Washington DC & Virginia Itinerary

In 2013, our vacation plans called for a week-long trip to Washington DC and Virginia as soon as school ended in May. In retrospect, we should have waited a few days. After picking up our kids directly from school on their last day, we stopped in Charlotte to have dinner with some friends and then drove as far as Durham, NC that night. Colonial Williamsburg was crowded when we arrived around 11:30 the next day (which also happened to  be the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend). By the time we got to DC on Sunday afternoon, everyone was tired and cranky. We learned a very valuable lesson – give our kids at least a day or two to unwind from the school year before going on a week-long trip!

Thankfully a good dinner restored us on Sunday night and we were refreshed by Monday morning. If I had to do it over again, I would’ve pushed everything back by two days, avoiding most of the holiday weekend. Other than that, the trip met our expectations and then some!


Drive to Durham, NC


Colonial Williamsburg

Duke University campus

Colonial Williamsburg – including lunch at Chowning’s Tavern, tours of Rudolf House, Rockefeller House, Tea Room, Magazine, House of Burgesses

Dinner Blue Talon Bistro


More Colonial Williamsburg – Governor’s House

Lunch at Trellis

drive to DC

Old Town and Alexandria waterfront

Stayed at Hotel Monaco, now the Alexandrian, Autograph Collection



Dinner at Taverna Cretekou

The U.S. Capitol


The Smithsonian Museums – American History Museum, National Gallery  with one child, Museum of Natural Science – spouse and other child

US Capitol Tour

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Hotel Washington Bar with friend


Spy Museum

Ate at Pi Pizzeria

Annapolis, MD ferry tour

Mt. Vernon


Mt. Vernon

Shenandoah National Park

Skyline Drive to Charlottesville, VA

Dinner – Continental Divide





Boston & Maine Itinerary

This is the trip that started it all for our family. My spouse and I had enjoyed travelling, but with the birth of our children we did a lot of trips to visit family and an annual trip to the beach. We decided it was time for the four of us to go on a true vacation.

There are many styles of travel. In my family (and maybe because I grew up in a city of about 150,000) we tended to take city trips – New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Montreal. On these vacations, I wasn’t allowed to do things I could do at home – like see a movie. We pounded the pavement to see everything there was to see – museums, walking around, eating local cuisines — definitely no sleeping in or hanging out.

Other people like to go to one place – maybe for an entire week. These trips are meant for relaxation, but after a while I tend to get bored. It was time to do the type of vacation I had grown up doing and to show our children the world. It was fun, exhilarating and now we’ve tried to incorporate at least one trip like this per year. This was our itinerary from June 2011.


Fly into Boston Logan airport, stayed at Omni Parker House

Lunch at Ye Olde Union Oyster House in Faneuil Hall

Boston Common, Boston Children’s Museum

Boston Children’s Museum


Toured the Old State House, took Old Town Trolley Tours seeing the Boston Library, the USS Constitution, the North Church and afternoon cruise.

Lunch at Durgin Park in Faneuil Hall

The Boston Public Library


Boston Waterfront


Toured Harvard and Harvard Museum of Natural History, lunch at Au Bon Pain across from Harvard

Dinner at Legal Seafood near Boston Common with friends

Harvard – now you know why its called Ivy League!


Drive to Maine

Breakfast Becky’s Diner – Portland

Stopped at L L Bean

Lunch in Wiscasset at Red’s

Pemoquid Lighthouse

Camden – stayed at Camden Riverhouse Hotel

Camden at night


Windjammer cruise

Drive to Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park

Penobscot Observation Tower

Bar Harbor – stayed at Bar Harbor Motel

Dinner – West Street Cafe

Camden from the windjammer


View of Camden from Mount Battie


Penobscot Narrows Bridge


Acadia National Park – Thunder Hole, Cadillac, swimming Echo Lake Beach, Jordan Pond House, Cadillac Mountain

Dinner – Cafe This Way

Thunder Hole at Acadia National Park


Cadillac Mountain


Jordan Pond House


Shopping downtown Bar Harbor – it was cold and bought sweatshirts!

drove through Portland, ate lunch

Prouts Neck to see Black Pointe Inn

Kennebunkport – stayed at Rhumb Line Resort

Ate dinner at Federal Jack’s

Hung out at Kennebunk Beach and drove by the Bush compound

Foggy morning in Bar Harbor



Hung out at Kennebunk Beach

Drove to Boston

Ate at Boston Logan airport – Legal Seafoods

Flight Home

Kennebunk Beach

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – Montrose, Co


I have to give a quick shout-out to one of my favorite blogs – Explore All 50. Written by a single mother of three, Alisa Abecassis details trips she has taken to show her children every state. I’ve looked at it to get trip ideas and I wouldn’t have ever known about this national park had it not been for her website.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP is an easy park to explore in a few hours. Starting at the visitor center, we watched the 12-minute movie and drove the 7-mile South Rim Road. With the multiple overlooks of the steep 2,000-foot canyon walls, you don’t have to do any hiking to get a feel for this awesome, little-known park.

At one of the overlooks

At one of the overlooks

Carved by the Gunnison River, the steep cliffs are mesmerizing. The ranger suggested stopping at Pulpit Rock, Painted Wall, Sunset View and High Point overlooks. We hit those and a few more on the way. The steep canyon is a dark, almost black color hence the name. The misnomer is that it is closer to Montrose than the town of Gunnison.

The Painted Wall

The Painted Wall

At the end of the drive is High Point overlook with a 1.5-mile, round-trip, Warner Point Trail. Although we all started the hike, only two of us got to the end. The sweeping vistas were beautiful and worth the hike.

Warner Point Trail

Warner Point Trail

The park’s gravel, North Rim Drive lies on the other side of the river, but it is remote and closed during the winter. Other activities include camping, climbing and kayaking. Learn more at the park’s website here.

Capitol Reef National Park – Torrey, Utah

Scenery on the way to Capitol Reef NP

Scenery on the way to Capitol Reef NP

This was my favorite of the three Utah national parks on this trip. For whatever reason, I really wanted to come here. Everybody I talked to about Utah has been to Bryce and Zion or Canyonlands and Arches. I only knew one person whose parents made it to Capitol Reef on a separate trip. It’s the least crowded of Utah’s Mighty Five since it’s right in the middle of the state and not near anything. Bryce Canyon NP is another 2.5 hours from here.

Although a 2.5-hour car ride from Moab, it is scenic. Even the 22 miles on I-70 offered breathtaking vistas with no billboards or commercial establishments. Once off the interstate, we headed south on Hwy 24, stopping in Hanksville for lunch at Duke’s Slickrock Grill. I can’t imagine living in a town with three restaurants, one hotel and two gas stations, but the people here were friendly as ever. The hostess mentioned seeing the hoodoos at nearby Goblin Valley State Park, but unfortunately we didn’t have time.

Hickman Bridge Trail

Capitol Reef got its name from the large fin or reef like cliffs that shoot up from the landscape. It’s different from the other parks and well worth the visit. We started with the Hickman Bridge Trail, a moderate 1.8-mile round trip to a natural bridge. Although it looks like an arch, a natural bridge is a type of arch that was primarily formed by a stream or body of water. When we left the parking lot, we hiked by a fast flowing Fremont River.

The Hickman Bridge Trail

The Hickman Bridge Trail

Although the hike is considered moderate, children can easily do this hike. Just take lots of water and wear a hat. The temps reached 80 degrees on this day in April, but I could imagine the over 100 degree temps in the summer. Towards the end is a small loop under and around the natural bridge. Another difference between an arch and a bridge is that a natural bridge has a flat top over an opening, resembling the shape of a man-made bridge. I failed to inform my family that we were hiking to a natural bridge and everyone was surprised it was made out of rock. This was the only section of the park that reminded me a bit of Arches NP.

The Hickman Bridge at Capitol Reef NP

The Hickman Bridge at Capitol Reef NP

Historic Fruita

Next we drove by the historic Fruita school-house, which was built in 1896 and served as a gathering spot, church and school until the 1940’s. Over time, the NPS bought more of the Fruita farms, leaving the schoolhouse, a barn and a few other buildings intact.

The Fruita Schoolhouse

The Fruita Schoolhouse

We then stopped at the visitor center and were told to continue the 10-mile (one-way) scenic drive. At the end of the scenic road is the 2.4-mile Capitol Gorge Road. Although it’s a dirt road, the ranger told us that any car could handle hit. Driving on the dirt path gave us an off-roading type adventure through Wingate Sandstone. I was amazed to see several campers driving on the narrow road. At the end was a parking lot and trailhead for the 2.0-mile round-trip Capital Gorge Trail. Our crew was getting hungry so we skipped this hike, although it was classified as easy.

Even the visitor center blends into the landscape.

Even the visitor center blends into the landscape.

Gifford House Museum and Store

On the way back along the scenic road, we stopped to admire the orchards. In the summer, visitors can pick the many fruits including cherries, peaches, pears and apples. Across the street from these orchards is the Gifford House Museum and Store.

The orchards

The orchards

The kids groaned when they heard we had to go into a museum, but it’s more of a cute store that sells gifts and snacks. The back room has some items from the Fruita era, but it’s known for selling pies made from the fruit grown in the park. We were torn between peach pie and cherry pie, but tossed a coin for cherry. It was some of the best I’ve ever had! We sat at a picnic table and enjoyed the cavernous cliffs jutting out of the landscape.

The cherry pie was a welcome treat at the Gifford House.

The cherry pie was a welcome treat at the Gifford House.

Lastly, we took a left turn  did a quick drive past Chimney Rocks and went to the Goosenecks overlook before heading back to Moab. Like Arches and Canyonlands, there is no lodging in the park. Torrey is the nearest town, west of Capitol Reef. For more information, click on Capitol Reef National Park here.