Blue Ridge Parkway trip probably ruined - suggestions?
October 9, 2013 10:01 AM   Subscribe

With the government shutdown, everything but the road itself is closed. Wife has declared that just driving without stopping at the parks and attractions is stupid and a waste of time, so has nixed the idea.

Backstory: I very rarely take any vacation time, and the last trip my wife and I had was in 2006. For about a decade, I've been wanting to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway + Skyline Drive, and I was able to finally find the time next week to indulge in this. We were both looking forward to this, but with the government shutdown, everything but the road itself is closed, and my wife figures it's worthless going now, since we would just want to come back when things are open so why do it twice? (myself, I could care less).

Is there any way possible to salvage this? We had planned on parking and hiking a bit to see some nice waterfalls off the road for example, and she wanted to see whatever national monuments and etc there was. We haven't made any hotel reservations and planned on finding available stuff in nearby towns as needed or via a hotel-finder app. There has been minimal money spent for this, and what has, can be returned or resold.

Right now I'm pretty much resigned to un-doing my vacation time off from work and think about trying again a few years from now.
posted by Old'n'Busted to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Mt. Mitchell State Park is open and has great hiking, camping, etc. as well as the highest point east of the Mississippi. Asheville is right off the Parkway and full of cool stuff to do.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:13 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Luray Caverns are private and still open, so you could detour to see some nifty caves, too.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:15 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I drove it solo a couple years ago in November, so a lot was closed. I'm not much of a hiker so I would just get out from time to time at pretty places, walk around a bit, and take photos. I love driving and love road trips, and the road was so peaceful, especially in the off season.
posted by matildaben at 10:16 AM on October 9, 2013

Wife has declared that just driving without stopping at the parks and attractions is stupid and a waste of time, so has nixed the idea.

This is unnecessary on her part, because you need a vacation though it may not be exactly as you had planned.

Many, many families do exactly this kind of road trip. It is one of the great joys of traveling. Lots of towns on or near you (Ashville), and likely you will discover some new attractions slightly off the beaten path. Have fun
posted by Kruger5 at 10:17 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Maybe your wife doesn't understand how much you were looking forward to it? From what others here have said, it sounds like it could still be a nice vacation. You should try to go, if you can.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 10:22 AM on October 9, 2013

The Skyline Drive is simply gorgeous. What views! I drove it a couple of years for the first time n about 25 years... I'd happily do it again now even with everything closed. There are many places to stop and marvel at the views. Do it. You won't regret it. Try to make your wife understand how beautiful it is up there -- especially in the autumn. The color! The air!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:28 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

If anything, this is going to be the quietest leaf season for driving the Parkway in years because of others' cancelled vacations. Being stuck behind a SUV riding the brakes downhill for 20 miles isn't all that fun.

Plenty of state parks and private stuff in the vicinity, even if the official facilities are closed. Play it by ear, check the places where it's easiest to head off the Parkway itself for breaks/meals.

(There's a closure right now around the I-26 bridge in south Asheville, but that's a relatively straightforward detour, compared to the one north of Asheville earlier in the year.)
posted by holgate at 10:37 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I second Luray Caverns. There are also a lot of vineyards and farms in the area, so activities like wine tastings and horseback riding are probably still available. The state parks are open, too, if you're desperate for hiking. Or you can explore some of the wonderful little towns -- I recommend the Inn at Little Washington for food, and Middleburg for antiquing. And I'd recommend staying in a B&B if possible.

If the road is open, it's *definitely* worth driving along Skyline Drive -- I've actually never done any hiking because I'm a city girl through and through, and I still love going down there for the drive. The views everywhere are amazing (the whole region is gorgeous), and I'm pretty sure the leaves are turning now. I definitely wouldn't nix the vacation.
posted by rue72 at 10:37 AM on October 9, 2013

Any interest in history? In the area are some open sites, including the Frontier Culture Museum, New Market battlefield (and some smaller battlefields, like Cross Keys and Port Republic), and Monticello.
posted by lharmon at 10:41 AM on October 9, 2013

The thought of being on the Parkway, in the fall, at a time when a lot of other tourists will NOT be there sounds ideal to me. I'm assuming that even if the parks themselves are closed, if the highway is open then the little pulloffs where you can stop and enjoy the vistas are still available? That was pretty much all the DingoWife and I did when we were there, and it made for a perfect trip.

I've only ever been on the southern part of the parkway down in NC, but there are certainly places you could hike near there - if I recall correctly, Chimney Rock State Park is only about 90 minutes away from Cherokee (where the parkway ends), and it is gorgeous. Bryson City is also nearby and is a cute little town to poke around in with a cool used bookstore and a tasty brewpub; the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad also departs from there and is a fun way to spend an afternoon.

There's definitely a lot more than National Parks along the way if you do a little planning, and my guess is that by this point locals will be used to people asking them what else there is to do if you'd rather just wing it. I'll keep my fingers crossed that you guys end up going after all!
posted by DingoMutt at 11:05 AM on October 9, 2013

Just posting to agree with others that you could still find lots to do with state parks & private attractions. I love Floyd, VA, which is along the parkway and has lots of cute stuff going on - I also stopped in Staunton last time I was in the area and thought it was great - - and I think Charlottesville is lovely too - (both just off the parkway). And Asheville could be a whole trip in itself. There's Monticello near Charlottesville and Biltmore estate in Asheville.

Depending on what parts of the Parkway are most important to you and where you're coming from, maybe you could just use this opportunity to focus on the more Southern parts and then make Shenandoah and the Skyline drive its own trip in a few years?
posted by milkweed at 11:14 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh definitely go anyway. Once you get past the Luray area, plan for some kitschy fun. Natural Bridge (which is for sale btw) has a wax museum, foamhenge (yes you read that right), the Pink Cadillac Diner, & amazing hiking & bouldering.

Some of the not-federal sites on the Parkway are open, such as the Peaks of Otter Lodge. Peaks of Otter also has several nice hikes, one of which leads to the 1943 crash site of a B25 airplane that killed 5 people. (Virginia's rich history doesn't end with Jefferson.) The national D-Day memorial is in nearby Bedford.

Roanoke, right off the BRP, has a rich rail history & is a great town to visit esp. on a Saturday, the downtown market is hopping. Etc. There's so much to do right off the Parkway that you don't need the gift-shop "attractions."
posted by headnsouth at 11:46 AM on October 9, 2013

You don't say the dates you were planning to go but Roanoke's Go Outside Festival is October 19th weekend. Live music, vendors, and so much outdoor stuff to do. Climbing walls, slack-lining, film fest, dog-trick contests (!), cycling & kayaking demos, even a yard sale with people selling & trading their backpacking/kayaking/cycling/etc. gear. Come on down!
posted by headnsouth at 11:52 AM on October 9, 2013

I just came back from a long weekend camping in Western NC, and while federally run campgrounds and other facilities were closed, hiking in national forest areas was not a problem for us. We got to see Linville Falls, which is right off the Parkway and Max Patch which is further west but part of Pisgah National Forest. Things like bathrooms were closed at these sites, but they otherwise seemed open and lots of other folks were visiting too.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 12:02 PM on October 9, 2013

Nthing the Luray Caverns. High point of the trip for me when I went there as a kid. The non-National Park System stuff there is not necessarily any less cool or less interesting or whatever. It's just cool interesting stuff with a different owner, is all.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 12:08 PM on October 9, 2013

Just driving on the Parkway is absolutely worth it. It's spectacularly beautiful. Enjoy your trip.
posted by Daily Alice at 12:09 PM on October 9, 2013

Thanks all, but sadly, this will be a non-event, as the decision has been made that since we can't see the things that my wife wants to see, there is no point in doing it this year. As was explained to me over dinner, a) other people didn't even get their wedding they wanted because of this b) I still have a job and still getting paid unlike 800k others and c) I'm not dying of cancer like our neighbor, so I should quit complaining and consider it some other time.

But I will keep all of the suggestions in my "see these someday" folder.

And if anyone is interested in a spiffy dashcam that I was going to use to videolog the trip, I will be selling mine on ebay shortly.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 3:43 PM on October 9, 2013

I don't know how you feel about music, but the Crooked Road and this book will help you out. There's such awesome free music every day in the region!
posted by jennybento at 11:00 PM on October 9, 2013

The Blue Ridge Parkway is open, but Skyline Drive is closed.
posted by candyland at 3:25 AM on October 10, 2013

odinsdream: Respectfully, it sounds like you have a different question, then. That response is bizarre.

I don't understand your comment, nor why five people marked it as a favorite. Can you elaborate?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 2:05 PM on October 10, 2013


Don't worry about that comment - there is no other question except the one you asked us to address. The rest is none of our business unless you decide.
posted by Kruger5 at 3:06 PM on October 10, 2013

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