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  1. Default Boston to Washington, D.C, and back - route recommendations?

    Boston to Washington, D.C., and back

    We fully understand the potential disruption that Covid-19 could have on trips next year - but please reply as if there will be no disruption. We are seeking ideas and inspiration. If our trip must be cancelled, we will look to make this same trip again later in 2021 anyway.

    Hi all! My family and I have booked to fly into Boston from the UK on 26th April 2021. We will fly back to the UK from Boston on 10th May. We want to take a road trip during this time, with the end destination being Washington D.C., before returning back to Boston. At this moment in time, we are not interested in taking trains to travel between the two places.

    We would like to incorporate a stop in NYC either on the way there or the way back. We have been to NYC before, so would not need a great deal of time there, but we liked it enough in the past that we'd like to visit again, albeit for a shorter period of time. We have also seen most of the main 'sights' there, so reaching these isn't a big deal. We have also debated stopping in Philadelphia, but this isn't a must.

    We are undecided on how long we'd like to spend in Boston, NYC, (possibly) Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. - please feel free to tweak these lengths of stays yourselves. We obviously don't want to spend too long in one place as the journey is quite a marathon.

    As well as the big cities, we are also interested in scenery/nature, and would love to incorporate some walks or scenic visits into the itinerary. My mother is a big fan of the seaside, so a trip to a nice, quaint seaside town (no particular area specified) is also a must.

    We appreciate that this is a long journey spanning some 900 miles round-trip. This means there are also constraints on time which we also appreciate. However, we would love some ideas, place names, route guidance, or even full-blown itineraries which would help us plan our trip to this part of the world.

    Thanks so much in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri


    Welcome to RTA!

    When I'm planning a trip, it helps if I have maps or an atlas of the area. Do you have one? If not, you can order one from the RTA Store or get one locally. 900 miles probably does sound like a lot, but to me that's about 2 days in the car, more if I'm stopping along the way. So you have time to really see something.

    I have to get to work now (some of us aren't working from home), but hopefully one of the other regulars will pop in with some ideas and suggestions for you.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I know you said you aren't interested in traveling by train, but the trip you've laid out really does lend itself to do much better to traveling by train. The Boston-DC corridor is a traffic nightmare and all of the cities you're looking to have good mass transit with very challenging and expensive parking.

    Rather than renting a car for your entire trip, just renting a car for a couple days to make an excursion to a seaside town, would have a lot of advantages.

    Or a compromise idea might be to take the train from Boston to Philly, explore Philly, and when you're done there, rent a car and explore the coast on the way to DC. You could head over to Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore, take the Cape May Ferry over to Delaware and explore the Delaware and Maryland coasts before heading back to DC. If time is tight you could also just do one of them - either the Jersey Shore or the Delaware/Maryland coast.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default A Basic Driving Option

    I had hoped, when I sat down to have a look at how best for you to fulfill your travel wishes, to find and suggest some sort of 'figure 8' trip that would incorporate both urban and rural driving on both legs, Boston to Washington and then back. But the east coast of the United States is simply not built that way. As Michael points out, the east coast is highly urbanized, "a traffic nightmare". The specific area you want to visit is called the BosWash Corridor and all 4 cities you plan to hit are strung out along I-95 like a string of sausages (with smaller urban 'meatballs' in between). You can find a couple of short, less populated, gaps along that string, but basically it's just a bunch of cities all in a row and all growing into one another. Conversely, once you leave the corridor and head inland just a few dozen miles, things get pretty rural and relaxing pretty quickly and stay that way from Boston all the way down the coast.

    So the obvious basic plan is to devote three or four days to a rural drive one way and the rest of your two weeks to an urban drive the other, devoting a couple of days to each city on your list. Without going into a lot of the finer details just yet, such a plan would look something like a loop. Assuming that you do the rural part first and the urban part second, although you can do it in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction, would look something like the following...

    Leave Boston on MA-2 westbound through Leominster. MA-2 is near-motorway quality through the urban areas in and around Boston, but once you're a bit inland turns into a scenic byway, the Mohawk Trail, with several parks and 'quaint' towns that will provide walking and gawking possibilities. You'd then leave this road a bit east of Albany NY and cut southwest to US-9 and/or US-9W (We can fill in the details later if you decide on this basic plan.) down through the Hudson River Valley to Kingston NY. Next, you'd take US-209 down through the Delaware Water Gap before dropping down to I-76/US-222 (again, details when and if you need them) to and through an area that includes the Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) area, one of our major Civil War sites, and a town known for its chocolate before swinging around Baltimore on US-15 and entering Washington from the northwest on I-270.

    The alternate leg, described northbound, would be your mostly urban leg. Since I didn't see Baltimore on your list of cities to visit and I've never found a 'quaint' seaside town in New Jersey, I'd suggest that you start this leg by leaving Washington on US-50 east to Annapolis which is an eminently walkable small city on Chesapeake Bay and the home of our Naval Academy. Continue across the bay to Wye Mills MD and then MD-404/MD-16/DE-16/DE-1 to the Lewes DE area including adjacent Cape Henlopen. From there, head up DE-1, US-13 and I-95 to Philadelphia and New York. Your last bit, from New York to Boston would entail either I-95 (not recommended) or I-684/I-84/I-90.

    So, take a look at that and if it appeals to you, we can offer some more specific routing and suggestions to meet any trip objectives that haven't been met.


  5. Default

    Thank you all for your comments, they are much appreciated.

    AZBuck - we definitely like the look of your itinerary suggestions. These are places that have cropped up on our radar while we've been searching for routes and ideas. We would certainly be grateful if this trip plan could, as you say, be elaborated on further.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default What Else...?

    You say that many of my earlier suggestions "have cropped up on [y]our radar". As I pointed out, we'd need to know what else, either specifically or generally, is on your radar before we can continue offering possibilities. So get a good map (paper or software), plot out the general route I suggested, and then let us know what's still missing, what can be dropped, what appeals to you most about what we've already given you, what additional route help you might need, etc.. Remember that this is your trip, not ours, and you'll have to make the final decisions based on your preferences, of which we know only a little.


  7. #7


    That connection from 2 to 9-9w is really easy. Once you go through Troy you cross the Hudson River on a bridge. At the end of the bridge, you take a right, go to the next light, right again, through one light and the second (blinking light) is a right onto 787 South. Then either take the exit for US 9 South or go until 787 ends at a light and turn right and you're on 9W South! 2 & 9 do actually cross a bit further on, but the extra stretch of 9 is nothing special, and then dumps you into parts of the city of Albany that aren't that great to drive through (those parts of any city that are on the news far more often than needed). As to which is better (9 or 9W), both have sections that are going through small cities/towns and then fairly open sections so I don't know that one or the other is preferable.

    A couple other things that may be interesting on the return leg, if you are going towards Annapolis in MD would be to continue out US 50 to the ocean and visit Assateague - an area known for wild ponies that roam freely, along with a beach area. You can connect back up to the mentioned Lewes DE area from there (via several beachfront towns in MD and DE). There is also a ferry (for your car) from Lewes to Cape May, NJ which has a fair amount of Victorian architecture and is likely one of the few NJ shore towns where you'll still find stuff open if you are there outside the summer (late May-Early Sept) timeframe (and in that summer timeframe, if everything is mostly normal it may take substantial time to travel through some of those ocean front towns with traffic).

  8. Default

    These places cropped up on our radar due to a previous post we made on Tripadvisor regarding the trip. While there were some usual destination suggestions, the posters were more focused on Covid and the cost of parking. We really are coming into this blind and don't mind having suggestions thrown at us.

    We like the look of your suggestion as it is. We can say that we're not particularly interested in Gettysburg / civil war areas (which was frequently mentioned on Tripadvisor), and we're not interested in Hershey or the corresponding theme park. We realise that leaves a somewhat empty itinerary within south-east Pennsylvania. Perhaps there is a nice town or two in place of these, or a scenic/nature destination?

    We were recommended Harpers Ferry in West Virginia which looked quite nice. Shenandoah was even suggested but we think this is too far south. Perhaps to make things easier, we could assume that we'd spend 2 nights each in Boston, NYC and D.C., and 1 night in Philly?

    Alternatively, if we went on the 'urban' leg of the trip to the cities on the way down, what is your opinion on the viability of travelling through coastal CT and RI on the way to D.C.? I assume this also falls within the 'BosWash' driving nightmare? I ask because one of our family had read about New England coastal areas such as Cape Cod and Mystic.

    Ultimately, we are very 'open' to route ideas. We can say what we're not interested in; as we often get 'history'd out' in the UK as it is, we're not too interested in visiting any (particularly civil war) historical sites on our trip. We want to come to this part of the US for a combination of the vibrant cities on our list, the scenery and nature in between, and a charming town now-and-then.

    Please do ask any further questions if it would help gain an understanding of what we want. We realise it does sound broad, but we're none the wiser as the only place we've visited in the North East USA is NYC.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Keeping It Doable

    Thank you for taking my secondary advice to heart and now making this an iterative process. The new info you've given should help shore things up a bit more. My main concern at this point is that you're trying to add too much and with 'only' two weeks you'd end up spending too much time running from place to place rather than having the time to enjoy the places you do get to.

    If you drop Hershey and Gettysburg, that's fine. But I'd still try to do the inland route either south- or north-bound including the Delaware Water Gap and Amish country. You'll find the later roughly east and southeast of Lancaster PA, in and around towns such as Bird-in-Hand, Ephrata and Intercourse. Just travel the back roads rather than the main highways, but do be careful as you might encounter a one horsepower buggy around any curve. Also be aware that the Amish intensely dislike being treated as a tourist attraction and especially don't want to be photographed. Please respect their wishes.

    Also on that leg, I think you're right to exclude Shenandoah. It's more than a bridge too far, even if you drop other destinations on this part of your trip. Harpers Ferry is a possibility, although much of its allure has to do with its position in American history, specifically events leading up to the Civil War. Still, it is relatively picturesque and can be reached from Amish country using US-30 and US-15 with a small out-and-back detour on US-340 from and returning to Frederick MD and then I-270 into Washington as before.

    I would not try to add Assateague/Chincoteague simply because of the extra miles involved. Similarly, rather than looking at Cape Cod or Mystic, consider a day trip out of Boston, either at the start or end of your trip, to Cape Ann (Gloucester and Rockport MA) which is a little more off the beaten path and thus has fewer tourists. And again, following I-95 through Rhode Island and Connecticut will not get you anything you've said you want, just traffic.


  10. #10


    I can only speak for the DC end of it but if the historical aspects aren’t your thing then you may want to check out Great Falls, either the Virginia or the Maryland side of the Potomac River. Very impressive. Also the old town area of Alexandria is interesting to see too.

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