Depart London Heathrow – 12:45
Arrive Philadelphia – 15:35
Journey Time – 7 hours 50 minutes
Arrive into Philadelphia where you will pick up your rental vehicle and drive just 20 minutes to your downtown hotel. Here, you’re just a few blocks from some of America’s most important landmarks.
Philadelphia, the birthplace of American Independence and home of the Liberty Bell, is full of history drawing millions of visitors every year to follow the walking trail through Independence National Historical Park. The city, also a major port, has many fine museums, parks and gardens and a lively cultural scene… You have a busy day ahead of you tomorrow!
Overnight – Philadelphia, PA
You have a full day in Philadelphia for seeing the sights. The City of Brotherly Love is the birthplace of the United States of America. Once you have seen the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and Independence Hall, you can explore the city’s myriad artistic and cultural offerings. Museums, exhibits, and parks present everything from Rodin to Robert Indiana, and symphonies, dance companies, theatrical groups, and pro sports teams ensure there’s an activity to keep you busy. When it’s time for a bite – why not try a cheese steak, shop at the Italian Market, check out the funky scene along South Street, or visit one of Philadelphia’s many fine restaurants. This really is one of America’s great cities. Enjoy the pace, the diversity, the food, neighbourhoods and the world renown attractions – it’s all here.
Overnight – Philadelphia
Philadelphia – Lancaster (Amish Country)
Visitors love to go to Amish Country, to experience the slower pace of life and simple living. The traditions of the Amish in Lancaster County date back to the 1720s when the Old Order Amish, the “Plain People” fled religious persecution in Europe. Most Amish are not Dutch at all. The word is shortened from Deutsch, which is German. Today, the most common bond in central Pennsylvania is German heritage, although, there are also Swiss, French, English, Welsh and Scottish Amish. Holding dear traditional values, they stress humility, family, community and separation from the world. Not actually stuck in history, the Amish do change. They just examine it carefully before they accept it.
Because we believe that the heritage of the Amish and Lancaster County are rare treasures, we work to deliver information that lets you explore the true byways and backroads that illustrate the most authentic and traditional way of life. You’ll enjoy the quiet serenity of these crisp, immaculately kept areas, and an opportunity to leave the region refreshed and renewed in spirit. Plan to enjoy the unique food of the Amish, the culture and quaint villages. There’s also antique shopping, craft displays and heritage centers.
Overnight – Lancaster
Lancaster – Gettysburg
Gettysburg is famous as the site of the biggest battle of the Civil War – it was here that Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address and generations of schoolchildren have grown up learning the significance of this small Pennsylvania town.
You can almost hear the drums of war beating within the stilling silence of the land at Gettysburg where the fate of America was changed forever. The landscape has been preserved to tell the story of war, yet honour the soldiers who fought valiantly for their cause. It was at Gettysburg that the leaders of both the Union and Confederate armies who would ultimately play out the Civil War to its end, first met in gigantic and carefully strategised battles. All seemed to understand that the outcome of the war would be determined on these grounds. Whoever prevailed would be likely to conquer. In a bold attempt to invade Washington, DC from the north, the Confederate army amassed thousands of troops ready to take DC. The Union understood that the ground had to be held at whatever cost. The totally new visitors centre tells the story with a dramatic crescendo.
Within all of its important history, Gettysburg is more than just about battles. Founded in 1797, more than 60 years before the Civil War, the town was settled by Scots-Irish settlers on their way to the Shenandoah Valley. Original buildings from this era still stand on Lincoln Square.
Gettysburg today is heaven for history buffs, but shoppers, antique collectors, outdoors enthusiasts, and railway enthusiasts can find plenty to do here as well. Walking tours give the visitor an up-close view of “the most famous small town in America.”
Overnight – Gettysburg
Gettysburg to Luray (Skyline Drive)
Leaving Gettysburg, you’ll be travelling the Journey through ‘Hallowed Ground Scenic Byway’ on your way to Shenandoah National Park. Then, imagine coming around a corner and suddenly catching your breath as the view opens up to a vast mountain landscape, a larger than life panorama of waves of blue hills.
Stopping at a view point you see a deer and her fawns gently grazing, unaware that there are people around. Another vista reveals a burst of spring colour and another, a gushing waterfall. That’s what you’re going to experience as you drive through Shenandoah National Park.
The Skyline Drive is just over 100 miles of road which follows the ridge of the mountains through the Shenandoah National Park (Entrance to the park is approx $15.00 for the vehicle and passengers – payable locally) – though you’ll only cover about a third today – the rest you will drive tomorrow. Winding your way through the park you can see why it was designed specifically to give motorists the feeling of looking at the landscape from the sky – the views are breath-taking.
There are pull-outs every few miles where you can admire the view and, of course, take some fabulous photos. In addition to the stunning views the park is also home to wildlife including deer and black bears. When you spot a 5 foot (toy) bear, sporting a National Park Service hat and a neckerchief – you’ll know you’ve reached your lodging for this evening – the Skyland Resort! Drop into to the Visitor’s Centre for some background and information about the park it offers countless scenic spots – ideal for a picnic – and many walking trails. A great way to experience the park would be to take a short hike along one of the many trails. The scenic valley spreads out below the lodge like an early American landscape painting.
This afternoon you may want explore Luray Caverns, the largest constantly changing underground environment on the East Coast. Head West out of the park to Luray to visit the caverns there. The caverns themselves are an underground wonderland shaped by centuries of water seeping down through the rocks to create dramatic and imposing formations. The path is fully paved and an audio tour is available to guide you through. Though do be warned – it can get very busy especially over a weekend. It is kept at a comfortable and constant 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Once underground, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled to a netherworld of growing and shrinking stones. Walking through chambers of clusters of stalactites and stalagmites, you’ll see some that resemble Totem Poles, others that take on the appearance of a Frozen Fountain, and others that are curiously-shaped and look like Fried Eggs. Perhaps most intriguing is the Stalacpipe Organ, which took 36 years to perfect and plays the musical scale in tune.
Overnight – Luray
Luray to Charlottesville
47 miles (excluding slight detour to Staunton)
Today head back into Shenandoah Park and continue South along the Skyline Drive (the southern end of the drive, particularly that last 30 miles or so, is arguably even more scenic). At the end of the Skyline Drive we suggest you take a slight detour West through Waynesboro to Staunton – pronounced ‘Stanton’ – President Woodrow Wilson’s birth place. Staunton itself is a distinctive and historic town with a lively community feel to it, walking down the main street you in some ways feel transported by in time; all the shops and restaurants are charming independent ventures with none of the big ‘high street’ names you would expect elsewhere. Maybe Staunton is a good place to grab some lunch before heading out to Charlottesville…
The first stop for everyone in Charlottesville has to be Monticello – the exquisite home of Thomas Jefferson – truly one of the most intensely interesting homes on the North American continent. This magnificent mountaintop mansion was designated a World Heritage Treasure by the United Nations.
Charlotte Gill (Account Manager at Complete North America) – “We enjoyed a 15 minute informative biopic of Thomas Jefferson’s life before taking a scenic walk up from the Visitor’s centre to the house. This is a ½ mile walk (mostly with a steady uphill climb) which takes you through a wooded area and past the gravesite of Mr Jefferson himself and his family (there are also shuttle buses that will take you to the house for those who would prefer this). We all felt that the tour system worked well, you would be in a group of no more of 25 people with your own guide to explain the “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” that defined Jefferson’s life… If you are tight for time, we would recommend Monticello as our preferred choice of the President’s houses that we have visited in the Virginia area. The guided tours last for approximately 50 minutes and depart promptly every 5 minutes – you will be allocated a time when purchasing your tickets at the visitors centre, please be aware that during the busier periods (May – October and national holidays) there may be a wait for your tour departure”.
Downtown, you’ll discover that this quaint little city no longer has a Main Street. The street was closed to automobiles and bricked as an open walking plaza lined with shops. Stand on the street corner where Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe met as friends…. Virginia native sons, plantation owners and southern gentlemen, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe all lived within 15 miles of each other and were consecutively elected President of the United States (governing America from 1801 to 1825)! They were such close friends, that they considered themselves “Founding Brothers,” as much as Founding Fathers. James Monroe even built his home, Ash Lawn-Highland so that he could see Monticello, Jefferson’s home, from the front porch. You can tour the homes of all three to learn first-hand what life in southern America was like in the early 19th century. Near Monticello and Ash Lawn-Highland, you can also visit Michie Tavern to have lunch with living history servers who will make you feel as if you have stepped right into the past.
Sarah Goss (Account Manager at Complete North America) – “The main street (Charlottesville) has a very European cafe culture feel with its tree lined avenue and historic buildings… The inner child in us all couldn’t resist the temptation to ‘release the artists within’ and graffiti over a purposely built chalkboard wall at the end of the main cafe lined street… Charlottesville is the perfect place to spend a warm evening sitting outside for dinner and watching the world go by.”
Overnight – Charlottesville
Today, you can get out and about into some of the wonderful rolling country side that surrounds Charlottesville and perhaps even take one of the many wine trails in the area. Take a trip out to Montpelier, James Madison’s home.
Nearby, the original core of the campus of the University of Virginia was designed by Thomas Jefferson. Since time immemorial, graduate students including Edgar Allen Poe, have lived in the special rooms surrounding the Quadrangle heated only with fireplaces.
Overnight – Charlottesville
Charlottesville to Williamsburg
Today – you are heading for Williamsburg – and you are heading back in time! Take a stroll to the centre of historic downtown on Duke of Gloucester Street. Horses and carriages, men and women folk in traditional dress, all in character, olde world shops… and randomly, a giant bull named ‘Red’ !
There will be plenty of time to explore Colonial Williamsburg in detail today. Serving as the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the centre of power in the largest and most influential American colony. During the 150 years following the move of the capital to Richmond, Williamsburg became a quiet college town. In 1926, with the help of John D. Rockefeller, the Foundation acquired 85% of the area of the original colonial capital and began restoration.
Now you can marvel as you walk the streets where Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, George Mason and Patrick Henry sealed the fate of the new nation. An amazing 88 of the 500 buildings in Colonial Williamsburg are original. The others have been painstakingly researched, rebuilt and refitted with the authentic accoutrements of the day. Each of the shops demonstrates their trade and you can ask questions wherever you go. Re-enactments of the political undertakings are ongoing. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in conversation with Henry, Jefferson or Washington. The living history interpreters at Williamsburg are really good!
Charlotte Gill (Account Manager at Complete North America) – “Now I really did have some pre-conceived ideas as to how Williamsburg was going to look….I was pleasantly surprised. The streets are very well kept and the building all incredibly authentic, you even get the chance to look into many of the old taverns and tailors and apothecaries to learn how it was all done way back when. The costumed locals put on short street plays where you can interact with the actors and they tell you the mighty story of Williamsburg’s Colonial past. In this instance, General Lafayette (a Frenchman) told his story of how he sided with the American’s against the British to help them gain their independence. The American’s cheered…..we realised that the British lost against the Americans so, arms folded and silence from our end!”
Overnight – Williamsburg
See where it all began and set off along the ‘Colonial Parkway’ to Jamestown. The Colonial Parkway is a scenic drive that joins the three towns in the Historic Triangle (Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown) and enables you to travel between the three along the banks of the James and York Rivers away from the traffic and trappings of a modern road.
The picturesque island, Jamestown, itself dates back to 1607 and was the first permanent English settlement in the USA. The site today is based around the informative visitor centre and the ongoing archaeological excavations at the site. As well as an introductory film you can also join Ranger led archaeological talks or just take a self guided walking tour of the site. Jamestown is quite different from Williamsburg as very little has been re-created – a couple of hours here would certainly suffice.
On to Yorktown and take an auto battlefield tour – find exactly how in the 18th Century, under the leadership of Lord Cornwallis, the English were defeated and surrendered to the revolutionary forces. Yorktown again provides a visitor centre with a short film and nicely sets up the battlefields. You can tour the battlefields from your car – at each battlefield site a plaque provides descriptions of the significance of each location. Again, a couple of hours here would be sufficient to take in most of the site.
Sarah Goss (Account Manager at Complete North America) – “If you are particularly interested in the historical side of things and taking in some of the events and re-enactments whilst in the Historic Triangle we would recommend taking some time on arrival to look at the events on offer and plan your time accordingly. Tickets must be purchased for the historical events and access to the historical buildings in Williamsburg and cost approx. $30. Tickets for both Jamestown and Yorktown are $10 – however special events may be at additional cost.”
Overnight – Williamsburg
Williamsburg to Easton
As you head to Maryland’s Eastern Shore you will take the road over the magnificent Chesapeake Bay Bridge and tunnel (considered one of the seven engineering wonders of the world) and onwards through the scenic Eastern Shores of Virginia to Maryland and Easton.
Easton is a delightful Chesapeake town, where the historical roots date back to 1711. Even though there are shops for all budgets, eclectic art galleries and antiques, fine and casual restaurants and a picture perfect historic town center with colonial and Victorian architecture, Easton, is one of those places that feels like home. Big trees and shady streets surround big porches on block after block of old houses.
Overnight – Easton, MD
Easton (Maryland Eastern Shore)
Explore the quaint towns of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Feast on the seafood, enjoy the scenic beauty and respond to the laid back lifestyle of this unique area of the country. The enchanting coastline varies from historic waterfront towns dotted with marinas of all sizes to stretches of low, rolling farmlands broken only by the tidewater tributaries of the Chesapeake. Fresh and salt water meet in a veritable haven for fishing and boating enthusiasts, cyclists, birders and nature lovers.
Leave time also to explore St. Michael’s, an incredibly well preserved historic town with great shopping and restaurants in the historic district.
Overnight – Easton
Easton to Washington DC
Today, it’s just a short drive to America’s capital – Washington, DC. Though a car is not really a necessity in this city, having considered the options – we are suggesting that you keep your vehicle until you return to the airport for your departure flight home on Day 15. The cost to valet park your car (with in/out privileges) at The Omni Shoreham Hotel is approx $28 per day – which for a US city is really not that bad and considering there would be a one-way drop fee of at least $50 (for returning your vehicle to the Washington Downtown location) & then a taxi fare of approx $70 to get you from your Washington Hotel to Washington Dulles Airport on Day 15 – in this instance, it actually works out more cost effective / less hassle to keep your car until the last day.
There are many great neighbourhoods in this very cosmopolitan city & every district is different, catering for all ages and interests and with so much to learn you will honestly feel that 3 nights would certainly only just do this city justice. The key museums and historic buildings are concentrated around the US Capitol Building and the National Mall, which is lined with Smithsonian museums.
You can’t help but be inspired and even awed on your first visit to Washington, DC – it’s like no other place in the world. Created in a swamp where frogs originally outnumbered residents, the city has gradually emerged as an impressive monument to America’s continuity. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and architect Pierre L’Enfant, Jefferson’s French friend, laid out the original city, which has kept pace with the fortunes of the country it governs. Buildings consciously designed to appear monumental have been preserved and renovated, and where applicable, integrated with new architecture. The massive fabric of monuments and museums peacefully coexists with a bustling, dynamic metropolitan area with world-class entertainment, unique restaurants, and a dynamic arts and cultural community. There’s always something blooming, adding a dash of colour. Even if you’ve visited before, new monuments are always being added and many museums have recently expanded.
Overnight – Washington DC
We recommend you begin at the US Capitol Complex, which includes the Capitol Building, House and Senate Buildings and the US Botanical Gardens. Standing on the Capitol steps looking west, the expansive two-mile National Mall between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, stretches out before you, lined with monuments and museums. The Washington Monument stands in the centre, while the cross axis of the Mall is anchored by the White House on one end and the Jefferson Memorial on the other. You’ll find a number of the wonderful Smithsonian Museums along the Mall, as well as throughout the city.
Sarah Goss (Account Manager at Complete North America) – “In the evening, we took a ‘Spirit Dinner Cruise’ down the Potomac River. Cruising slowly along the Potomac River during the sunset is definitely a view to remember, Washington from the water is stunning. There are no high rise buildings on the Washington skyline, as it is a rule that no building be taller than the Capitol Building which creates a serene atmosphere. The buildings you will pass – The Pentagon, The Lincoln Memorial (from a distance), the National Monument and the Capitol Building itself.
We would definitely recommend a cruise down the river as it really is a fantastic way to see the sights – the whole cruise lasted 4 hours. We can also recommend other day/night cruises which may be more suitable if you are looking for a more formal evening. We departed the ship at 10pm and made our way back to the Omni where we settled in for the night knowing we had another busy day ahead of us…”
Overnight – Washington DC
The list of museums to choose from in Washington, DC, is extensive: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of African Art, National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are all on or near the Mall.
Memorials on or near the Mall include the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, United States Navy Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Sarah Goss (Account Manager at Complete North America) – “A fantastic way to see as many of the sights as possible is to ‘Bike the Sights’ – it is AWESOME! We picked up our bikes along with our tour guide at the Old Pavillion Post House, met the rest of the biker group and set off towards every National Monument Washington has going. The guides are superb & will keep you safe – Washington really is incredibly bike friendly so once you’ve grasped the pedestrian crossing/traffic light system it is such a safe activity. They even supply bikes with child buggies attached so we would definitely recommend this for families. The bike tour lasts approximately 3 hours, after this we decided to take the Metro back to our hotel.”
A trip to Arlington Cemetery is a must – it’s such an eye opening experience with sombre undertones. We would suggest that you get there early before the crowds if only to get the most of the peaceful atmosphere. There are a small selection of tours available, the shortest takes about 45 minutes and visits the Kennedy’s Grave Site and Eternal Flame, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Arlington House, the home of Robert E Lee.
The bus tour guides are knowledgeable; the information is delivered with some intensity so as to enlighten you to the reality of what is around you but essentially they are presenting you with the final resting place of those American men and women who have died to keep their country free. This excursion comes highly recommended by the CNA team. Getting to Arlington is easy – If you have kept your rental vehicle as we suggest, it will only take about 10 minutes from downtown DC and parking is ample (a small charge does apply). Alternatively you can use the ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ Tour buses which include Arlington in the many stops they make around the city or if you are close to the National Mall it would only be a 20-30 minute walk.
Charlotte Gill (Account Manager at Complete North America) – “For dinner, I would happily recommended a lovely little Italian we ate at over in Georgetown called ‘Filamenas’ ”.
Overnight – Washington DC
Depart Washington DC
Enjoy another full day in this fascinating city before returning your car to Washington Dulles Airport and checking in for your flight home to the U.K.
Depart Washington Dulles – 21:25
Arrive London Heathrow – 08:45 (Next Day)
Journey time – 6 hours 20 minutes