In May, my father, boyfriend and I flew to Virginia to take a road trip with my brother, who is stationed at the Norfolk Naval station. We had tentative plans to hit certain towns along the way, but our primary goal was to reach Washington DC by Tuesday, since this was the only stop we had actual hotel reservations for. Sure enough, we crammed as much adventure and tourism into our trip as we could and made it to DC for our two night reservation at the Harrington Hotel.
Saturday, May 21st
We had a 6 am flight out of LAX, and thanks to the recent media coverage of long TSA lines, my dad insisted we arrive a full two hours early. The airport was a practical ghost town. We had time to kill so we ate at the Rockin’ Brews at the Southwest terminal. Then we waited, and eventually boarded our flight and were off. We boarded next to last, and so I sat next to strangers, but I had the window seat, so I was able to get some pretty pictures. We had a layover in Baltimore, which has a great airport! We got drunk for two hours and then boarded our connection, which took us straight into Norfolk, VA. where my brother picked us up. From there we drove about half an hour to his house in Hampton, where we ate sandwiches purchased at convenience store called “Wa-Wa”, and then passed out, exhausted from our twelve hour travel day.
Sunday, May 22nd
The first official day of our road trip, we did no real road-tripping. Instead, we spent the day exploring the town my brother lives in. We had breakfast and bloody Marys in down town Hampton, which is a quaint little cobble-stoned area, complete with the olde-timey street lamps and ivy-covered brick.
After brunch, we strolled down to the harbor to board our tour cruise aboard the Miss Hampton Harbor Express. The tour took us through the harbor and into the Chesapeake Bay, boasting views of Hampton University’s stunning campus and the historic site where the infamous pirate Blackbeard’s head was staked upon his death. The Miss Harbor Express docked at Fort Wool for about half an hour, to allow us guests to explore and snap some photos. I really enjoyed this portion of the harbor cruise, since it was a particularly gloomy day which made for some excellent photography opportunities.
This was a fun three hour tour, and since it also served cocktails, we were all pretty ready to head back to my brother’s place and continue our party with beers and Game of Thrones. Hodor.
Monday, May 23rd
On Monday, we loaded my brothers car up with all our luggage and hit the road. our first stop was Yorktown, where we took the self-guided driving tour of the battle fields and Moore House. This was, perhaps, my favorite location. The battlefields are marked with flags at places of importance, and a white flag to mark the spot of the British surrender. There is also a long, winding road which takes you along the York river, and through some lush green scenery. We also stumbled upon a mass grave marker for some fifty unknown French soldiers. The Moore house, though thoroughly restored, is gorgeous and it’s remarkable to be able to stand in a spot where such a historic event took place.
We left Yorktown and headed straight to Jamestown. Now, when you get into Jamestown it can be a bit confusing, as there are two Jamestowns: Historic Jamestown and Colonial Jamestown. Colonial Jamestown is the “living museum” which is the reenactment part of town. Historic Jamestown is more of walking tour grounds. We opted to explore Historic Jamestown on our own, forgoing the tour guide (and subsequent crowded tour group). This wound up being a great choice for us, because all we were really interested in was seeing the James River and some of the structures, which we were able to see and then some! This site was really interesting, as it was home to Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, as well as the site of Queen Elizabeth’s arrival upon her visit to the Colonies.
We left Jamestown and headed into Richmond for a one night stay at the Berkeley Hotel. Richmond was a mandatory stop for me, as I needed to pick up a book order at Fountain Books (I’ve pre-ordered all of my Maggie Stiefvater books from this shop online, for years now, and was happy to finally see the place in person).
Tuesday, May 24th
We rose bright and early on Tuesday and headed straight into DC. After checking into our hotel we set about walking the streets of the Nation’s capitol. Our first stop: the White House. We purchased hot dogs from a cart across the street from where the president sleeps. Tired from all our walking, we headed back to the hotel for a power nap before trying to figure out how to use the Metro (which took us longer than I care to admit). With our Metro passes (Multi Passes if you will) in hand, we made our way to the National Mall. We started at the Washington Monument, then walked along the reflective pool to the Lincoln Memorial. Along the way we visited the WWII memorial and the Korean War memorial, both of which were breathtaking. We were pretty ready for some dinner and cocktails (sensing a theme here? Yeah- my family vacations tend to include a fair amount of alcohol consumption), so we headed downtown and settled ourselves at a bar top in some Irish pub near the Verizon center. After a few hours of drinks, we stumbled our way back to the hotel and crashed. Proper.
Wednesday, May 25th
For our second day DC, we decided to head to the Arlington National Cemetery and then hit the Air & Space museum at the Smithsonian, before checking out the Capitol building and the National Mall at night (so we could see all the buildings lit up). This was full day, to say the least.
The Arlington cemetery was overwhelming- I was unprepared for the sheer enormity of it. We took the shuttle tour, which stopped at many places; the Arlington House, JFK’s grave & the Eternal Flame, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to name a few. We were able to watch the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was neat (although I don’t know how those soldiers can stand to wear their uniforms in that heat!). Once we left the cemetery, we headed to the Smithsonian information center (which I believe is also known as the Castle, but I could be mistaken- it does look like a castle though). We were just looking for information on where the food courts where, and we eventually found one in the Air & Space museum before we explored the exhibits. Although we were already tired from a full day of tourism, we had to go see the capitol building and the monuments lit up at night before calling it a night.
Thursday, May 26th & Friday, May 27th
On Thursday, we left DC and headed straight to Mt. Vernon, which is basically a George Washington theme park, except it actually has historical relevance. I loved just walking the grounds, because the trails and scenery really are lovely. The house is pretty cool, and my boyfriend and I got a good laugh at how casual the tour guide was when pointing out Washington’s death bed. When we were checking out George and Martha’s tomb, we noticed a really interesting tree that had brick in it’s hollow trunk, and then when taking a photo of it, a gecko crawled out and posed for a great photo!
After walking around Mt. Vernon for about two hours we headed back to the car and drove to Virginia Beach for the last stop of our trip. We lucked out and scored stellar beach front hotel rooms with super comfy beds and side by side balconies! After we checked in, we had dinner and drinks on the boardwalk before finding a great outdoor bar called The Shack, where we played giant jenga and corn hole for the rest of the night. We enjoyed Virginia beach so much, we decided to forgo heading back to my brother’s house for our last night, and extended our stay at the VA beach Ramada. We spent the entire day Friday riding around on tourist bikes and seeing what this east coast beach town had to offer. All in all it was a great last stop to end a great trip.