Virginia Beach, VA is one of the best beach towns on the east coast. Why? First, the beaches here are just plain awesome. The main beach in town is bordered by a great boardwalk that travels for miles along the shore. This beach does get busy and can be crowded at times, but there is a great alternative if you want to go where the locals hit the beach.
That spot is Sandbridge a few miles to the south. Yes, it's a bit of drive but even when the beaches are crowded in town, you can have the whole beach here almost entirely to yourself. Surprisingly, this is remote enough that you probably won't get a cell phone signal here, so uploading your beach selfies will have to wait. Also on the trip out along Sandbridge Road, you'll pass Maggie and Ray's Seafood Crabhouse which is perhaps the best place in the area for a real seafood dinner. The line out the door to get in tells you all you need to know about what awaits you inside. Come hungry and plan to wait, but it's worth it.
Another great thing about this beach is its location. It's far enough south to be hot in the summer, but not oppressive like you may find further south in the Carolinas, Georgia or Florida. It's also far enough south that the massive crowds from New York, New Jersey and Delaware find it too far to swamp the place on the weekends. Finally, it has an everyday beach vibe that makes you feel at home rather than in a tourist trap location like the Outer Banks, Ocean City, MD, or Myrtle Beach. Sure, there are touristy things to do here, but it's not as in-your-face as those other places.
So what is there to do here? Plenty. As mentioned, the beaches are awesome. If you're into fishing, there are a number of charters that go out of Rudde's Inlet. Anything from striped bass trips in the bay to overnighters hunting massive sport fish off the Atlantic Shelf can be booked out of here. If your fishing tastes are on a beer budget then try your luck on the Virginia Beach, or Sandbridge Piers.
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is also a great place to visit. It's located just south of town and has a lot of excellent exhibits detailing the inhabitants of the surrounding aquatic environments.
The best place to stay here is the Holiday Trav-L-Park. This is a huge park with great amenities. It is conveniently located on the bus route to the city and it is very affordable for the area.
The trip to Cleveland, OH is an easy drive made up mostly of the coastal flats of Virginia and the rolling hills of eastern Ohio. You do cross the Appalachian Mountains while traveling through Pennsylvania, but the PA turnpike does a decent job of flattening them out. The only major hill is the one climbing into Breezewood, PA before you get to the turnpike. Nothing like crossing the Rockies, Big Horns, or the Cascades but a fairly long steep slog nonetheless.
Most of the route is free with the exception of the turnpike section from Breezewood, PA to Cleveland. There are alternate routes available, but they'll add hours to the trip and generally just aren't worth it. The general route is I-264 west out of Virginia Beach to I-64 west. This highway quickly crosses the Chesapeake Bay via the Hampton Roads Bridge/Tunnel. If you are traveling with an RV, make sure you follow VDOT guidelines pertaining to traveling through the tunnel. You need to make sure your propane tanks are off and stop for an inspection prior to entering the tunnel.
From there you continue on I-64 to Richmond where you'll pick up I-95 north. Take I-95 to I-495 west around Washington, DC. On the North side of DC take I-270 north which turns into I-70 north. This will take you to Breezewood, PA where you take I-76, or the PA Turnpike, west to Cleveland.
Between Newport News and Richmond VA, along I-64 lies the historic town of Williamsburg, VA. While the town itself is a great stop, the main attraction here is the Historic Colonial Williamsburg Park. This is a living museum built around the original town during the American Revolution period from 1763 – 1783.
Throughout the town, there are period-dressed interpreters who are there to answer any questions about life in this time period as well as help guide your experience through the town. There are also a number of active tradesmen who are real skilled people in their respective fields. The blacksmiths, gunsmiths, weavers, and others here all practice their respective trades using true period techniques. The products they produce are sold on-site or offered to other historical sites for use there. Also on site are two world-class art museums and several period-accurate taverns where you can dine. Finally, there are a number of extra activities that allow you to get involved in the action. There's ax throwing and a real musket firing range where you can show off your throwing hands and marksmanship.
As a real, functioning town, the activities here happen day and night and change with the seasons.
For a local campground to stay the night, give the Anvil Campground just down the street a shot. It's close to the park and offers great amenities and services for any stay. They are the only campground on the Williamsburg bus service route which adds to the convenience of visiting the area.
The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is a series of properties owned and operated by the National Park Service that encompass the civil war battlefields in and around Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania. This area is along I-95 just north of Richmond, VA. The park is made up of five primary sites with several buildings, manors, cemeteries, and other sites mixed in. The primary battlefields are Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and the Stonewall Jackson Death site. Each site has a visitor center which provides excellent details on the events that transpired there. Visiting all the sites can take some time so it may be best to limit your visit to one or two specific sites if you have limited time.
The Fredericksburg / Washington DC South KOA Holiday is a great campground to stay at in the area. It's close to I-95 and all the battlefield areas are within several miles.
If you are a fan of history, museums or other cultural sites, you would be hard pressed to find a better place to visit than Washington DC. American history is made here and it is home to the Smithsonian Institution's many museums which house world-class exhibits in just about any area you can think of. Of course, there is also the White House, Capitol Building, Supreme Court Building, National Mall, and Washington Monument. There's also the memorials for Jefferson, Lincoln, WWII, and the Vietnam War, just to name a few. The US mint is also a fascinating building. There is so much to see here it is best to pick a must-see or two and focus on those things. If not, a general guided tour may be in order. These will take you to several sights with a tour guide to fill you in on all the details.
Burke Lake Park Campground is in a county park on the southwest side of the city. This is a good camping area with great access to the city via the subway terminal in Springfield.
Harper's Ferry is the site of a Civil War battle that raged from September 12 – 15, 1862. It is the site of General Lee's Virginia Army's first foray into the north. The confederate forces were able to surround the garrison, ultimately leading to Union surrender on September 15th. This turned out to be the largest capture of union forces by confederate forces for the duration of the war with over 12,000 union forces taken. Today, much of the area is part of the Harper's Ferry National Historic Park operated by the National Park Service. There is an excellent visitors center which does a great job explaining the battle fought here. There are also several specific sites around the area to visit, each played a key role in the battle. You can visit these as a self-tour, or there are guided tours available as well. There are also several great hiking trails that allow you to explore the area and follow some of the paths the soldiers took those days.
The Harpers Ferry / Civil War Battlefields KOA Holiday is located just outside of town. It is a well-rated park with excellent amenities and it's just a four minute drive to the park.
Located not far off the turnpike, just north of Somerset in central Pennsylvania lies Shanksville, PA. It was at this site that Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001, at 10:06 am. Originally destined for San Francisco, this Boeing 757 was the fourth and final hijacked plane left in the skies that morning. The passengers organized a heroic attempt to regain control of the plane which ultimately led to the hijackers intentionally crashing it into this Pennsylvania farm field. The crash site has since been transformed into the Flight 93 National Memorial, which is operated by the National Park Service. Here you'll find a visitor center detailing the events of that morning, a wall of names honoring the 40 people lost on board, the 93 foot tall “Tower of Voices” memorial, and the crash site itself. This is the most remote of the 9/11 memorials and should not be missed as you travel through the area.
Pine Oaks Campground is a good choice for an overnight in this area. It's located near the Somerset turnpike exit and only about 15 minutes from the memorial.
Cleveland, OH is an amazing midwestern city located on the southern shore of Lake Erie. Locally known as “America's North Coast”, the city has broad cultural appeal with a broad range of great attractions to keep visitors entertained. The lake here is a great asset to the city and a major tourist draw for the local economy. While the cleanliness of the water off the shores of this industrial powerhouse has been much maligned in the historical press, the truth is that it has gotten substantially cleaner over the years. Today, there are many places along the shore where you can see beautiful crystal clear blue water.
With the water quality improvements came huge improvements in the sport fishing on the lake. There are three major species to target here. Walleye is the big boy, and large examples are routinely hauled from the waters off Cleveland throughout the summer. From August to October, the yellow perch run is in full force. During this time you can haul in your limit in a little over an hour of fishing, and perch make for a great fish fry back at the campground.
Lake Erie is also routinely voted as one of the top bass lakes in the US. Smallmouth Bass is the main species here. They are in huge abundance and are a hoot to catch. Charter boat trips are easy to book and nearly every marina along the coast offers some great options to get out on the water. Unlike many states, Ohio also has exceptionally affordable non-resident fishing licenses. It's probably one of the least expensive places you can experience world-class fishing as a tourist.
There are many great things to do off the water as well. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is located on the lakefront downtown and makes for a great visit for any music fan. Right next door is the Great Lakes Science Center and First Energy Stadium. The Science Center has many great interactive exhibits covering all forms of science. The design of the facility makes it especially good for the kids.
The Stadium hosts Cleveland Browns games in the fall and winter. If you're in town during a home game, you should make it a point to go. The fans here are true fans and their enthusiasm is infectious, which makes every game an event not to be missed. Across town are Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena which are home to the Cleveland Indians Baseball and Cleveland Cavaliers basketball franchises. Catching a game at either facility makes for a great time out.
There are no RV parks or campgrounds in the city, but that's OK. The surrounding areas are beautiful countryside and getting downtown is generally pretty easy. Roundup Lake in Mantua is a good choice. The area is beautiful and downtown Cleveland is less than 40 miles away.