Road trip suggestions?
July 30, 2009 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Road trip! My mom and I are driving from Eastern Long Island to Stillwater, OK, via (tentatively) Harrisburg PA, Charleston WV, Mammoth Cave State Park KY, St Louis MO, and Bartlesville OK. I'd like suggestions of things we might do along the way, as this breaks down to only about 5 hours of driving per day, so we have some touristy time!

So at the moment we have a night at the Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK, set in stone -- but apart from that, our itinerary is mostly flexible. The current list of stops is based on searching through AskMe archives for road trip suggestions, and then dividing the distances without recommended stops into 5-hour chunks to fill our time before arriving in Bartlesville. To give you an idea of what we like, when I googled Harrisburg and Charleston I made notes of the following intriguing-sounding tourist attractions:

Harrisburg: National Civil War Museum, Sunken Gardens at Riverfront Park
Charleston: Beckley exhibition coal mine, Craik-Patton house, South Charleston Indian Mound, New River Gorge National River

As I said, apart from Price Tower, nothing, including our route, is set in stone -- we've never driven through these parts of the country before, so we're open to all suggestions.

Oh, and bonus (for me!) if you have vegan dining suggestions along that route...
posted by obliquicity to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The two quickest options will most likely be I-78 west to I-70 then I-44 or I-81 south to I-40. Your route seems a little crooked, snaking between those two. If you go to Mammoth Cave National Park (not a state park), St. Louis is out of your way. I'd recommend continuing on through Nashville and Memphis for a much more interesting road trip, but that puts Frank Lloyd Write out of the way.

Alternatively, instead of heading to Charleston, WV, why not take US-50 west to Cincinnati and see the mounds at Chillicothe? Cincinnati's a lot more fun than Charleston at night. The New River Gorge is only so much fun when all you are doing is looking at it. Bungee jumping and white water rafting are real the reasons to go.

Finally, if you are going through southern Pennsylvania and you like Civil War history, why not stop at Gettysburg?
posted by billtron at 6:07 PM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: I've talked a bit about Harrisburg, Pa. here, but please consider driving a few extra miles and spending the day in Lancaster (see my other comments in that post). Quilt and Textile Museum (with its own ice cream shop!), Central Market, funky shops, plentiful lodging (near the outlets)--it really is a delightful small city.

Then I'd head up 72 (RenFaire in Mt. Hope) and pick up the Turnpike out to Dillsburg--then down Route 15 to Frederick, Md., which is chock full of good restaurants. and then on to WV.

Oh, and seconding billtron. Skip the Civil War Museum, which is targeted to fanboys rather than those with a casual interest, and go to Gettysburg instead. Gettysburg WILL take hours and hours, so plan accordingly.

But really, Lancaster should be your Central Pa. stopping point. Have a safe and fun trip!
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:27 PM on July 30, 2009

I'd agree that Lancaster is a better choice than Harrisburg.

If you're not interested in the RenFaire, you could head west on Rt 30 and swing into Downtown York to look at some of the revolutionary war era buildings and court house, then get back on 30 and head towards Gettysburg (maybe make a slight detour to the battlefields or national cemetery) before catching 15 to Frederick, MD
posted by jrishel at 6:34 PM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: The Beckley Coal Mine is awesome. They have former coal miners as the guides through the mine exhibit, and there's a lovely small museum of ephemera.

Also on I-64: There are two glass factories in Milton, WV. (Follow the signs for Glass Factory Tours!): Blenko, which is a famous and venerable art glass factory. You can watch them blow glass, walk around the pond and see their glass garden exhibits. Plus, there's a little museum of fabulous vintage glass vessels and stained glass. Down the road - about a mile away, in the middle of a neighborhood, is Osburn Glass which is a 1 man shop run by Dave Osburn, a longtime glassblower, former head glassman and interim designer at Blenko. He is also awesome - Wayne Husted (one of the most collectible past Blenko designers) has licensed some of his designs to Dave, and there's a whole bunch of unique glass there, too. He's a really interesting, great guy.

Tamarack, which is about 20 miles away from the Coal Mine right off I-64 is a West Virginia gift center that sells WV arts and crafts including Blenko, Osburn, Fenton, and lots more. Also, the food is fabulous, as it is catered by the Greenbrier (a legendary spa/resort about an hour away).

I liked the Craik-Patton house, but the South Charleston Indian Mound is a 15 minute stop - there's not a lot to see (it's a mound, with the top lopped off for seating and viewing of races around the mound in the so-called good old days), but it's an interesting perspective on the past.
posted by julen at 6:35 PM on July 30, 2009

I'll endorse the answers given in several past question on St. Louis. Try looking here: stlouis or st+louis</a
posted by chrisamiller at 7:04 PM on July 30, 2009

Between Harrisburg and Charleston is the Highland Scenic Highway. Along the way take a few moments to stroll the boardwalk over the bogs at Cranberry Glades.

Seconding the notion to skip the Indian Mound. I worked in South Charleston for 25 years just a few blocks from the mound. Believe me when I tell you that you would kick yourself once you got there and said, "we came all the way here for this?"
posted by netbros at 8:17 PM on July 30, 2009

The Cranberry Glades ARE neat, but don't expect the Highland Scenic Highway to be much of a highway. Going this way will take you through very rural West Virginia. If scenery is what you want, do it, but if you are plagued by car sickness... well, bring some Dramamine. ;) I think the New River Gorge is spectacular, myself, and it doesn't involve a long trip off the interstate. If I were you I'd do the glass factories/Tamarack rather than the Mon National Forest. Depends on what you are looking for though. If you take Interstate 68 west from Maryland into WV and then go south, you'll get some great mountain views. Depending on schedule, Morgantown WV is a great place to stop for eats. Have fun! :)
posted by keribear at 11:18 PM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: Based on my rather foggy memory of a motorcycle trip I took about 11 years ago, I'd say you should drive south out of St. Louis and pick up US route 60 around Sikeston (125 miles S of St. Louis), and then take 60 (with possible diversion onto 160) all the way to Bartlesville. It passes through some beautiful areas, including chunks of the Mark Twain National Forest, and the Eleven Point National Wild and Scenic River. And bring a swimsuit -- I have very fond memories of sitting on the stony bottom of a shallow river somewhere in the Mark Twain forest, in a brisk, cool, sparklingly clear current. Ahh....
posted by jon1270 at 4:53 AM on July 31, 2009

Wish You Were Here in Lancaster, Pa. offers vegetarian as well as vegan options. If you visit Central Market (open T, Fri., Sat., morning--early afternoon) or the historical museum, which are next door to each other, you can park by the market and walk to WYWH.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:12 AM on July 31, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone -- I'm sitting here agog at all the suggestions, and will shortly start googling madly :) It definitely sounds like we'll do Lancaster instead of Harrisburg.

I'm interested in the mound because I teach Native American art history, so even if it's a 15-minute stop it might be worth it for me; on the other hand, although I'm an Americanist I'm not sure I have it in me to do Gettysburg -- but I appreciate having it pointed out to me, and maybe my mom will be passionately for it. We both really love scenery, so thank you to everyone who commented on that sort of thing. And I adore glass so that rec is great!

FWIW, I was ordered to avoid Ohio and all states beginning with the letter "I," because we've been through them several times -- and we're avoiding Tennessee because my brother used to live there, so we've done a lot of that already, too. I guess we have a bit of a "cross all the states off the list" mentality :)
posted by obliquicity at 7:35 PM on July 31, 2009

I see. If you've already been to the amazing Hopewell mounds of Ohio there's no reason to visit them again, although if you haven't seen them, being interested in Native American history and barely missing them is sort of like visiting Civil War historical sites in Pennsylvania and bypassing Gettysburg. I'm just saying. Serpent Mound!

So, sticking to the great state that lies between Ohio and Tennessee, I highly recommend a stop in Whitesburg, Kentucky, at the Appalshop arts center, the first Kentucky Fried Chicken and Motel (now a museum), the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, and if you can swing it, camp alongside the Green River in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Save St. Louis for a long weekend and instead head south through the Ozarks. Spend your last night in Branson, Missouri, the real country music capital of the world.
posted by billtron at 8:42 PM on July 31, 2009

Oh, and the most important advice is AVOID INTERSTATES AT ALL COSTS! Your trip will be infinitely better. But you knew that.
posted by billtron at 8:52 PM on July 31, 2009

An Americanist in Lancaster, eh? Check out and President James Buchanan’s estate, Wheatland, which is only a few miles from downtown Lancaster. The Historical Museum is in the center of town (across the lane from Central Market) and is worth a quick visit.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:39 PM on August 1, 2009

Southwest-ish of Bartlesville there's Woolaroc, a museum crossed with a nature preserve.

The Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa has a massive collection of Native American art and artifacts. You'd probably be going to drive right by it, anyway, since it's right off the road from Tulsa to Stillwater.

Finally, there's Meramec Caverns in Missouri. Never been there, and it's probably a total tourist trap, but every barn and billboard from St. Louis to Oklahoma City advertised it when I was a kid.
posted by dw at 5:12 PM on August 2, 2009

If you're studying Native American art history, you might want to visit the Indian Steps Museum, just over the Susquehanna River from Lancaster County. It might be a little out of your way, but has interest artifacts of the Susquehanock tribes, and some of the ptreoglyphs left by the Shanks Ferry People, and the surround area is quite beautiful, and a nice place for a picnic.
posted by jrishel at 10:43 AM on August 3, 2009

Response by poster: jrishel reminded me that I should update this thread, so here goes: my mom ended up actually wanting to go to Gettysburg, so we went straight through that far on the first night, and did Gettysburg the following day. It was about as I expected; I was actually teaching myself how to blog for teaching purposes and made a fake blog post about it here. Don't get excited; that'll probably be the only blog post I ever make that isn't class-related ;)

The second night we headed for the Beckley Coal Mine; it was fabulously amazing and everything I love in a small museum experience -- galleries with historical exhibits, the miniature coal mining "town" (i.e., examples of the various types of dwellings mine employees lived in), and so that pretty much made our day. On the way we also stopped at one of the parks along the New River and did a (very tiny) hike to see the view. Which was breathtaking.

We headed into Kentucky via Tamarack, which to be honest would have been less underwhelming if my favorite bowl hadn't cost $675. Needless to say we did not actually purchase any of the Best of West Virginia, but it was definitely better than your average rest stop.

At that point we kind of realized that we weren't going to make it to Bartlesville by Wednesday night unless we busted tail, so we powered through Kentucky (as someone pointed out that we already knew, we'd been doing all of this on backroads rather than interstates, so "powered through" is a relative term :) We enjoyed the Ozarks from the car, therefore, and made it to the Price Tower on Wednesday by early evening. The Price Tower was definitely worth it, though -- very Frank Lloyd Wrighty in all the good ways and all the bad ways that that implies.

And the rest of Bartlesville, while initially unprepossessing, turned out to have some worthwhile stops, which I'll have to revisit because we left pretty early in the morning to get to our final destination in time to turn on the A/C!

What this really means is that I've put a whole lot of these suggestions on a list for the next time I'm driving somewhere -- which actually happens quite a lot, so thank you to everyone! And free advice: always give yourself twice as much time for a road trip as you think you need, because we passed a dozen things that we *really* wanted to stop for, but couldn't.
posted by obliquicity at 7:28 PM on August 19, 2009

« Older Would an adapter work, or do I need a new power...   |   please give me your summer squash recipes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.