Category Archives: Virginia

blue ridge parkway in winter - travelammo

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway this winter

Right at the heart of the Appalachian mountain range runs one of the United States most famous mountain ridges, The Blue Ridge mountains. Running from Georgia in the south and as far north as Pennsylvania, the Blue Ridge Mountains range takes in seven states as it runs from north to south. The mountain range encompasses two of the largest state parks in eastern America, the Great Smokey Mountains State park to the south and the Shenandoah National Park to the north.

blue ridge parkway - travelammoKnowing where to start with any visit to this vast area of picture perfect mountain landscapes can be a slightly daunting thought, and that’s why in 1935 the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began. Providing a scenic road giving everyone the opportunity to explore the mountain peaks, vast forests and delicate wildlife whilst providing protection to environment were the main goals and fifty two years later the goal was achieved with the completion of the final section of the parkway. The parkway to this day remains the most visited property within the National Park Service and it has been that way almost every year since the mid 1940s.

Frozen blue ridge mountainsWhilst the parkway is both beautiful and at its most popular during the summer months, with the exception of fall when tens of thousands flock to see the beautiful changes in color, winter in the Blue Ridge has a very different kind of beauty and is worth the little extra effort needed when visiting. During winter lots of the parkway may be closed and therefore it is almost impossible to drive the entire length. However, large sections of the road are well maintained all year round and with a little forward planning it is possible to hop on and off to see the best sections popular in winter and therefore most likely to be cleared of snow etc.

ice crystal tree blue ridge mountainsDuring the winter months most of the upper reaches of the parkway go into deep freeze, this might not sound like fun but offers without doubt the most spectacular view of the mountains only available at this time of year. Frozen waterfalls, snow capped mountains, icy cold partially frozen boulder filled rivers and trees coated with the most delicate ice crystal frosting lead your eyes from one beautiful scene to the next.

winter mountainBeing winter, wildlife including the Black Bears will be tucked away hibernating for the season. This does not for one moment mean the opportunity to see some of this delicate ecosystems wildlife is only for the summer months. With the trees free of leaves and the view endless the opportunities to spot bird life is like no other and the land mammals like large white tail dear and wild boar will be spotted easier less the camouflage provided by the tree tops. Still, Animals are masters of disguise and they know they are spotted easier so you may have to look a little harder and be patient.

frozen Great smokey mountainsWhilst most of the tourist attractions along the route are closed this also means traffic is non existent and crowds are no where to be seen. Blissful peace, quiet and tranquility is what you will get along your drive and the opportunities to pull over and get out and take in the chilled mountain air are plenty. You will of course still find amenities and food stops open along the way, just expect to come off the trail a little further to reach them. With most of the large tourist type restaurants closed for winter, when you do find somewhere to stop and fill up, the chances are it will be a smaller family run establishment and you will be rewarded with a warm, friendly and unhurried welcome along with the chance to warm up on some hot soup and fresh bread or a hearty home cooked meal.

froze icicles great smokey mountains travelammoWhen planing your journey some forward thinking is needed. The parkway is vast and does not have junctions around every turn, after all, it is designed to be a leisurely drive away from the traffic so junctions, traffic lights and intersections you will not find, if fact you will be hard pressed to see another road from most of it such is the great design. Winter brings its own issues as there is probably going to be many short closures due to weather.

The initial entrance in the south is just north of Cherokee in North Carolina on US-441, from there it snakes its way across the mountain peaks towards Ashville before turning north past Mount Mitchell. Clinging to the very peak of the mountain ridge between the US-19E and the US-221 the next civilization will be found when crossing the US-221 at Linville Falls. Winding further NE passing Grandfather Mountain and on towards Boone the parkway crosses US- 321 at blowing rock then continues to follow the ridge, passing the border into Virginia reaching the I-77 at Fancy Gap. Continuing east, then north east easing around the Rocky Knob recreation area the scenic parkway rejoins the route parallel to US-221 before bypassing the city of Roanoke. North of the City and passing US-460 the route continues on through the dense woodlands of northern Virginia until it reaches state highway 56. Unfortunately the section north of here is normally closed throughout winter until it reaches I-64 where the Blue Ridge parkway ends. Technically the route continues a lot further north but beyond I-64 the route becomes the Skyline Drive.

Key areas of interest, viewpoints and attractions along the Blue Ridge Parkway:

Traveling South to North.

  • Maggie Valley and the Chattahoochee Ski Area – US-19
  • Mt Mitchell State Park
  • Linville Caverns – South of Linville falls on US 221
  • Grandfather mountain – North of Linville on US-221
  • Appalachian Ski Mountain – North of Blowing Rock US-321
  • Chateau Morrisette Winery and Restaurant – North of US-58
  • Wintergreen Resort ski area – South of I-64

Please note:

No drive through the scenic parkway should be rushed both for safety and so you don’t miss out on whats outside, in fact a lot of the parkways 469 miles have speed limits under 30 miles an hour and for very good reason, especially in winter. Vast stretches of the road are delicately perched on the side of the mountain ridges and its not the place where you want to be involved in an accident.

Please take care to pack appropriate clothing and supplies and ensure you are able to self rescue or maintain health should you need to wait for assistance for any reason.

Please do check the NPS website for road closures along the parkway before travel and don’t get caught out. If the road likes impassable ahead, do not risk it. Please adhere to closure signs and warnings, they are there for your safety. Check Live Closures here

Quick Facts:

    • The parkway totals 469 miles in length.
    • Passes through 2 states.
    • Most visited of all the NPS Properties.
    • Peak elevation 2037m ( 6684 ft ) Mt Mitchell

Nearby destinations and city’s:

External Links:

Guide to I-95 Rest Areas, Service Areas and Welcome Centers

I-95 is approximately 1850 miles in length and for anyone driving long sections of the Interstate might need to take a break, fill up with Gas or grab something to eat.

I-95 like many Interstates has a good selection of rest areas, Service areas and Welcome centers along the way at regular intervals and below we will try and highlight the majority both north to south and vice versa.

Rest Areas – These are commonly directly at the side of the interstate and include picnic areas and Toilets. Some also have BBQ pits available, sheltered seating areas, dog walking zones and vending facilities.

Service Areas – Often located at major junctions or in the center of the highway these commonly include Gas stations and restaurants like McDonald’s etc.

Welcome Centers – With similar facilities as rest areas these are slightly larger, located just after entering a state and include often staffed tourism offices.

Format: Mile Marker – RA = Rest Area,  SA = Service Area

Remember : Mile Markers always start from the southern state border and start over in each state.

Rest Areas, Services and Welcome Centers travelling South:

    • Maine I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 237 – RA
      • 176 – RA
      • 117 – RA
      • 102 – SA
      • 83 – SA
      • 58 – SA
    • Massachusetts I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 90 – Welcome Center
      • 38 – SA
      • 27 – RA
      • 9 – RA
    • Connecticut I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 106 – Welcome Center
      • 74 – RA
      • 66 – SA
      • 52 – SA
      • 41 – SA
      • 23 – SA
      • 10 – SA
    • New Jersey I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 113 – SA
      • 94 – SA
      • 72 – SA
      • 59 – SA
      • 29 – SA
      • 8 – SA
    • Delaware I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 5 – SA
    • Maryland I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 98 – SA
      • 83 – SA
      • 36 – RA
    • Virginia I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 155 – RA
      • 132 – RA
      • 108 – RA
    • North Carolina I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 181 – Welcome Center
      • 142 – RA
      • 99 – RA
      • 48 – RA
    • South Carolina I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 195 – Welcome Center
      • 172 – RA
      • 139 – RA
      • 99 – RA
      • 47 – RA
      • 17 – RA
    • Georgia I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 111 – Welcome Center
      • 40 – RA
    • Florida I95 Rest Area Locations:
      • 375 – Welcome Center
      • 331 – RA
      • 302 – RA
      • 255 – RA
      • 227 – RA
      • 209 – RA
      • 189 – RA
      • 169 – RA
      • 133 – RA
      • 106 – RA

Rest Areas, Services and Welcome Centers on I95, South to North:

    • Florida I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 106 – RA
      • 133 – RA
      • 168 – RA
      • 189 – RA
      • 209 – RA
      • 225 – RA
      • 254 – RA
      • 303 – RA
      • 331 – RA
    • Georgia I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 1 – Welcome Center
    • South Carolina I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 5 – Welcome Center
      • 17 – RA
      • 47 – RA
      • 99 – RA
      • 139 – RA
      • 172 – RA
    • North Carolina I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 5 – Welcome Center
      • 48 – RA
      • 99 – RA
      • 142 – RA

 

    • Virginia I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 1 – Welcome Center
      • 35 – RA
      • 108 – RA
      • 155 – RA
    • Maryland I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 36 – RA
      • 83 – SA
      • 98 – SA
    • Delaware I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 5 – SA
    • New Jersey I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 8 – SA
      • 39 – SA
      • 59 – SA
      • 79 – SA
      • 94 – SA
      • 102 – SA
      • 111 – SA
    • Connecticut I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 12 – SA
      • 23 – SA
      • 41 – SA
      • 52 – SA
      • 66 – SA
      • 74 – RA
    • Rhode Island I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 8 – Welcome Center
    • Massachusetts I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 10 – Welcome Center
      • 46 – SA
    • New Hampshire I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 1 – Welcome Center
    • Maine I95 Rest Areas Heading North:
      • 3 – Welcome Center
      • 25 – SA
      • 59 – SA
      • 98 – SA
      • 102 – SA
      • 141 – RA
      • 176 – RA
      • 237 – RA
      • 245 – RA

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Take in the east coast of the USA – Drive I-95

When holiday makers dream of a road trip in america, route 66 is usually the first hing that comes to mind. Although of course this is one of the most famous tourist drives in the United States, holidays makers planning a trip to North America would be wise to consider the alternatives such as driving I-95.

Palm Lined I95 TravelammoWhilst there is nothing wrong with traveling the length of Route 66, it is certainly a worthwhile adventure, Interstate 95 has just as much to offer. What other road trip could honestly offer the beauty of the Maine’s green and lush countryside, Cities like New York and Washington DC, the southern states with their rich culture and of course the glorious sunshine state of Florida. Driving from north to south though several climate zones, temperatures will warm with everyday and the scenery will transform from green pastures, though dense pine forests on to the tropical surroundings and palms of the everglades and Florida Keys.

Boston Massachusetts - TravelammoOur Favored direction would be north to south and to allow as many days as your trip allows to rest and relax in the warmth and sunshine of Florida before your long flight home, this is especially relevant if only driving the one way. Allowing a good few days in your final destination also gives flexibility should you find extra stop offs and places of interest along your drive, the need for an extra over night on route wont be a problem knowing you have flexible nights at the end of your stay.

What states does the I-95 take you through?

Beginning in Maine right on the border with Canada, I-95 continues on through the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and finally Florida.

River Street Savannah TravelammoThe I-95, being a major trunk road for traffic heading north and south on the east coast of the United States, there is certainly no shortage of places to get your head down for the night. With many major cities dotted along the route accommodation options are plentiful form metropolitan hotels in the heart of the cities to easy and cheap motels alongside the Interstate.

Florida Sign - TravelammoThroughout the journey along I-95, like many interstates there is plenty of rest areas, virtually all of which are extremely well maintained and provide picnic areas, vending machines, toilets and tourist information services. On the border of each state you will find Welcome centers, we thoroughly recommend these as stop off points as they include all the rest area services along with usually manned tourist information offices packed with knowledgeable staff, Info leaflets and vouchers. Handy state maps are unusually on offer for free also.

Of course with any road trip a little planning is wise although not necessary, as long as you arrive at your final destination on time and you’ve packed plenty in then you will have for filled your goal. That is the great thing about driving a single interstate, you have your plan, its already printed on a map, the adventure is discovering whats along the way. Booking hotels is not even essential as almost all will accept walk ins, although costs will always be higher. We do however recommend that you choose the places you wish to spend some time in and make these you key objectives which will dictate your driving needs.

Route highlights:

    • Explore the historic Coast of Rhode Island.
    • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    • New York, New York.
    • Boston, Massachusetts.
    • Washington DC.
    • Savannah, Georgia.
    • Daytona Beach, Florida.
    • Cocoa Beach, Florida.
    • Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
    • Miami, Florida.

If your looking to explore further afield from the interstate then there is even more on offer including Kill devil Hills and the Wright Brothers museum on the outer banks of north Carolina, Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

Top Tips:

  • Plan your driving distance each day so you don’t spend endless hours on the road.
  • Get off the interstate and plan time for unexpected finds.
  • Do stop in all the Welcome centers and browse the information of offer.
  • Don`t rush and take in the view.
  • Mix your accommodation types, Plush hotels are great but nothing beats the ease of a Motel just of the route.
  • Personally we have found a long drive like this is more pleasurably in a large SUV rental, it affords the comfort and extra space that will make the journey much more comfortable when spending lengthy times in the car. Remember it will also be your daytime home.

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