SC to PA
We are a family of 4 (two adults, two kids- 8 & 3) planning our first ever summer road trip. We are flexible about the time to travel- we are both teachers and have from the second week of June to mid August to travel. We are thinking that 2-3 weeks is good for our first try.
Our trip will start in the Greenville SC area and we are considering the following cities:
Richmond VA, Williamsburg VA, Washington DC, Port Republic NJ (visiting friends), Atlantic City NJ, Philadelphia PA, Hershey PA
What other suggestions do you have for us first timers? Where are some good off-the-beaten path stops? We can go further than PA, so are there any not to be missed spots not too far away from this area?
A Varied Loop
Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!
I'm actually starting to plan a smaller RoadTrip with my grandsons (8 and 5) for next year through a portion of what you'll be doing. I also grew up in the Philadelphia area. With 2-3 weeks, you can have a great scenic, enjoyable and (ssshh!) educational trip. By making a loop, you can see more without covering the same ground twice so let me suggest one that will give you some variety for your drive and still hit all the places you've mentioned. Start by heading north up to Asheville and then drive the Blue Ridge Parkway up the Appalachians. If you're so inclined, you can make a side trip to Charlottesville to visit Monticello. Enjoy Shenandoah National Park before taking I-66 into Washington. Next up would be I-95 up to Baltimore and I-83 to Harrisburg and Hershey, then the Pennsylvania Tpk into Philly. Following your visit with friends and to Atlantic City (Is there a particular reason you're going to Atlantic City?) head south to Cape May and take the ferry across to Lewes, DE. Continue south down the Delmarva Peninsula with stops at Assateague and/or Chincoteague. There is even a small NASA launch facility and museum in Wallops Island, cross the Chesapeake Bay Brige-Tunnel and visit Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown on your way to Richmond. Your final leg would just be a straight shot on I-85 back home.
Now THAT'S a great tour route!
Once again, Planner Extraordinaire AZBuck has posted a masterpiece!
Based on recent personal experience, here are a couple of additional ideas and/or areas of emphasis:
Not too far west of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) is Damascus, Virginia. There you'll find the intersection of the Virginia Creeper Trail and the Appalachian Trail (VCT and AT). The VCT offers a 17 mile all downhill segment which the great majority traverse by rented bicycle. If your older child is a cycler, you can find a rental of appropriate size for him/her. I have many times seen smaller children in "car-seat" type bicycle seats or in trailers towed behind parent's bikes. This is not a hard-core mountain bike ride by any stretch of the imagination, instead it's a very easy downhill "glide" on the Virginia Creeper railroad line (out of use since 1977 and now solely a trail). I'd suggest doing the ride on a weekday, however, as weekends can get a bit crowded. Booking your shuttle up the mountain and the bikes in advance is recommended, too. Several bicycle liveries/shuttle services are on the 'Net. Getting to Damascus from Greenville, SC is an easier drive if you just stay on I-26 to Johnson City, TN, thence US 321 to Elizabethton (locally pronounced eliza-BETH-tun), thence TN 91 and 133 through the beautiful Shady Valley to Damascus. The shuttle and the downhill ride will occupy a solid 1/2 day, and at that time of year, I'd do the morning side of it, avoiding afternoon heat and thunderstorms. You can return to the BRP by either going through Mountain City, TN to Boone, NC, or by going north up to I-81 then a short jog to the south or east at many points starting around Wytheville, VA.
On the other end of Virginia, AZBuck mentions Assateague and Chincoteague and the Wallops Island aerospace museum. Assateague and Chincoteague are essentially the same place, with Assateague being a Federal National Seashore having limited (or nothing?) in the way of overnight accomodations, and Chincoteague having much in the way of motels and campgrounds. Chincoteague is a small island within the calm waters of the sound and Assateague has a large and well-developed ocean beach, complete with bathrooms and lifeguards. At Assateague you can drive your car right up to the back side of the low dune separating the parking area from the beach, minimizing the distance one's chairs, etc, must be carried. Bicycles RULE at Chincoteague/Assateague, with wide, paved bicycle paths providing safe travel from the village, across the small bridge, and onto Assateague Island, and from there throughout the National Seashore. There is a very nice (and, SSSHHHH!- educational) Park headquarters/museum on the island. The village of Chincoteague is readily accessible on foot, bicycles, or rental two-person "scooters" (and a pair of these would likely be seen as a real thrill for the kids to ride in). I believe the scooters can travel the 2 miles over to Assateague, too. Although I didn't have time to stop, the aerospace museum at Wallops Island looks like a most worthwhile stop.
A word of caution about crowds: The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department still holds the annual Pony Roundup in the summer. The third weekend in July rings a bell, but it's easy enough to confirm that. There is no getting to within miles of the place that weekend, as tens of thousands of "Misty of Chincoteague" fans flock to the roundup and auction. Nice, of course, if that's your goal, but a nightmare if not. In addition, the proximity of Chincoteague/Assateague to urbanized areas of DC/Baltimore/Philly translates to significant crowds on other summer weekends, too. I was there at mid-week last August and was rather surprised at how "well attended" the town and beach was.
Have fun planning and taking your trip!
Thanks for the warm welcome to roadtrippin' !
As far as the question as to why Atlantic City? We are planning a meeting of the minds / families at Port Republic NJ for July 4 - a friend grew up there and is roadtrippin' her own family back for the holiday and suggested we meet up.
Atlantic City is 16 miles from there, or there abouts, and if we are that close, we figure why not?
We had already amended our route to go the the Blue Ridge Parkway route, Charlottlesville was on our list, as well as several other places you guys mentioned. I'm going to print out your notes and look at the map and think some more.
A couple of questions:
1) we are thinking of camping some, especially in the BRP section. Do we HAVE to have reservations at campgrounds in late June? My husband hates to be tied to a schedule. I like to at least have loose plans, but plans.
2) on the BRP, what cool sites are highly recommened? My husband likes the kitch and my 8 year old thinks the dino sites look cool. I'm OK with that, but what is kitch yet really interesting and what is a waste of time?
A Few Blue Ridge Notes
I'm glad that you had chosen the Blue Ridge Parkway for part of your journey even before I suggested it. Great minds, etc. June is not quite peak camping season along there, but still it will be popular. What I would suggest is that you pick a few state parks and national forest camp sites along there and start to monitor them. As long as only a small percentage are showing that all reservations have been taken, you should be fine to find something on the fly as long as you start early enough in the evening. But if things look they're booking up, then you'd be well advised to grab something. Here are the links for state parks in Virginia and for the George Washington National Forest which the Parkway traverses. And here's a short discussion of some of the heritage and remaining artifacts on the road. Some of the commercial caves at the northern end of the Parkway such as Luray and Skyline Caverns may meet with your husband and son's approval, but I've never gone through them myself.
On your route to Hershey, don't forget about Gettysburg. A very quiet, warm-welcoming town and home to the largest battle fought on US soil. The battlefield tour can be done by car, but it's also a nice bike ride as well. They just build a new visitor center that is state-of-the-art. While there you can take in some haunted ghost tours... scary!
Hershey is a must see, especially since you have younger children. Hershey Park has rides for children and adults, including some crazy rollercoasters. The park is very clean and family friendly. The town square, where Chocolate Ave. and Cocoa Ave. intersect, is nice but rather small. You will find many motels just outside of the square. Some are dumpy, but most are nice. Chocolate World and the new Hershey Museum are worth a visit to as well.
Once you head towards AC, stop by Amish Country in Lancaster county. Pay a visit to Paradise township, or the village of Bird-In-Hand, for a taste of old America. You'll be amazed as to how the Amish can live without technology, electricity, or anything related to the 21st century.
Just make sure you stay away from the city of Reading, PA... there's nothing worth seeing there. Unless of course you are interested in a shooting or stabbing.
If you can, try to stop by Cape May, NJ. Very picturesque, Victorian and has a whole bunch of things to do during the summer as it is a beach town.