This summer we went on an adventure to Charlotte, North Carolina. It had been a while since we had driven down to the south, so we were excited about seeing the countryside south of New England.
Our trip started out from Massachusetts heading west on the Mass Pike, then south to Hartford, Connecticut on Route 84, following this route into New York on into Pennsylvania. As many New Englanders know, driving south can be stressful, but we went the western route to avoid the very busy Route 95 corridor. As you are driving down Route 84 at the state border of New York and Pennsylvania, you pass over the mighty Hudson River. The river was a beautiful site to see on a bright July day. The next big river you go across is the Upper Delaware River; here you could see families sitting on the river's edge enjoying the water.
Once you travel into Pennsylvania, you start to see the rolling hills and beautiful landscape and soon make the turn south onto Interstate 81. This route takes you through the Pocono Mountain area of Pennsylvania. In the Pocono's there are many family activities to enjoy from hiking, water fun and more. Hershey, PA is a great place to stop on the journey south. Hershey Park, just north of Harrisburg, PA is about a 6 to 7-hour drive from southeastern Massachusetts so it is not too far to drive in one day and a fun spot for the kids to look forward to visiting to generate those once-in-a-lifetime memories.
The next states you pass through on your road trip are Maryland and West Virginia before crossing into Virginia. There are many great sites to see along Interstate 81 in Virginia. The Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke, into the Shenandoah Valley, is the most well-known and popular. Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Shenandoah National Park, you can hike on the part of the Appalachian Trail. A great historic hotel to stay at in this area is The George Washington, a Wyndham Grand Hotel in Winchester, VA. This classic hotel has all of the characters of an old world property with high-end amenities. There is a refreshing indoor Roman bath-style pool with large columns with hot tub adjacent to the hotel spa. In Winchester, there is an excellent museum about Virginia's well known Shenandoah Valley along with several Civil War battlefields.
Once you turn onto Interstate 77, you drive through the mountains and a town called Fancy Gap. Sometime during one of our trips, I will have to check out what Fancy Gap is all about. Soon enough you will be entering North Carolina. Along the route, you will see many fields, with cows and horses grazing and the mountains in the distance. As you get about 30 minutes north of Charlotte, you pass Lake Norman. This lake also known as the "inland sea" encompasses 32,475 acres with 520 miles of shoreline and is the largest man-made lake in North Carolina. There are many great activities to enjoy at Lake Norman State Park.
Within the next half hour you will be in North Charlotte (well depending on the traffic). A great hotel to stay at right off of Interstate 77 is the Drury Inn & Suites Northlake. This hotel is ideal for families; it has comfortable rooms, an indoor/outdoor pool and whirlpool, and several nearby restaurants and shopping. A great amenity here is the 5:30 Kickback, which is free food and beverages (including alcoholic) from 5:30 to 7:00 every night.
The great city of Charlotte has several great family activities from Discovery Place, a hands-on science museum, to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and the Billy Graham Library. There will be more about the city of Charlotte, NC and the many fun things to do there in a future blog, so stay tuned.
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