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Day 1: Washington, D.C.
Arrive in Washington, DC, capital of the United States, whose public buildings were inspired by the ancient democracies of Greece and Rome. Get settled into your hotel and rest up after your trip, or take a first look at the city lit up at night.
Day 2: Washington, D.C.
Get oriented on a guided tour of the city’s highlights this morning, or on your own at the National Mall, the grassy open area surrounded by the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the museums of the Smithsonian Institution.
Day 3: Washington, D.C.
There’s more to see at the National Mall, like the National Air and Space Museum, before making a trip to fashionable Georgetown, home to politicians, journalists, and diplomats. Stay for dinner and the nightlife, or freshen up at the hotel before heading out to the colorful, edgier Adams-Morgan District this evening.
Day 4: Washington DC - Williamsburg (175 m / 280 km)
Begin the day with a scenic drive along the Potomac River to Mount Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington. Visit the house and working farm at your own pace, then depart for Richmond, capital of Virginia and the Civil War South. Tour Richmond’s highlights, then drive by the James River Plantations on your way to Williamsburg, the finely-preserved British capital of colonial Virginia.
Day 5: Williamsburg - Virginia Beach (75 m / 120 km)
Walk the streets of Colonial WIlliamsburg this morning, where costumed guides turn the clock back to 1775 and the eve of the American Revolution. Here, in America’s best-preserved historic district, you can watch skilled artisans practice traditional crafts, eat lunch in a colonial tavern, then either stay for the afternoon, or head for the ocean surf at the nearby resort town of Virginia Beach, only 90-minutes away.
Day 6: Virginia Beach - Outer Banks (100 m / 160 km)
Time to relax and enjoy the beach this morning, then depart at your leisure for the Outer Banks, the sandy barrier islands off the North Carolina coast. Arrive in Kitty Hawk and visit the giant sand dunes at the Wright Brothers Memorial, where the first airplanes flew. Exhibits and a full-size outdoor sculpture of the first plane - complete with pilot, excited onlookers, and an inspiring view of sky and ocean - bring the event to life. Check into your hotel and enjoy some more beach time, then check out the restaurants and nightlife in the popular resort town of Nags Head.
Day 7: Outer Banks - Atlantic Beach (150 m / 240 km)
Get away from civilization this morning on the Outer Banks Scenic Byway and a drive to the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, a favorite photo stop. Take the ferry to remote Ocracoke Island, whose beaches are consistently rated as among America’s best. Continue island-hopping down the coast by ferry, or take the inland route to Beaufort, home of history’s most notorious pirate, Blackbeard.
Day 8: Atlantic Beach - Charleston (275 m / 440 km)
Relax on the sands of Atlantic Beach this morning, or dig into pirate history at Blackbeard’s House and the Maritime Museum. For lunch, try the fresh local seafood or a real North Carolina-style barbecue, then depart for Charleston. Along the way, enjoy a small driving tour of Wilmington’s southern mansions, or a jump in the waters of Myrtle Beach.
Day 9: Charleston
A full day to relax and tour the colonial port city of Charleston. Join a guided tour this morning, or explore on your own by foot or rental bicycle. Take in the elegant homes and gardens on your way to Charleston Harbor, where the Civil War began, then relax and enjoy the views from Battery Park. Have lunch in the old port district, and this afternoon, explore the past at the Confederate Museum and the Old Slave Mart Museum. Then browse the open-air vendors at the Historic City Market, or head for nearby Folly Beach to work on your vacation tan.
Day 10: Charleston - Cherokee (350 m / 560 km)
This morning, depart for the Ashley River Plantations, located just north of Charleston. At Magnolia Plantation, you can visit the main house as well as the original slave cabins, then admire the garden landscapes of Middleton Place or the stately architecture at Drayton Hall. This afternoon’s drive follows the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway on your way to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the tallest mountains of the eastern United States.
Day 11: Cherokee - Asheville (200 m / 320 km)
Begin the day at Oconaluftee Indian Village, an open-air museum operated by the Cherokee nation, and get an insight into traditional Cherokee crafts and folkways. Afterwards, begin a scenic driving tour of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Ascend to the top of Clingman’s Dome, the Smokies’ highest peak, then hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail as you cross the state line into Tennessee. Visit Cades Cove, a popular scenic loop through an abandoned mountain village, then make your way to Asheville for your overnight.
Day 12: Asheville - Boone (120 m / 195 km)
Asheville is a small and attractive art-deco city, the center of a progressive cultural life rooted in traditional folk arts. Begin with a breakfast stroll through Asheville’s galleries, cafes and bookshops, or stop at the Folk Art Center’s regional crafts exhibits. Get on the Blue Ridge Parkway for an afternoon of scenic driving, and stop at Linville Falls for an easy hike past multiple waterfalls, a Blue Ridge highlight. Continue on the parkway for a refreshing night’s rest in the pretty college town of Boone, the area’s outdoor recreation center.
Day 13: Boone - Charlottesville (315 m / 505 km)
Return to the Blue Ridge Parkway this morning on your way to Virginia and the Blue Ridge Music Center. Arrive in the early afternoon for the live music on offer almost daily from May through October; an exhibit called The Roots of American Music is also on display. Drive on to Mabry Mill, an old water-powered gristmill that is a favorite photo stop. Stay on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the university town of Charlottesville, and relax this evening in the historic downtown’s pedestrian zone, lined with boutiques, cafes, and alfresco dining options.
Day 14: Charlottesville - Shenandoah N.P. (100 m / 160 km)
Visit Monticello this morning, home of Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president and author of the Declaration of Independence. Tour the house and gardens, designed by Jefferson himself and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Have lunch in Charlottesville, then enjoy the mountain views from the scenic Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.
Day 15: Shenandoah N.P. - Washington DC (175 m / 280 km)
Depart this morning for the rustic stone village of Harpers Ferry, scenically tucked in the West Virginia mountains where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac. It was here, in 1859, that a dramatic attempt to start a slave rebellion failed, setting off a chain of events that brought on the Civil War. Make a stop at Antietam Battlefield, where Abraham Lincoln ended 250 years of slavery, on your return trip to Washington, DC.
Day 16: Departure
A final day to shop for souvenirs and see more of Washington DC before your return flight home, or stay an additional night or two to relax and take in a few more sights at your leisure.
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