Enter our new series — three-day road trips. The initial trip ideas are based around four major highways around the U.S. — the Pacific Coast Highway (or Route 1), Florida's Highway A1A, Blue Ridge Highway, and U.S. 2 (dubbed The Great Northern).
In each segment, we'll be sharing a few new road trips — with tips from real moms on where to go, stay, eat and play when you reach your destination.
As the editor-in-chief of the nation's leading family travel website, Trekaroo, and a lifelong Californian, who now lives in Orange County, Sharlene Earnshaw is an expert on the PCH.
Sharlene suggests starting at the top of the state and working your way down, with a trip from San Francisco to Monterey. She says, "Eat clam chowder in bread bowls at Old Fisherman's Grotto. Stop at Año Nuevo State Park in the winter to see the elephant seals on your way down to Monterey Bay. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Dennis the Menace Park in Monterey. Stay at Portola Hotel and Spa."
I completely agree that the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-do for the family — a trip there when I was no older than 10 remains one of my favorite childhood memories. Before leaving San Fran, I also recommend taking the kids for a sweet treat at Ghirardelli Square (bonus points if you go during KidsBash) and take a ride around the city in one of the classic Cable Cars.
Teronya Holmes, 2011-2012 Disney Parks Moms Panelist, contributing writer to TravelingMom.com and host of her own blog, ChristianTravelingMom.com, says, "My parents lived in Melbourne, Florida for a year just before I was born. After moving back to Northeast Tennessee, they still enjoyed making the annual sojourn to Florida to visit friends and relatives, as well as to Walt Disney World after it opened in 1971. My dad always made a point of traveling down Florida’s coastal route, Highway A1A, once we reached the Jacksonville Beach... My husband and I have continued this annual tradition every time we visit Walt Disney World or one of the beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast of Florida."
Some of her family's favorite stops, then and now, include: The stone fortress, Castillo de San Marcos, in St. Augustine; Flagler Beach, where she and her family stop at the High Tides at Snack Jack for "some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever have" in an "atmosphere [that] is perfectly old Florida laid-back beach style" and Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.
As for where to stay, this card-carrying Disney Vacation Club member says Disney’s Vero Beach Resort "has become one of our favorite family vacation getaways for pure beach enjoyment. Vero Beach is a beautiful and quaint seaside town with great shopping, dining and a fabulous arts and entertainment scene."
When it comes to where to stop for a brief hike and taking in the scenery, Deborah recommends the Humpback Rocks, Milepost 5.8, for a "steep but relatively short hike (less than a mile) to spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains" as well as E.B. Jeffress Park, Cascades Trail, Milepost 272. She says, "This is a great hike for families, as it's less than a mile round trip, moderate in difficulty, has only 170 feet in elevation gain and takes you to a beautiful waterfall through a trail loaded with flame azalea, mountain laurel and rhododendron."
If the kids are too young to enjoy a good hike and looking at scenery, she says, "Hop off the Parkway at Blowing Rock, and treat the kids to a day of Wild West fun at Tweetsie Railroad, an amusement park centered around cowboys and Indians and a 1917 Baldwin Locomotive."
Deborah recommends rustic accommodations at the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Bluffs Lodge as well as Switzerland Inn, which she says "features a swimming pool, shuffleboard and tennis, and for eats, check out the glass-enclosed Chalet Restaurant." She adds, "Just down the road is the Switzerland Cafe, my personal fave, which serves up fresh sandwiches and salads, as well as a yummy bread, fruit and cheese board."
In all my years of travel, a visit to Seattle remains one of my all-time favorite trips. It also happens to be the city where the U.S. 2, which traverses the northern portion of the country, begins.
The Seattle Aquarium on Pier 59 offers an intimate look at some of the area's aquatic animals as well as gives visitors a lesson on conservation through exhibits like the Orca Family Activity Center.
The Experience Music Project is not only housed in one of the most uniquely shaped buildings I have ever seen, but it also offers a truly hands-on and in-depth view of music history that children and adults alike can appreciate. Don't forget to view the city from above via the Space Needle, which offers 360-degree views from 520 feet up in the air. For true seafood lovers, the Crab Pot is an absolute must — servers dump piles of fresh seafood on your table and hand over mallets and bibs! Before leaving Seattle, check out Pike Place Market (Public Market Center) to watch fish mongers toss about the catches of the day and gather some fresh produce and artisan specialties to tide you over on the road to Spokane.
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