Single mum Maxine and her three children hit the road for a family trip of a lifetime.
With a family wedding in Fargo (yes, where film of the same name was set!) my children, Charlie 14, Chessie 10, and Annabelle 9, and I decided that if we were going to visit the Big Country we best to do it in style. Our aim was to travel from LA on the West Coast, via ten states and over 4000 kilometres to Fargo North Dakota (taking in Disneyland, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Salt Lake City, Montana’s Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park and the Native American plains of North Dakota along the way).
We arrive in Los Angeles at night, after a 14-hour flight from Sydney, and check in to our hotel in Santa Monica for some needed sleep. In the morning we’re ready for some Hollywood action, so catch a tourist bus to all the main attractions including the Hollywood Bowl, Rodeo Drive, lunch at the Farmers Markets and old town Los Angeles. We walk the Hall of Fame, see the Chinese Theatre and are dropped off back to our hotel in time to quickly explore Santa Monica Boulevard.
Venice Beach is interesting but if you’re with kids stick to wandering around in the daytime – it gets a little intimidating after dark. The next day we head for Universal Studios for a full-on day. While the rides are great, my youngest wasn’t impressed with the haunted house but the Simpsons ride more than made up for it. Buy a front-of-line pass to avoid the queues.
No trip to LA is complete without a stay at Disneyland Resort. Disneyland is fabulous fun and definitely worth a trip (the young ones will love it) while neighbouring Disney California Adventure Park is great for over nines where the rides are excellent but use the fast pass service on the popular rides. After two exhausting days we are happy to leave for the next leg of our trip.
While we’re sad to say goodbye to the wonderful bubble that is Disneyland, we excitedly take a bus to the Nevada desert and Route 66! It’s a little daunting arriving at a Las Vegas hotel with three kids in tow – we’re not the desirable demographic at the Luxor! Interestingly it my oldest who decides it is not for him. If you do decide to stop over in Las Vegas with children, one thing you should try is a helicopter ride over the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon. And if you have time take the Wild West Train Experience. Hot, dry and just awesome, we feel just like we’re in a John Wayne western!
Relieved to be leaving the chaos of Las Vegas, we pick up a hire car from Las Vegas airport to head to Idaho Falls. Once out of the city, and with only a GPS to help me, we are on our way through the desert to the state of Utah. After an overnight stop we’re on the road again to Salt Lake City. The drive is stunning and easy (even the road-trains here are polite). Along the way I try to give the kids a history lesson on the Native Americans and pioneer settlers, which I think is going down well until I hear gentle snores from the back of the car! After a few stops we settle into a motel overlooking Idaho Falls.
The following day we head on a spectacular drive through Yellowstone Park. We arrive just in time to see Old Faithful (the most popular geyser in the world) show us a big spurt. The scenery is stunning as we drive through the north-east side of the park. It’s then I realise driving up a three-kilometre mountain means driving down the other side. I now feel I have mastered driving on the other side of the road after 30 kilometres of ski-slope hairpins! We’re relieved when we reach a ski lodge village.
With less than 36 hours to reach my sister’s house the drive from Red Rock is long, flat and although beautiful, a little dull. Luckily we came armed with a whole heap of audio books to keep the kids amused! As we contemplate our epic journey, we agree that we’ve all fallen in love with the Big Country. Perhaps next time, however, we’ll take seven weeks and a Winnebago!