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  1. Default Concord, NC to Tampa, FL with 3 kids

    Wow, what a great resource this site will be! I wish I had found it when we drove cross-country from CA. Oh, well... you live you learn, right?

    We are planning 7 days for this trip, and I would LOVE LOVE LOVE input on the attractions that I have listed, as well as amazing things that should really be on the list, and places to eat along the way. Our trip needs to be fairly broken up, as I have some back issues that prevent me from taking long trips without breaks to walk around. I also have young boys who get the runaroundies, and everyone is MUCH happier if they get them out, lol. The teenaged girl is less needy, but we def. need to keep some cool stuff in there to keep her involved and interested. Crabby teens=NO FUN, am, I right? Oh, I should mention that we are on a budget, and that we will be taking advantage of hotel-provided breakfasts on most days. I also selected places which have a refrigerator, microwave, and all but 1 night we will have a stove, as well. Items with *** are free to us with our Nature Center membership, so that allows us to do more than we'd normally be able to. Thanks so much for any help!

    Day 1, Monday 11/21:
    -Leave Concord, NC, stopping in Columbia, SC for breakfast (need recommendation)
    -Arrive in Savannah, GA and visit Fort Pulaski
    -Drive to Brunswick, GA, and stay for the night (need dinner recommendation)

    Day 2, Tuesday 11/22:
    -Leave Brunswick, drive to nearby St. Simons Lighthouse
    -Drive to Homosassa Springs, FL to see manatees (lunch could be a picnic-type, or a cheap place along the way)
    -Drive to Tampa, FL. Dinner at hotel

    Day 3, Wednesday 11/23:
    -Drive to Winter Haven, and visit newly opened Legoland (this is our big, expensive activity for the trip)
    -Visit "Spook Hill" in nearby Lake Wales (this is one of those places where you park your car and it goes "uphill". DH remembers it from childhood, and wants to show the boys)

    Day 4, Thursday 11/24: (this is Thanksgiving)
    -Drive to Fort DeSoto, possibly fish, let kids run around (lunch will be a picnic with purchased Cuban sandwiches)
    -Drive to hotel, and then to Lithia, FL for family reunion (the stated purpose of the trip)

    Day 5, Friday 11/25:
    -Empty slot in the schedule. We originally thought we'd go to MOSI (***) in Tampa, but it gets pretty bad reviews these days. Possibilities include the Aquarium in Tampa (***), the Florida Air Museum in Lakeland, or hanging out with dh's family. Other suggestions are welcomed, but they must be pretty inexpensive and not too far away.
    -Lunch near the activity chosen
    -Dinner at Bern's Steakhouse for our anniversary

    Day 6, Saturday 11/26:
    -Leave Tampa, drive to Jacksonville, FL
    -Visit Jacksonville Zoo (***), and have lunch in the park
    -Drive to Hilton Head, SC, and stay overnight (need dinner recommendation, as well as something we could see easily if we get there earlyish)

    Day 7, Sunday 11/27:
    -Visit something in Hilton Head area for maybe 2 hours (need recommendations)
    -Lunch along the way somewhere (need recommendations)
    -Drive to Concord, NC and collapse, lol.
    Last edited by his_kid; 09-29-2011 at 08:05 AM. Reason: Added dates

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Welcome aboard!

    It's so difficult to pick an attraction for someone else, because my cup o' tea might not be yours. What we often suggest is for you to check out the Map Center, which will list things along the route that perhaps you haven't thought of.

    As far as food and lodging recommendations...I know what you're saying. However, things change with management so fast that what was good 2 months ago might be horrible today. So for food, we recommend Urbanspoon and Yelp for more up-to-date. OR, if you can be a bit more flexible, ask the locals - - they will tell you what's good in the area. For dinners we almost always ask at the hotel for a "local favorite", and we've rarely been disappointed.

    As for picnic lunches - - take a small cooler with sandwich makings and fruit, and a dry bag with the requisite chips. You can usually take your own picnics into places like zoos, as long as you stow them in their (often expensive) lockers or leave them in your car.


    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Local resources.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    Most of your questions focus on eating recommendations, and that is not something with which we can be of much help. Recommending an eating establishment can be extremely dicey. A place that may have been great last week / month / year, could have changed owner / manager / chef, and may now be a very different experience. Besides that, what one of us might think is a great place, may not be exactly to your taste.

    As for where you asked about things to see, for a couple of hours, etc. I have always found that asking the locals turns out to be much more reliable. Most every place has some sort of tourist information, and on the whole, the staff at hotels are pretty good on local knowledge. I would ustilise those resources. And that goes for eating places as well.

    Enjoy the trip. You have three very lucky children.

    Lifey

  4. Default

    Oh, I definitely understand about the restaurants and how hard it would be for someone to pick for someone else. OTOH, people who know the area closely, could give me some ideas to hone in on, or really unique places that I might never have thought of. I do LOVE me some Yelp, but sometimes there is just SO much information on there, and a lot of it is corporatized big box places. If I have some "hey, you might check out this place" or "oh, we saw the neatest thing", then I have a way to at least hone in on places TO research, does that make sense? I PROMISE not to blindly pick a place and then come cry and whine about how horrible RTA is for making a bad recommendation, hehe.

    I'd also love tips on the places that I have listed, (example: "hey, while you're at the zoo, check out the ______ exhibit, because it's really unique" or "here's this neat fact about this other thing to watch out the window for on the way to Fort DeSoto")

    Thanks so much for the welcome! I know I will try to offer the above type info about areas with which I am familiar, and also post a trip report as we go, to help others as well. :)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default You will be made most welcome.

    Be assured that if you would like to share your experiences and expertise with future enquirers to this forum, you will be made most welcome. This site is not a case of 'too many cooks'.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-29-2011 at 07:27 AM. Reason: policy rules

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Unvetted reader-generated reviews

    Quote Originally Posted by his_kid View Post
    I do LOVE me some Yelp, but sometimes there is just SO much information on there
    Unlike RTA, user-generated reviews of places and restaurants on sites like Yelp and other such sites are not checked and verified by anyone. In fact, as you've noticed, some of the reviews ought to have a little sign that reads... "Personally recommended by the owner/staff of this establishment"...

    On RoadTrip America, all articles and posts about attractions, including eating establishments is verified and we strive to be the #1 source of tips about attractions for roadtrippers in North America. Unfortunately, not all of the information that is published every day here is easily accessible and even those who spend several hours here, tend to forget some of the recommended places our contributors have shared over the years. We've been posting tips and articles about road trip attractions for nearly 16 years!

    On the RTA Custom Maps we've begun creating lists of those unique eateries that the member contributors think would appeal to road trippers. If you go the Map Center page and use the radius tool, you can look for any restaurant that we found to be extra charming on varying distances from cities along your route. The challenge for us is that North America is huge and it takes time to find, and write about places in every area.

    In addition to the general suggestions for resources to local areas, be sure to stop in at State Welcome Centers, they are almost always staffed by local volunteers -- who can share local intel.

    I would suggest looking at the RTA Attractions page -- search by the state names -- and also the RTA Routes pages -- again lots of vetted information about attractions along the routes that our contributors have written about. And certainly use the search function on this site -- There are thousands of articles about places in North America waiting for you to read... For instance search for diner to get an idea of the number of articles we've posted here.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-29-2011 at 01:41 PM. Reason: added clarifying thought

  7. #7

    Default Day 7 suggestion

    Hello Neighbor,

    I say Neighbor since I'm from Raleigh. Welcome to RTA!

    I really don't have much in the way of suggestions excepting to make you aware of the possibility (likelihood?) of very, very heavy traffic on I-95 on your Day 7, which I read to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I'd have a good South Carolina/North Carolina highway map on board and would assume I'd need to do some bushwhacking to escape the 80mph-30mph-dead stop for 4 minutes-80mph bumper-to-bumper slug-fest which I-95 can so easily become on that day.

    Safe travels and have fun with the family!

    Foy

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Foy View Post
    I really don't have much in the way of suggestions excepting to make you aware of the possibility (likelihood?) of very, very heavy traffic on I-95 on your Day 7, which I read to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I'd have a good South Carolina/North Carolina highway map on board and would assume I'd need to do some bushwhacking to escape the 80mph-30mph-dead stop for 4 minutes-80mph bumper-to-bumper slug-fest which I-95 can so easily become on that day.
    First, thanks for the welcome. Second, YIKES! I naively hadn't even considered holiday traffic. Groan...

    Do you think it would be a better bet to just plan on taking US-321 instead of getting on I-95 at all? Is that the main section that I should worry about? I will def. ask locals on that day, but I'm curious about your suggestion, since you raised the issue. Thanks!

  9. #9

    Default Personal preference, not direct experience

    his_kid,

    After years of holiday travel back home to Raleigh, I moved back home in 1983, and have not traveled at Thanksgiving since then. I actually make it a point to watch the local and national news shows on the Wednesday and Sunday before and after the holiday, snug in my La-Z-Boy, sipping a cold beer, and thank my lucky stars I don't have to do that.

    So, I haven't personally experienced I-95 at Thanksgiving in quite some time, but I have a number of neighbors, friends, clients, and cousins who have, both south towards FL and way up north, and between their personal reports and the news shows, I want no part of it.

    Yes, a quick look at the map would lead me up US 321 to Columbia, then I-77 to CLT and home. It looks like something like 75-80 miles and not many towns, and I'd do that in a New York minute instead of getting on I-95.

    Foy

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Be sure to carry this guidebook

    Sitting (more-or-less parked at times) on I-95 over the Thanksgiving holiday is pretty much guaranteed.... Are you aware of the I-95 guide book series? You ought to have one in the car even if all you're doing is having someone read it out loud as you inch past the attractions. But it's invaluable for finding places to take side trips and breaks. And you might find this article I wrote about holiday road trips interesting, maybe even helpful!

    Here is a review I wrote of the 2008 version of Drive I-95: Exit by Exit Info, Maps, History and Trivia, by Stan Posner & Sandra Phillips-Posner and here's a link to the most current version...

    Mark

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