Senior Aussie's Tentative Virginia Itinerary

Aug 30th, 2009, 09:14 PM
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Senior Aussie's Tentative Virginia Itinerary

Hello, Fodorites! I've already had some helpful suggestions for our two week holiday from Washington, and with these suggestions but no detailed state map (only an old SE States AAAmap) to go by, I'm thinking..

Washington DC 4 nights (booked)
Virginia Beach 3 nights
Greensboro ? overnight somewhere on the way to GSM NPark
Asheville/Cherokee 2 nights
Roanoke/Staunton/Charlottesville 2 -3 nights
Winchester 1-2 night Flight at 4pm

Would appreciate any thoughts, please. I really have no knowledge of any of the towns mentioned, except DC. We like to book ahead, and stay put a few days, doing day trips from a base. The idea is to arrive in GSM NP on a Monday, and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way back. I've been noting the road numbers of scenic roads from other posts, and can address this later, once I've decided where to stay. Thank you.
Carrabella is offline  
Aug 31st, 2009, 04:37 AM
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In very general terms, I would add to your time in Asheville and the Charlottesville area, reduce your time in Virginia Beach, eliminate Greensboro, stopping perhaps in Chapel Hill instead. Staunton is interesting in a number of ways, Roanoke not particularly, and Winchester not, unless you are interested in the American Civil War.

Random notes: Cherokee is a true horror, not as bad as Gatlinburg, perhaps, but horrible enough that it deserves to be seen. Asheville is a small city in the center of a beautiful area. Almost everyone thinks Biltmore House is worth visiting, and you can drive up Mt Mitchell, the highest mountain in the East. Charlottesville is a pain to drive in, but it has the University and its buildings, Jefferson's home at Monticello, other historic houses, and is in the center of an area of wineries.

Be aware that the speed limit on the Blue Ridge Parkway and its continuation as the Skyline drive is very low to encourage viewing. If you find yourself needing to "make time", it is easy to descend to Interstate 81 and pick up miles. If you like the slower pace and are reasonable walkers, I would encourage you to get out at walk on some of the trails. There is an easy walk to the summit of Peaks of Otter in Virginia, for example, that is very satisfying.

You might also want to drop Virginia Beach entirely from your itinerary and go to Williamsburg instead or in addition. If you do keep it, a nice way to get there from Washington is by going to Annapolis (well worth a stop), then driving south through the Eastern Shore counties, preferably on back roads, to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a sight in itself. Driving on I-95/I64 will be crowded and fairly brutish.

Depending on the time of year you are going, you may well not need to book ahead. If you find a place you like (say a log cabin on a mountain stream, you can stay longer. If you are stuck in a noisy motel filled with high school kids, move on.

Sorry this isn't more organized. It is a busy morning.
Ackislander is offline  
Aug 31st, 2009, 08:12 PM
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Thank you, Ackislander! Your ideas make sense to me - but we do not want to have to get an e-tag or whatever to go on any toll roads or tunnels, so will avoid the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel. It is so much easier for old-fashioned travellers like us just to pay cash!

As we want to go nowhere in particular, rather just immerse ourselves in nice scenery and local scenes, and talk to local people, what do you think about forgoing Virginia Beach and the East Coast altogether, and spending the whole two weeks divided between Washington, Charlottesville, Asheville and north to Hagerstown? A lot less driving, but enough to fill 10 days after Washington, do you think? We'll certainly be walking as many (shortish - less than half a day) trails as we can. We are going Oct-Nov.
Have just had a look at an Annapolis site - maybe a day there as well?
Thany you.
Carrabella is offline  
Aug 31st, 2009, 08:30 PM
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Unless you're bent on seeing the ocean, or want to do Williamsburg/Yorktown, then yes, you could forgo the coast area altogether. That would probably make your route easier.

The town of Cherokee is an awful tourist trap in the middle of a lovely area. I have seen men in headdresses dancing on plywood in front of a gas station for five tourists. That said, I hear the outdoor drama is decent and that the nearby Oconaluftee Indian village recreation is less kitschy. But I can't speak from experience.

Asheville is very cute (some nice antique barns, if that's your thing) and of course, the Smokies are gorgeous. You might hear good bluegrass; Maggie Valley has at least one venue, an "Opry House." I have not been there.

You don't need two nights in Winchester. But you could base a couple of nights out of Charlottesville -- near the mountains, an hour or so away from Fredericksburg if you were interested in battlefields, an hour from Richmond.
Hellion is offline  
Sep 1st, 2009, 03:09 AM
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We won't stay in Cherokee then, thanks! Don't particularly want to see the ocean, though Annapolis sounds nice for the last night. Now I'm thinking

Washington 4 nights (booked)
Hagerstown 1
Charlottesville 2
Ashville 3
Roanoke Rapids 1 ( via #40, #85 and 561 -- too far to Williamsburg in one go? would prefer 2 in Williamsburg)
Williamsburg 1
Annapolis 2

I note that the BR Parkway is closed near Boone / Blowing Rock, so we'll have to work around that. But I'm also wondering whether just to drive up and back the BR Parkway, and forget Williamsburg. Would probably like the Shakespeare at Staunton.
Carrabella is offline  
Sep 1st, 2009, 04:16 AM
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Responses and comments:

Again, depending on when you are coming, you may be able to make this trip up as you go along depending on weather. Fog in the mountains is beautiful on Chinese scrolls, but not necessarily when you are there. Similarly, everything in Williamsburg requires lots of outdoor walking, so if a week of rain is forecast, forget it. Really, once kids are back in school (late August) or before they get out (early May in much of the South) you should not need to book ahead outside Washington.

You may pay any toll in cash, including the bridges. It is just faster and more convenient to roll through the EZ Pass lanes.

It is about 8 hours from Asheville to Williamsburg, including a stop for lunch and a couple of quick fuel-and-loo stops, a goodish but not difficult one day trip.

Why Hagerstown? It is actually a fairly nice place but off the usual tourist routes. If you go there, you should also go to Harper's Ferry, WV, a very interesting and scenic place and the scene of a major precursor to our Civil War.

On your way south from Asheville, look on your map for the New River Gorge, near the Virginia-West Virginia border. It is a famous scenic spot, known for kayaking and bungee jumping and rock climbing and all that outdoor stuff that people from Oz are reported to love I am well past those days myself, but it could be fun to watch.

Annapolis and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia are interesting and beautiful, respectively. But then I live on an island and like to be around water.

You should be aware that many of these areas have bizarre laws with respect to booze. Some places don't sell any at all, some sell beer and wine 24/7 but require you to go to a separate place for spirits (often a "state store" operated by the government and usually with a limited selection. If an afternoon drink is important to you, I would make sure I left Washington equipped with the necessaries in case luck is not with you. Foster's lager, by the way, is regularly available!

That's it for now!
Ackislander is offline  
Sep 1st, 2009, 08:13 AM
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I see that you want to include Staunton on your itinerary. My husband and I made a day trip there this spring to see a performance of "Hamlet" at the Blackfriar Playhouse. Our children had gone there on field trips with their high school English classes and had raved about the theatre and the perfomances, so we decided to visit on our own. It was fabulous and I would include a performance on your itinerary if possible. We had lunch at the Mill Street Grill before the matinee and the food was excellent. They have a wide variety of food on their menu, so you can't help but find something you like. I do warn you that the portions are large, so come with an appetite or a cooler for the leftovers! There are a lot of interesting downtown shops near the theatre which you might enjoy visiting before or after the show. Finally, try to get reserved seats because they have cushioned seats and seatbacks, which they don't have in the general admission seats. Our kids said the hard benches in the general admission seating were a bit too uncomfortable even for a teenager!
longhorn55 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2009, 06:56 PM
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Ackislander, thank you for the toll info- here, we've actually done away with cash tolls in many places. It is actually Harper's Ferry I want to see - chose Hagerstown because it seemed more central to see the battlefields and maybe Amish country - though we were around Lancaster (I remember "Intercourse") several years ago, and it was all so busy, that it was not enjoyable at all.
Today, my thoughts are to drive through Harper's Ferry on the way out of Washington, taking all day, and spend the night at Strasburg, driving through Shenandoah NP the next day to Charlottesville (maybe a matinee at Staunton, as it will be the weekend - thank you, longhorn)
We are wine drinkers rather than Foster afficionados, so shall stock up near Washington after we pick up the hire car from Union Station. If the weather is bad, we quite like looking at the shops etc, so it doesn't really matter. We used to travel round on spec, but now DH wants to know where he'll be staying, all booked and paid for, before we leave Australia. This makes planning a lot harder - sometimes I think - go north instead, and spend the rest of the time in New York! We've stayed in Bergen, New Jersey a couple of times before with a hire car. Caught the bus through the Holland Tunnel to the Port Authority Terminal, and it was great.
We live around water too - just back from our daily constitutional around our lovely lake. No sign of the dolphins this morning, but they are around at the moment.
Carrabella is offline  
Sep 1st, 2009, 07:12 PM
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You can buy wine and beer in food stores in Virginia unless it is a Ukrops which is owned by a family of Southern Baptists that don't drink. It is only hard liquor that you have to buy in an ABC store (liquor store).
Birdie is offline  
Sep 1st, 2009, 07:44 PM
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I grew up in Baltimore and lived in DC, with family on the Eastern Sho' of Maryland and I have hiked the Smokies often, so.....

You can day trip to St Michaels from Annapolis--check out the website at the Inn at Perry Cabin for ideas. Expensive to stay so its nice to visit. Quaint town. Have sweet potato biscuits.

Harpers Ferry is a must but really no more than a day, maybe just 1/2 day, and if you are a history buff, look to stay in Sharpsburg instead of Hagerstown, right at Antietam Battlefield (anniversary on Sept 17) I believe there are some B&Bs on the battelfield proper. Eat some apple butter on your biscuits/bread.

Jamestown and Yorktown -- very worthwhile. Rt 64 is a good highway, and don't forget about...

Richmond for 1/2 day: the Museum of the Confederacy literally under I-95 is really special, and go to the Jefferson Hotel to see where the famous scene from 'Gone With the Wind' was filmed: 'Frankly my dear,...' Can't speak to the accomodations, but do check out the site:

Asheville - The Vanderbilt Estate is amazing and highly interesting. The gift shops are quite nice, and I bet they have sales with the economy in the tank. Go to the winery and try (and buy) some vino.

**Great advice posted above on the Blue Ridge Pkwy speed--weather moves in fast and you will indeed go slow, trust me. But look to drive over the Linn Cove Viaduct in the NC part not far from Mt Mitchell---you may recognize it from car ads, its pretty special however brief. Get a lunch from a store and eat it on the Pkwy,,,its made for vistas where you can do just that. Eat some hush puppies.
matt01 is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2009, 07:58 PM
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I'm definitely off to the Jefferson Hotel, Matto! But eating Hush Puppies? Here, they are shoes!!

Thank you all for such wonderful advice. Have now heard from a lovely couple from Cleveland Ohio, whom we met at Waterton NP many years ago, and they are going to meet us near Gettysburg for a few days. We'll all have a great time!
Carrabella is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 09:09 PM
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There's no need to stock up on wine early, Virginia has a ton of very nice wineries, and it's available in most grocery stores. Only a very few counties are "dry".

I don't think the staircase scene of Gone With the Wind was filmed at the Jefferson, by the way, but it's a lovely grand hotel.
Hellion is offline  
Sep 16th, 2009, 05:47 AM
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I second the advice on wineries in Virgina - you can easily pass by several on the way from WV to Charlottesville. Other small quaint historic towns of interest on your way west from Washington DC: Middleburg, VA; Upperville, VA; Shepherdstown, WV. Also, would not stay in Hagerstown.
gabriele is offline  
Oct 18th, 2009, 06:58 AM
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If you are interested in Lancaster PA it seems really out of your way on this trip (I used to live 1.5 hours east of Hagerstown, and it takes a good 2 hours from there to get to Lancaster), and I agree with the others that Hagerstown is not the ideal place to stay unless you are interested in shopping the outlets.

Also, someone mentioned the Peaks of Otter on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I highly recommend it if you can, we honeymooned there in July and it was beautiful. I do disagree that the hike to the top of Peaks of Otter is "easy"- we are intermediate hikers and although the trail is something like a mile or mile and a half, it took a good 2 hours up and the same back down. It's listed in the trail guide as "difficult." There is a bus that goes up to top, for only $5 I believe.
effulgent is offline  
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