Road trip between NYC and Washington DC

Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 01:30 AM
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Road trip between NYC and Washington DC

​Hi, we are planning a trip to New York City. My husband is also keen to ​​return to Washington DC, for the museums. We could either get the train to DC from NYC or hire a car and spend about a week in the area. ​​

I've been reading about Baltimore and Annapolis and they sound interesting, but happy to be steered in another direction as we know next to nothing about this part of the world.

We're coming from Australia and plan to break the journey in either LA or San Francisco - another big city, hence the desire for a little road trip for variety. Maybe coastal scenery, national parks, small towns with character, historic mansions, etc. We like big bookshops, outdoor markets, shopping (budget minded like Sears and JC Penney, the exchange rate with the American dollar is not great). ​​We'd love some advice.

Thanks
Kay
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 03:56 AM
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(Thinking of you and others during the horrible fires in Australia). The area of US you are visiting in the most densely populated part of the US. I would not take a car road trip between NYC and DC - traffic is always unpleasant and often horrible. Mapping programs say it is about 4 hours between NYC and DC - but that would be at 2 AM. I drive often between Boston and DC and dread each trip. And having a car in DC is not necessary. As far as between, I would consider taking a train (Amtrak) to Philadelphia and/or Baltimore for perhaps a day or so in each and then on to DC. Baltimore has some interesting sections, the Inner Harbor is a nice browsing walk, and you can take a trip out to Fort McHenry. No spacious and wild National Parks in northeast US. Can't give you specifics about book stores (a dying breed in US due to Amazon). I know time and money are likely not limitless, but if it were me when flying coast to coast I would fly into Las Vegas and immediately rent a car and drive to Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce - those are National Parks! Whatever you decide, have a good trip.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 05:46 AM
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So many options -
In PA, the Amish countryside (use Bird in Hand as an example on Google Maps) and west to Fallingwater (Frank Lloyd Wright house) at Mill Run.

Over to Front Royal, VA and then down the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.

Charlottesville VA and Monticello.

North of NYC - Hyde Park area, with the CIA and the Roosevelt homes
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 06:04 AM
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The Delaware and eastern shore of Md are treasures. So much to see and do there. You can take the train from NYC to Wilmington De, rent a car there at the train station in Wilmington. You take rt one which is a toll rd but knocks out a lot of traffic. Pay cash in a rental as the rental agency charges a convenience fee which can run high. Annapolis is wonderful. Return car at Baltimore airport and take the train from there into DC. Lewes, Rehoboth DE are very nice as is St Michaels, Md. Very historic, nice people and great seafood.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 07:52 AM
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I agree with everyone who has warned against the Interstate 95 corridor between New York and DC. It is an awful drive. My husband and I live in VT and although that is part of the fastest route for us to get from here to DC where our son lives, we avoid it at all costs.

If you want to spend enough time in DC to really enjoy the museums you probably don't have time for a long road trip between the two cities.

We have been to many of the places others have suggested and they are all good places to visit. Some would involve a significant detour from a NYC to DC trip but get you farther out into the country.

One place my husband and I visited twice in 2019 that might be of interest as a side trip from DC is Harpers Ferry West Virginia. It can be reached by train from DC in under two hours. There is a fascinating National Historic Park that includes many buildings in the old part of the town. It's in a scenic area and there are some good short hikes. It's along the C & O bike trail and I think you could rent bikes. (The reason we went twice is that some friends visiting from Europe in the fall wanted to see it after we had made an earlier trip on our own in the summer.)

There are also trains from DC to Charlottesville. You would want a car once in Charlottesville to visit the sites in that area.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 08:54 AM
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Get a map of the area between NYC and Washington and stick pins in it for places that have been suggested and then connect the dots on back roads (NOT I95)
I would suggest the Amish country (Lancaster PA). Gettysburg PA (civil war battlefield), Charlottesville VA (Monticello) and then Washington DC. Maybe being from out of the country you can get a good one way rental on a car because you don't want it in DC.
Shopping--you might look for the big outlet centers. Other stores you would enjoy (more than Sears or Penney's) is TJMaxx, Marshall's, Steinmart, Home Goods, WAlMart.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 09:39 AM
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If you decide to drive, you should consider a stop at the Winterthur Estate. Reservations may be necessary for a tour of the mansion, but the gardens are free.

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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Vttraveler View Post
I agree with everyone who has warned against the Interstate 95 corridor between New York and DC. It is an awful drive. My husband and I live in VT and although that is part of the fastest route for us to get from here to DC where our son lives, we avoid it at all costs.

If you want to spend enough time in DC to really enjoy the museums you probably don't have time for a long road trip between the two cities.

We have been to many of the places others have suggested and they are all good places to visit. Some would involve a significant detour from a NYC to DC trip but get you farther out into the country.

One place my husband and I visited twice in 2019 that might be of interest as a side trip from DC is Harpers Ferry West Virginia. It can be reached by train from DC in under two hours. There is a fascinating National Historic Park that includes many buildings in the old part of the town. It's in a scenic area and there are some good short hikes. It's along the C & O bike trail and I think you could rent bikes. (The reason we went twice is that some friends visiting from Europe in the fall wanted to see it after we had made an earlier trip on our own in the summer.)

There are also trains from DC to Charlottesville. You would want a car once in Charlottesville to visit the sites in that area.
Good advice from Vttraveler. Another tip for your west coast city to fly into would be Portland Oregon. If you love bookstores, you should visit Powell's World of Books which has 3 floors covering an entire city block. The TriMet light rail system is right outside the baggage claim at PDX.
For your east coast airport, choose either Reagan National (has Metro station) or BWI which has an Amtrak station.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 12:05 PM
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The Barnes & Noble bookstore at Union Square in NYC is huge.

https://stores.barnesandnoble.com/store/2675

There are several great independent bookstores in the Los Angeles area:

https://www.laweekly.com/10-best-ind...stores-in-l-a/
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 02:14 PM
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This is great info. Thanks so much everyone.

The fires here in Australia are the worst I can remember. We get them every year, much like California, but this year is very bad. It's frightening. Thanks for the good wishes.

Sounds like getting the train out of NYC, hiring a car for the middle bit (will check all your recommendations) then train again into DC to avoid the traffic will work best. My husband is OK with driving in busy areas on the wrong side - for us - but I must admit I have closed my eyes on occasion. Those massive freeways are scary.

Thanks for letting us know about the huge Barnes and Noble near Union Square, will definitely be going there. We don't have any large bookstores like that, used to have Borders but they are long gone. We've been to Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Portland and the Powell book store! All great and we may return but trying to focus on other areas.

The rough trip plan is fly from Brisbane to LA, or possibly SF, then on to NYC. First flight is 13 hours, then second is 5 hours so may stopover for a few days on west coast to break the journey. We don't sleep and being squashed like a pretzel for that long is no fun. After NYC, roughly a week in the area you have all been helping me with, followed by time in DC, flight back to LA and fly home. We haven't booked anything yet but are looking at maybe Sept/Oct.

Thanks again.
Kay
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 01:45 AM
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For small town with character I nominate Frederick MD. Google Community Bridge to see how the town was transformed with trompe l'oeil artwork. It's out of the way but might give you a reason to swing thru York PA and Amish country. Also agree with recommendation for shopping. A lot of Sears stores are closing. You can probably find great bargains at Home Goods, TJ Maxx and Marshall's.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 09:10 AM
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We're coming from Australia and plan to break the journey in either LA or San Francisco - another big city, hence the desire for a little road trip for variety. Maybe coastal scenery, national parks, small towns with character, historic mansions, etc. We like big bookshops, outdoor markets, shopping (budget minded like Sears and JC Penney, the exchange rate with the American dollar is not great). ​​We'd love some advice. >>

I'm not going to try to compete with the local east coast experts here, save to say that I took the train from DC to NYC and whilst it wasn't terribly scenic it was a pleasant trip and easy enough to do. Breaking your journey in the middle somewhere to see the countryside would be a great idea.

As for the west coast, coming from the experience of someone who has only visited it once and then not to California, I'd like to second the idea of going to Portland Oregon or possibly Seattle in Washington State. Beautiful coastline, little towns, markets [a very famous one in Seattle which made me think of it] and the lovely Hood river near Portland which is gorgeous and has the advantage of Mounts Hood and Adams.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by annhig View Post
We're coming from Australia and plan to break the journey in either LA or San Francisco - another big city, hence the desire for a little road trip for variety. Maybe coastal scenery, national parks, small towns with character, historic mansions, etc. We like big bookshops, outdoor markets, shopping (budget minded like Sears and JC Penney, the exchange rate with the American dollar is not great). ​​We'd love some advice. >>

I'm not going to try to compete with the local east coast experts here, save to say that I took the train from DC to NYC and whilst it wasn't terribly scenic it was a pleasant trip and easy enough to do. Breaking your journey in the middle somewhere to see the countryside would be a great idea.

As for the west coast, coming from the experience of someone who has only visited it once and then not to California, I'd like to second the idea of going to Portland Oregon or possibly Seattle in Washington State. Beautiful coastline, little towns, markets [a very famous one in Seattle which made me think of it] and the lovely Hood river near Portland which is gorgeous and has the advantage of Mounts Hood and Adams.
I spent the first 55 years of my life in Pennsylvania and then moved to Oregon so I know both areas pretty well. If you want a break somewhere between Australia and the east coast of the US, my first choice would be in Hawaii and the second choice would be Portland. Over the past 14 years, I have driven and found a geocache or several in each of the 50 states.
For an airport to fly into on the east coast where you can either rent a car or get on a Northeast Corridor train, BWI is the best choice IMO. If you want to see some of the early history of the US, get off the train at 30th St. station in Philadelphia to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and other history in the city. There is also a New Jersey Transit train that leaves 30th St. station that goes to Atlantic City NJ.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 11:49 AM
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One of the most famous--and large--bookstores in NYC is The Strand, an independent bookstore containing "18 miles of books" just south of Union Square. Unlike B&N Union Square, The Strand features New AND used books.
https://www.strandbooks.com

Many people enjoy the Housing Works Cafe and Bookstore in SoHo.
https://www.housingworks.org/locations/bookstore-cafe


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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 07:00 PM
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I'm making a note of all the bookstores in NYC and slowly investigating the places you have all kindly suggested along the east coast. I have a question - is it best to prebook Amtrak to be sure of seats? How far in advance?

We don't want to add in more flights than absolutely necessary so wouldn't fly up to Portland or Seattle. Plus we've been there before. We love the USA for holidays and have had quite a few trips over a long period. Hawaii is absolutely on the 'future trips' list but will do that as a separate trip. We had our honeymoon there, on Oahu, Maui and Kauai, about a hundred years ago and have been back since but trying to concentrate on the east coast which is more unfamiliar, although we have seen some of Georgia, South Carolina, Florida etc. We figure we're going all the way to NYC, might as well see what else is in that area. I think it's unlikely we'd go to the east coast again after this trip, just too far.

Kay
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 07:52 PM
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You usually get a "saver" fare on coach seats if you buy at least 2 weeks in advance. If you wait until the day before you could end up not getting on the train you wanted if there are a lot of people traveling for a holiday. It is convenient to buy tickets in advance and have them sent by email or posted to your smart phone. The days of conductors punching your paper tickets are long gone.
If SFO and LAX are your only choices for entry into the US, I'd go with San Francisco. If you want to drive some in the countryside in eastern states, flying to BWI makes sense but don't try driving into Philadelphia or NYC and look for parking.
Any chance you could hit Hawaii on the way back to relieve some of your jet lag?
My DW and I are going on Amtrak next month from Oregon to Tucson via Los Angeles and returning. I already have the tickets printed out ready to go. Part of our trip was paid for with Amtrak Guest Reward points.
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 09:13 AM
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Amtrak is the same as airlines, European trains, etc., you get cheaper fares if you book early, that's the main reason to do it. It is true that around holidays some trains can be fully booked, but otherwise, it's not likely. In fact, I returned from NYC to DC on the Sat night after Thanksgiving and just bought the ticket in the morning, however, it was the last one available due to the holiday. How far in advance? Whenever you know what you really want.

I live in the DC area and Baltimore is okay but I sure wouldn't mark it as some fascinating must-see for foreigners. The Inner Harbor is just some commercial built-up area, with chain restaurants like Hooters and Cheesecake Factory, although there is a good and expensive aquarium there. Balitmore has a nice small art museum but you don't need that if you are going to DC and NY. I think Philadelphia has more of interest on that train route.

The most scenic areas would be west of DC, not sure you want to do all that car travel (like to WV, the Shenandoahs, and I agree Harpers Ferry and Antietam are interesting).
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 09:20 AM
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If you do end up using SFO., every single thing annhig mentions in the northwest is also available (some even more so) in northern California
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 01:47 PM
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Annapolis is a really charming town although it has been awhile since we visited. We also drove into Baltimore and the harbor area and ships were interesting but did not care for it as much as Annapolis. I've flown into and out of all 3 of the main WDC area airports, BWI, Washington National (now Reagan) and Dulles and preferred Dulles the best except for the stupid way they deplane (to be fair we were visiting family in the Shenandoah Valley and it was closest) and BWI next and did not like National. I also liked visiting the Delmarva Peninsula but doubt you have time.
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 01:06 AM
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Thanks guys, I'm slowly checking all your recommendations, some I've heard of but most I haven't. We may just get the train from NYC to DC and not bother with seeing anything else in the area, or may get a car to see some places in the 'middle' (with train at each end). The jury's still out, I need to do more research. Adding in Quebec and Montreal has also been suggested to us, so lots of options. If we don't spend the time and money on an east coast road trip, we can perhaps have one or two extra days in NYC, where accommodation is horribly expensive - another topic I know!

Kay
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