Road Trip from DC to FL: Everywhere to Stop Along the Wayby Elizabeth MacDonald
As you have read, I just completed 3000 miles with my 4 young children in tow. I had planned to spend 23 days and cover 2300 miles, but plans changed when I added in an epic surprise at the end of the trip! We added 2 extra days and a few extra miles that were well worth it! Have you ever thought about driving with your kids somewhere, but don’t know where to start? Or are you too scared to attempt the drive solo, leaving your partner behind to work? Adventure doesn’t wait for anyone.If we sat around waiting for my husband to take off, we would be waiting forever – and take very short trips. When I began planning this trip, I decided to document the entire thing. By day 15, it had turned itself into its own blog! I am loving talking to other parents about travel ideas and creative ways to entertain kids on the road. I’ll start with this, take the time to really plan your trip. Budget things out, and call all museums and other destinations in advanced and ask for discounts. So many places will grant you a BOGO admission, or at least offer something if you call and explain your road trip plans and expectations. Pack well, portion snacks, and have a list of all the addresses you will be stopping at.
We stayed in Hilton and Hampton Inn hotels along the way. They were always in easy locations, had excellent customer service, free wi-fi a pool, spacious rooms, easy food delivery, free breakfast, and occasionally a happy hour! Cracker Barrel was our main source of mealtime foods over the month. I think we ate at 5-7 different locations. Dairy Queen also serves milkshakes without egg in them. I’m sure they are full of other crap, but my allergy-child could drink them! Discovery Place Kids: A hands-on museum for kids of young ages. My kids had a BLAST here. You walk into an entire town set in kid-sized pieces. If you are near Huntersville, be sure to stop here.
Charleston Aquarium: After a morning at the pool with friends, we headed downtown for an afternoon with the fish. The two year old slept through the entire experience, but my 7-year-old was so excited to see sea-horses! We happened to walk in just as a scuba diver was giving a lecture on sharks!
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens: I have never heard my 2 year old squeal as loud as her did running through the zoo! It was so incredibly hot outside, but the zoo was basically empty (Another reason we love homeschooling!) We were disappointed that the giraffes didn’t want to be fed, and that the carousel was not open, but the train ride made up for it all! The gardens are breath-taking, and the splash pad area helped everyone stay happy.
Museum of Science and History (MOSH): A smaller museum located in Jacksonville, FL, MOSH provides great science information. We attended the science experiment lesson and my kids were chosen to partake in the experiments!
St. Augustine Beach: Boogie boards were purchased, and my husband was flown in. We spent a week at the beach with family. Always look into renting a house within walking distance to the beach.
St. Augustine Fort: What a history lesson! The kids became Jr. Rangers!
Mini Golf: It was our first family mini-golf experience in a few years. It was a great way to kill an afternoon. There are so many different places to play near the beach, you can’t go wrong.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: Eh. This one was not my favorite – or my kids’ favorite. You need to be really into weird things to want to drop your money here.
Fountain of Youth: I chugged so much from the fountain, I should plan to live forever. The grounds are just spectacular here. You get to hear the cannon fire, see historic reenactments, and taste the fountain water. There are also hundreds of peacocks walking around!
PUBLIX SUB STATION: This should be a landmark, as a Publix sub needs to be on everyone’s list of travel foods.
Young at Art: We spent SIX hours here. The weather was horrible and this was the perfect activity. Art exhibits, hands-on experiences, play areas, homemade puppets. My kids did not want to leave.
Funderdome: A glorified arcade with rock climbing and a small ropes course, but it was a mega-hit with the kids. I wouldn’t put this on a map as a special destination, but if you are in the area and need to play while a storm rolls through, this will work!
Disney World Dolphin Resort: I surprised the kids with 2 nights on Disney property before we headed back home. This resort is just gorgeous! It was lacking the ‘Mickey’ feel though. I wish it would have been a little more child-disney-friendly, but I really can’t complain. Our room had an evening view of the fireworks; we could walk to the boardwalk, and we had so many food selections!
Magic Kingdom: We spent a day inside the park, and if you only have a day, you do Magic Kingdom with kids. We met Buzz Lightyear, fast passed our way from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland, and raced around the speedway! Everyone had a pair of ears and shirts to bring home – and a few swords and princess dresses. The kids are still thanking me for this surprise. We would not have been able to pull this surprise off without renting a double stroller from Magic Strollers. It was already waiting at our hotel for us, and was perfectly clean and easy to use. It made a day at the park a breeze.
Fort King George: A great place to meet friends, hike, and explore the old fort. The kids had a great time climbing the old bunk beds and watching candles be made.
The Tire Repair Shop: Of course my tire exploded within 15 minutes of home after this entire trip.