USA East Coast - Road Trip
Replies: 30 - Last Post: Nov 17, 2011 10:44 AM Last Post By: StanInMaryland
Nov 15, 2011 1:07 PM
USA East Coast - Road TripThis July, my boyfriend and I are planning on visiting the East Coast of America. First we want to stay in New York for about 3 nights and are then planning on renting a car to drive down the I-95 for 2 weeks (12 nights). We want to end up in Miami, where we'll stay for 3 nights, before flying back to the UK from there.
I am looking for recommendations for where we should visit/stay on our road trip down the I-95? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Also any tips for our time in New York and/or Miami would be great!
Thanks! Rachel x
Nov 15, 2011 1:47 PM
Nov 15, 2011 1:49 PM
2I really don't think there is anything of much interest on I-95 between Petersburg, VA (itself only of interest for a couple of hours, and then only if you're into Civil War battlefields) and Savannah, GA.
I therefore wouldn't start the road trip in New York. Stay another night or two in NY. Take train or bus (there qre very cheap buses) from NY to Philadelphia (one or two nights). Ditto to Washington DC (3 nights). Then rent the car. See if you want to spend a night in Fredericksburg and/or Richmond, VA.
That's about seven of your twelve nights. If you can get from Richmond (or wherever) to Charleston SC (off I-95 but worth the detour), in one drive, do so. Two or three nights there, one or two in Savannah, perhaps one in St Augustine.
Or consider abandoning I-95 for either the coastal route or the mountains (Shenandoah National Park, Charlottesville VA, Asheville NC before heading to Charleston).
Nov 15, 2011 1:53 PM
3Two weeks is plenty of time, in my opinion.
But I just realized you are planning to go to Miami in July. Why? Reconsider. Specificaly consider my mountain route just as far as Asheville and then a drive back to NY. That part of the world will be hot enough. Charleston and points south will be sweltering. If you want a beach, rent a car in NY and drive to Jones Beach or somewhere.
Nov 15, 2011 1:54 PM
4There is not much that is interesting and "close" to I-95 until you reach Florida. Since you don't say what you want, or how far you want to stray from I-95, here are some random ideas:
Virginia Beach, VA
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
the Outer Banks
the Okefenokee Swamp
St. Augustine, FL
the Kennedy Space Center
Palm Beach, FL
Enjoy the trip. Google will vastly expand on the locations listed above.
Nov 15, 2011 1:59 PM
5#4's route is what I ws calling the coastql route.
Add Annapolis MD, on the DC side of the Chesapeake Bay to his list. Consider a night on Smith Island MD or Tangier Island VA on the eastern side (accessible by ferry only; no cars on Tangier Island). And consider going no further south than the Outer Banks since it will be July.
Nov 15, 2011 2:21 PM
Nov 15, 2011 7:33 PM
7NY Times Today-
There are some easy tricks to keeping things cheap in Miami. Before you go, keep an eye out for flight specials and do some savvy hotel room bidding on Priceline. Once you’re there, spend your days on the beaches of South Beach (free) and at the galleries of the Design District (free), while taking your meals at Cuban diners and sandwich shops (cheap and cheap). (See If You Go, below, for details.)
But night life is a different story, especially if you let yourself be lured by the slick, model-filled clubs with hefty cover charges and double-digit drinks. That’s why I “hired” two consultants: Jessica Johnson, a friend and Miami native, and her friend Rene Pereda, whom Jessica billed as “a staple of Miami awesomeness.” Their task: To show me low-cost night life away from the tourist-model nexus. Their fee? One reasonably priced sushi dinner, and the occasional vodka and soda (Jessica) and Jack Daniels with a splash of ginger ale (Rene) as our evenings progressed.
What I got was three nights of a frugal (or mostly frugal) local scene, free of velvet-rope attitude and out-of-place tourists. And I even managed to talk to a model.
WEDNESDAY: South Beach dives
I stayed at the Chesterfield, which like other members of the South Beach Hotels Group, offers guests free cocktails from 7 to 8 p.m., no strings attached – if you can tolerate well drinks. (If you can’t, you’re reading the wrong column.) I had two gin and pineapple juices before Jessica and Rene and I went off for sushi.
South Beach by day.
Dinner at the reasonably priced Moshi Moshi (expect to pay about $25 a person) took us until 10 p.m., and from there we went to Mac’s Club Deuce – a classic South Beach dive that the Miami New Times described as “a neon-lit Shangri-la.” That’s at least half-right. Under the neon, the bar snakes around most of the room and a pool table takes up the rest. Tank tops and tattoos are the order of the day for regular patrons, and so are cigarettes: you can still smoke in most Miami bars and plenty of people do. A television played “Hardcore Pawn,” a reality show about a pawn shop in Detroit. I was a little disappointed that my beer, a Yuengling, cost $5, but things would get much cheaper as the night wore on.
The next spot was several steps up in style and down in price: Kill Your Idol, where the décor was as quirky and kitschy as it gets: a horizontal statue of Bruce Lee sticks comes out of the wall, defying gravity; and a “Jaws” head is displayed like a wall trophy – except there’s a human head inside it. Upstairs, “A Clockwork Orange” played on a video screen and a stripper pole stood ready to be used by fully clothed patrons. There is even a display case full of cupcakes. (A sign on the bar side warns staff members not to give them away free, a clear indication that they are not beyond giving them away free.)
Hipsterish T-shirts replaced the tank tops of Club Deuce – and the crowd was slowly getting sloshed. Women drink free on Wednesdays, so Jessica was handed a bunch of drink tickets; Rene and I were relegated to $3 Pabst Blue Ribbon drafts. A D.J. spun indie tracks from early Pixies to Foster the People from a deck next to the stripper pole.
Next it was off to Purdy Lounge, a bar with enough sofas and fashionable D.J.’s to keep it just north of dive status. I was told it has a great Monday reggae party, but was nearly empty when we arrived sometime after 2 a.m. that Wednesday night. No worries, Rene told me: soon the people spilling out of LIV nightclub would show up. And faster than you could say “$2 Pabst in a can,” there they were, ready to play pool, relax on couches and listen to what the D.J.’s were spinning. The evening ended only when the lights came on at 4:40, to a collective groan from the crowd.
Early morning, cheap beer.
THURSDAY: Midtown Chic
Unlike in South Beach, local crowds are the default in Wynwood and Edgewood, Miami’s Midtown. We went in Rene’s car, delaying for one more night making the hard choice between paying for cabs and braving Miami’s public transportation system.
First up was not a bar but an event that made me feel truly Miamian: “I Heart Art” a three-hour art show/reception put on by Legal Art, a nonprofit that provides young artists with legal support and, in the case of a lucky few, a place to live and work. The reception, which took place on the floor below the artists’ residences, was open to the public and at $15 easily qualified as frugal, once the unlimited Peroni beer, tequila cocktails and mini-hamburgers were factored in.
The crowd admiring the artwork and chatting was the sort I imagine when I’m trudging through the sleet on a February night in Manhattan: tanned and well-dressed Miami professionals ranging from their 20s to their 40s. The people appeared to be a mix of artists and lawyers with a model or two tossed in. Among the models was the Texas native and professional swimsuit-wearer Brigitte Buckholtz, whom I talked to at length for no other reason than to gather tips for my coming trip to the Lone Star State. (I swear.)
By this time, we had acquired quite a crew of Rene’s friends, and my needs were momentarily cast aside so they could see the rock artist Toro y Moi perform at Bardot on the same block. Admission was $30 at the door, which I would never have paid, but Rene knows people and we marched right in. (The club staff did not know I was a journalist.)
But I soon tore Rene and Jessica away from the group to take me to a more frugal spot: the very coolly named Electric Pickle Company ($10 cover and $4 Pabst) where we ended the night on the dance floor of the upstairs El Bolero room, surrounded by the recycled wood, red leather benches and a crazy disco-ball-in-a-bull’s-eye chandelier.
FRIDAY: Calle Ocho Tropical
Rene is Cuban and Jessica (whose dad is black and mom is Jewish) is regularly mistaken for Cuban, but that didn’t stop them from abandoning me on Night 3, when I wanted to go to Little Havana. They had friends to see. But both offered parting tips: Rene said to eat at El Exquisito, and Jessica said I was crazy to try to take public transportation. Both were right.
The Miami bus system does not cater to those in a hurry. Or to those who mind being solicited for cash donations by the drunk and high at bus stops. Or to those nauseated by the stench of fried chicken with hot sauce in a moving vehicle. Google Maps showed a 59-minute route from South Beach to El Exquisito, but it took nearly two hours, including long waits for each bus. The cost: $5.39. That’s two dollars per bus, plus $1.39 for a small soda at 7-Eleven so I could get dollar bills for the second bus.
But I made it – too late for the live music at El Exquisito, but just in time to catch a man and two women practicing merengue steps outside Cuba Ocho, a cultural center and music club on Calle Ocho, the famous main drag of the neighborhood. They invited me in for live music, but I went instead to the dinerlike El Exquisito, where salsa and merengue played over the sound system and a festive group of 40- to 60-somethings at the table next to me had too much sangria left to stop having fun.
I also had a sweet waitress who took me through the specials and then got more excited than I would have expected when I decided to get the lechón – pork sliced off a whole pig – served with huge heaps of moros (rice mixed with black beans) and yuca, for $9.95. Turned out her reaction was warranted: the meat came tender and moist and draped in semi-caramelized onions, and the yuca was soft and garlicky.
From there I walked to Hoy Como Ayer, where for a $20 cover, I stepped into a tropical world: Idania Alvarez – who left Cuba only a few years ago, decades later than most of the crowd – shook maracas and sang to the son rhythms of her band. It seemed a calm, pleasant evening at first, but pretty soon she had the crowd, including many with very gray hair, up and dancing in the narrow spaces between tables.
After two late nights of partying and two Miami buses, I’ll make two confessions without shame: I left soon after midnight, while people old enough to be grandparents were still dancing in the aisles, and I took a taxi back to my hotel.
IF YOU GO
If you need your tickets now and for precise dates, you’ll have to shop with the usual suspects: Kayak, Google Flight Search and the gang. But if not, sign up for e-mail alerts and newsletters from places like Airfare Watchdog, TravelZoo and the airlines. In October, I got an e-mail from TravelZoo that mentioned cheap flights to Miami; that landed me a $124 nonstop (including taxes) on Delta. I went last week but when I booked, those fares were available through February, so this was no low-season special.
Bidding on Priceline, I got a room in the heart of South Beach at the Chesterfield Hotel (what I would call a low-end boutique – more cool than luxe, with walls a bit too thin if you plan to sleep late after staying out until 5 a.m.) for $103 a night, including taxes and the preposterously named “resort fee.” Priceline can be scary the first time, but the more you use it and trust it, the better it gets, and the savings are usually huge. Booking the same room directly through the hotel Web site would have been $239. (Tips: spend time on BetterBidding.com, study the maps carefully, and underbid whatever similar offer you find on Hotwire.com.)
Eating cheap was easy. The hotel was right near the solid Cuban spot Puerto Sagua, good for coffee and $6.95 Cuban sandwiches, and the packed outdoor lunch counter at La Sandwicherie, where a humongous, greens-filled turkey sandwich is $6.35.
Nov 16, 2011 2:15 AM
8Don't you just love these NYT/LA Times style travel writers - so cool you could kiss them (fake cool really - claim to want to do the locals', un-touristy thing, but want to be really cool while doing it ... yeah, right, we get it). Almost completely useless, however, for the average punter.
To wit: That’s why I “hired” two consultants: Jessica Johnson, a friend and Miami native, and her friend Rene Pereda, whom Jessica billed as “a staple of Miami awesomeness.” Their task: To show me low-cost night life away from the tourist-model nexus. As if everyone can do this to have their Miami fix ... what a conceit.
Umm ... back to the original question. I also agree that three days in New York is about 2-3 days short, and also that a great deal of I-95 south of there is just metropolitan awfulness and dreary congested boredom - best to avoid where possible.
Nov 16, 2011 2:56 AM
9Thank you so much for all your speedy responses!!
RE #1 - it's my 1st time using Lonely Planet so stating our interests didn't even occur to me...silly! We are interested in history (I find civil war history particularly interesting), beaches, good food, bars (rather than nightclubs) and doing things we don't have in the UK...like going to sports games (we went to a baseball game in Tampa last year and loved it), visiting the Kennedy Space Centre and any other tourist attractions you can think of! Are their mountains we can drive to on the trip?
RE #2, 3 and 5 - we thought of finishing in Miaim as we'd like to go to Orlando, the Kennedy Space centre and some Florida beaches. We really don't mind the heat! I like the sound of this coastal route...there's quite a lot of places lisited in #4, would some of these just be a day visit? Were do you think the best places to stay would be? A night on either of those islands sounds great. Our proposed dates are 13/07/11 to 31/07/11, so do you think it would be better to saty more nights in New York and spend longer on the road trip, and then miss out staying a few nights in Miami?
RE #7 - thanks for sending all that info!
RE #8 - how long would you recommend in New York?
Thanks again everyone!! Rachel x
Nov 16, 2011 5:10 AM
10We generally recommend first time New York visits last at least 5 days.
You should wait until DC to pick up the rental car. Driving between NYC and DC is a pain, there are plenty of transport options (some buses, like Bolt and Mega, can be as little as $1 when booked well in advance), and the car rental may be cheaper from DC.
Since you like Civil War history, I'd probably do something like this. That'll quickly eat up your 12 days, but if you find a couple days left to play with, you might try this slight alternative.
There are beaches near Charleston and along the Florida coast, good regional food abounds, and you can catch a baseball game in DC or Miami (DC has the nicer stadium).
Nov 16, 2011 5:12 AM
11#8 at least they didnt have trouble with their SIm Cards/Phone coverage. Had they gone to the everglades though....
NYC is such a great destination, its has so much on so many levels.
3 nights is just enough time to take in some museums, nightlife, broadway and shopping.
You may also consider taking a train from NYC to Wash DC, as DC you really dont need a car there, and spend 3 days there as well, as there are so many cultural things to check out. Then get car and drive south-renting a car in NYC is never a deal, usually $100 a day and up, as for oneways, not sure. DC could be cheaper for sure. You can train to Charleston too...
A nice side trip via Virginia to Asheville North Carolina would be nice, a very scenic drive and off the main hwy, Asheville is a hip town too, and then Biltmore Estate is a afternoon. Then head to Charleston, then to Kiawah Island, lunch at the PGA Tour clubhouse, on the ocean, then head to Savannah 1 night, which is not as cool for eating/nightlife as Charleston, but historically a great place to walk about for a day.
Nov 16, 2011 6:19 AM
12If you decide to go to Charleston, do yourself a favor and visit Fort Moultrie before you visit Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter is only accessed by a ferry, and you are limited to an hour for your visit. If you visit Fort Moultrie first, you can explore the history at your own pace, then when you get to Sumter, you won't feel as rushed (especially if you take in the roughly half hour ranger talk).
(Fort Moultrie has its own interesting history as well.)
Nov 16, 2011 6:42 AM
13The mountains in the eastern US aren't the Rockies or the Sierra Nevada, nothing over 2000 meters. But they're pretty. A rute through the mountains would be along these lines:
NYC 5 nights. Bus to
DC. 3 nights. Rent car,
Harpers Ferry WV 1 night (civil war and scenic)
Shenandoah NP 2 nights (book early)
Charlottesville VA 1 night
Asheveille NC 1 night
Charleston SC 3 nights
Savannah GA 1 night
That would only leave you about three nights in Florida, though. In your OP you hadn't mentioned any interest in anything there but Miami. If you want to spend three nights in Miami, two in Orlando, and one at the Space Center, plus travel time, then I think bzookaj is right, you don't enough time to do all you want.
Myself, I wouldn't go south of Asheville, certainly not south of Savannah. Florida is overrated even as a winter destination. And I would definitely spend five days in NY if you can afford it.
Have you consided the one-way drop-off fees for rental cars? They can be steep.
Nov 16, 2011 7:51 AM
14You have a lot of good information above. bzookj's route is good but if you are interested in civil war history I would have to add a detour up to Gettysburg in southern PA. Washington to Gettysburg is less than 2 hours drive, then pick up at Antietam. While I personally prefer Antietam, I don't think you can be a civil war buff and skip Gettysburg.
I am one of the rare exceptions that thinks 3 days in NY is enough, but that is an issue with me and big cities.
For history hit Philadelphia. Not far from the historic district in Philly is China Town with some good restaurants. If you have another day I would say hit Baltimore for Ft. McHenry and associated sites, but I don't think you really have time.
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