A man once said that the US can be conquered from coast to coast under 48 hours. But we know what you’re thinking; isn’t the United States… massive?
You’re indeed right. It is beyond us how people can drive through a total area of 9.8 million km2 , stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific (with 6 official time zones!) in less than a week, let alone 2 days. This article won’t attempt you to think otherwise, but here’s what’s possible: a Muslim-friendly road trip from the east to the west, in 2 weeks 🧕✈🌎 Yep, you heard us.
Driving through America will make you feel like you’re passing by many different countries; each being worlds away from the other. The fast-paced New York City is nothing like the serene farms of rural Wyoming. The outdoor, cowboy lifestyle in Montana looks nothing like the laid-back, sun-soaked San Diego. This piece is all about showing you the whats, wheres, and whys of ditching the airports for the wheels would be the better option when it comes to touring America 🚗
Before that: if you don’t live in the US, we have a few tips which might come in handy.
When shopping for road trip supplies at places like Walmart, Best Buy, etc., be economical and check for their return policy. It’s very common in the US for customers to buy, use, then return hence it’s perfect if you’re not planning on paying for extra luggage on your flight back home. Walmart specifically has a 1-month return policy. In case they refuse the returned items within the period, simply visit other Walmarts in the area and you’re good to go.
Transport & Navigation 🚇
- When renting a car, make sure you have credit/debit cards with a sufficient amount of funds. Rental companies have varied payment acceptance policies and most of them require valid credit/debit for security deposit purposes. We recommend browsing for the best rental deals at rentalcars.com (a Booking.com partner)– they’ll compare prices and offer discounts up to USD500 worth of savings 🤑
- Plan ahead on how much you’ll spend on gas according to regions via Gas Buddy.
- When deciding on GPS, either get a good purchase deal (with returning policy, of course!) at Walmart or download offline maps on your phone instead! Having a backup paper map helps too, especially if you unexpectedly find yourself in a remote area with zero signal coverage 🗺
- Need WiFi? Download WiFi Map on your phone. This holy grail app lets you connect to available WiFi spots near you on the map so Internet-hunting never has to be difficult.
- If you’re planning on visiting a lot of tourist attractions, sign up for a CityPASS card to skip ticket lines and save some dollars! Their ticket booklets will guide you to all of the must-see destinations in the US.
Our featured route stretches from Ocean City, Maryland to San Francisco, California along the Interstate 50 and Interstate 70. This route must only be taken by those who (a) has time & company, and (b) LOVES sitting. We’re bringing you through 11 states altogether, so don’t say you weren’t warned!
From end to end, we’re looking at miles and miles of sweeping mountains, dusty highways and odd otherworldly towns which make this stretch a little on the quiet side– that, and also too many scenic byways and natures’ best in between.
How to get to Ocean City, Maryland?
A common way to get to Ocean City is flying from John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens, New York, which is roughly a 3-5 hours flight to Ocean City Municipal Airport. Speaking of New York, go ahead and browse our 6D5N Muslim-Itinerary To The Big Apple and who knows, you might want to add another destination to the plan 😉
If you want a headstart on the road much sooner, there are always buses to go for 🚌 We recommend Greyhound as they come off as the most convenient travel service around. They have several boarding locations across New York such as Port Authority and Brooklyn Bus Station.
With extra legroom, Wi-Fi and power outlets, long distance journeys never have to be miserable especially when you’re still jetlagged 💺 Download their app here to book your trip, secure your e-ticket, check in easily and all that!
Why Maryland to California?
There’s a cute tale behind why this route was made into a thing by road-trippers 🗺
It began way back in the 1980s when Ocean City, Maryland planted a mileage sign which read ‘Sacramento California so many thousand miles’ and caught the attention of John R. Cropper, Jr. who worked as the head of statewide highway maintenance. He saw the sign and thought it would be a good idea to reciprocate.
Though met with quite the resistance, both signs remain standing to this day. If you’re planning to drive this route, don’t forget to snap a picture with the sign to commemorate your trip!
1. Ocean City (3 hours)
Start off your trip by taking a stroll on the boardwalks in Ocean City and swan-watching at the Chesapeake Bay.
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Ocean City has plenty of options when it comes to amusement parks such as Trimper Rides and Jolly Roger At The Pier. If you plan to take the phrase ‘starting our journey with a roll’ literally, there are roller coasters, to begin with! 🎢
2. District of Columbia (6 hours)
When in D.C, you must visit the National Mall, which houses the Washington Monument, Capitol Hill, and Lincoln Memorial.
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The park receives approximately 24 million visitors each year, and within walking distance, there are many other spots you can explore such as the White House, Library of Congress, US Supreme Court Building, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
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To secure a self-guided tour at the White House, contact your country’s embassy in D.C at least 3 weeks in advance. Only approved requests will be entertained and all tours are subjected to last-minute cancellations by the management. Get more details here.
3. Ohio (3 hours)
Now that your Washington checklist is ticked, get on the wheels to grab mac n cheese and sandwich brunch at the good ol’ American diner called Court Street Diner in Athens, Ohio.
The retro atmosphere in this place is to die for!
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Status: No alcohol but pork is served in the establishment. You can request your food to be prepared separately with a strict guarantee by the management.
They say you can’t leave Ohio without heading over to Portsmouth where the Floodwall Mural. The painting works began in 1993 and were completed in 2002 with 2,200 feet of art along the Ohio River.
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The talented muralist behind the detailed and enchanting artwork is none other than Robert Dafford himself, who has graced over 350 large-scale public works throughout the U.S. and also in France, Belgium, England, and Canada.
4. Indiana (4 hours)
Drive north and arrive at Indiana, home of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore where locals come to sunbathe, swim, and bask in the lake breeze. The wildflowers here are brilliant in spring, but if you’re here during winter, get ready to go skiing in Glenwood Dunes.
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Touring the Central Canal, also known as Indy Canal Walk is also an attractive way to get to know the city better. This feature is essentially a 3-mile loop that flows by the Indiana State Museum, Victory Field, the Indianapolis Zoo and the 250-acre White River State Park. It is considered to be Indiana’s asset and the #1 destination for locals and tourists alike to unwind.
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Entrance to the canal is free. Hourly kayak rentals start at $15 and pedal boats start at $30. Rental bicycles are also available. A gondola ride starts at $25 per person for public rides or $150 for private sailings.
If none of the transportation modes we’ve mentioned struck your interest, then why not rent a Segway® Personal Transporter instead? Visit their website here for bookings and more info.
5. Illinois (5 hours)
Next destination: Chicago, Illinois. We can hardly pick just one thing to do here, thankfully most of the captivating destinations here are very near to one another.
But! The one thing we wouldn’t miss out on would be a visit up to the 360 Chicago, where you can get stunning views on Chicago’s skyline 🌆
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If you’ve got the guts, TILT is one of the attractions available in the building for you to have a downward-facing view from 1030-feet up! It can hold 8 people at any one time and the glass box where you’ll be standing is tilted at 30 degrees 🤪
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When it’s time for prayers and you don’t know where to go, head over to The Mecca Center in Willowbrook, a common gathering and prayer space for local Muslims in the area. It is very spacious and built with a spectacular interior, a perfect place to unwind spiritually and take a breather from driving for too long!
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6. Missouri (6 hours)
Moving further east, you’ll learn that the Mississippi River separates Illinois from Missouri. How can you tell if you’re already in Missouri?
You’ll see this:
credit: Ron Cogswell on Flickr
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is the world’s tallest stainless steel arch dedicated to monument America’s expansion, standing at 630 feet high-and-wide.
As you enter its capital, Jefferson City, we recommend visiting the Missouri State Capitol for an in-depth lesson on the state’s history and their stunning architecture;
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… Runge Conservation Nature Center– for its gorgeous native flowers and wildlife sightings 🌼🦌
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… and Missouri State Penitentiary– for an experience at “the bloodiest 47-acres in the US”, as named by TIME Magazine. This prison operated from 1836 until 2004 was known to be a notoriously brutal prison with maximum security and has seen numerous executions over the years.
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There are 3 different public tours open for visitors; public tour, paranormal tour, and public photography tour. You can make reservations here.
7. Kansas (8 hours)
If there’s one thing Kansas pride itself with, it’d be their endless stretch of scenic Midwest American view. As you drive through I-70 to Colorado, you’re most likely to pass by the Monument Rocks aka Chalk Pyramids;
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… and Mount Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas and located quite off the path. It’s more of a hill than a mountain, hence you don’t need to hike. However, you have to drive on a gravel path into a private property, so be sure to mind the speed!
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Immersing in the local community calls for a visit to the City Market aka River Market on the weekends, where it’s always packed with people getting their shopping done. This market has been operating for the past 160 years and continues to serve the locals with fresh produce, amazing food, boutique items, etc. While it is open week-round, we suggest you come by on a Saturday or a Sunday so you get to experience the popular Farmer’s Market and Vintage Sale.
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Oh, and did you know the world’s famous pizza chain, Pizza Hut, had their humble beginning then breakthrough years right here in Wichita? The Original Pizza Hut Museum is located within the campus grounds of Wichita State University.
It’s open to the public from Monday – Friday, 12 PM until 4 PM.
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8. Colorado (10 hours)
Hey ho, we’re finally at the state popular for its diverse landscape of arid desert, river canyons and the snow-covered Rocky Mountains!
From Denver, go off-trail from I-70 to US-36 West/Denver Boulder Turnpike heading to the Rocky Mountains National Park. It’ll be quite a long drive due to mountain road curves, traffic, crossing elks, as well as this view ✨
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Going further west will take you to Glenwood Springs, home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool. You can choose to stay overnight here at the surrounding resorts, or briefly stop at nearby cafes for a warm drink.
If a hot soak retreat is not what you’re looking for, head to Glenwood Canyon and go straight to the Hanging Lake for a hike and a dip!
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The beauty of this lake is unfathomable. Emerald waters with the Sprouting Waterfall as background as you rejuvenate by basking under the soft sunrays on a spring afternoon? We’d go crazy, too.
Just before leaving Colorado, find something to make a picnic out of by visiting Grand Junction. The city’s well known for their farm-to-table dining and fruit stands. One cafe which stood out is Cafe Sol; they offer vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options so halal/kosher food hunting never have to be difficult.
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Status: Alcohol & pork served in the establishment but the eatery can accommodate any dietary preferences. Customers may request their food to be prepared separately with a strict guarantee by the management.
Utah (10 hours)
Ready for your 9th state on this road trip? Welcome to Utah.
Driving along the I-70 for 1-2 hours will bring you to San Rafael Swell, a 70 by 40-mile geologic upheaval located in southeastern UT. The view here is phenomenal, to say the least.
#HHWTTip: This is a very isolated area so come prepared. Drink plenty of water and fill up your gas tanks before heading in. Since the roads are gravel, travel can sometimes be difficult after a storm. There are no fees to enter the San Rafael Swell.
At the right time of the year, you’d find fellow campers pitching their tents and parking their RVs here to simply live in the moment where nature catches you bewildered off-guard.
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Planning to park and stay a while longer?
There are hiking and mountain biking trails which are family-friendly almost on every dirt road in the Swell. For solo/duo travellers with a little higher endurance and intermediate biking skills, the Good Water Trail will definitely fit the frame. 🚲
Beginning at the Little Grand Canyon Overlook heading north, the well-marked trail splits from the dirt road within a few hundred yards and will likely take a few hours. But it can be shortened by exiting the trail at one of several points where it merges with the campground road.
9. Nevada (12 hours)
Once you’re in Nevada, this is where the phrase ‘The Loneliest Road in America’ hits home. Consumed by time since the highway was first paved, you can still find some old gas stations, motor courts and diners hidden between newer buildings and businesses – a glimpse to another moment in America’s past.
Taken by @k__athryn
Heading south onto Lincoln Highway passing by Glenbrook Creek brings you to the year-round mesmerising Lake Tahoe.
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As you drive along the eastern shore, opt between surveying the azure expanse of the lake at eye level or aboard a kayak launched from Zephyr Cove, which has sandy swimming beaches. There’s also a cruise ship available if you feel like hopping out of the car and experience the lake with a proper mode of transport.
One thing you could also go for (if you don’t mind the major detour) is to take US-93 S then I-15 S to drive through Las Vegas!
Although The Sin City is very much synonymous with mayhem in Hollywood and fantasy-filled western culture, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep it halal while playing tourist here 🌃
Apart from driving around to capture mental images of the nightlife and vibrant lights, you must drop by Marash Turkish Ice Cream at the Grand Bazaar near Bally’s hotel complex. Their ice cream has a unique consistency to it as it’s made of goat’s milk and prepared like gelato.
There are plenty of flavours which you can sample before deciding. If you’re lucky, the server will perform tricks and tease you while popping the scoops in your cone! 🍦
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Before resuming your drive, kick back and spend the evening at Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas Strip for their live performances and a few drinks at the 42,000 square feet space 🎸
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Check out the list of shows here to make reservations.
10. California (7 hours)
You’ll find yourself finally reaching California when you cross the state line to South Lake Tahoe. Are we near to Sacramento, you might ask? Well, not quite yet! There’s one more destination you need to discover, that is Eldorado National Park.
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Driving through the park to get from South Lake Tahoe to Placerville will give you a picturesque view of tall pine trees, giant boulders and amazing sky. Slow down, wind your windows down, and enjoy the forest breeze with your road trip company.
Just an hour away via the Eldorado freeway is our second last destination: Sacramento! Of all things we’d want you to see here, Crocker Art Museum is high up on the list and we promise that you will not regret it.
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As you probably can tell, the museum is quite a popular destination for couples doing their wedding photo shoot. Established in 1885, the Museum features one of the country’s finest collections of Californian art, exceptional holdings of master drawings, a comprehensive collection of international ceramics, as well as European, Asian, African, and Oceanic art.
Need a prayer break? SALAM Islamic Center is located right by the traffic junction in College Oak Drive.
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Approximately 2 hours drive away is– you guessed it– San Francisco! Can you believe that your cross-country road trip is now coming to an end? The finale doesn’t have to be a bore because like every other state you’ve passed through, there are just as many things to be explored in SF!
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Start your day early and hunt for breakfast at Haight District (psst… refer to our halal SF guide here: 5 Experience Not To Miss When You’re In San Francisco). When you feel like you’ve consumed a tad too much, burn the morning calories by taking a stroll in Golden Gate Park and don’t forget your camera!
A fantastic sightseeing spot would be Chinatown, where food is aplenty and discount shopping is a must, especially souvenirs! 🤑
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P.S. Looking for halal food at Chinatown? Head over to Eden Silk Road for a taste of halal Central Asian and Uyghur cuisine. Alternatively, you can also have some finger-licking chicken wings at Halal Wings Plus.
Go for a walk at Fisherman’s Wharf; make friends with the seagulls, have fish & chips, check out tourist attractions namely Pier 39, Madame Tussauds, Hyde Street Pier, the Sea Lion Center– the list goes on 🤩
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It’ll be a waste not to eat some yummy fish and chips when you’re at Fisherman’s Wharf. Head over to The Codmother Fish & Chips for a satisfying meal! Try the signature fish and chips, go for the shrimp and chips or have it Mexican-style with their shrimp or fish tacos 🤤
Note: The Codmother is not halal-certified or Muslim-owned but they only sell seafood with no alcohol, so do dine at your own discretion!
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Park your car and get a ride on the city’s cable car for only $5 per ride– it is an ideal mode of transport to see the best parts of San Francisco.
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Spend the evening on the Alcatraz tour to watch the sunset from the beautiful waters. Finally, end your night with a walk down Embacadero town and take in the city’s lively & quirky nightlife.
That’s a wrap for your 3000+ miles across the great, great USA! What do you think? Given the chance, would you do it all over again? 😉