A fly drive holiday along the Blue Ridge Parkway, an All American Road National Scenic Byway, takes you from Shenandoah National Park in Northern Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. It is an opportunity to take life at a slower pace, enjoying incomparable views as you weave your way through the Appalachian mountains.
As a driving adventure, the Blue Ridge Parkway tops the list of scenic beauty for many. The holiday experience is further enhanced by the historic towns and attractions along the way, plus lodging in cosy B&B's, boutique hotels or historic lodges with some of the most welcoming inn-keepers in the USA.
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America's capital city offers attractions and activities for everyone - from the memorials and monuments along the National Mall to the Smithsonian Museums and National Zoo. And, when it comes to history there's a lot crammed into a relatively small area. You can gaze at the Declaration of Independence, the parchment with John Hancock’s signature scribbled across it at the National Archives; stand where Martin Luther King Jr gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on the Lincoln Memorial steps; stroll around the Watergate building that got Nixon into trouble; see the flag that inspired the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at the National Museum of American History; and stand in the spot where Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre.
You'll also discover a collection of vibrant neighbourhoods, a booming food scene and superb hotels and amenities.
Distance: 53 miles
Winchester, the oldest English settlement west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, derived power from its proximity to the Washington region, as well as its position as the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley. Historic structures in Winchester date from the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the Civil War. A stroll along the beautiful tree-lined streets has you walking the very same routes once trod by the individuals who shaped America with their courage. Early homes, such as the George Reed House, were built entirely of stone with a store on the ground floor and living quarters upstairs. The Red Lion Tavern, built around 1783 by a member of Daniel Morgan’s Riflemen, is a small restored limestone building.
Take in Abram’s Delight, a true treasure and the oldest house in Winchester. Built in 1754, it was home to the Hollingsworth family, Quakers who moved to the region from Britain to avoid religious persecution. The home is now a museum furnished with irreplaceable treasures owned by the original family. Just outside downtown, the Glen Burnie House Museum is surrounded by six acres of beautiful formal gardens. It is furnished with 18th and 19th century antiques, paintings and decorative art collected by Julian Wood Glass Jr, the last descendent of the original builder to live in the house. Glen Burnie is also home to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley dedicated to the history, art, and culture of the Shenandoah Valley.
Distance: 113 miles
Plan to stop just south of Winchester this morning at the Belle Grove Plantation. Built in 1797, as you approach this mansion, you’ll understand immediately that it was designed as an ostentatious display of the owner’s wealth and social prestige for a First Family of Virginia that included the sister of President James Madison. Built of limestone quarried on the property, it was sited to have incredible views across the valley. Today, the property includes the main house, formal gardens, the overseer’s house and a slave cemetery, that you can tour.
Front Royal is the official starting point of the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. Referred to as America’s Favourite Drive. This 469-mile route ends in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and is a relaxing drive with panoramic vistas and close up views of the mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands.
The 105 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway that snakes its way through the Shenandoah National Park is known as Skyline Drive, and is the highest point of the Appalachian Mountains. With the park’s width varying from less than a mile to 13 miles, the views from the peaks and 75 overlooks of this scenic route are astonishingly beautiful. Be sure to keep an eye out for deer, black bear, raccoons and over 200 species of local and migratory birds as you weave your way through the park.
Harrisonburg is a great base for exploring this area.
Distance: 73 miles
Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, is one of the most interesting homes in North America. Named a World Heritage Treasure by the United Nations, Monticello is a magnificent mountaintop mansion built of graciously balanced neo-classical architecture. Jefferson’s fascination with science, art, and many common sense applications of technology are on display inside. Outside, Jefferson created gardens as his “workhouse of nature” and interestingly, was responsible for the entire wine industry in America, having introduced the first grapes from France on his plantation.
Further along the Virginia Scenic Byways is Montpellier, the 2,700 acre home of President James Madison and his wife Dolley. The property has completed a restoration to remove recent additions and reduce the house to the 22-room home actually occupied by President Madison’s family. The James Madison Landmark Forest, a National Natural Landmark occupies a portion of the land.
If it’s time for an early dinner, when leaving Montpelier, Barboursville Vineyards has a fabulous restaurant.
Distance: 117 miles
Humpback Rocks, a working farm, is reminiscent of a 19th century frontier settlement. The rough hewn buildings designed with innovative solutions to cooling, heating and other daily needs, challenge some of the misconceptions and stereotypes that have developed around the lives of early mountain settlers.When you arrive in Lexington, take the Lexington Historic Walking Tour to begin your visit. At the end, stroll through the campus of Washington and Lee University. The university changed its name to Washington and Lee University when famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee came to teach after the Civil War. The Lee Chapel, built under his supervision, remains the way Lee left it 135 years ago.
Explore the Stonewall Jackson House, the only home ever owned by the Civil War General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The George C. Marshall Museum and Library on the VMI campus was founded by President Harry Truman in 1953 to honour Marshall, who helped rebuild Europe after the World War II and also served as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence in the Truman administration. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.About 10 miles south of Lexington, Otter Creek Visitor Center is the trail head for the 3.5 mile Otter Creek Trail that follows the creek down to the James River Visitors Center. The James River Canal Trail takes you to the restored James River and Kanawha Canal Lock built between 1845 and 1851.
After another pleasant drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll arrive in Roanoke for the evening.
Distance: 62 miles
Between Roanoke and Southern Virginia, you can visit Smithfield Plantation, which predated the American Revolution. Nestled in southern Virginia, only a stone's throw from the North Carolina border is Meadows of Dan. "The Mountain" as it's locally known, has been settled for generations from the 1820s.
In this region you can also experience old-time and bluegrass music on the state's Crooked Road music trail, visit quaint antique stores, or simply just enjoy the serene and picturesque surroundings.
Distance: 188 miles
Cross the border into North Carolina and consider a stop at The Museum of North Carolina Minerals, en route to Asheville. This is located near Linville Falls near Gillespie Gap which was an important stop for the Overmountain Men of western North Carolina who made their way to the Battle of Kings Mountain. The museum introduces you to the minerals and gems found in the mountains as well as exhibits about the famous battle that took place here. Further along, you'll notice the change in scenery and cool mountain air similar to the Jura Mountains of Switzerland. This is why the settlers in this region came to name their new home Little Switzerland. The quaint little village has everything from the Switzerland Inn, serving guests since 1910, to a Book Exchange and Gemstone Mine.
A short drive from North Carolina’s 'Swiss Alps' is Crabtree Meadows the last stretch of Parkway through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The drive up Mount Mitchell in Mount Mitchell State Park takes you to within two-tenths of a mile of the top of the peak that’s more than a mile high, the highest point east of the Mississippi. On a clear day, you can see for miles. A must-do is the magnificent Biltmore Estate. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt in 1895 as a country retreat, the 250 room Biltmore Estate is America’s largest home. It's hard to believe this opulent French Renaissance Chateau was once a self-sustaining working farm. So many priceless treasures have been added over the years making it easy to spend most of the day exploring it.
Distance: 221 miles
On your way south, into the Peach Tree State of Georgia, consider a detour into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, this park encompasses lush forest, wildlife and an abundance of wildflowers that bloom year-round. Hiking routes are plenty and some include a segment of the Appalachian Trail. If you are only in the park for a short time, be sure to head for Clingman's Dome, a high observation tower offering scenic views of the mist-covered mountains.
Bon Voyage offer cabin and lodge accommodation around Great Smoky National Park is you'd like to extend your time here - just ask your Bon Voyage consultant. Or, continue on to Georgia's capital - Atlanta.
Typically, the flight from Atlanta to the UK doesn't depart until the early evening allowing you a full day to explore. From the Civil War to Civil Rights, Atlanta has played a key role in U.S. history. Visit the Margaret Mitchell House, the home where the famous author wrote one of the greatest American novels, “Gone with the Wind”. Atlanta is also one of only two cities in the world to claim two Nobel Peace Prize winners: Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Jimmy Carter. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and Ebenezer Baptist Church are located within the Sweet Auburn Historic District, once the wealthiest black community in America and a focal point for the American civil rights movement.
Also visit the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum which features a replica of the Oval Office during Carter’s term and includes exhibits that chronicle his journey to the presidency.