Picking up from the last road trip segment which started us out in the Northern region of the East Coast, you’re now driving south from New York City. Your next stop should be the eternal NYC antidote: the Jersey Shore, specifically Asbury Park, New Jersey. (Bruce Springsteen fans will already be familiar with this town.) Support the shore’s continuing recovery from Hurricane Sandy and enjoy a classic seaside getaway: sandy beaches, a wooden boardwalk, Italian ice, saltwater taffy, and lots of nostalgia. The shore is fabulous in summer but also good fun in spring and fall, with a more subtle beauty in winter.
Four hours further south is Washington DC. If you didn’t fill up on 18th-century history in Boston, DC will give you history in the making. This is a mandatory stop if you’ve never been to the nation’s capital and at least seen the White House, where the President lives and works. Along the National Mall—site of Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, and so many others—you’ll find the Smithsonian Museums. Among these are the acclaimed National Museum of the American Indian and the kid-friendly National Museum of Natural History, with its insect zoo and butterfly pavilion.
Only an hour outside DC lies Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, the approximate midway point on this coastal journey. These mountains and misty valleys stretch down into Appalachia as you slowly transition into the American South. If you don’t have time for a hike, cruising down Skyline Drive is a great alternative.
Five hours later, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina has even more excellent hiking and camping possibilities. This park is shared with Tennessee, and right on the state border you’ll find the highest point on the Appalachian Trail (Clingmans Dome), and the North Carolina side has a protected Cherokee Indian Reservation that’s open to visitors. The history of the Cherokees, who had a matriarchal society, goes back about a thousand years in this region.
On a more general note, this is the point on your journey where regional barbecue starts getting good. If you eat meat, don’t leave North Carolina without having a pulled pork sandwich, and if you’re vegetarian, definitely have some hush puppies.
Which stops have you made along the East Coast region?