In August, we took a trip down to North Carolina for Dan’s cousin’s wedding. It was a beautiful wedding and wonderful to spend time with his extended family all together. We had picnics and boat rides and lots of cousin time.
When it came time to drive back home, of course we opened up our National Park passport to see what National Park spots we could stop at on the way home. Right on our way home was the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. We explored the Visitor Center and learned the history of the park, which was the location of the largest battle of the Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaign. It was a turning point for the Revolution War; many countrymen without much training fought this battle for their freedom. They had a driving loop with stops and hikes where you could read even more about this battle. It’s a great historical park and it was a fun stop for us.
We left Bar Harbor early in the morning, partly because a water mane had broken and the whole area was left without water. That meant no teeth brushing or showers, so we just packed up and hit the road early. We didn’t have much of a plan (I’m a Type A planner and was trying to be a little spontaneous), but we knew we wanted to hit some of the other New England States. We decided to check out the Cape Cod National Seashore, so we drove through Boston (which had TERRIBLE traffic), and made it to Cape Cod in the early afternoon. We quickly stopped in to the visitor center to get a map and our passport stamped, and then drove to the parking lot to catch a shuttle to the seashore. In the national seashore, you are not allowed to drive, but must take the shuttle from the parking area. It’s a couple of miles away, but the shuttle was nice and it wasn’t too busy. When we got to the beach, we couldn’t believe how beautiful it was! Our shuttle driver told us that the Cape Cod National Seashore is frequently ranked as one of the best five beaches in the country, and I can understand why. The beach is clean and natural (there wasn’t any commercialization close to the beach, which is a big plus for being protected by the National Parks Department). We could also see lots of seals bobbing in the water.
We had a great time playing in the sand and the waves and pointing out the seals as they came up. We only stayed a few hours, and then drove through Rhode Island and stopped for Chick fil a and ice cream and then booked a hotel from our phones in New Haven, Connecticut. In the morning, we decided to check out the Yale campus. It was pretty underwhelming, and they didn’t allow visitors in any of the buildings or museums, so we wished we would have skipped New Haven and visited some of the National Park sites in the area. Next time we know!
We drove through Connecticut and New York and then hit New Jersey. For our first break to stretch our legs, we stopped at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area that is right between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was a good place to walk around for a few minutes and take in the beautiful mountains. New Jersey really is beautiful (in some areas at least). This was our last National Park site of our trip, and although we debated about taking a detour to Gettysburg, we decided that we should head home. It was a wonderful trip, and we were so proud of our little travelers who did so well in the car and we always ready for a new adventure. Besides movies in the car, the kids had no electronics for over a week and instead experienced two countries, 11 states, and 2,919 miles. This trip was so unforgettable for our family to bond and step away from real life for a while and be together. And next summer, our trip will take us west, so stay tuned!
We were so excited to visit Acadia National Park. We spent lots of time researching and reading guidebooks about the park and the area around it. We got to Bar Harbor, Maine in the late afternoon and checked into our hotel. We spent a lot of time researching cost-effective hotels that were still highly rated and clean. The one we chose, Atlantic Eyrie Lodge, did not disappoint. The price was reasonable, and it was very clean. The staff was also SO NICE. Upon arriving, I realized that I messed up one of the dates of our stay (I’ll have to be more careful for the next road trip), and they were so sweet, didn’t charge us extra, and fixed my mistake immediately. It felt like going to a family member’s house. They also had a pool (which the kids loved) with a view of the ocean. It was beautiful! We started out our first day with a lobster dinner (the kids had chicken tenders) on the water and then walking around the town of Bar Harbor. We also explored the sand bar that connects Bar Harbor to a portion of Acadia National Park. During low tide, you can walk to the island, but if you stay too long, you’ll be stuck when the tide comes in! It was so cool to see the water moving like that.
The next morning, we got up early and drove the 3 miles to what we had really been waiting for: Acadia National Park. We started by driving up to Cadillac Mountain, which has AMAZING views. The kids loved climbing from rock to rock. After spending some time exploring Cadillac Mountain, which is the first place in the US to see the sun rise every morning, we drove some of the loop (everything was gorgeous), and stopped at Sand Beach to let the kids play in the sand and the water. The water was VERY cold (even in July), but they loved running back and forth as the waves nipped at their feet. Then we took a hike to Thunder Cove, where at certain times of the day, the sound of the waves hitting the cove sounds like thunder. We decided to have lunch in the park and tried out the Jordan Pond House restaurant. We were a little hesitant because it seemed a little expensive, but it was totally worth it. The views were spectacular (it was outside dining), and the food was incredible. The kids were able to run around and play while we were waiting for our food, and we had a view of Bubble pond and the mountains. It goes down as my favorite dining experience ever. If you go, you have to order the popovers!
After our quick night in Niagara Falls, we headed out the next morning. Our ultimate destination was Acadia National Park, but because it is quite a trek from Niagara Falls, we decided we would drive until we hit New Hampshire and then drive the five or so hours from there to Bar Harbor, Maine. We drove through upstate New York, and since we have the goal of hitting as many National Park sites as we can in our travels, we stopped in Seneca Falls, New York to get lunch and to visit the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Seneca Falls was a super cute, small town, and our lunch at Café XIX was incredible! The food was great, and the atmosphere, featuring pop-art style women involved in the Women’s Rights Movement. Then, we drove about a mile to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. I was totally geeking out here. They have an awesome visitor center with a museum upstairs that we spent some time exploring. Outside, there is a park and a historical church which is on the corner where the very first Women’s Rights Convention was held on July 19-20th, 1848. Selah and I took a picture there to commemorate all that these women sacrificed for us to have the right to vote. The kids had a great time running around the park. There are some other things to do in Seneca Falls, including visiting Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s home. We wanted to get on the road, though, so we decided to just stick with the main park, which we all loved!
After driving some more through upstate New York (which takes quite a long time from Canada), we stopped in Rome, New York at the Fort Stanwix National Monument. The town of Rome, New York didn’t have much else, but the nice thing about making National Park sites a road trip stop is clean bathrooms, a safe place for the kids to stretch their legs, a cold, purified water station to fill up water bottles (most sites have this, although not all), and of course, a history lesson. Fort Stanwix is known as the fort that “never surrendered.” The British armies attempted a siege of the fort in 1777, and the troops there protected the fort and the siege failed.
When we arrived, the park was pretty empty. The kids had a great time running around and checking out all of the rooms of the fort, which were set up just like they would have been back in the 1700s. They even got to see the cannons and lookouts at the top of the fort. We explored for awhile and were on our way out when one of the park rangers asked the kids if they would like to play in some 1700s costumes. How could we resist? The park rangers gave them some period costumes and the kids had a blast pretending to be soldiers. It also made for some adorable pictures. The rangers here were so incredibly nice!
After leaving Fort Stanwix, we drove through Vermont (just a quick stop for a couple photos here; the scenery was GORGEOUS), and then we stopped in a town in Keane, New Hampshire to stay for the night. We got up early to head to Bar Harbor, Maine, where we were so excited to see Acadia National Park!
It’s been awhile since I last updated, and I realized I haven’t finished chronicling our summer road trip. I better hurry up and finish before we leave on our next epic road trip, which is coming soon over spring break.
After leaving the beautiful Traverse City (which we totally fell in love with and will be back again), we drove across Ontario, Canada to see Niagara Falls. I had seen Niagara Falls when I was in high school, but from the U.S. side, so we decided to stay on the Canadian side. It took us awhile to get through customs, and then it was a very flat and Ohio-looking drive to get to Niagara. Once we got there in the late afternoon, we were greeted with a VERY busy city block and a long wait for the parking garage in the hotel. We finally checked in, got our bags out, and then walked across a couple of blocks to get our tickets to the Horn Blower (the Canadian version of Maid of the Mist). We got on the boat, the kids were awe-struck at the beauty of the falls, and then we started our boat tour of horseshoe falls. The noise was way too much for our sensory-sensitive little Selah, so she cried the whole time while I held her. The boys enjoyed the boat ride even though they got soaked. After exiting the boat ride, we were bombarded by photographers pushing photos of us with a fake background of the falls for way too much money and lots of cheesy souvenir shops. We managed to get through all of that with our budget still intact, and then we walked back to the main strip and started looking for a place to eat dinner. The kids immediately noticed the RainForest Café and begged to eat there. We decided to oblige and went in to put our name in. It took us about 45 minutes to get a table, and then once we ordered, it took over an hour to get our food. I was getting pretty frustrated, but luckily the kids were very happy to watch all the rainforest-y things going on around them. After waiting way too long and paying way too much for mediocre-at-best food (although the kids still say eating at the RainForest Café was their favorite part of Niagara), we walked out toward the ferris wheel on the main strip. The ferris wheel is London Eye-esque and gives a great view of the falls when at the top. Although we waited in line about 45 minutes, the kids had a blast on the ferris wheel. It was dark when we were finished, and we started walking back to our hotel. Things on the strip got a little sketchy at that point, and we contemplated and then dismissed $7 ice cream cones and just went to our room for an early night.
Overall, we were pretty disappointed in Niagara Falls. The falls, of course, are beautiful and worth checking out. But the area around the falls is so touristy and expensive, it takes away from the experience. We recently watched a national parks documentary, and interestingly enough, part of the reason that the national parks were founded was because the government considered the development of the area around Niagara Falls to be “a national embarrassment.” They didn’t want any of the other natural wonders of the U.S. to be tainted by developers trying to make money from tourists. They wanted everyone to be able to see these natural wonders in their untouched state. Generally, we agree. We’re glad we saw the falls (and also glad we only planned to stay one night), but it really solidified our love for the national parks and the beauty they preserve.
All National Parks: Our Travel Bucket list
X Acadia National Park