Yanks & Mainers, help me out!
June 20, 2007 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Help me plan a road trip from Philadelphia to Mount Vernon, Maine.

There's lots of advice on what routes to take if you're traveling Maine's coast, but I'll be a
little inland.
I have a wedding to go to on Saturday, July 14, but I want to leave on Friday and spend the night somewhere between Philly & Maine. Know any quaint, affordable places to stay in between the two cities? Or will everything be booked already because it's a Friday in mid-summer? Also, I don't want to take I-95 unless I have to, so can you suggest any scenic routes?
posted by lagreen to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Well halfway point seems to be right around Worcester, MA area... not very quaint but there are some nice towns with in a half hour- hour of there.
But I cant think of any place cheap and quaint off hand. There are some really decent camping spots tho.
I think there will be vacancies but if you go farther up towards Maine you are getting close to NH shore and Southern Maine which are pretty busy in the summer.
You could hit a terrificly cheesy beach, Hampton Beach, which is bound to have something since theres dozens and dozens of little hotels/motels.
posted by beccaj at 12:04 PM on June 20, 2007

My first thought was to drive 6ish hours and stay in or near Porstmouth, NH. That way on Saturday you'll just have a 2ish hour drive and it's a nice area to stay in. I'd try to book something now--you're right, a Friday in July can be tough.

I'm not sure about not taking 95. You could get on 295 in Portland and take that to just under Augusta. It's more scenic than 95, but less so than back roads. Perhaps someone here can give you advice about driving North into NH, through the White Mountains and then heading east into Maine - I've never done it that far north, but it must be possible (and surely more scenic than 95). Good luck.
posted by jdl at 12:30 PM on June 20, 2007

Route 1 is a bit scenic along the coast as you enter Maine from Mass. It's a pretty long and winding road (that leads to your door -- sorry). There is a lot of shopping in Kittery, ME, too. Lots of outlet stores.
posted by tcv at 12:42 PM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

We took 95 to get to China Lake (~20 miles from Mt Vernon) from Philly a couple of summers ago, staying at some exit ramp inn along the way. I agree that you should at least try to get well past Boston before spending the night. I can't imagine an alternate to 95 that wouldn't take a much much longer time though.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 12:50 PM on June 20, 2007

Newburyport, MA is just south of Portsmouth and located on Rte 1; it has many nice bed and breakfasts and a huge beach (plum island).
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:05 PM on June 20, 2007

Best answer: There are a bunch of routes you can take. 95 is hands-down probably the least scenic.

If I had to do that drive, I'd probably come up 95 through Jersey and NYC (or actually, I'd probably cross the bridge in Philly and come up the Jersey Tpke), cross the G.W.B., and then from there take the Saw Mill and Merritt Parkways through Connecticut. They'll take you to Interstate 91. Just don't do it at a peak rush-hour time!

You have a few options here. You can take 91 up to 84 East, which goes through NE Connecticut and will drop you off at the Mass Tpke near Sturbridge, MA (which is a neat little historical area), from which you can get on 495, then back to 95, and take it up into Maine ... OR you can go up 91 through Hartford and Springfield and cut East somewhere further North.

Looking at where you're going, you'd probably do well just by driving north on I-91 to St. Johnsbury (might be able to find a place to stay the night there, or at one of the ski towns nearby, since it's not ski season), and then taking Route 2 East through the mountains, all the way over to Mt Vernon. This is going to be a much longer drive than just shooting up 91/84/90/495/95, but it'll probably be a lot more pleasant.

I suspect that drive along Rt 2 would be particularly beautiful, and you'll probably be able to maintain 40-50 MPH on it outside of built-up areas. I've driven it from Bethel, ME over to I-93, it was a while ago but my recollection was that it was very rural, lots of small towns. Put a Stephen King audiobook on your car stereo and you'll be right at home.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:21 PM on June 20, 2007

I should also point out that taking 95 the entire way up runs you directly through Boston, which depending on construction and traffic can be really unpleasant. The route I suggested above (91 to 84, 84 to 90, 90 to 495, 495 to 95) avoids the major cities while keeping you on the Interstates.

I can't say I've tried all the other routes to be sure, but it's the fastest route from Maine to "Points South" that I've found.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:27 PM on June 20, 2007

I second avoiding I95, at least the NYC on portion. Commuted from NYC towards Hartford for long enough to settle on (assuming you're coming across the GWB) up the Henry Hudson/Saw Mill pkwy, Cross County Pkwy to Merrit, then right up 91 works great, as long as you avoid the Stamford area and the 91/84 crossover in Hartford at rush hour. No trucks, scenery, and generally much better moving traffic. I shoot across 84 to the MassPike, but haven't gone up into Maine yet.
posted by pupdog at 1:44 PM on June 20, 2007

Best answer: This is what I would do for a Philadelphia-Maine route, ESPECIALLY ON A SUMMER FRIDAY:

1. Make my way north from Philadelphia through eastern PA or NJ (don't know the best routes through these areas) to connect with I-84 E.

2. From I-84, turn north onto the Taconic State Parkway in New York. (I love the Taconic. Scenic, quaint, and relatively low-traffic north of I-84.)

3. Either take the Taconic all the way to I-90 E or use secondary roads (199, 7) to cut off the NW corner of CT and go up through Great Barrington to pick up I-90 E in western MA.

I absolutely would not be tempted to take I-84 through CT, ESPECIALLY ON A SUMMER FRIDAY AFTERNOON. (shudder)

To be fair, I have a peculiar aversion to all the interstates through CT.

4. Either take I-90 to I-290 to I-495 to I-95 . . .

(The closer you get to Boston, the worse the traffic will get. The NH and Maine sections of I-95 are normally not bad at all, but ON A SUMMER FRIDAY you can expect heavy northbound traffic and long waits at the toll booths.)

. . . or take I-90 to I-91, and proceed north through VT to US Route 2, as Kadin2048 suggests. (I have never done this whole route, but am familiar with parts of it. Sounds good to me. Rte 2 is certainly scenic, and VT & NH are good places to look for B&B-type accommodation.)

Disclaimer: as a driver, I tend to seek the Route of Least Aggravation, which is not always the shortest route in terms of distance. Neither is it always the shortest route in terms of time. I like less traffic, more scenery, and am comfortable navigating on unfamiliar secondary roads. Your in-this-case-literal mileage may vary.
posted by Orinda at 6:36 PM on June 20, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for your suggestions, everyone. This is perfect. Yeah, we're not looking to make good time, we just want a nice experience. I'm already searching the library for good audiobooks...
posted by lagreen at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2007

Re: St Johnsbury VT.
Just north of there is the lovely homey Village Inn of East Burke VT. The hosts are great. We go there often to visit the in-laws. Lyndonville itself is nice enough, there's a good sandwich/coffee shop just off the main green.

Driving east from there, be wary of plotting a route that will take you through Lewiston-Auburn ME. It's a black hole of directions; you're almost guaranteed to get lost and have to double back. On the route that takes you there, you will pass a New Balance shoes outlet in the middle of nowhere (Oxford ME), though - if that interests you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:26 PM on June 20, 2007

And if you like a good greasyspoon diner, you must stop at the Miss Lyndonville - 686 Broad St, Lyndonville, VT. (802) 626-9890. Seriously. And check out the pictures from when it burned down, and order some bacon extra-crispy. Cheap, old-style, really good.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:32 PM on June 20, 2007

LobsterMitten says: be wary of plotting a route that will take you through Lewiston-Auburn ME. It's a black hole of directions; you're almost guaranteed to get lost and have to double back.

LobsterMitten is right.
posted by Orinda at 8:56 PM on June 20, 2007

If you like the scenic route idea but don't want to go all the way up to route 2 in NH (which is quite a nice drive) you could always cut it short and head towards North Conway on 302. You'll pass north of Denmark, ME, through Bridgton, Harrison, Norway, South Paris, all the way over to Wayne, and Winthrop, and finally to Mt. Vernon. This would probably add a little over two hours to your trip compared to a "straightest route" option but it will also be quite scenic as well.

google maps directions link

Also, just to the east of Mt. Vernon are the Belgrade lakes. It might be worth taking a drive on 27 through those lakes, from the town of Belgrade north. It is quite quaint.
posted by mbatch at 11:13 AM on June 21, 2007

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