Americana still exists all over our great nation. It can be experienced in the ethereal rock formations of Monument Valley, the twirling beats of Cajun-country zydeco and the cool glacier-cut gorges of the Ohio Heartland.
Here are the details that capture this trio of accessible, affordable examples of Americana where the final bill for a three-day, two-night trip including meals and attraction entrance fees is kept as close to $500 as possible.
Monument Valley – Utah/Arizona
Desert solitude and silver screen-worthy rock formations — that’s what drew legendary Western movie director John Ford to Monument Valley. The heavenly scenery and fresh air will draw you to the corner of southeastern Utah and northeastern Arizona. It is especially engaging in late October, when the mercury rarely exceeds 70 degrees — even in this arid desert climate.
Monument Valley is a 30,000-acre Navajo tribal park established in 1958 located on the border of Arizona and Utah within the 16 million-acre Navajo Reservation. The barrier-free visitor center has clean restrooms, an air-conditioned gift shop and excellent observation areas for breathtaking views of the iconic Mittens and Merrick Butte. The visitor center building has a small elevator that takes wheelers up to the second story observation deck.
A 17-mile loop road winds along the valley floor among the rock sentinels that tower 400 to 1,000 feet above. The road is raw and unpaved, but that’s a good thing because it slows traffic to a nice leisurely pace.
The View, the only hotel on Navajo land, features an accessible room with a patio that opens up to the majestic valley. The room, with a roll-in shower and private balcony, starts at $150 per night. There is an on-site restaurant and trading post for supplies. Local dining options are limited to the restaurant at the View, or the dining room at the famous Goulding’s Lodge just outside the Tribal Park. Goulding’s barrier-free trading post and grounds are a perfect backdrop for feasting on a menu of Navajo frybread with a side of beef stew, spicy pork green chile or chili con carne.
Nearby attractions include Goosenecks State Park, a half-hour drive from Monument Valley. It features a paved road that ends at a scenic overlook with amazing views about 1,000 feet above the winding San Juan River and switchback formations the river carved out of the rocky area. Another half hour from Goosenecks is the Valley of the Gods. A 17-mile dirt and gravel road, passable in a family car when the weather is dry, winds through the valley. The sandy, bumpy, often steep drive is usually deserted — and that’s a good thing.
The Moki Dugway — just northwest of the Valley of the Gods — is a staggering, graded dirt switchback road carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa. It consists of three miles of steep, unpaved switchbacks that wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the valley floor. This white knuckle route provides breathtaking views of some of Utah’s most beautiful sites. But nothing compares to Monument Valley. Poets, priests and great writers of prose have failed to coin words worthy of the spiritual feeling that overtakes every person who gazes upon its majesty.
Cajun Country – Southwest Louisiana
Cajun doesn’t get any more authentic than life in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Named for the wooden footbridge built over Bayou Teche by Acadian pioneer Fermin Breaux, the tiny community is famous for music and food. Both can be had every Saturday morning at Café des Amis, in the center of town. A ramped entrance leads into a decent-sized bar, restaurant, stage and dance floor. Zydeco is the big draw, as it has been for years.
Saturdays mean zydeco breakfast, from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., every Saturday except those that fall on a major holiday. They don’t take reservations, so come early. Crowd in on the sidelines and drink a dirt cheap, stiff Bloody Mary while watching a great harmony of sweaty bodies dancing up a storm to zydeco, a purely American music that started in rural Louisiana in the early 20th century. Twirl to the sounds of accordion, fiddle, drums, guitar, bass and vest frottoir – a percussion instrument fashioned from pressed, corrugated steel and worn over the shoulders.
Beignets, biscuits and andouille cheese grits highlight a menu that also features couche couche (Cajun cereal made of cornmeal and milk with syrup and sugar) and the inimitable oreille de cochon (boudin-stuffed beignet dough shaped like pigs’ ears with powdered sugar) — mmmm. After breakfast, roll over to swampy Bayou Teche. Check out the 19th century buildings and visit Breaux Bridge Antique Mall. It’s your typical musty, shelf-stuffed place — with some aisles accessible and a few too narrow to negotiate by wheelchair.
Breaux Bridge is the Crawfish Capital of the World and Café des Amis serves ‘dem mudbugs in eggs for breakfast, in po boy sandwiches at lunch and as crawfish pies and platters of half etouffe/half fried crawfish for dinner. For less formal dining in a barrier-free setting, head to Poche’s Market Restaurant and Smokehouse for spicy boudin, cracklins, fried catfish, fried shrimp, crawfish etouffe and weekend barbecue plates.
New Iberia, about 25 miles from Breaux Bridge, offers the accessible Bayou Teche boardwalk between Weeks Street and the Duperier Street Bridge — behind the Shadows-on-the-Teche historic attraction. City Park has a new, accessible deck on the water. Main Street itself is packed with historical buildings, served by accessible sidewalks with curb ramps. Spanish Lake, just a few miles out of New Iberia’s center, features five accessible fishing piers on its main levee road. Bayou Carlin Cove in Delcambre, about 15 miles from New Iberia, has a new boat dock/fishing pier constructed to be wheelchair accessible.
St. Martinville, about 15 miles from Breaux Bridge, pays tribute to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem, “Evangeline,” about the heartbreaks encountered by the Acadian people’s expulsion from Canada and grueling resettlement in Louisiana. The Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site visitor’s center has outstanding accessible restrooms. The first floor of Maison Olivier, an 1815 plantation house, is wheelchair accessible. The entire Attakapas Trail, named for the Attakapas Native Americans that inhabited the area before the Acadians, is paved and accessible.
Maison des Amis has limited access in one of its rooms. The grounds of this bed and breakfast right next to the historic district are accessible. For a 100 percent accessible room, book one of three rooms with roll-in shower at the Staybridge Suites in Lafayette, about 11 miles from Breaux Bridge.
Hocking Hills – Ohio Heartland
Sometimes the place of lodging is simply a small room for sleeping. Sometimes the place of lodging is the attraction. The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, in the heart of the Hocking Hills, is such a place. Longtime innkeeper Ellen Grinsfelder created this accessible paradise when she invited a friend who uses a wheelchair to do a walk-through. The result is wonderfully accessible accommodations nestled along a gorgeous, wooded ravine where the nighttime sky dazzles with its display of heavenly bodies so bright that visitors feel as if they’ve entered a brilliant cathedral of stars.
A roll-in shower, with grab bars and space enough to allow sufficient room for both a wheelchair user and personal care attendant, is the main feature of the Redbud cabin. The cabin itself is big enough to live in, with a full kitchen, sitting area and accessible bedroom on the first floor reached by a ramp. Kitchen items — flatware, silverware, tea bags, salt and pepper, even flashlights — are located where they can be accessed from a seated position.
One can linger outside, day dreaming on the porch swing and taking in the wooded vista, or come inside to the aroma of cedar and a plate of homemade cookies on the kitchen table. Take a seat in the cozy living room by the gas fireplace. Forget the distraction of television — there is none in the cabin, but it does have wi-fi for those who cannot entirely unplug from civilization.
The spa, meeting place and dining room are all accessible. Breakfast includes fare such as: fresh fruit, homemade granola, Applewood smoked bacon, potato scallion soufflé and house made muffins or breads. Seasonal lunch and dinner features soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees ranging from crispy striped bass to spiced rack of lamb.
Lake Hope Lodge offers another dining opportunity focused on locally-sourced comfort food. The accessible lodge, located in a state park, has a famous Sunday brunch with made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits, cinnamon rolls, brisket hash, pulled pork, smoked turkey and berry cobbler with fresh whipped cream. Lunch and dinner feature scratch made soups and chili, grilled Ohio chicken, beef brisket, fried catfish and wood-smoked ribs.
While the majority of the glacier-carved area’s state park trails are too rugged for the average wheelchair user to negotiate, the quarter-mile paved trail to Ash Cave is very wheelchair-friendly. Commencing at accessible parking spaces, the trail ends at a massive shelter cave and 90-foot waterfall. The Conkles Hollow Gorge Trail extends a half mile from the parking area on Big Pine Road into the upper end of the gorge, below a waterfall. It is paved, very easy for wheelers to roll along and is an absolute must-do with the deepest gorge and the highest cliffs in the Hocking Hills. The Hockhocking Adena bikeway is a paved, level bike path located on the old Columbus and Hocking Valley Railroad bed. It runs from the Nelsonville Historic Square Arts District 22 miles south into Athens, home of Ohio University.
This area, at the foothills of the Appalachians, has no shortage of roots music. Every year, from Friday through Sunday of Father’s Day weekend, the downtown streets of Logan come alive with the celebration of the washboard as a musical instrument. Everything from jug bands to Dixieland groups play the Washboard Music Festival in the hometown of the Columbus Washboard Company, the only remaining washboard manufacturing company in the U.S.
Over four days, usually in late May or early June, the Nelsonville Music Festival offers multiple stages of music along with local art vendors, food and a beer garden. The eclectic list of past performers — Wilco, The Flaming Lips, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, John Prine, Dinosaur Jr., Yo La Tengo, George Jones and Gogol Bordello — is a slice of Americana in itself.
Listed first after each destination name is the approximate cost for three days, two nights including lodging, six meals, park admissions and gas money to drive between attractions.
Cajun Country — $420-$500
• Breaux Bridge, breauxbridgela.net
• Café des Amis (breakfast from $10, lunch/dinner entrees from $17); 337/332-5273, www.cafedesamis.com
• Poche’s Market Restaurant and Smokehouse (plate lunches for $12); 800/376-2437, www.pochesmarket.com
New Iberia, www.cityofnewiberia.com
• Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site (admission $4); 888/677-2900, www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks/historic-sites/longfellow-evangeline-state-historic-site
• Maison des Amis (rooms from $125); 337/507-3399, www.maisondesamis.com
• Staybridge Suites Lafayette (suites from $140); 800/238-8889, www.staybridge.com
Hocking Hills — $410-$500
• Hocking Hills – Ash Cave & Conkles Hollow (free admission); 740/285-6842, parks.ohiodnr.gov/hockinghills
• The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls (Redbud ADA cabin — big enough to split cost with second, nondisabled family sleeping upstairs — from $170 low season, Sumac accessible cottage — smaller than cabin — $40 cheaper per night than Redbud); 800/653-2557, innatcedarfalls.com
• Hockhocking-Adena Bikeway (free admission); athensohio.com/wheretoplay/hockhocking-adena-bikeway-2
• Lake Hope Lodge (Sunday brunch $15); 740/596-0601, lakehopelodge.com
• Washboard Music Festival (free admission); 740/380-2752, www.washboardmusicfestival.com
• Nelsonville Music Festival ($75 one day admission); 740/753-1924, nelsonvillefest.org
Monument Valley — $400-$500
• Monument Valley Tribal Park (entry fee is $20 per car, up to four people); www.navajonationparks.org/htm/monumentvalley.htm
• The View Hotel (accessible room with roll-in shower from $150); 435/727-5555, monumentvalleyview.com
• Goulding’s Lodge (lunches from $12); 435/727-3231, www.gouldings.com/dining-room
• Goosenecks State Park (free admission); 435/678-2238, utah.com/goosenecks-state-park
• Valley of the Gods (free admission); utah.com/monument-valley/valley-of-the-gods
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