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  1. Default First East coast road trip....Washington DC, Niagara Falls...

    Hi guys,

    Planning my first east coast road trip. Done a couple in California, Arizona, Nevada etc but although I have been to New York and Boston quite a few times I have never been around with a car.
    We would like to see Washington DC and. Niagara Falls...we have those two spots fixed the rest is still not definitive. We were thinking about fitting in Montreal, but we are not 100% sure we can time-wise, as we have 2 weeks.
    I would really appreciate your advice, we love cities and towns and although we do love a bit of nature we wouldn't definitely spend 2 weeks only doing that, so we need to build a route that involves a few big cities and some smaller ones, possibly. If the route is through beautiful landscapes, even better. We love good food and spending time in locals' places, rather than visiting museums and monuments (although, of course, we do that too).
    We don't mind going back to Boston or NY, but we don't necessarily need to. We don't mind flying in and out of different places if we have to either, I am really hoping you can suggest an appropriate itinerary.
    Thanks in advance!
    Mary

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Tucson, AZ
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    Default One Basic Idea

    If you are building your trip around Washington DC and Niagara Falls, then have a read through this post for some basic ideas. I'd also suggest that rather than Montréal, you consider Toronto for your Canadian big city. It's simply closer and a circuit of Lake Ontario from Niagara Falls would bring you to the Thousand Islands region from which you could travel back to Washington via the Adirondacks, Syracuse, the Catskills, the Poconos, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Two weeks should be enough to complete such a loop in relaxed fashion.

    AZBuck

  3. Default

    Sorry for the belated response...and sorry for all the questions...I have thought about two possible plans:

    What if we land in Boston, drive via Philadelphia and Baltimore etc to Washington and then drive up to Niagara falls? I guess then we could fly out of Washington rather than driving back to Boston? Would there be a lot to see between those two cities? We are not bothered about NY...been there several times but if we stop there for a night it's not a big deal.

    Another idea is to land in Toronto, stay there a few days, use public transport to get to the falls and then rent a car in Buffalo and spend 10 days driving down to DC and possibly leaving from Boston?

    The only reason why i started thinking about this possibility is because we like the idea of driving through small cities and big ones and I was told this route kind of offers that? I could be totally wrong here! I was also told it costs about $60 in tolls to travel from DC to NYC? Is that correct?

    We will do Montreal and Quebec on a totally different trip i think.
    thanks again!
    M

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Default

    I would do a loop trip, starting and ending in the same city. Otherwise, there will be a one way drop fee on the rental car.

    Tolls from DC to NYC are about $40, but there are ways to avoid a good portion of that.

  5. #5
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    Default Details and Options

    First the gory details. Tolls between Washington DC and New York vary with the direction of travel. Some tolls are collected northbound only, some southbound only, some eastbound only. A round-trip, using I-95, the New Jersey Turnpike and the George Washington Bridge would cost you $68.70 for your basic car. You can save maybe 15% of that if you have E-ZPass. You could also avoid all of them except the George Washington Bridge, and have a much more pleasant experience, by adding about 80 miles to the length of your drive and going west out of DC on I-270 to US-15 north to Harrisburg, and then I-81/I-78 into NYC.

    Next - airline ports of entry and departure. It used to be that it was significantly cheaper to fly in and out of the same city. Now, though, airlines have stopped giving what was essentially a discount on round-trip tickets and so 'open-jaw' ticketing has become just as cost-effective (or just as expensive, depending on your point of view). So the only extra you'd pay for flying into one city and leaving from another is the cost of the drop-off fee on the rental car. Whether that fee is worth it to you and you'd rather do a 'linear' trip ending up in, and flying home from, a different city is entirely up to you.

    Here's the real unfortunate thing as I see it, given your preferences. The drive from Boston to Washington, if you stick to I-84/I-95 or similar routing, would be entirely through what is known as the BosWash Corridor. It would be an almost unrelenting urban landscape on high volume roads. It is possible to get a mix of urban, smaller cities, and even quaint countryside between those two cities, but you'd have to pick your target urban areas with care and connecting routes that avoid those that you are going to skip on this trip. I gave you one such example in my suggested alternate routing between DC and NYC. Once your plans firm up a bit more we can offer more specific routing advice to give you the mix of experiences you're looking for.

    AZBuck

  6. Default

    Thanks SO MUCH!
    So...i take your comments on board. Given that we have been to Boston and NY already but never to Washington...what could we do in terms of road trip starting in DC which will let us see a mix of small cities and experience the other side of the US? Last thing i was is just drive through busy roads where all i see if the perimeter of cities!

  7. #7
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    Default A Mix Out of Washington

    Without driving all that far, you can get a good mix of large and smaller cities, rural areas, historic sites, wildlife, scenery, beaches, etc., etc., etc. For your major cities, plan on Washington with all its monuments, government buildings, and museums; Baltimore with its Poe heritage, Fort McHenry, and Inner Harbor; and Philadelphia with its Independence connections, great food, and many universities. For medium- or smaller-sized cities, look at Dover DE and Annapolis MD, both state capitals with centuries-old architecture and great walking downtowns. For history there's Gettysburg, Brandywine, Yorktown, Jamestown, Manassas, and many other sites. For scenery there's Shenandoah National Park, Assateague Island National Seashore, and Chesapeake Bay. For wildlife there are more than enough national wildlife refuges especially along the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, but I will particularly point out Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. And for a couple of unique venues, try NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility and Jefferson's home, Monticello. You could connect all those points with a loop that went roughly Washington, Annapolis, Baltimore, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Dover, Norfolk, Charlottesville, Shenandoah, Washington.

    AZBuck

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Without driving all that far, you can get a good mix of large and smaller cities, rural areas, historic sites, wildlife, scenery, beaches, etc., etc., etc. For your major cities, plan on Washington with all its monuments, government buildings, and museums; Baltimore with its Poe heritage, Fort McHenry, and Inner Harbor; and Philadelphia with its Independence connections, great food, and many universities. For medium- or smaller-sized cities, look at Dover DE and Annapolis MD, both state capitals with centuries-old architecture and great walking downtowns. For history there's Gettysburg, Brandywine, Yorktown, Jamestown, Manassas, and many other sites. For scenery there's Shenandoah National Park, Assateague Island National Seashore, and Chesapeake Bay. For wildlife there are more than enough national wildlife refuges especially along the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, but I will particularly point out Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. And for a couple of unique venues, try NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility and Jefferson's home, Monticello. You could connect all those points with a loop that went roughly Washington, Annapolis, Baltimore, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Dover, Norfolk, Charlottesville, Shenandoah, Washington.

    AZBuck
    Thanks AZBuck! This is brilliant!
    We have 2 weeks....I was was wondering if adding Niagara Falls to that loop would be crazy and take too much time/effort going through non-interesting areas? I am trying to maximize our time... we love museums but coming from Europe means we get to go to lots of the all the time, that's why we prefer discovering cities and seeing things we can't definitely find here. Food plays a big part in our trip so really looking forward to the crab-cakes that popped up when i looked up some of the destinations you suggested!

  9. #9
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    Default Leave It, For Now

    While there is certainly nothing wrong with trying to include a visit to Niagara Falls in a RoadTrip out of Washington DC, and there re certainly many interesting sites between DC and the Falls, I think you'd have a better time sticking to the general route I suggested. One of the pitfalls of RoadTrip planning is to try to cram too much, and too many miles, into too little time. Far better to drive fewer miles, see fewer places, but spend more quality, relaxed time at the places you do visit. I will also note that Niagara Falls is relatively heavily commercialized, and can be better included in a more northerly RoadTrip that would also take in Toronto, the Thousand Islands region, the Finger Lakes, New York wine country, etc. - another easy two weeks.

    As long as food is going to be a focus of this trip, I'll note a few local specialties that you should at least sample. In Philadelphia, hit the Italian Market on S. 9th street. If nothing else, just stroll past the various restaurants, stalls, and vendors and soak up the smells. I would also recommend that you get a sub here (the Philly area). Elsewhere they are variously known as heroes, hoagies or whatever, in Philly the proper term is sub. I grew up in Wilmington DE just south of Philly and these 'sandwiches' were the backbone of my diet, I will particularly recommend that you try to find a Capriotti's outlet and order either the Bobbie (Turkey) or the Italian Special. But I will also warn you away from another local 'delicacy', scrapple. Made from pig scraps and often called "Everything but the oink" it is definitely an acquired taste.

    On both sides of the Chesapeake you will find many restaurants serving the specialties of the Bay, crabs and oysters. I'm not sure when they are in season, but ask if soft-shelled crabs are available. These are the same Blue Crabs served the rest of the year, but caught just after they molt when they are particularly succulent. Also, if you get crabs, be sure to ask for the Bay Seasoning. And like lobster, eating crab is a messy proposition rather than fine dining. It was one of our rites of summer when I was a kid to catch our own crabs. All you need is a piece of string, a chicken bone, and a net, so I can recommend the crabs. Oysters are another matter. The Bay is famous for its oysters, but I'm not an aficionado, so I can't recommend anything.

    AZBuck

  10. Default

    Makes total sense! I will start working on the itinerary following your recommendations and do research on the destinations you suggested.
    Thanks again!

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