30-Day Road Trip Across America in Marriott Hotels

Come along on our big trip across the U.S.! We’re hitting the road after living in South Korea for three years. For the next month, we’re crashing at Marriott Hotels everywhere. We’ll be checking out incredible landmarks, catching up with family, and finally settling down in the cornfields of Illinois. Please stick around for 30 days of stories from our journey, where Marriott is our home away from home at every pit stop.

Road trip with Steven and Malik- featured image

30-Day Road Trip Across America

Come along on our big 30-day road trip across America. We’re hitting the road after living in South Korea for three years. For the next month, we’re crashing at Marriott Hotels everywhere. We’ll be checking out incredible landmarks, catching up with family, and finally settling down in the cornfields of Illinois and Iowa. Please stick around for 30 days of stories from our journey, where Marriott is our home away from home at every pit stop.

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Cities we Visited During Our 30-day Road Trip Across America

Atlanta, GA — AC Hotel Atlanta Airport Gateway
Quad Cities, IA — Residence Inn by Marriott Moline Quad Cities
Saint Louis, MO — Hotel Saint Louis Marriott Autograph Collection, Marriott Courtyard St. Louis Brentwood, Springhill Suites by Marriott St. Louis Airport/ Earth City
Memphis, TN
Nashville, TN — SpringHill Suites by Marriott Franklin Cool Springs
Hattiesburg, MS
Belmont, NC
Richmond, VA
Baltimore, MD — Renaissance Harbor
Rochester, NY
Grand Rapids, MI
Moline, IL

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Atlanta, Georgia

Our whirlwind 30-day road trip across America adventure kicks off in Atlanta. We missed our connecting flight from Seoul, so Delta Airlines accommodated us for the night at the AC Hotel Atlanta Airport Gateway. This hotel is conveniently located near the airport and allows us to accrue Marriott Bonvoy points, which is quite a perk. Interestingly, the airline offered us two rooms, but we declined this time. Next time that happens, I’ll gladly accept it. After all, it’s all about accumulating points, and having a private bathroom would have been wonderful.

Here are my 2023 Travel Reflections: What Did I Learn From Living Abroad

AC Hotel Atlanta Airport Gateway

Website | Map

I’m a fan of the AC Chain of Marriott hotels. It falls somewhere between budget and luxury, providing a comfortable place to rest your head and a bar, although breakfast is optional. When we arrived, the lobby was buzzing with people enjoying happy hour, creating a lively atmosphere. There’s also a restaurant open at night where we could use the four $15 vouchers the airlines provided us as compensation for the inconvenience.

Additionally, we took advantage of the early bag check-in service, leaving four of our six bags at the airport. We used the remaining vouchers for breakfast the following day, only having to chip in an extra $2 each.

Delta Flight Museum

Website | Map

The Delta Flight Museum is located on the airport’s campus, just a short Uber ride away in the hometown airline’s historic hangar. Here, you’ll discover vintage aircraft, flight attendant uniforms, Olympic memorabilia, and even a flight simulator for you to explore.

Quad Cities

We flew to the Quad Cities Airport. The Quad Cities consist of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island and Moline in Illinois. The name “Quad Cities” originates from the fact that these four cities are situated along the Mississippi River and near one another. The Rock Island Arsenal, our upcoming duty station, has a military history dating back to 1862 during the American Civil War.

Our stay was brief. We checked into the Marriott Residence Inn in Moline to rest before our long road trip. We stored two of the six bags because there was no way all six would fit in the rear cargo area.

Residence Inn by Marriott Moline Quad Cities

Website | Map

The Marriott Residence Inns aim to create a comfortable, homey atmosphere, just as their name suggests. Many of these locations embrace a lodge-like style, using natural materials and warm, earthy colors to achieve a cozy ambiance. The Residence Inn in Moline is no exception.

In addition to its inviting atmosphere, this inn offers some great perks, including complimentary hot breakfast, bottled water, and a fully-equipped kitchen, which will be handy when we return in 30 days to start in-processing at the arsenal. The inn also has great amenities like a laundry room, an indoor pool, and a fitness center. It is also located on the John Deere Expy near lots of shops, restaurants, and cafes.

An Important Takeaway

We dined at a nearby Mexican restaurant and opted for McAlister’s Deli for lunch the following day. While both places were decent, my key takeaway was that the portion sizes were incredibly generous. We decided sharing our meals to avoid wasting food or over-eating during this 30-day road trip across America would be wiser.

I’ve found some of my favorite places on road trips; check this place out on Lake Michigan.

Saint Louis

St. Louis has one of my favorite urban parks: Forest Park. The park spans more than 1,300 acres, making it one of the largest urban parks in the United States. This vibrant neighborhood in St. Louis offers a range of attractions, from cultural and historical landmarks to dining and recreational opportunities.

This expansive green space offers an easy escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, featuring a lush landscape, picturesque walking and biking trails, several lakes, and the Boathouse Cafe. Additionally, within the park, you can explore the Saint Louis Zoo the Saint Louis Art Museum, or catch a show at The Muny, an outdoor theater.

Spend a few hours exploring the Missouri Botanical Garden, a haven for exploring diverse plant species and themed gardens, providing an oasis of tranquility and horticultural beauty. Forest Park also houses historic landmarks like the World’s Fair Pavilion, a reminder of the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, showcasing the city’s rich history.

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Hotel Saint Louis Marriott Autograph Collection

Website | Map | 3 hr 46 min (259 miles)

The first hotel on the road trip is Saint Louis and the Hotel Saint Louis, a beautiful historic boutique in the luxury Autograph Collection of Marriott. We had planned to stay in Saint Louis for a day or two, but we stayed there for eight days to get our car reprogrammed for the United States. You can read about the hotel and our stay here; it’s one of our favorite hotels.

The Hotel Saint Louis is in the heart of downtown, offering a convenient location just a short stroll away from iconic landmarks such as the renowned St. Louis Arch. During my stay, I had the incredible opportunity to experience the arch up close, explore the recently renovated museum, and take a tram ride to the top for a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Additionally, I discovered some charming cafes, including Park Avenue Coffee. I highly recommend taking a break and treating yourself to one of their yummy, gooey butter cakes. While we waited for the car to get the US maps loaded, we explored the St. Louis cafe scene all around St. Louis, especially SweetArt, a lovely cafe in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis.

Memphis

Memphis is a vibrant city that offers a mix of cultural, historical, and culinary attractions. One of its top attractions is Beale Street, known for its lively blues clubs, restaurants, and shops, where you can soak in the city’s musical heritage. Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley, is another must-visit destination, offering a glimpse into the life of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. And when it comes to culinary delights, Memphis is famous for its hot chicken, with popular spots like Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken and Hattie B’s serving up spicy and flavorful dishes that are a true Southern delicacy. These attractions, along with many others, make Memphis a unique and unforgettable destination for travelers.

The Residence Inn by Marriott

Website | Web

The historic Residence Inn by Marriott, registered with the National Historical Registry, is elegantly and beautifully appointed in the style of art deco, just as it was when the hotel originally debuted in 1930. The lobby and mezzanine are stunning with many of the original architectural features. Experience the trendy atmosphere or mingle with friends in our exquisite hearth room with its unique double-faced fireplace. STARBUCKS on site serving all your favorite food and beverages. Enjoy a coffee in our Starbucks. The Main Street Trolley with its vintage trolley cars is located directly outside our door, making it easy to travel to work and enjoy the many restaurants, shopping and sightseeing that Memphis has to offer. Residence Inn Memphis Downtown – room to work, room to relax, room to breathe.

Nashville

Since the car was taking longer than expected and we wanted to stay on schedule as much as possible, we decided to drive to Nashville for the weekend to visit my brother. We stayed in the Marriott Springhill Suites in Franklin Cool Springs, a pretty hotel just outside Nashville.

SpringHill Suites by Marriott Franklin Cool Springs

Website | Map | 4 hr 45 min (324 miles)

I absolutely loved the layout of our suite. I especially appreciated the welcoming mood lighting when we first arrived. The desk area was a nice touch, positioned separately from the bed so I could use my laptop without worrying about disturbing Steven while he slept.

The only downside was that the pool was outdoors, which was a bit disappointing. However, since I didn’t bring a swimsuit, it didn’t bother me too much.

On the bright side, they offered a complimentary hot breakfast that was quite good, and it even included non-pork options. There is a lot of seating, but I found it challenging to find a comfortable place to work on my laptop outside the room at night. But if you arrive late or want a late-night snack and want to avoid buying something from the overpriced hotel corner market, a Mexican restaurant within walking distance stays open until midnight.

Saint Louis

We’re back, and unfortunately, the car is still not ready. I’ve already completed all the activities I had planned to do downtown. Consequently, instead of returning to the Hotel Saint Louis, we opted for the Marriott Courtyard St. Louis Brentwood. This marked the first time we decided to use points rather than pay for our stay, and it was a fantastic value for us.

Courtyard St. Louis Airport/Earth City

Website | Map | 4 hr 57 min (324 miles)

I have mixed feelings about this hotel. I had read that it was conveniently located for restaurants and attractions, but I found myself disagreeing with that assessment. It seemed quite distant from the places I wanted to visit. As a result, we ended up dining at a Chinese restaurant in a somewhat questionable neighborhood. However, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast, particularly the delicious spinach quiche. I spread it over an egg McMuffin, and it was pure heaven. Steven enjoyed it so much that he had two servings. The staff, especially Mary, were exceptional.

I appreciated that the gym wasn’t tucked away in a corner, which made me feel safe using it early in the morning. Additionally, the washer and dryers were relatively new and cost $2.50 each, which is always a plus. The firepit in the rear of the hotel was a nice feature and something I appreciated before bed and after my morning workout. I am getting a fire pit for my house one day.

Marriott Courtyard St. Louis Brentwood

Website | Map | 20 min (17 miles)

The next night, we moved to the Marriott Courtyard St. Louis Brentwood. As soon as I stepped inside, it was clear that this place had been designed with the pandemic in mind. The focal point of the space is the bar, and it’s a sight to behold with its mirrored wall of liquor bottles creating a stunning decoration. Unfortunately, during our stay, the bar was closed because the hotel was dealing with understaffing issues – a familiar problem we’ve encountered at several hotels. Many of us can’t help but wonder if the pay might be the root cause of this recurring issue, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

Despite its somewhat retro vibe, all the seating was thoughtfully spaced out, creating a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. I especially appreciated the calming blue accent lights, which perfectly complemented the marine blue furniture and rugs. The lobby was truly inviting; it’s just a shame that the bar and restaurant weren’t open during our stay.

Now, let’s talk about the best part of our stay here – the breakfast I enjoyed the following morning. While breakfast wasn’t included, I treated myself to a mouthwatering avocado toast after my morning workout. Just a quick note, though: the coffee in the lobby wasn’t free; you’d have to get your caffeine fix in your room, but they do serve Starbucks coffee.

The room itself was comfortable and spacious. We opted for a room with two queen-sized beds on the second floor, offering a view of the parking lot. However, I must admit that I wanted more than the $10 per night parking fee for the expansive parking lot surrounding the building. It’s a downer, especially considering that the neighboring Marriott doesn’t charge its guests for parking.

Hattiesburg

Hattiesburg is the closest city to where my husband and his family live in Mississippi. It’s a college town with shopping, restaurants, and cafes. And it is where we go if we want to go out for dinner or a brewery.

PJ’s Coffee

We stayed with Steven’s family in Mississippi for a few days because we hadn’t seen them for a few years. While there, we spent most of the time with friends and family. But we did enjoy a lovely cafe in Hattiesburg called PJs. PJ’s Coffee on 6106 Hwy-98 was a convenient stop for us after leaving Hattiesburg. We found various options, satisfying our caffeine fix, breakfast sandwich, and New Orleans beignet cravings – PJ’s Coffee had something for everyone.

Their menu featured hot beverages, organic teas, and creative iced and frozen drinks crafted from their signature cold brew. We learned that their iced coffees were brewed daily using a unique cold-drip process developed by founder Phyllis Jordan over 40 years ago, ensuring excellent flavor and strength. They took pride in serving only the top 1% of specialty Arabica beans, providing a high-quality, small-batch roasted coffee experience with every sip.

Website | Map

Antique-store-in-Belmont-519x346 30-Day Road Trip Across America in Marriott Hotels

Belmont

Catawba River Antique Mall

We decided to stop in Belmont, NC, just 13 miles west of Charlotte. One of the coolest things to do in the area is the Catawba River Antique Mall. With over 300 booths brimming with merchandise, all housed within a 67,000-square-foot building that also accommodates a wedding venue and the Hummingbirds and Lotus Boutique. All Pets must be in a stroller/carrier or inside of a shopping cart to protect rugs and merchandise.

Website | Map

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Charlotte Belmont

Website | Map | 9 hr 32 min (611 miles)

This place has a friendly staff, clean and comfortable rooms, and public spaces that make for a restful night’s sleep due to the comfortable beds and pillows. Furthermore, it’s well-lit inside and out, though it’s worth noting there are no nearby dining options and no microwaves in the rooms, and as I’ve discovered during this trip, I tend to favor Fairfield Inn over Marriott Courtyards on this trip. The one thing I will note is that I enjoyed the breakfast, which included a very good spinach quiche. I had an enjoyable conversation with Mary, the breakfast attendant.

Richmond

We stopped in Richmond to visit a couple of master-planned communities in preparation for our upcoming retirement (in 3 years). We have yet to decide to move to Richmond, but it’s high on our list of possibilities. Richmond is a beautiful city in central Virginia. It offers a better entrance price into the real estate market than more northern cities and lies above the flood line like its southern counterparts. But it allows access to all the incredible natural beauty and easy transportation between our families.

Some of my favorite things to do in Richmond include the Ginter Butterfly Museum, Maymont Park, and brunch at the stunning Jefferson Hotel.

Sheraton Richmond Airport

Website | Map | 4 hr 20 min (300 miles)

While here, we checked into the Sheraton Airport. Although its niw under the Marriott umbrella. It has a different vibe.

We stayed in a huge studio divided into three distinct area: sitting area, bathroom, and bedroom. I liked how they delineated each area using flooring. The bedroom was carpeted, and the hard floor throughout the rest of the studio room.

There were multiple luggage carts/ benches to elevate more than one piece of luggage. The sheets, pillowcases, and towels smelled heavenly.

Breakfast is served in the pretty dining room, but we opted for coffee at a Richmond landmark– Ironclad Coffee and Roastery in the Shockoe District. Read all about it here–> hanging out at the Ironclad Coffee and Roastery.

Baltimore

Baltimore is my second hometown, and most of my maternal family resides in and around the city. Therefore, it seemed like a natural choice for a layover. We decided to stay at a luxury hotel to add a touch of indulgence to what was becoming a routine trip.

So after a short visit with my family and a surprise nightcap with Lindy and Logan (friends we met in Korea). We checked into another luxury hotel in the Marriott Chain– the hotel is massive at the Harbor.

Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel

The wonders of Baltimore are a stone’s throw from the indulgent comfort of the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. The Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, situated in the heart of Baltimore, Maryland, is a comfortable and stylish accommodation with a scenic view of the Inner Harbor. Since its opening in 1988, it has become a prominent fixture in the city. The hotel’s strategic location near popular attractions like the National Aquarium and Camden Yards makes it an excellent choice for those exploring Baltimore’s history while enjoying modern amenities. We didn’t get a chance to indulge in any of the activities due to our short visit. But if you can visit, I highly suggest strolling around the harbor. Stop into one of the local restaurants and enjoy Baltimore’s famous blue crab. It is a historic hotel that offers an impressive array of amenities, including a large lounge and restaurant on the 5th floor, a Starbucks in the lobby, secure underground parking, a rooftop members club serving snacks all day, and a delightful hot breakfast in the morning before heading home to my parents in Rochester, New York..

Website | Map

Rochester

Rochester is my hometown. I wouldn’t say I liked that place growing up, but it’s not so bad now that I am an adult. I visited a few cafes, spent the day at the beach (on Lake Erie), went rock climbing for the first time, and spent much-needed time hanging out with my mom and dad.

Driving Across Canada

We’re finally on the last leg of our drive across America to visit family. Today, I drove from Rochester to Buffalo and across Canada to Grand Rapids, Michigan. The drive covers most of southern Ontario, and between today and tomorrow, the drive will take me past four of the five Great Lakes. Today, the drive straddles parts of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Lake Superior is the only lake I won’t see on this road trip because it is the northernmost and westernmost of the Great Lakes of North America. The Peace Bridge is located near downtown Buffalo, New York, and Fort Erie, Ontario, separated by the Niagara River. It was one of the most scenic bridge crossings I’ve ever done.

Grand Rapids

We spent a day hanging out in Grand Rapids. Our visit to Grand Rapids, Michigan, left a lasting impression on me, as I witnessed the city’s unwavering commitment to social justice and community expression. Walking through downtown, the presence of Breonna Taylor Way street signs at the intersection of Monroe Center and Pearl Street served as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle for justice.

Women’s Way– a collection of vibrant murals celebrating women, conveyed a compelling narrative of empowerment and inclusivity, showcasing the city’s dedication to fostering a diverse and inclusive atmosphere. Engaging with auto workers during a strike provided me with valuable insights into their demands, underscoring the intersectionality of social issues within the dynamic tapestry of Grand Rapids’ community activism. Moreover, the city’s architectural beauty, with its numerous turn-of-the-century exteriors, added another layer of fascination to an already enriching experience.

Residence Inn Grand Rapids

The hotel we stayed at was top-notch, a standout among Residence Inns. Spacious suites, a second-floor lobby, and a well-equipped kitchen made our stay comfortable. Free grocery delivery and internet were convenient perks. The hot breakfast, fitness center, and indoor pool added to the experience. The hotel’s architecture, resembling the iconic Flatiron Building in New York, gave it a sophisticated edge. Overall, a great stay with a mix of luxury and practicality.

Website | Map

The Residence Inn Grand Rapids Downtown is a fabulous all-suite hotel surrounded by shops, cafes, and breweries. It’s not your run-of-the-mill building; its unique triangular design reminds me of the famous Flatiron Building in New York City. The lobby, gym, and breakfast area are on the 2nd floor. The gym is on the level above. I loved that there was also a ramp from the lobby to the parking garage. Parking costs 30 dollars per night (per car), but it is well-lit, and the staff only charged us for one car.

Moline

We arrived back in the Quad Cities after a fantastic road trip across Canada from my parents’ home in Rochester. Our 30-day road trip across America is finally over. The scenic drive took us through Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catharines, and Hamilton. Our last stop before getting to Moline and St. Joseph was a cute town by the water. I chose it because it is a lovely market with coffee, dessert, and sandwich shops. I grabbed a tasty turkey and cheese sandwich with smoked aioli and a bubble tea.

Even though it was a bit cold, I enjoyed walking around downtown St. Joseph. It’s this charming holiday town in southwest Michigan, right by the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. The town’s main attractions are the pretty waterfront, including Silver Beach, two lighthouses, and the St. Joseph’s River winding through. The beach has incredible rolling dunes and a restored antique carousel. These historic 2 North Pier lighthouses have an incredible history from the early 1900s. St. Joseph was a highlight of our drive across Canada, and I’m considering exploring more. You should check it out, too!

If you enjoyed our 30-day road trip across America, check out my review of the three hotels in the Quad Cities we stayed at for 15 days before we moved into our house on the arsenal.

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