Driving from NJ to NC

Jun 28th, 2010, 07:19 AM
  #1  
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Driving from NJ to NC

We would like to know of a few places to stop (we have a 5 year old girl and a 3 year old boy) while driving from NJ to NC.

Most of the driving will be done at night so our first stop will probably be around Gaston, NC. (VA - NC border)

We would like some places of interest that we could go out, stretch and continue, either lighthouses, good and affordable restaurants or roadside attractions.
zlaor is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 08:21 AM
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I guess it would help if you state what route you plan to take.
vjpblovesitaly is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 08:27 AM
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We're taking the NJ Turnpike down to Baltimore, MD, around Richmond, VA and onto NC.
zlaor is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 02:35 PM
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There is, I am sorry to say, nothing much on your entire route that would be any fun to stop at with 3 and 5 year old, especially if you stay on the interstates (I-95 and I-85) There aren't even any public toilet type rest areas easily accessible on I-95 from just south of Baltimore to just north of Fredericksburg, VA.

There is a guidebook to I-95 that has an internet presence that you might google for, and it lists food, gas, lodging, etc on an exit by exit basis which might help.

You don't say where you are going in NC, but any destination is likely to be better than the trip.

Whatever you do, try not to arrive in the Baltimore/DC area after 3 PM on a weekday. The worst traffic is just below DC on I-95.

I hate to be discouraging, but I drive this route (actually all the way from New England) about 8 times a year, and there isn't anything fun about it.
Ackislander is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 05:27 PM
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King's Dominion? It's outside of Richmond.
suewoo is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 09:16 PM
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If you travel route 81 in VA there are some tourist places , such as the natural bridge . There is a zoo there and some other things to so. You can stay there as well
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Jun 29th, 2010, 02:59 AM
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I drive several times/year between Boston and central NC. (will be making my 3rd trip in 7 weeks on Thursday) If one is lucky and plans well around rush hours in various cities, this is a 14 hour trip with bathroom breaks and a brief meal stop. If you are doing most of your driving at night, just drive it. (Although I might reconsider the driving at night part - but that is just my personal preference).

The above posters above are correct - there is nothing between about Fredericksburg/Richmond and NC. The highway is dark, barren and there is not much off the exits - even finding fuel or food requires knowing where you are going. It is nothing like highways in the northeast with well-marked rest areas or easy on/easy off services. South of Richmond the highway narrows - and while still a major Interstate, in places it is 2 lanes in each direction, with many, many trucks. During non-daylight hours these trucks are trying to cover as many miles as possible in the least time - that is what they must do - and some drivers find this intimidating. (translation - keep moving or pull over or you will find a truck plastered to your rear window).

Listen to Ackislander - we have both commented on this route to other drivers. I know travelling with preschoolers is not great fun at times, but if it is at night, they will be asleep. If it is daytime, a fast food place will have to do. I have made this trip alone and with 19 year old daughter and during off-hours there are some places in southern VA and NC that made us feel uncomfortable just stopping to use bathroom and get fuel - likely to be perfectly safe, but just had a creepy feel about them.

I95exitguide.com gives some reasonably up to date info on the route - but don't expect to find anything fun for kids in close proximity to the highway.

Plan your trip times so you are nowhere between Baltimore and Richmond during rush hour. Lots of endless road construction near Baltimore and often major delays around Fredericksburg that even locals can not attribute to anything - proably just volume.
gail is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 05:55 AM
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I felt guilty last night after making my post, but after reading Gail I think we are both correct.

But I didn't know where you are going. If you are going to Eastern North Carolina or the Outer Banks, take the Garden State Parkway to Cape May and the ferry to Lewes, DE. You can then drive through the rural DELMARVA peninsula and across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Gorgeous scenery (in the day) and both the ferry and the bridge are fun for kids.

If you are going to the mountains, definitely take 78-81-40. Lots of trucks but scenic and plenty of off highway places to stop. When my kids were in school in Chapel Hill I used to drive this route from Boston fall and spring and actually enjoyed it. 95, never.
Ackislander is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 07:46 AM
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Thanks for the great info folks.

We are going to Carolina Beach.

The thought behind driving at night is for the kids to sleep most of the way instead of driving us nuts or having to stop every 1-2 hours.

I don't mind "venturing" off the beaten path, we have been known to do that on our road trips.

The Cape May ferry was ruled out because we heard it will add another 1.5 -2 hours to the trip.
Is that not so?
zlaor is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 12:50 PM
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There really is not much venturing to do in VA and NC - really. I want this to work for you - I think because we have been travelling with our now adult kids since they were born.

So I decided arbitrarily that you are starting around Newark, NJ area - that makes it just over 10 hours drive time to Carolina Beach. And I know drive time with little kids ends up being much more. (As in "are we there yet") You seem to prefer making the trip in 2 days - so what about this for a plan.

Leave NJ late afternoon and plan to drive about 6 hours that first day. This will put you into Baltimore/DC after most of rush hour. Stop for dinner around this area - after about 3 hours of driving. Eat, let kids run around, put them in their jammies. Stuff everyone back into the car and resume the drive - spending the first night in Richmond area. Kids will probably sleep much of second leg. Lots of inexpensive hotels right of I95 in that area - figure you will arrive around 11 PM. The problem with driving much later than that is that the kids will sleep in the car, you will not, and they will wake you up at 4 AM when you have had an hour of sleep.

In AM you will have about 4 more hours of driving - manageable. Have breakfast, hopefully hotel will have pool, start drive, stopping for early lunch about half way there.

Alternate plan is to drive it straight thru - but considering what we have mentioned above, I would not recommend it.
gail is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 01:54 PM
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gail gives a great plan I would add only one thing. Should you decide to pull off and spend the night be sure to get a place that has a lobby and indoors entrances, and get off 95 a bit. Trust me on this one.
suewoo is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 02:38 PM
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Agree with sue - but Richmond area is far beter than more south. You do not want to end up like the night I spent alone in a Rocky Mount hotel with outside corriders/entrances. I spent the night terrified because of noisy and scary-sounding people (think biker dude and sketchy truck driver types) outside.
gail is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 05:33 PM
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Thanks folks.

We usually take at least two days to drive somewhere (stop and smell the roses as well as see the real USA).

What do you think of this plan:

Drive from NJ to Monticello, VA (6 hours)
Spend a day in Moticello (2 nights)
Drive from Monticello to Carolina Beach (6 hours)

It's a bit out of the way but overall adds only about 1.5 hours to the trip as a whole (and I think it's worth the detour).

I'll just have to see if I can take an extra two days off work.
zlaor is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 05:45 PM
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For me, avoiding I95 is worth an extra 1 1/2 to 2 hrs. I've had 7 hour hell drives between Williamsburg and Philadelphia. Don't assume that you will avoid traffic if you don't drive during rush hour.

To help you calculate the time difference, I can tell you that it will take about 3 hours from Lewes, DE to the Virginia Beach side of the Chesapeake BBT. You'll have to take a rural route from Norfolk/VA Beach over to I95. I have no idea how long that takes or what it is like.
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Jun 30th, 2010, 01:01 AM
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At this point it becomes one of personal preference - you are combining a few days at a lake with some days at the ocean. I am more of a get there and then "smell the roses" and would in this case prefer to get to NC and get settled and explore from there. But there is nothing wrong with your plan that I can see other than personal preference.

Same for suggestion of Birdie - any highway can have a major incident and cause big delays - but having driven this route too many times to count (have had 2 New England kids who both chose southern colleges), delays of this kind have not happened to me. Getting stuck behind farmers with tractors and endless carloads of beach going teenagers makes me more insane - again, personal preference.

In either case, have a good trip. And many more years of travel with your kids. But be careful what you wish for when you teach them the love of travel - my 19 year old has been to over 10 countries, many without me, and is off to Argentina until December.
gail is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 06:11 AM
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Thanks gail, our kids have traveled overseas with us already.

By the way, I've been to Argentina, what a beautiful place. If he goes to Buenos Aires tell him to have some ice cream for me (and not to miss Tierra del Fuego).
zlaor is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 01:23 PM
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I like gail's second idea, dinner in Baltimore, night in Richmond, and strongly second suewoo's suggestion to get off 95. It passes through a less than prime area of Richmond. Either stop in Ashland (small town 25 miles north of Richmond, lots of family motels right off the interstate) or take I-64 to Richmond International Airport, where there is plenty of lodging. It is about 10 minutes off I-95. You could also take I-64 toward Charlottesville, and there are a bunch of motels etc about 2 exits off 95, but you will have morning commuter traffic to deal with. Not as much as on the NJTP but generally less competent.

On no acount wait to stop _below_ Richmond. Where it isn't the end of the earth, it can be scary.
Ackislander is offline  
Jul 4th, 2010, 10:07 PM
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colonial beach is great and is between dc and richmond. check out the tides inn there. or head east to dragon run on virginia's middle peninsula--amazing swamp. rent a canoe. edenton, nc, is the first permanent settlement in the state with beautiful homes and rich history. just ignore greenville and jacksonville, nc, for tourism purposes (military bases so i salute them on 7/4), but new bern, bath, along with edenton are great old port cities. also, what's with the "scary southern" thing on this thread? i wouldn't stay in a motel as described above anywhere-north of richmond or south. but, i guess if we keep up this image, we'll keep a few more beautiful places to ourselves.... do watch the rip tides/undertoe with the kids. prepare for jellyfish too (vinegar works or chewing tobacco in a pinch)--they're more likely to get ya than bubba at the super 8.
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Jul 5th, 2010, 01:34 AM
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ncforme - I am not referring to the "beautiful places" on the coast to which you refer, but the inland I95 towns - no riptides or jellyfish anywhere near Rocky Mount - the location of mentioned hotel - which was a mid-level name brand and not a Super 8. What I am referring to is the absence of advertised and accessible services along this route. This is partly a result of their not being any cities of any size along this route - and for those of us from the northeast where there is perhaps a city every 50 miles or so, it is worth noting to drivers unfamiliar with the route.

And I am guessing you are male - while OP is asking about a family, I drive this route as a female alone - far different comfort level.
gail is offline  
Jul 5th, 2010, 05:03 AM
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GEE, I would drive straight to Carolina Beach, unload, rest and go to the beach. Loading and unloading small children was never my favorite thing when we had a destination in mind. It is not more than one driving day from Jersey to Carolina Beach. Enjoy what there is to do there after you get there.
Gretchen is offline  

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