There are many ways to get from North Carolina to Acadia National Park in Maine. We chose a two-week family road trip, because New England in summer is one of my favorite things :-). To say this was one of our best family vacations is no exaggeration. Here’s how we did it, what we learned, and how we will make our next trip even better.
We loaded our luggage and left home mid-morning. As a family of five, it was important to pack light. Each person had a carry-on size suitcase, except me. I used Away’s medium size bag, which allowed me to pack extra items like beach towels, insect repellent, sanitizer wipes and disinfectant spray.
In the car I used this collapsible cooler for food and drinks.
My girls brought blankets and a backpack.
Our first stop was Luray Caverns in Virginia. It’s the largest in Eastern America, and worth the detour off I-81. First it’s stunning. This mirror pool was one of my favorite places in the caverns.
Second, there are paved walkways that make it easy to stop and marvel at the geological wonder that it is. It took us about an hour to walk through the entire thing.
There are other things onsite, but we did not visit the car and carriage caravan museum or Toy Town Junction. The girls didn’t seem interested in either place and I didn’t want to start the road trip forcing fun.
About an hour after leaving Luray Caverns we stopped at a rest stop for our first meal – sandwiches, fruit, chips, cookies and drinks.
Then we drove four hours to our first hotel, stopping at a Wawa in Pennsylvania for gas and subs. A Wawa stop is imperative any time we travel north :-).
Our hotel was a Hampton Place in Mahwah, NJ. It checked all of my boxes for a room. Our family of five could fit in one room, it was clean and comfortable, and there was free breakfast.
We had breakfast at the hotel and drove 30 minutes to Woodbury Premium Outlets in Upstate New York.
Shopping is a favorite pastime for our family, so I knew this would be a big hit. We couldn’t buy a lot because of space in our vehicle, but the few pieces we chose made for a good day :-).
On the surface, this could seem like a wasted day better spent exploring, but days like this were key to us having a good experience. It added to the laid back feel of the trip and kept everyone happy.
After shopping the plan was to stop in Kingston, NY for dinner before driving to Vermont for the night. We drove to the riverfront and enjoyed the view, but we didn’t eat. The restaurant I chose was closed on Sundays so we decided to get a snack from a fast food place and get dinner in Vermont.
As we drove through rural New York the winding roads started to get very narrow. At one point we passed a family with a horse and buggy. It added to the charm of the trip and I thought nothing of it. I also thought nothing of the large body of water we were driving towards. I assumed there would be a bridge. I was wrong. Instead we found ourselves at a ferry dock. Waze, the navigation app we used during the trip, didn’t tell us there would be a ferry.
Turns out it was divine intervention that we didn’t eat in Kingston. If so, we would have missed the last ferry of the night. Instead, we arrived in Vermont and chose Farmhouse Tap & Grill for dinner.
The food was great and I’d definitely go back again.
fish and chips
In Vermont we stayed at the Hampton Inn Colchester. The hotel was similar to our hotel in Mahwah, and the location was central for the things we wanted to do in the area.
Day 3: Vermont!
I had five things on our to-do list for Vermont!
Vermont Teddy Bear Company
Ben & Jerry’s
At Vermont Teddy Bear we did the tour to learn how their stuffed animals are made. We saw some of their special edition bears, learned some historical facts, and at the end we bought a couple to bring home. Here’s Bernie :-).
We left there and went to Lake Champlain Chocolates. The hot chocolate was SO. GOOD. We also bought a few treats that did not disappoint.
After two excursions we were ready for some down time so we went to our room to relax.
Next up was dinner. I gave my girls the assignment to choose the spot and they came back with Our House. When I say that they chose well… THEY CHOSE WELL.
Our food was amazing!
Day 4: Vermont and New Hampshire
After loading up, we stopped for a nutritious breakfast of apple cider donuts and warm apple cider at Cold Hollow Cider Mill.
It was a cool, misty morning, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our treat. They also have a lovely store where we were able to buy Vermont maple syrup, maple sprinkles and tea.
Due to Covid, Ben & Jerry’s had suspended their tour, but we were able to get ice cream. And in true Ben & Jerry’s fashion, buying ice cream was an experience. Known for their activism, I wasn’t surprised to see this beautiful wall, that featured the Greensboro Four. I only wish I had on my NC A&T alumni t-shirt to pose with the art.
As expected the ice cream was great.
Driving through New Hampshire we stopped at Windy Ridge Orchard to pick blueberries.
After we picked and enjoyed some of the fruits of our labor, we drove to our next hotel. Marriott Bangor in Maine. For dinner we did Wendy’s because we really just wanted to shower and relax.
This was one of few days that we woke up early. We had a timed entrance for Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park , which was about an hour from our hotel. lt was an easy drive and once we arrived I knew it was worth it. Acadia is BEAUTIFUL! The mountains, the trails, the lakes, the air. Everything. We spent hours there.
After Acadia we checked in to our home for the night, Terramor Resort! When I first started planning this trip, I researched glamping in Maine, because what’s a New England summer road trip without camping? Except I have a huge aversion to camping in the traditional sense, so glamping was our only option. Terramor checked all of my boxes. Here’s our tent.
The property also has a lodge that serves as the hub of the site. We ate breakfast here, did a little shopping in the gift shop and hung out on the porch. We made smores at night (They provide firewood). This was definitely a highlight of our vacation and I’m sure a family memory we’ll always talk about.
For dinner we ate at Lobster Shack (pics of food).
The next morning we had breakfast at Terramor before heading to Portland, ME. We did a self-guided walking tour in Portland and had lunch at “Chowder.” After lunch and walking we headed to Boston, our home for the next three nights.
I scheduled three nights in Boston at the Hampton Inn in Watertown to give us a chance to settle a little from our one- and two- night stays. It also gave us a chance to do things like laundry. We found a laundromat five minutes from our hotel and on a weeknight there were plenty of machines. We were in and out in a couple of hours and picked up pizza for dinner on our way back to the room.
This was our Boston day. We visited Harvard.
We walked downtown Boston. We ate at Shake Shack :-). After having epic seafood in Maine we were fine with burgers.
The first time I went to Rhode Island it was our babymoon with Princess #1, so to go back as a family of five was nostalgia personified. We started our time in Rhode Island with a stop by Brown University.
Next was a tour of Breakers mansion. We did the audio tour at our own pace before making our way to the back lawn. Look at these views! We spent time relaxing on the lawn before making our way to get ice cream.
Listen, if you do nothing else in Rhode Island get ice cream from Kilwin’s. In addition to being in a very family-friendly area with lots of energy, the ice cream was SO. GOOD.
Next stop on our trip was Connecticut, but not before doing a Boston Duckboat tour. It was a misty, cool summer morning and the tour was a great way to learn some facts about the city and it’s architecture before cruising on the water.
In New London, CT we checked in to our room and looked for a spot for lunch. After reading lots of reviews we settled on Sunrise Cafe.
There was a very long wait for our food, but it was absolutely worth it.
We ate at Jasmine Grill for Lunch, and we had Michael’s Dairy for dessert.
Both were great. New London is a quaint area on the water, and it provided a good opportunity for some downtime and for me to catch up on some writing and projects.
Days 9 and 10 were so chill we didn’t take a lot of photos :-).
We did a day in New York because it’s one of our regular spots to visit. However, if you’ve not spent a lot of time there please give yourself at least two to three days. There’s a reason it’s one of my favorite places on earth.
In NYC we visited Harry Potter.
We ate at Max Brenner.
We walked through Union Square (I bought earrings) and relaxed in the park.We drove through Harlem and then made our way to our hotel for the evening in South Jersey. We chose the SpringHill Suites Mt. Laurel in Cherry Hill. It was clean, convenient and the free breakfast was helpful after days of eating out.
The highlight of our Philadelphia day was visiting U Penn, seeing family and friends, and of course CHEESESTEAKS! The cheesesteaks were amazing, but unfortunately they didn’t photograph well. But take my word for it, Philly cheesesteaks are worth the hype :-).
We made it home! As much as we love travel and experiences, there is something beautiful about being home in your own bed.
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