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  1. Default Chicago to Virginia Beach

    Hello we have NEVER been on a road trip before. My husband, myself, two of our children and several dogs are driving to VA. I did the AAAtripmap and there is a lot of construction. I was wondering if anyone had some tips or ideas for the drive. My one son 11yrs is a war history buff; 14 yr old daughter will want to reach our destination (the beach) ASAP. Yet being as we have never taken a road trip I am not so ambitious as to drive straight through. I was hoping someone may be familiar with the trip and have advice.
    So glad to have found this site. I initially went to Trip Adviser and looked up road trips and found nothing!
    Thanks, Kathy

  2. #2

    Default Some ideas

    Hello Kathy-

    I visit Tidewater (the name for the region which includes Va Beach) regularly and am very familiar with the layout and the attractions. You mentioned you son being a war history buff so I'll start there:

    Not mentioned is whether he's a buff of one particular period of war history or another, so this will be broad. A quick look at the directions from Mapquest shows you'll be passing within a reasonable distance of Gettysburg, PA and Newmarket Battlefield, VA. You will also pass directly through the Chancellorsville-Spotsylvania-Fredericksburg battlefields as you travel between the west side of the DC metroplex and Richmond, VA. (quick side note: take the routing advice and bypass DC via US 17 down to Fredericksburg. The countryside is beautiful and the traffic problems almost nil). Richmond itself has a number of Civil War sites and museums, as does Petersburg, just 30 miles south of Richmond. At Fort Lee, an active Army base in Petersburg, there is the Army Quartermaster Museum. Down towards Williamsburg, you'll find a number of American Revolution sites and Colonial Williamsburg itself. The area roughly between Williamsburg and the Oceanfront at Va Beach can be visited on a day-trip basis if you're willing to fight the traffic through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT). Williamsburg-Newport News area also hosts the current Army base Fort Eustice, home of the Army Transportation Museum (all grades of trucks, wagons, and such on display--kids LOVE this). At Fort Monroe, right where the harbor complex at Hampton Roads empties into the Chesapeake Bay, there is the Casemate Museum. Fort Monroe was a Civil War fortification held by the Union throughout the war and is a historical site due to the influence the coastal artillery had on keeping the Confederate Navy bottled up inside the Norfolk harbor, which they held. Also in Newport News is the Maritime Museum, resting place and restoration site for the recovered pieces of ironclad USS Monitor, and also a full-size mockup of the vessel. On the Norfolk-Va Beach side of the HRBT there is USS Wisconsin, berthed in downtown Norfolk at the retail/restaurant/park complex known as Waterside. Wisconsin is a WWII-era "Iowa class" battleship and offers tours of the topside deck and gun areas. From the vicinity of Waterside, commercial tour boat operators offer Naval Base Tours on large vessels which cruise the main Navy piers at Hampton Roads. I was there last week and I think there are 3 fullsize carriers in port right now, and a couple dozen Aegis cruisers, frigates, attack submarines, and support vessels, all of which can be seen from around 200-300' away on the cruise ship. Lastly, I think Naval Air Station Oceana, in Virginia Beach and hard by the Oceanfront, offers tours. You will likely see much of the Naval Aviation aircraft whether you take a tour or not. Their training flying has them roaring at low altitudes all over Va Beach on almost a daily basis.

    You didn't mention when you're traveling there, but be advised the second weekend in July is usually the time of the annual "Navy SEAL Reunion" at Little Creek Amphibious Base, located on the Bay right where Va Beach and Norfolk city limits come together. It's not normally publicized, but unless something has changed, any civilians can attend. It's a great display of SEAL equipment, weapons, vessels, aircraft, and capabilities. The crowd sits on nice bleachers right on the Bay beach, and the SEALS jump out of aircraft, rappel from helicopters, blow things up, and fire thousands of rounds of blanks from automatic weapons from their various watercraft. It's an awesome (and sobering) display of their capabilities, and I highly recommend it.

    You'll see I didn't put in any links and it's only because everything I mentioned in terms of the Civil War sites is within the National Park Service and can be easily found on the Web. Each of the current bases and museums has websites where hours and operating hours can be determined. I imagine the commercial tours of the Navy base have websites, too.

    And your daughter and the beach: The Oceanfront is her oyster. All the sand, wide boardwalk inline skating and bicycling, T-shirt shops, arcades, and ice cream shops she could ever visit are right there. The southern part of the Oceanfront is known as Sandbridge, and down there are two public beaches which are much less developed and crowded than the main part of the Oceanfront. They are Sandbridge Beach, where Sandbridge Road reaches the coast, and Little Island Park, about 4 miles further south, past Sandbridge Beach. For the very adventurous, there is Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (BBNWR) and False Cape State Park. These two parks are foot or bicycle access only and False Cape is accessed only through BBNWR. I haven't personally done it, but my niece and brother-in-law take their mountain bikes down there at low tide (determined by the listings in each day's Virginian-Pilot newspaper) and ride all the way down to the NC-VA state line on the hardpacked sand. It's a tough day's ride-around 12 miles each way), but offers a fairly unique opportunity to see a completely isolated and undeveloped Atlantic Coast shoreline, with only hikers and other cyclists there other than you.

    Enjoy your planning and your trip. OMG, I just saw where you're bringing the dogs! I haven't a clue how that will square with the activities noted, but I suppose you're accustomed to including them, so best of luck with that aspect.


  3. Default "the drive"

    Thanks Foy, a lot of info covered. WWII holds the most interest for my son and it seems Norfolk is close enough to VB I can take him there after we get to our rental in VB. Looking through some other post in the forum I saw someone mention Harpers Ferry seeing as I though I would drive apx 10 hrs stay overnight somewhere the continue to VB it looked like maybe a good place to detour? The map is littered with construction so maybe it would be faster avoiding DC area altogether? We are starting out traveling the 1st Friday of August and don't want to spend all my driving time in traffic. I know what the roads are like in Chi town and you could spend 2hrs commuting to the burbs. I will look at mapping out some day trips to Willamsburg. Thanks so much, if anything else comes to mind please let me know. Yes the dogs- OMG is right we shall see ......................

  4. #4

    Default Never been there............. Harper's Ferry, that is. What pictures I've seen show a beautiful area, and surely there's lots to see, military history-wise.

    Surely Chicago to VB is too much for 1 day--it's around 900 miles.

    For better or worse, all of my 53 years have been spent in towns and cities no larger than Raleigh, NC. For that reason, my tolerance with matters like DC, New York, Atlanta, LA, Chicago traffic hovers just above zero. I'd just about cut my own trail through the Blue Ridge Mountains before driving through DC, but if you're from Chicago, maybe you're used to it. On your trip, leaving on Friday, you'd pass by or through DC on Saturday, so MAYBE it wouldn't be excruciating, MAYBE. But, it'd give your son a chance to see the WWII Memorial.

    OH, WAIT, at Quantico, VA is the fairly new USMC Museum, right on I-95. You can't miss it, its roofline mimics the profile of the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima, and I've heard it a great museum. It should be easy enough to work your way over there from US 17.

    Given that WWII history is your son's primary interest, I'd say Nauticus (the museum at Waterside where USS Wisconsin is berthed) is a must, and he'd likely enjoy the Transportation Museum at Ft Eustis. Come to think of it, the Air & Space Museum at Hampton may have some WWII warbirds on display. I just two weeks ago saw an airshow at Langly AFB in Hampton, VA where a British Spitfire, a B-26 Marauder, and a Lockheed Electra were flown, among many more modern warbirds.

    I've got some contacts in the area (I live 200 miles SW of Tidewater in Raleigh, NC, but visit there a lot and own a home up there) and I'll ask around for specific WWII history museums and sights. Many years ago, as a child of about your son's age, I visited the McArthur museum in Norfolk, and it was loaded with memorabilia from Gen Douglas McArthur's life. Surely there's more than I can think of right now.

    Generally speaking, are you renting at the Oceanfront, Sandbridge, or over on the Bayside? It makes a difference in how much effort it'd be to go one place or another.


  5. Default

    no I/we are not use to traffic we avoid it like the plague! It would be torturous to be wasting the little time we had sittingi n traffic thats why I am wondering about the route. I was looking at the maps and saw an area called Fredrickson was closer and maybe an easier place to stop for night. I will really concentrate on trying to get to the USMC museum my son believes he will be a Marine officer one day. Forgive my typing I am using my daughters mini laptop and its a pain! The property is by bay called Broad Bay. No clue if thats convenient but the property looks nice,took dogs etc. I have read its pretty easy/cheap to park at the VA beach. Maybe the thing to do would be to hit the USMC museum on the way back - we're heading out early the following Saturday I
    really appreciate your wealth of knowledge.

  6. #6

    Default Frederick, MD or Fredericksburg, VA?

    As you drive E on I-70 from I-80, the PA Turnpike, you come to Frederick, MD, and that's probably what you're referring to, as it's closer to 1/2 way than Fredericksburg, VA, another 2-2.5 hours along the way.

    I've only passed through Frederick, MD once, but it seems like a nice, small city. To avoid DC from there, take US 15 south from Frederick, enter Virginia, and stay on US 15 south all the way past I-66 to US 29 south. Until you get to US 29, US 15 is mostly 2-lane, but it passes through some beautiful rolling hills and fabulous horse farm countryside. From the US 29 junction, follow the combined US 29/US 15 south a few miles through Warrenton (take the bypass) and within, say, 5-6 miles south of Warrenton, US 17 turns south towards Falmouth and Fredericksburg, VA. At Falmouth, you'll get on I-95 south and pass by Fredericksburg en route to I-295 north of Richmond, thence I-64 into Tidewater, over the HRBT, and thence to US 13 north (Northampton Blvd-the signs direct you to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel or CBBT). Take Northhampton Blvd to the last exit before the CBBT, thence Shore Drive to and across the Lesner Bridge over Lynnhaven Inlet, thence to Great Neck Rd, where you'll then probably have specific directions to your rental on Broad Bay.

    If you Mapquest a map of Virginia Beach, look to the far north end, where the Atlantic coastline turns west into the mouth of the Bay. There you'll see an Army base on the point (Fort Story) and a State Park (First Landings State Park). Broad Bay is the large body of water immediately south of Ft Story and FLSP. Your daughter has the choice of the State Park beach on the Bay, a public beach at the far North End of Va Beach, right by the southern entrance to Ft Story, and any of the main Oceanfront beaches a few miles south of there. From the vicinity of Broad Bay, you're no more than 25-30 minutes, tops, from Waterside/Nauticus in Norfolk, where a secure parking deck awaits you.

    If your family enjoys baseball, the Norfolk Tides are a AAA team and play at beautiful, modern Harborside Park just on the VA Beach side of downtown Norfolk.

    Stopping at the USMC museum on the return trip would work. To again avoid DC traffic, stay on I-95 past Falmouth, on up to Quantico, see the museum, then north a bit further to VA 234, and west on 234 to I-66, thence west on I-66 for a few miles to the US 15 north exit.

    I'll get back on when I have some more info on WWII sights in the area.


  7. #7

    Default More info


    My sources in Tidewater have added some info possibly of interest to your son:

    The Macarthur Memorial in Norfolk. I think I'd mentioned that.

    Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth. There's supposedly a museum with a number of good exhibits. Portsmouth can be accessed from Norfolk via a short ride on a paddle-wheel water taxi, so you could potentially see Nauticus/USS Wisconsin + Macarthur + Shipyard museum in a single day without having to move the car.

    The Fighter Factory. This is completely new to me. Apparently there's a private collection of WWII era aircraft undergoing restoration and those which are restored and flying. The location is at the Virginia Beach Airport, a small municipal field in the Pungo section of Va Beach. Pungo would be around 15 miles south and west of the Oceanfront. Several respondents to my post on another forum mentioned The Fighter Factory. I'll have to get over there myself soon.

    Have fun planning!


  8. Default enough stuff for a months trip!

    Man there is so many things there. Thanks for narrowing it down its just overwhelming will all the attractions in VA. I'm looking at the suggestions you have made for bypassing DC. I went and amended my AAAtriptik map. If I'm not going to the USMC on the way to VB would it be better to take 15 out of Fredrick MD and get on 17 all the way down? Would the ride be better?
    Again thanks for all the info, I really appreciate getting info from you.

  9. #9

    Default Yes, US-15 to US-17, and..........

    Quote Originally Posted by kathyhere View Post
    Man there is so many things there. Thanks for narrowing it down its just overwhelming will all the attractions in VA. I'm looking at the suggestions you have made for bypassing DC. I went and amended my AAAtriptik map. If I'm not going to the USMC on the way to VB would it be better to take 15 out of Fredrick MD and get on 17 all the way down? Would the ride be better?
    Again thanks for all the info, I really appreciate getting info from you.

    Yes, kathy, that's exactly what I'd do. Get off of I-70 at Frederick, MD. Take US 15 south there, cross the Potomac at Point of Rocks, stay on 15 (using the bypass) around Leesburg, VA, and keep going south to US 29 near Gainsville, VA. Where US 15 intersects US 29, the two southbound sides occupy the same roadway to a point around 5-6 miles south of Warrenton, VA (where you will also have taken the bypass around) . At the crossroads community of Opal, VA, US 17, having joined US 15 + 29 at Warrenton, turns left, southwards towards Falmouth and Fredericksburg, VA, while US 15 + 29 continue straight towards Culpeper, VA. At Falmouth, on the north side of the (large and scenic) Rappahannock River, you join I-95 south, cross the river, and there's Fredericksburg. While you can take US 17 south from Fredericksburg all the way to Newport News/Hampton, I do not recommend that, as it requires that you go through urban/suburban parts of Fredericksburg and a fair amount of old highway travel south from there. Once on I-95 at Falmouth, I'd keep I-95 to the I-295 bypass just north of Richmond, then follow the signs to take I-64 from I-295, thence through Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, cross the HRBT, Norfolk, and on towards your Va Beach destination. Depending on just where your Broad Bay rental is, you'll get off of I-64 on US 13 north (Northampton Blvd) or perhaps continue on to the Norfolk-Va Beach Expressway (I-264).

    There are, indeed, an abundance of attractions in Tidewater, VA. I think your family will really enjoy it there.

    Tell your son to be particularly attentive as you approach the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) as you can get a good look at the Navy piers across the water from the HRBT. The view is even better, and closer, on the Norfolk side of the tunnel. There, you're only about a mile away from 2 giant 1,100' long nuclear powered aircraft carriers. They're HUGE!


  10. Default got my trip!

    Thanks Foy, I will now have my Viginia drive with some first hand knowledge to go on. I will ck back from time to time in case you've had any after thoughts on the subject. kb

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