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The East Coast Road Trip: Family Summer Vacation Expedition

Updated: Feb 3

Family Vacation Summer 2014 Itinerary

Fl-->VA-->DC-->NY-->NH-->Boston-->Plattsburg NY-->LI-->VA-->Home

That first “single” trip over winter break had left me ready for more. See Here:

Since getting home I'd already been planning this 2nd and better trip. So much I'd learned and more to look forward to.

I was putting together the pieces together now that I had a vision and a blueprint for making it happen. Summer break could not arrive soon enough! Our bags were packed a week in advance 🌟🌟🌟

Better prepared & I had a vision!

Knowing we were going back "home" to NY with family for the bulk of the trip was the easy part. All the pit stops there and back were the planning pieces!

We left our home in hot and humid Florida after breakfast and drove the first leg up to Chester Virginia, to our friend Kim’s house. She was happy to welcome us back and our families quickly got caught up over her famous orange chicken. Our families were long time friends.

Virginia fun: The next day we joined forces and took all the kids to Jumpology in Richmond Virginia. This is an indoor trampoline park. Now they are popular, but at that time we had never been to one (or even heard of this before) so they jumped and bounced like nobodies business!

From there we were off to Maymont Gardens! On our visit during winter break, everything was dormant and it was still beautiful then. I could not wait to see it all in bloom with the waterfalls running and the roses climbing everywhere. The kids did not disappoint. They climbed ran jumped and posed very naturally as Kim and I were snapping candid pictures of our kids loving life. Something about being free in the outdoors to roam and explore that brings people together….

Washington DC day!

As our Nation’s capital is just two hours from Kim’s house it quickly became a tradition to have a DC day during our trip. This was our second Day in DC together and in my research since the first time I had worked up a bucket list. Well, to be honest the kids fed me ideas. “If we go back, we really need to….” I kept hearing. I kept saying, “yes we are going back, yes we will do that”.

The Washington DC Zoo is free, however you pay $20 for parking. When you have as many kids as we do we are definitely looking for as many free stops as possible. Paying per entry adds up. But I was willing to pay $20.00 to see pandas, as there are only four Zoo's in the US that have pandas. We got there as they were opening (!0:00)and spent a few hours seeing some of the biggest exhibits. Our real plan was just to see the pandas but we also stopped for the Lions and we loved the way they have the most well laid out exhibits. We had a schedule to keep and two hours was all we had. So we ran around and caught the animals we most wanted to and kept it moving.

Union station and the Liberty Bell are our next steps. Actually we did a Union Station lunch stop to grab a bite to eat and some air-conditioning. It was an extremely humid day!

Union Station - What a cool place. So much money has been spent revitalizing through the years. It has been rebuilt many times, and still remains true to the original design. It is over a century old and a National Historic Site, but it’s been a very expensive project. As a visitor, it is awesome. This is still a transportation hub with bus, metro and rail running through. Walking up we took some photos with the Liberty Bell, which is a replica of the original but made by the same French foundry as the original bell in Pennsylvania. It once toured the country to help celebrate the Bicentennial in 1976. Now it is parked outside of Union Station to bring appreciation of history. Walking in the arches are grand. The arched ceiling inside is incredibly high. Gold leaf covers the walls and Greek Statues guard the station from the second floor. We were there for the food court. There are many choices of food and multiple shops in the station. As far as a mall goes it has something for everyone. The view outside is just as grand with the Capital and museums lining the landscape.

Arlington - While we were here in the winter we tried to go to Arlington but it was a little too late to get in and out. We did actually drive in because I insisted on trying. This time we made sure to get there early enough. We parked and walked uphill in the hundred degree weather and our first stop is: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We sat on the steps to take it all in. There in the heat we had the view overlooking view at the top of the hill crest I thought what a great resting place. Beautiful. Serene. Each hour they have a changing of the guards ceremony which we did not have to wait very long to see. Very commemorative and awe inspiring. That really is monumental. We stopped by Kennedy everlasting flame and enjoyed the experience. The flame was lit at his funeral and still burns today. His wife and two children are at rest there with him and JFK is forever remembered. The view at his site is also quite significant. Another moment to just reflect on our history while the kids start asking questions about how he was killed and why.

These are the places that are less central and need a little more driving to get to. So we worked the navigation and worked the outskirts.

Quite different than our first trip to DC, we did completely different things this time around. Josh really wanted to have time to tour the Bureau of Printing and Engraving however tickets are distributed early in the morning and once they are gone, the office closes. We had missed it. He was disappointed and I assured him we would do that when we returned again. We would be back. One of the most interesting things that happens on each trip is we managed to put together our next trip.

D.C. Takeaways:

*Monuments are for the most part always available. Many have 24 hour access and others are limited to 9:30 AM - 10:00 PM. They are also all closer together.

*This trip was trying to hit the outskirts, making a day of seeing the things harder to see.

*Arlington is open at 8:00 AM and closes at 5:00 from Oct. 1 - Mar. 31, and stays open until 7 PM from April 1 - Sept. 30.

*On hot days or rainy days more indoor activities are preferred, however they get very crowded! We were able to have some air conditioning in the middle of a hot day at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Chose your tour times around the hottest/ least desirable parts of the day.

We drove back to Virginia sweaty and tired from our busy day. There was traffic and humidity mixed with a bunch of kids that were hungry ALL the TIME. LOL, we did have good car snacks and lots of drinks. That was a mom win!

Speaking of Mom wins... Kim and I had a Mom's night out! We don't usually get this time together but we went out for a movie and left the kids home!

I had a few different goals for this excursion. This one was about people I LOVE.

Connecting with some of my favorite people I had not seen for a long time.

My old college roommate Loren has come to Florida many times and we had not been up to Boston to visit her since Wes and Jas were little. She was always inviting, and I was always declining for some reason or another. That had to stop. Also my brother Eddie. I had not seen him in years. It had been far too long. He was living about as far Upstate as you can go without being in Canada. I decided we were just going to have to go up there. Of course an invitation and some conversation happened before all of this but a lot of it was still not "scheduled". I had a general idea of certain things but not quite the while trip mapped out. One main point about planning your trip around people is this: People have lives. Schedules. Jobs. I could have insisted we all stick to a particular time and date and stressed everyone out, but instead I allowed some flexibility. Demanding their time and commitment would have taken away from the happy vibe I was going with.

I had really hoped to make it to Niagara Falls on this trip. In my research I determined it best to go to the Canadian side. While I had started this process back in February and applied for passports I had a few hold ups. So basically my kids had received their's and I still did not have mine! I was still not giving up hope that it might come to the house in time for my dog sitter to mail it up to me at my uncles and we could still go for it as it would be another week before I’d need it and it would literally come any day.... That was still an option and I was winging part of this adventure. I wanted to figure out a way to make it happen.

While Niagara Falls didn’t happen a quick accidental drive into Canada did. And putting all the pieces together to make this trip flow, also good with what stops can we add along the way to make the long car rides work turned into quite an adventure!

After another day with our buddies in Chester VA it was time to drive up to NY.

It was our goal to arrive in NY July 3, and be ready to see the fireworks in the City July 4th.

I had a little tradition when Wes and Jas were babies that we’d leave the family bbq about 8:45 PM, and drive on the LIE cutting over to the Kosciuszko Bridge. We could pull over if I timed it just right (and I did) and watch the firework display over the Hudson River before quickly jumping back on the LIE East bound and beating the traffic home. I cannot emphasize this enough: I love the 4th of July in NYC. Every other 4th of July pales next to it. There is no other firework show comparable anywhere that I have been. I wanted my kids to get to feel the fireworks in their chest. All those barges simultaneously playing to the music where you have the most beautiful backdrop and the world around you is perfect just for a moment. Yes take me there!

Since 9/11 we could no longer pull over on bridges - or you would quickly get shoo’ d along. That was considered highly suspicious now. So I had to research the best places to see the fireworks and find a spot that we could stay and hang out for a while. However I knew that getting out and back to my uncles would be a priority as well. The traffic can be ungodly in moments such as these.

4th of July - NYC:

Lucky I checked channel 12 news that morning, because this year they moved the fireworks farther south. My original plan was to take a train into the city, but I did some good research that proved Brooklyn Bridge Park would be the right place for us to go! It was a 40 minute drive and we could park (for free) then hang out in the area and wait till the fireworks. And wow. Wow. Wow. Favorite time ever.

My first impression of Brooklyn Bridge Park was: why haven’t I ever been here before??

Another revitalized project, this vast area of scenic city skyline views has all a family needs to be happy. A previously deteriorated industrial space was transformed, and now a park that allows New Yorkers to rediscover the waterfront exists. Gardens, play grounds, rock climbing, food trucks, hills, benches, sand boxes, volley ball nets, kayaking…. I knew this was going on my list of places I’d have to come back and spend time at when it wasn’t a huge national holiday with a crowd.

Our timing was good. I parked a few blocks away and as we walked up we stopped for street hot dogs and pretzels (YAY!) and on this particular day I’d been worried because it had been raining all morning. I wasn’t sure how the weather would hold out so at 3:00 in the afternoon when there was a glimmer of sun I quickly threw everyone in the car and got happy again.

I was however tired. I found a higher place to sit and there I laid out some blankets to claim our space. The kids walked around a little, wandered a bit, but for the most part I held our spot. It can be very competitive to get a good view - you know how real estate is: location location location!!!!

And then…. The water boats came. They are marvelous! Up and down the river with their red and blue water spray. That cheers up a crowd. The many yachts offering 4th of July views started passing with their party crowds. The people were definitely cheering up and the energy is contagious. I'd missed this all the years I watched from the bridge. Wow. I never knew.

As the sky darkened our anticipation grew! Finally the fireworks started with a huge (startling) explosion right off of the Brooklyn Bridge and suddenly all my joy flooded over. The lights, the coordinated six barges of fireworks in the Hudson with the city back drop and the bridge just over head – was PERFECT. It was one of those moments. The display did not disappoint. Not a person there stood unsatisfied!

I didn’t even care that I sat in a parking lot weaving through Brooklyn to get back to the Belt PKWY. Traffic was backed up and I was still happy, music up and singing my songs.

I said this trip was all about catching up with people I hadn’t seen in a while – and July 5th was a drive up to the Smith home for a family party!

Smith family party – Our longtime friends, Simone and James (Aka LL Cool J) were hosting a family cook out and we were there ready to eat and have fun! The kids played basketball with the other kids, I mingled with the ladies, and we all danced when the DJ spun some records. The kids played hide and seek around the house, and we all chatted and caught up before heading home. Some of my favorite people in the Universe – it doesn’t matter how long you go without talking those friendship bonds once built strong don’t break. Time and Space mean nothing to connection.

Oyster Bay & Glen Cove – The next day I did my “memory lane” drive. The kids just humor me for this one. It’s like I can’t take it anymore I want to go drive by all the places I’ve lived and show them my schools, the park, and all my little favorites. Tell stories, reminisce…. Oyster Bay is a little hamlet on the North Shore of Long Island. It is pretty historic too, lots of revolutionary war history. Growing up we’d walk by Raynham Hall a few times a day and even stop in on the rainy days. Robert Townsend was the spy that gave George Washington the invisible ink letters that saved the Country from a British attack. This was a very proud moment for Oyster Bay ever since, not to mention they say Raynham Hall is haunted... There is Sagamore Hill where Teddy Roosevelt conducted his summer business and ran the country from the beautiful Oyster Bay Estate. My grandmother lived just a mile down the road from there. I’d had lots of family members who worked on the Roosevelt Estate, and a great uncle who lost his job after punching Quentin Roosevelt in the nose. OB is known for mansions and beautiful estates, and a quaint little down town village area. I hated growing up there. You know the “nothing to do” line, but I am so glad this is where I grew up and built a foundation. It was a small town but we didn’t know it. We had the best of everything. Quality everything. No one knew it yet but this laid the grounds for high expectations and appreciation of the finer things.

So we drive. I tell stories. There is of course a Nino’s stop because it’s the best pizza in the world. My high school friend Maria meets us at the hot dog stand, the famous “Bonanza Stand” or better known as “Chinks” and we get Italian ices and walk through Roosevelt Park talking and the kids climb the sea walls and hunt for cool things in the sand. The LIRR, the train station (this is the LAST stop on the line) and Audrey Avenue all hold so much meaning to me. I lived here, on the corner of Hamilton right next to the train station. This was where I am from. We part with Maria and drive up to Glen Cove Road housing apartments. We pop in unexpectedly to see our Great Aunt and visit them for a little bit reminiscing. I used to live there too. The corner apartment in the back 50-19. This place made me who I am. Ok, we are on our way to our next stop, in Glen Cove. Growing up on the North Shore I could be in the City in an hour. I lived on the Bay and could be at the Atlantic Ocean in 30 minutes. I would be out East in the beautiful country in an hour, or in the mountains in 2 hours. We had everything we wanted with in reach.

Glen Cove is the next town over. Chicken Valley Road is the curvy windy hilly road connecting them and it is fun to see how fast you can drive and still stay in the lines… Well as a kid learning to drive it is – as an adult you actually look around at the horses and ducks and beautiful properties appreciating all of the manicured landscaping and attention to detail. The cool thing about Glen Cove is it has “old money” too, but is more industrial and actually has things to do. It’s a city in the country. (Or is it a Country with in a city?) Growing up we had to go to Glen Cove for fast food because OB was too prissy for that, (but Junior year they gave in and built a McDonald's on Pine Hollow Road. Jessica Craft and I would walk almost 2 miles with no money and by the time we would get to McDonald's we’d have enough money to eat somehow lol)….

But back to Glen Cove… the movie theater was my first real job. I took the train there and loved that I could see free movies. Glen Cove has two stops on the LIRR, Glen Street and Glen Cove. But what I love about Glen Cove is the beaches and the Indian (Native) history. The Matinecock history told at Garvies Preserve and Museum showcase lots of relics and archaeological references. Morgan’s Memorial Park and Beach, donated by JP Morgan has a view and trails that are meant to be taken in completely. The Killenworth Estate, which was purchased by the Russians is right by the Preserve and Park, so we always get to tell those stories. Crescent Beach and Prybil Beach, along with Garvies Point all needed our visit today. You'd think multiple beaches in the same town are the same... but they are each unique.

I wish I’d paid more attention to the stories growing up that I was not impressed by. I have a feeling they were more important than I’d imagined. I do know, Thomas Garvie discovered large deposits of clay on his property, and used it to make pottery. This is now Garvie’s Point. The Cultural appreciation here is so prevalent. While the entire city is known for diversity, it appreciated the customs of the natives and there are many educational events. So we go, run around, check out the glacial boulders, horseshoe crabs, and dig in the earth a little to see the red clay beneath the surface. This was once my back yard. I had no appreciation then but I just want my kids to understand.

Well back to the South Shore we go, driving to Massapequa. There was always a route argument when going to see my Mom and Grandma. My mom swore 106 was fastest. My grandmother preferred the back road up Jericho TNPK to the 135. GPS cheats and maps my fastest route and today: Grandma was right.

While we spend our days out and about our evenings we are chilling with Uncle Bill, watching his favorite shows and catching up. I like to give him some time to himself as he sleeps pretty late, and keep the house quiet for him. He get's some privacy to wake up and then we return from where ever we've been out at, and hang out for a few hours before we all go sleepily to bed. This evening I’m showing him how different grandma’s house is and reliving the steps of good old Oyster Bay….He has his own stories to tell too. Aaahhhh the good old days. And you know, it's not like it used to be...

New Hampshire - Loren’s House

Back on the Road! Next Stop: New Hampshire. Loren and I were college roomie's from the Fashion Institute of Technology. In fact we shared an apartment on the 15th floor of 7th & W. 27th St. while I was pregnant with Westley :-) After graduation she went back to Massachusetts and I went back to Long Island. We had visited each other a few times during school breaks back in the day. She had since left Boston and moved up to New Hampshire, and been telling us to come up for years. The day had finally arrived!!!

The night we got there we went out for Chinese food, which my kids absolutely loved and I think I was so hungry I barely tasted it. I was super tired from all the driving and she set us up in her spare room where me and Jas both went to bed pretty early. The boys were set up in her Living room and they were so impressed with her “smart TV” (these were the new thing at the time) I don’t think they slept the whole time we stayed! It was just a few days, but we absolutely monopolized on the area. Loren was ready to show us all around!

Jackson Falls White Mountains New Hampshire – We woke up early and took our cooler because we had an exciting day going up into the mountains.

Loren is the mother of two pugs, Makenzie and Chloe. They came on our adventure ready to explore along with us. Darrien, is definitely our most animal loving family member and he played with the dogs the entire ride. Chloe, who is not too fond of strangers had no choice but to warm up!

Jackson Falls - Loren and I have been known to hike for water falls and go for long walks, but this day we hit the jack pot! The cascading waterfalls sound magnificent, and the trees and remote location feel like a private tucked away heaven. The Wild Cat River is the shortest Wild River in the US and here it tumbles down boulders and worn granite slabs creating many pools kids can jump in. There are trails in the water to cross the water way. The rocky slabs underfoot are very slippery and at first we were really scared we would get pushed over the edge. We did get brave and climb, wander, explore, and wade across the river (very carefully). The boys went under the cave like rocks and hid behind the waterfalls. I took a million pictures. Jas took a glorious nap, surprised to wake up sun burnt. The pups were just as happy in their life vests to walk around and smell everything in the area. We had our picnic lunch up there under the trees on the rocky platforms that seemed to have been put there for us to enjoy.

The kancamangus Highway scenic trail – The heart of the White Mountains holds a twisty turvy mountainous road that winds around displaying the most amazing views. I am sure in the autumn it is splendid with a variety of colors. This warm July Day it was cooler, shadier, and still bright and sunny. How interesting the land is along the East Coast. How the weather can be so drastically different from one place to another just seemingly up the road. But fresh air and higher elevation help you feel your lungs filtering the clean breaths with every inhale. We were having a great time stopping to see the overlook points and vouging (cue Madonna) on the side of the mountain! This 34 mile East – West Highway was not very crowded on this particular day giving us the freedom to drive slow, get out, stop for climbing random boulders, explore and enjoy! Loren was a great driver and we all sat in wonder watching the mountains stretch on forever.

Back at Loren’s we were in for a good night’s sleep!


The best way to see Boston is definitely with a native of the area. Loren was very accommodating taking us around and making sure we saw everything. I think one of the highlights is you can really see all of Boston in one day. We were able to walk all around the city and as tired as our legs were, we had seen it all!

We had been there once before when Wes and Jazz were little and we did the duck pond, going out into the paddle boats. The Boston Children’s Museum was one of our favorite places for many years but this time we were all a little too grown for that :-)