We had a great road trip last summer. If you follow me on Instagram, which you should go do now, then you saw all the fun on a daily basis.
In week one we spent time in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont.
I want to make sure these posts are not only an account of our trip, which I know so many of you love reading but that they are helpful to you in planning your own travel. So, I'll keep the format of sharing about the trip with the pictures and at the bottom of the post will be a section with all kinds of tips, things we learned, things we'd do again or wouldn't do again. Look there for help in planning your own trip.
Northeast Family Road Trip – Week 1
Rocky Ridge Municipal Slide
We love to find fun on our road trip. For us, that is often silly or wacky roadside attractions.
On our first day on the road, we found this fun municipal giant slide.
It was a little hard to find because the GPS was off a bit from where my Roadtrippers app told me it would be, but we headed down the road a little bit extra and found it.
It was a nasty, hot, humid day, so we spend about 30 minutes playing around. Then we were so disgusting and mosquito eaten…it was time to move on.
The slide is free to use and looks like old bowling alley wood. They have towels and sacks there to slide on.
You climb to the top (and hope there isn't a squirrel up there as there was when we were there) and slide down.
Tip: I went first. I wish I had checked if the wood chips at the bottom filled in the space because there was a ginormous hole from other people going down the slide and hitting at the same spot. Figuring that out at top sliding speed was a tad scary.
Not too far from the municipal slide, was our first state line.
Welcome to Pennsylvania.
We were staying in Harrisburg, PA for the night.
After checking into our hotel, we needed to find some dinner.
I love using the Foursquare app to find good food. I've used it for years and it has learned what we like and makes great suggestions for us. It makes it easier to find good food in places we have never been.
Cork & Fork and the State Capitol
Foursquare recommended Cork & Fork and the ratings looked great, so off we went to dinner.
It was amazing. They serve locally farmed and fresh amazing food! It was also a pricey dinner to start off our road trip, but I've learned not worry too much about the money on road trips because it all seems to work out in the end.
There wasn't a table available when we arrived and the restaurant is down the street from the state capitol. We used our wait time to walk over and got a look at the capitol.
The whole area right there is quite pretty with some beautiful old architecture.
You always need a selfie in front of the capitol…don't you think? Then it was time to eat. Yum!
One of the main reasons we'd stopped in Harrisburg was that my youngest daughter wanted to go to ZooAmerica.
It's right by Hershey park, but since my kids don't like roller coasters and it was so nasty hot and humid with a heat wave, we would've been miserable there anyway.
We spent about an hour at the zoo. It may have been even a little bit less than that.
It isn't that expensive to get into and for us, was a perfect morning outing on a hot nasty day. Something to do and experience, but not an all day excursion.
Yellow Bird Cafe
After the zoo, we needed to find lunch…albeit a late lunch, lunch indeed.
Once again, Foursquare did not disappoint. We found another local restaurant, Yellow Bird Cafe, serving amazing local food. The area seemed a little bit sketchy to me, but the food was worth it.
From there we went back to our hotel and the kids went swimming while I managed to get a work out in at the hotel gym – something I did often on this trip and hadn't done on other trips. My girls are old enough that it didn't break the hotel policy and I was right next door in the gym. It was so great to go work out this summer while they slept or swam and I got to stay in great shape.
Large Purple Dragon, Duncannon, PA
The following day was the 4th of July.
We left our hotel. Our first stop was to see the huge purple dragon in Duncannon, PA.
Somehow it photographs better than it looks in person. The paint is more faded in person.
This was a quick stop for a photo opp and to stretch the legs a little bit and we love our silly roadside attractions…so it makes us happy.
I got my first Starbucks mug of this trip. I could've bought a lot more than I did, but my collection is large enough so I only bought those that sparked joy for me.
Our plan was to make it to Niagara Falls for 4th of July fireworks.
We actually managed to make it to our hotel in enough time. Our hotel was about 35-45 minutes away from the falls because I was going for a more reasonable hotel rate.
On the way, we needed to find some dinner. I never thought that it might be hard to find a place for dinner, but a ton of restaurants were closed for the 4th of July.
We found this one strip mall that had a create your own pizza restaurant(Blaze Pizza) that was open. It was a yummy dinner, thank goodness. They also had this fun outdoor area right there with this huge connect four and a few other games to play. It made for a fun dinner stop.
We're not very good at making it places early when we travel, we were all very impressed with ourselves that we made it on time and even had time to circle around a few times to find free parking.
Yep, I managed to find free parking on 4th of July near Niagra Falls. Go me!
We were also early enough to go to the Starbucks in a hotel right near the falls and get my Niagara Falls mug.
We learned that they have fireworks every night in the summer at Niagara Falls.
It did make it feel a little less special, but we were still happy that we got to see 4th of July fireworks at Niagara Falls. Pretty great memories.
You can pay extra to go up on this bridge type thing that overhangs (called the Maids of the Mist Observation Deck)the valley and river below on the American side of the falls.
We didn't do that, but we like to let the crowds thin before we try to leave big events like this.
They light the falls up in Red, White, and Blue for the 4th of July. I also understand they light them up every night as well. So, we were enjoying taking pictures of the falls at night.
As the crowd thinned, we found our way over toward the observation deck. It was open with no barricades at that point or people stopping anyone from entering.
I headed up. My girls were a little hesitant, but we all went anyway. We managed to get some great pictures and views of the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls.
Since none of us love heights, we took our pictures, stayed for 5 -10 minutes total and left.
I'm so glad we got to have the experience because it wouldn't have been worth it for us to pay to go up there, but it was a nice overview of the falls.
We didn't have passports, so we could only see the falls from the American side.
We found parking on Goat Island and wandered our way toward the falls.
As you may guess, I love photography and we all love nature, so we took our time and walked on a path by the river leading up to the falls, which we enjoyed.
Even from the American side, the falls are amazing!
You can't get a full view of any of the falls from the American side.
At first, we were super disappointed.
But experiencing the falls from the American side gives you an idea of the amount of water and the power of the water. It's beautiful in its own right even if you can't get the full view.
Expect to get wet even if you aren't going on one of the boat rides under the falls.
I believe the boat rides leave from the Canadian side, so there is another reason to have passports.
There are multiple falls at Niagara Falls, which I didn't realize.
There is the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.
If I remember I took the picture above from a little island between Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls.
You can see the Maids of the Mist Observations deck in the picture above. It's the bridge that overhangs and ends.
That's the place we had gone the night before and gotten pictures of the falls lit up at night.
I believe it's below Bridal Veil falls, you can pay and go walk up to the falls.
Bridal Veil Falls and the mist in the background is from Horseshoe Falls.
As you can see from my pictures, you can't get a full front on view of any of the falls from the American side. If you want that you need to view them from the Canadian side.
By the American Falls, you can get a decent overview of all the falls from the American side.
The pictures don't do it justice.
It's a gorgeous place and one that is very worth a visit, even if you can only visit from the American side.
I recommend seeing the Canadian side, and would someday like to do that, but if you can't, it's still worth it to visit.
Patriots and Heroes Park, Buffalo, NY
We stayed at the Springhill Suites Buffalo Airport location. It was a new hotel and we enjoyed it.
Right near the entrance to the hotel was Patriots and Heroes Park. We enjoyed walking through it before heading out for our next destination.
Worlds Smallest Church, Oneida, NY
Our destination for the night was Poughkeepsie, NY. It was a longer day of driving for us. There also wasn't much on the route that looked interesting.
We decided to add the world's smallest church to the day because ….who wouldn't want to see that?
Turns out, we wouldn't. This was not worth it.
It took us a while to find it and when we got there, goose poop was everywhere you stepped.
The church is out in the middle of a pond, so you can only stand in goose poop and look at it….all in all, a loser of a stop.
Catskill Mountains, NY
Our goal was to drive through the Catskill mountains.
We'd heard they're beautiful. So we headed toward Poughkeepsie on a path through the mountains.
The Catskills are pretty for sure.
They just didn't appeal to us as much as we'd hoped.
I grew up out west among the Rocky Mountains. A few years ago, we spent time in Montana among the amazing Rockies and loved the area and the glorious mountains so much. Our bar for mountains is set pretty high.
While the Catskills are beautiful, in our opinion, they don't compare to the Rocky Mountains.
We hit 1,000 miles on day 5 of our trip.
Our journey for the day brought us to Poughkeepsie right at sunset.
The bridge and the sunset made for a grand entrance…..but our hotel for the night was a bit less than grand. Sometimes they're great and sometimes not so much.
The following morning we had breakfast at Alex's restaurant before heading out for the day. If you are in Poughkeepsie, we recommend Alex's. It was so yummy and the wait staff was great!
Day 6 of our trip and we headed to Vermont.
It's beautiful country and beautiful driving.
You'll see plenty of these old covered bridges in the Northeast.
We wanted to make sure to see at least one, so it was our stop for this day of driving.
It made for a good stop and place to get out, stretch our legs, take a few pics and then move on for the day.
Vermont driving is so beautiful. I see why it's called the Green Mountain State.
Hanover, New Hampshire
In our quest for good food, we used Foursquare to find Molly's restaurant, which it turns out is in New Hampshire and right near Dartmouth college. It was another delicious dinner followed by some yummy gelato at Morano Gelato.
White River Junction, VT
We'd love to come back to this area and spend more time and explore more. It was a beautiful area with plenty of fun outdoor nature things to do.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in White Junction, VT.
We had this ginormous suite with 2 TVs, a small kitchenette and this lounge area. It was lovely and it was one of the most reasonable rates we paid anywhere in the Northeast….more reasons to go back again.
Road Trip Tips:
- If the listed address for an attraction doesn't lead you to where it should, try reading comments. Often there are comments, especially on Roadtrippers, that'll give you better directions.
- Find the things your family enjoys doing on road trips. If it's visiting ice cream shops or horse museums across the country, then do more of that.
- On nasty hot days, don't fight it. Do something in the morning and spend the afternoon at the hotel pool or find a water park for your entertainment that day.
- Finding small little stops that appeal to your family helps break up longer driving days and makes a road trip more entertaining.
Food & Hotels:
- Find an app you like and commit to it for finding food. Most have artificial intelligence that'll ‘learn' your likes and help you eat well in new cities. My app of choice is Foursquare. I tried Google maps suggestions some this year, but they're not as good as Foursquare, yet.
- It's perfectly fine to eat breakfast at noon and dinner at 9 pm…or whatever rhythm your family falls into on your road trip. I always feel like a bad mom at the hours we eat on road trips, but really, who cares. We're seeing the country and having fun. Don't worry about it.
- If traveling on 4th of July, call ahead to restaurants to find out if they're open. Plan extra time to find a place to eat. In New York, near Niagara Falls, most were closed.
- If you find a brand of hotel you like, stick with it. You can join their reward program and earn free nights.
- The best way to know if a hotel you're planning to stay at is decent is to read reviews and if you can find out when it was built and/or last remodeled that'll give you a good idea about the hotel as well. Pictures don't always tell the whole story.
Municipal Giant Slide, Rocky Ridge, Maryland:
- If you visit the Municipal Giant Slide, spread out the wood chips at the bottom before you slide down.
- Niagara Falls has fireworks every night during the summer. They also have fireworks on the weekends throughout most of the year.
- Niagara Falls illuminates the falls until 1 am year round(some parts of the year it's later).
- Have passports when visiting Niagara Falls. I hear the Canadian side has great views….and that's the only place to get full pictures/views of the falls.
- If you enjoy heights and are only going to be seeing the falls from the American side, it would be worth it to pay to go on the observation deck. I think it would be your best views from the American Side at Niagara Falls.
Worlds Smallest Church, Oneida, NY
- Don't do it….not worth it.