-cool nightspots. This is a great way to spend the last night of your trip.. If you do wish to spend extra time in Miami we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Optional Activities
  • Miami - Venetian Pool - USD12
  • Miami - Miami Beach Botanical Garden - Free
  • Miami - Swimming at South Beach - Free
  • Miami - Vizcaya Museum & Gardens - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Private vehicle

Accommodation

Camping (with facilities) (14 nights), Hostel (1 night), Hotel (4 nights)

Included activities

  • Sandusky - Cedar Point Amusement Park
  • Philadelphia - City highlights stop
  • Shenandoah National Park

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. This trip finishes on arrival into Miami in the afternoon on day 20.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.