Asheville to Washington D.C.
March 19, 2010 6:16 PM   Subscribe

Are there some interesting places to stop from Asheville to D.C.?

We're driving from Asheville to D.C., but would like to break the trip up and visit some places of interest.
posted by ae4rv to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Which route were you planning on taking? North to I-81 or I-40 eastwards?
posted by holgate at 6:21 PM on March 19, 2010

Vollis Simpson's whirligigs
posted by hydrophonic at 6:23 PM on March 19, 2010

My fiance and I both recommend taking 66 west to Highway 11 (also known as the Lee - Jackson Memorial Highway) and driving it down the Shenandoah Valley. It's a beautiful drive and there's number of interesting places and towns to stop and investigate.
posted by Atreides at 6:56 PM on March 19, 2010

If you have time for a lovely drive, the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway north out of Asheville is IMO the prettiest part.

Charlottesville VA is well worth visiting as well. Monticello is just outside of town and is quite interesting.
posted by DrGail at 6:58 PM on March 19, 2010

Response by poster: Not sure of the route. We are open to anything.
posted by ae4rv at 7:00 PM on March 19, 2010

If you are a Civil War buff, there is a lot of history in Virginia. From Petersburg, to Richmond, on to Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Appomattox; most locations not far from I-95.
posted by netbros at 7:01 PM on March 19, 2010

The Frontier Culture Museum is off 81-N.
posted by OmieWise at 7:29 PM on March 19, 2010

81-N is probably the most scenic choice, with the Cumberland Gap, Skyline Drive and the run in from . That puts you within reach of Lexington and Staunton (where the book fair runs until the end of March) as possible overnights, both within reach of Charlottesville if you want to visit Monticello, or to give yourself the time to drive through the Shenandoah national park then turn eastward.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is currently in 'cleanup' mode making it trickier to include in routes: if you're considering spending any time there, call the hotline to get latest closure news, because the detours can be pretty circuitous.
posted by holgate at 7:59 PM on March 19, 2010

A lot depends on what you find interesting, how far off your main route you're willing to go, how much time you want to spend, what time of year you're going and whether you want your time to be spent in the car or out. So here's some random suggestions:

Virginia Safari Park - Located off Exit 180 on I-81. Takes a couple of hours, fun way to see and interact with some animals. You'll be doing more sitting in a vehicle.

Shenandoah National Park / Skyline Drive - Located about 20-25 minutes off of I-81 (Exit 247). This time of year the scenery is not at it's finest (no leaves on the trees), but if the weather is nice you could get in a good leg stretching hike and maybe see a waterfall.

Natural Bridge - A few miles off of I-81. There's the natural bridge, caverns, trails, etc. for some good leg stretching.

Virginia Creeper Trail - Scenic 35-mile bike trail. Best to visit April through October.

Lots of caverns to see within a short drive from I-81. You can search the Virginia is for Lovers site for events by region as well.
posted by geeky at 8:03 PM on March 19, 2010

Luray Caverns
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 9:22 PM on March 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! We will be traveling in early October, if that brings anything to mind.
posted by ae4rv at 4:27 AM on March 20, 2010

If giant, airbrushed fibreglass facsimiles of prehistoric creatures (and a kitschy gift shop) is your bag, then Dinosaur Land is a must.

There are a few wineries/vineyards in the vicinity of Charlottesville that offer free or inexpensive tastings— I recommend White Hall Vineyards. They make a pleasant, unusual Touriga and a fine Cab Franc.

You may also enjoy a picnic near Goshen. If so, I can't recommend enough the Cool Spring Organic Market in downtown Lexington, where you can get a hot, wholesome lunch and drink for under $10, and from there it's a short drive to many public picnic spots.
posted by a halcyon day at 4:31 AM on March 20, 2010

I just want to add that if time isn't critical, then don't take I-81 down the valley. Route 11 parallels 81 (was the original main way to go up and down that stretch of geography) and is much more scenic and beautiful a drive. For years all I ever took was 81, and then one summer I took 11 and was simply blown away by the surprising difference a few mile to the east or west makes in terms of terrain and scenery. All the suggestions for things to do off of 81 still apply to 11, the difference is that one is an extremely truck busy interstate and one is an awesome drive through the Virginia countryside.
posted by Atreides at 7:19 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

October? Leaftastic. Keep a watch on the foliage reports, but be aware that the BRP and Skyline Drive are at their busiest during that time of year, rain can bring rockfalls and closures, and . And Atreides is right that US 11 is a much pleasanter drive if you have the time -- it usually runs close enough to I-81 that you can dip in and out of the interstate.

...the Cumberland Gap is a good day-trip from Asheville, but a bit of a detour if you're headed DC-ward, so nix that.
posted by holgate at 8:37 AM on March 20, 2010

If you are going to take your time, stay off the interstate. Meander for a bit on the Blue Ridge Parkway out of Asheville. Then cut north into Virginia and pick up Route 11, maybe around Roanoke. You can follow 11 to the Front Royal/Winchester area, where you can grab I-66 for the quick dash down into D.C. Don't take route 7 out of Winchester into the city. It's nice west of Leesburg, but after that it's a snarl.

You'll be passing through the center of the Shenandoah, with lots of rewarding sideroads.

Take two days for the trip and you'll be a happy.
posted by justcorbly at 10:10 AM on March 20, 2010

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