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  1. #1

    Default Washington/Shenadoah/Chesapeake Bay in May

    Hi everyone
    We are visiting DC/Virginia at the end of May (from the UK), and would very much appreciate a bit of help in finalising the details of our trip.
    We are into history, scenery and wildlife. We are not into busy towns or cities (but obviously we want to see the buildings, museums & main sights of Washington DC!)
    We have accommodation booked already, so the rough outline of our trip is this:-
    Monday May 23 - fly to Washington DC (Dulles) - 3 days in DC
    Thursday May 26 - pick up car from Dulles airport (intermediate SUV) at approx. 11am. Drive to Gettysburg
    (overnight at Lightner Farmhouse B&B)
    Friday May 27 - drive from Gettysburg to Charlottesville (via Skyline Drive/Shenandoah NP?)
    3 Nights at Foxfield Inn, Charlottesville (Saturday & Sunday - 2 full days to explore the region)
    Monday May 30 - drive to Port Haywood, Virginia
    3 Nights at The Inn at Tabbs Creek (Tuesday & Wednesday - 2 full days to explore the area)
    Thursday June 2 - drive back to Dulles airport - flight is at 18.30

    So, what we are looking for is a bit of advice re. how long our journeys will take, what routes are recommended, and what can we see on the trip? I have particular queries about
    - how long will we have in Gettysburg to tour the battlefields etc? We are Brits & have no real knowledge of the Civil War, so we would like an overview but nothing too in-depth...
    - what roads should we take to drive from Gettysburg to Charlottesville. I was thinking of the Skyline Drive, but not sure how long that will take. What we are looking for is scenic views & photo-opportunities.
    - For our 2 days in the Charlottesville area, what are your recommendations? We will definitely want to visit Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, and Ash Lawn Highland, and maybe some wineries. Should we spend a day touring Shenandoah, or are there other scenic areas which would warrant some of our time ? (I have read about Hidden Valley where 'Somersby' was filmed, and nearby Warm Springs sounds nice...)
    - What route should we take between Charlottesville & Port Haywood? We will want to stop somewhere for lunch, & maybe some shopping....
    - talking of shopping, are there any good Outlet Malls on our route? I love US outlet shopping!
    - Once we are at Port Haywood, we are looking to spend a day in Williamsburg. Any other recommendations (nature/wildlife/scenery/history) ?
    - On our final drive back to Dulles, how long will this take us? For a flight at 18.30 we'd need to be a Dulles by around 3pm. I think we would prefer a 'calm' route without heavy traffic (if that is possible!)
    Finally, at the end of May, what weather/temperatures can we expect?
    Thank you very much in anticipation of some great advice!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default For Your Consideration

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The longest of your drives between lodgings is only 250 miles, between Gettysburg and Charlottesville. But that is also the leg where ideally you'd spend as much time as possible on slower roads, notably Skyline Drive and Blueridge Parkway. There are also several interesting historic sites on this leg including Antietem, Fort Frederick and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. So that's the one place where you might be a bit rushed and have to make some hard choices. But otherwise, I think you've chosen some of the best of that area and will be seeing it at a pace that will allow you to savor as well as enjoy. So just a few comments that might help you with that.

    Hopefully, your accommodations in the Washington area are at an establishment that both offers free shuttle service t Dulles and is close enough to a Metro (Underground) station so that you can walk to it and really not need a cab or car during your stay in the DC area. When it comes time to drive north from Dulles, your best bet is just VA-28 north to VA-7 northwest to Leesburg and US-15 north to Gettysburg. This is actually a fairly scenic route, especially US-15 through Point of Rocks and past Catoctin Mountain National Park. In the Gettysburg area, you should be able to cover most of the significant sites of the battle in a day or two, but you've really only left yourselves an afternoon so I'd concentrate on the self-drive tour offered by the NPS.

    As noted earlier, your next day is going to be your busiest. Your basic route would be west on US-30, south on I-81 and east on I-64 to Front Royal and the northern end of the Skyline Drive. Depending on whether you stop at any of the sites n the way down, how far you go along Skyline Drive, and what time you want to be in your digs for the evening, you can 'opt out' on a couple of different roads (US-211, US-33) eastward to VA-231/US-29 south to Charlottesville. Just the places you have already listed for your stay in Charlottesville are quite enough. I wouldn't be trying to add anything more.

    Next up, the drive to the Historic Triangle area. The drive itself will only take a few hours so I'd plan on taking in at least one site before settling in for the night. I'd also at least consider taking one of your two full days while ensconced here to travel down to at least the northern end of the Outer Banks of North Carolina to visit the beaches, Kitty Hawk, and Fort Raleigh.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    - how long will we have in Gettysburg to tour the battlefields etc? We are Brits & have no real knowledge of the Civil War, so we would like an overview but nothing too in-depth...
    A full day will get you the film and circle-diorama at the Visitor Center (nice overview of the battle at Gettysburg), a brief tour through the Museum, and a half day driving the battlefield. If you don't have a full day, you'll have to decide, perhaps, to just drive the battlefield. My husband and I spent two full days there, wish we'd allowed for a third.

    I was thinking of the Skyline Drive, but not sure how long that will take. What we are looking for is scenic views & photo-opportunities.
    Skyline Drive is 105 miles. My husband and I got on it at 8 am at the Southern end, and drove north towards Front Royal. It was 1 pm before we pulled out, and that was after deciding to skip the last 3 or 4 viewpoints on the north end.


  4. #4


    Thanks both of you for your suggestions & advice.
    I wish we had a bit longer in Gettysburg; hopefully we will have enough time to get a bit of a feel for the place & learn something of it's history.
    The Kitty Hawk & Fort Raleigh suggestions are definitely something we will try to get to ... especially as my partner is really interested in the history of early flight. It might be a long day out from Port Haywood though. If we can break the trip with several stops on the way then that would be ok though. If I'd known about these interesting places I might have booked accommodation nearer there, but I don't think I can make any changes now.
    Any suggestions on the route back to Dulles Airport - we would like to avoid busy stretches of the I95 if possible, & we don't want to get stuck in traffic & be late arriving at the airport ?.

  5. #5

    Default Touring Virginia

    Hello Niki 64,

    I'd say you have sketched out a very nice trip. A few comments/suggestions from one who has live most of his 60 years in the region, including marrying a Charlottesville-area girl and living in that area for some 5 years, as well as a full lifetime of visitation in the Tidewater VA area, are as follows:

    The Shenandoah Valley is very nice. You may have a good look at it as you either cruise atop the Blue Ridge Mountains along Skyline Drive within Shenandoah NP, or as you drive right through it headed up-valley from Hagerstown, MD all the way to Front Royal along I-81 or any of the roads roughly paralleling it. Though I've never driven it directly, I'd guess that a drive from Charlottesville to Warm Springs/Hidden Valley is an all-day endeavor assuming a leisurely pace, or at the very least a long half-day at a quicker pace. The antebellum mansion at Hidden Valley is in fact a B&B, I suppose you know. The setting is remote, pastoral, and beautiful.

    For the trip to Port Haywood from Charlottesville, you may wish to access VA-22 at Shadwell on the immediate east side of C'ville, continue through beautiful horse farm country on VA-231 through Cismont (stopping at the gorgeous Cismont Chapel Episcopal Church, where my wife and I were married), to Gordonsville. A short hop west on US 33 brings you to the Barboursville ruins and two wineries, and James Madison's Montpelier is near the town of Orange, VA. Continuing on US 33 through Louisa and Cuckoo will closely parallel the route of Captain Jack Jouett's ride, an overnight speed run to warn then-Governor Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia legislature of an approaching cavalry raid by Colonel Banastre "The Butcher" Tarleton, on orders from Cornwallis. Jouett overtook and passed Tarleton's column in the middle of the night and his early warning enabled most of the government officials to escape capture. You may skirt the northern suburbs of Richmond along I-295 and exit northeast via US 360 for a drive "down the neck" to Gloucester Courthouse and on to Mathews County to reach Port Haywood.

    AZ Buck's suggestion of getting down to Fort Raleigh and the Wright Brothers Memorial along the near end of the Outer Banks is a fine one, but be aware that doing so requires a "running of the gauntlet" entirely across the rather large and traffic-challenged metropolis of Tidewater/Hampton Roads. The only two water crossings available are I-664 and I-64 and each route normally involves multi-mile backups during long rush hour periods between around 0600 and 1000 and again from 1500-1900 hrs. Likely I-664 is the lesser of two evils should you choose to make that trip. In any event, from Port Haywood, it is surely a long day out-and-back. To sate your partner's flight history urges without such a trip, there is the Virginia Air and Space Center on the waterfront in downtown Hampton. Among the many aircraft on display there is a replica of the Wright Flyer. And it's much, much closer to Port Haywood and Williamsburg. We've always enjoyed the Virginia Air and Space Center, the Mariner's Museum, and Nauticus, just across the I-64 bridge-tunnel in Norfolk. The WWII battleship USS Wisconsin is permanently berthed beside Nauticus, and harbor cruises along the Elizabeth River passing by the extensive US Navy base at Norfolk are popular activities embarking from Waterside, which is the name for the part of Downtown Norfolk where Nauticus is located.

    As to Outlet shopping, I am familiar only with the Tanger Outlet network. There is in fact a Tanger down in Nags Head, NC (near the Wright Brothers Memorial) and one on the east side of DC, at Oxon Hill, MD. The latter is in the thick of the DC Beltway traffic district, however.

    Late May will likely see daytime highs in the mid to upper 80s throughout your trip's area. You may see some hotter days, but highs beyond the low to mid 90s would be somewhat unusual. Shenandoah NP and the Warm Springs area should be somewhat cooler, say 5 to 10 degrees or so, due to elevation. It would not be entirely unusual to see a cold front bring downright chilly weather, down into the low 50s, in late May, particularly in the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley.

    Here's to an enjoyable Virginia Road Trip!


  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by Nicki64 View Post
    Thanks both of you for your suggestions & advice.
    The Kitty Hawk & Fort Raleigh suggestions are definitely something we will try to get to ...
    Be mindful that the I-64 tunnel from the Hampton to Virginia Beach sector is subject to frequent back-ups and congestion. The recommended routes would be from Newport News to the Outer Banks via (1) US-17/US-258 to I-664 South to US-17 South (to avoid a toll road) to US-158 East or (2) from Hampton going through Newport News, the I-664 towards the Outer Banks which along the way turns into the I-64 then Rt. 168 South (this has a toll station each direction, not expensive but will trigger your rental car toll service fee as well), continuing on to Kitty Hawk and the Outer Banks.

    The entire Tidewater area is susceptible to rush hour backups due to several tunnels and bridges and highways necking down from many-to-fewer lanes. Definitely go down to Kitty Hawk, but be sure to time your trip to avoid morning and evening rush hour.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nicki64 View Post
    Any suggestions on the route back to Dulles Airport - we would like to avoid busy stretches of the I95 if possible, & we don't want to get stuck in traffic & be late arriving at the airport ?.
    From Port Hayward, drive north to US-17 North and continue to Opal and go on US-15/US-17 North to where around Manassas you continue on US-29 North. You will have the option of hopping onto I-66 towards DC, but it might be easier to remain on US-29 until the interchange in Centreville where you will head on Rt. 28 North to Dulles.

    Recommend you avoid traveling I-95, if at all possible, between Fredericksburg, VA, to north of Baltimore, as the traffic had be maddening and the toll road options very confusing.

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by Foy View Post
    Hello Niki 64,
    As to Outlet shopping, I am familiar only with the Tanger Outlet network. There is in fact a Tanger down in Nags Head, NC (near the Wright Brothers Memorial) and one on the east side of DC, at Oxon Hill, MD. The latter is in the thick of the DC Beltway traffic district, however.
    There is an outlet shopping area, "Williamsburg Premium Outlets," just north of Williamsburg, VA. I have never shopped there but a former colleague of mine stopped there to purchase running shoes every February on our way to an annual professional conference in Williamsburg. There are also plenty of regular good ol' American malls in the Newport News/Hampton area in addition to some big box stores such a Bass Pro Shops.

  8. #8


    Thank you Foy for your excellent route suggestions & historical knowledge!

    We are now wondering, rather than Warm Springs/Hidden Valley, would a drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway be a better option (Perhaps to visit the Peaks of Otter area) ?
    There is SO much to see & do around here, I am now wishing I had made this vacation a longer one!

  9. #9


    Thanks landmariner for the DC route tips.

  10. #10

    Default Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no?

    I much enjoy the pastoral scenes in the Shenandoah Valley and the Alleghany Mountains along the west side of "The Valley", as it's called. I also much enjoy the Blue Ridge mountains of central Virginia, especially the segment of the Parkway from I-64 (Rockfish Gap), where Shenandoah NP/Skyline Drive becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), to Peaks of Otter. It is a splendid section of the BRP. There are many stellar view points/pullouts with views of the Piedmont and the widening Blue Ridge Mountains range to the east and of the upper Valley and the James River basin to the west. A nice visitor center is along the BRP where it crosses the James River, and there a footbridge carries one over to a restored lock from back in the days when river transport was king. Just to the south of the James, more fine views along the highest points along the BRP in Virginia, short hikes to waterfalls, and finally the Peaks of Otter. At the Peaks, either a short bus ride or a strenuous hike bring you to the summit and the views to the east (the Piedmont) are long and terrific. The weather along that segment should be expected to be a good 10 to 15 degrees cooler than down in Charlottesville simply because it's up to 3,000' higher in elevation.

    Assuming a return to C'ville is the plan, from Peaks of Otter you have the option of dropping down the east or the west side of the Blue Ridge to access either US 29 (east side) or I-81 (west side) to return to Charlottesville via VA-43 (actually, VA-43 on the west side requires driving just a few miles further south along the BRP from Peaks of Otter). You may also backtrack north along the BRP only to the James River and head west to Glasgow and Buena Vista to access I-81. Doing that will take you over a high bluff along the James, where you can look down about 1,000' at the very place where the James cuts through the core of the Blue Ridge. The section of I-81 from Buena Vista/Lexington back to I-64 headed east to Charlottesville is very nice, too.

    Of course, a low cloud ceiling can entirely wrap the BRP in fog, so there is little point in traveling it if the weather is not cooperative. In that case, just drive the through the Alleghanies (and here you'll be in the valleys between the long ridges of the Alleghanies, so you should be below the fog) via VA-42 from just outside of Staunton to VA-39, cross over Warm Springs Mountain on 39, and have a soak at the Jefferson Pools at the village of Warm Springs. Hidden Valley is but 5-6 miles further west along and just off of VA-39 from the Jefferson Pools. It's safe to say that the Jefferson Pools aren't for everybody. They're surrounded by open-roofed wooden structures built in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Suffice it to say one man's rustic and charming is another man's dilapidated and scary.


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