It is no secret that cities really are not our thing. We would much rather go on a hike or mountain bike ride then walk around downtown areas most of the time. Unless we are going out to eat, that is a different story. We LOVE food. However, we really wanted to take the opportunity, being that we are not out west, to do some exploring on the east coast in between baby appointments.
I had never been to New York City so the excitement of seeing something new was really pumping me up! Gerrit had been to NYC a few times as a kid, but he was equally exited to see it all again as an adult.
We had three weeks to get out there and to get back so we made sure to take our time and explore some of Virginia and Pennsylvania before getting to New Jersey and New York.
First we stopped at an RV park outside the southern end of the Shenandoah National Park. And WOW was I surprised! It was just beautiful! The blue rolling hills were way more impressive than I thought they would be and I have got to say, that I enjoyed this national park a lot more than the Smokey Mountain National Park. One day I want to see it in the fall.
We stopped at many of the overlooks along the Skyline Drive and did a small hike to the top of Blackrock Summit which is along the Appalachian Trail.
Our quick visit didn’t even scratch the surface of hikes and overlooks, the park is HUGE! So I know that we will make our way back. But it was on to Washington DC!
I wasn’t originally planning on squeezing in a trip to DC, but was able to find a reasonable campground, over labor day no less, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity! Again, Gerrit had been as a kid, but I never had, so we were both equally stoked to explore!
We stayed at Lake Fairfax County Park, which was just an 8 minute drive from a commuter’s parking area for the metro. I also have to mention how incredibly NICE Fairfax county is, like wowza it was glamorous and high tech. The park even had a pretty sweet network of single track for mountain biking and trail running that we really enjoyed!
We took two days to explore downtown DC and the National Mall. We saw so many things in those two days! It was incredible! I’m serious. We saw allll the things. Typically, planning our routes and activities is not something we are very good at, but we rocked DC. Once we figured out how the metro worked that made getting from place to place efficiently so easy.
The first day we started at the Library of Congress. I loved seeing Thomas Jefferson’s library most of which are made up of his original books, others are copies meant to take the place of the ones lost in a fire.
Next up was the Capital building. We actually walked underground from the library to the capital, which was pretty cool. Then we jumped on some Lime Scooters and if you don’t know what those are you need to check it out! For real though, it was super hot, like 90 degrees and all the humidity but we went from the Capital, past the White House, all the way to the Washington Monument via the Lime Scooters. They are amazing! Mine went as fast as 13 miles per hour at times! This pregnant lady was extremely thankful that she didn’t have to walk 2 miles and the cool breeze was also a nice bonus.
One we reached the Washington Monument we hung up our scooters for the next milennial and started walking amongst the greatest monuments of all time! My favorite, by far, was the Lincoln Memorial. It was bigger than I thought it was going to be and just an all around surreal moment! Even though there were hundreds of people on those steps it was so quiet and standing at the foot of the statue was inspiring.
From there we had lunch at the Holocaust museum. This is the one area we could have done better when it came to this walking tour. We had to give up the snacks we brought to get through security at the Capital building, but all of the restaurants are on the other side of the National Mall so we were sort of in a bind. I was really hungry and dying to sit in some air conditioning so we choose the closest place and it was quite pricey. I would not recommend eating at any of the museum cafes if you can help it.
After our expensive lunch we jumped on the metro to go to Arlington Cemetery. Our goal was the see the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It had started raining right when we got there, but honestly we were so hot and sweaty it felt really nice to walk in the rain. The tomb is about a mile walk from the visitors center, to learn the most about the cemetery and to see the grave sites of some really important people in our history I would highly recommend the trolly tour. But we chose not to do that this time, but one day we defiantly will.
We got to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at the perfect time. The changing happens every half hour in the summer time so there are a lot of opportunities to see it. It really was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. The Ceremony is so sacred and performed with flawless accuracy you can’t help but get the chills. I will link at FAQ page here for you to check out, https://tombguard.org/society/faq/.
I truly believe that every American should go and see the Tomb of the Unknowns and see the Changing of Guard. There is just something about it that transports you back in time, a time when Americans had so much pride in their country and respect for serving it that you just don’t see in our world today. After this experience I really do have a greater appreciation for the sacrifice that the men and women in our Armed Forces give, but also for our history as a country.
Our second day exploring DC was not quite as action packed at the first, but we did explore the National Archives Building where we saw the original Declaration of Independence and all four pages of the Constitution. We also explored the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum which Gerrit absolutely loved!
After our DC trip we had just a few days before our RV park reservations in Jersey City, so we stopped in a little town in between Gettysburg and Hershey. Of course we took a short after work adventure to the Hershey factory, and I LOVED every moment of it! We did a chocolate tasting and learned how they make Hershey’s chocolate. We couldn’t leave without getting a few goodies for ourselves.
The following day we did an audio driving tour of the Gettysburg National Military Park. I enjoyed this way more than I thought I was going to. We downloaded an app that played while we were driving through the park. It uses your GPS signal so it would tell you everything about the monument you were passing as you passed it and played videos of battle reenactments when you were parked in front of that particular battle field. It was super interesting and I feel like I know way more about the Civil war now than I ever did in grade school. Seeing the actual location that these battles took place really put it all into perspective. That tour is one that I would HIGHLY recommend if you are ever passing though. The app was only a few dollars and so so worth it. Without it, the drive would just be a lot of looking at statues and having no idea what they mean. Unless of course you got out and read the plaques of each one, but that would take you days!
Finally, it was time to move on to our RV park in Jersey City! We reserved a spot at Liberty Harbor RV Park for two nights, which is basically a fenced in parking lot with electric and water for a hundred bucks a night. However, the metro station was a safe and easy walk to and from the park and the harbor was also right there so we were within easy walking distance of the ferry as well. Because our time was limited Gerrit took two days off of work so we would have the day to explore, and not have to leave the dogs for too long. We really don’t like to leave them alone longer than 6-8 hours at a time. This location worked out perfectly!
The afternoon we arrived we jumped on the ferry to go see the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty was a must see for me and I am really glad we did! After that we had a snack at DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections and ate dinner at Eataly near the Flatiron building. You guys. I can not even tell you how amazing the food is in NYC. I had no idea, but I was blown away.
The next day was our big day to explore. So we started it off right with a Krispy Cream Donut and Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte on our walk to the train station. We rode the train all the way to the far side of Central Park where we each had the most amazing bagels of our lives at Absolute Bagels. Then we walked around Central Park and eventually made it the Empire State building. We were going to go up in that one, but changed our minds and went up in the One World Trade Center tower instead. It was the most high tech building we had ever seen! It was super cool to see the city from the 104th floor, 1,176 feet up into the sky. Afterwards we visited the 9/11 Memorial site, formally known as ‘Ground Zero.’ We were only in second grade when the towers were hit and don’t remember it all that well, but wow, the memorial was something to be seen. Next time we will go to the museum, but just seeing the foot print from the Twin Towers was crazy. I can not even fathom witnessing a structure of that magnitude falling. It was another inspiring moment that we will never forget.
After that we stopped for some lunch at Din Inn. Then we went back to the RV to spend some time with the dogos, where Gerrit surprised me with tickets to see The Lion King on Broadway. Childhood dreams were coming true you guys! So we showered and put on some dressier cloths to go into Times Square that evening.
Times Square was something else… I’m not really sure how to even describe it, you just have to go an experience it for yourself. We grabbed a slice at Joe’s Pizza and then went to the theater! Did I mention how much I love the restaurants in New York!? It’s like straight out of “Seinfeld” or “Friends” and I just couldn’t get enough!
The Lion King was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be plus some! The costumes, the singing, the dancing, it was all just so much fun and I am already looking forward to seeing another Broadway show someday!
And just like that our time in NYC had come to an end. I have to admit that two to three days in the City That Never Sleeps was the perfect amount for my first trip! It was overwhelming, glamorous, sticky, and educational all at the same time.
I am so glad that we got to go on this trip together and experience something totally new! Rving was the way to go for sure, there really is not a great way to see the Big Apple on a budget, but having the comforts of home was a huge bonus.
We did and saw so much in those three weeks that I still can’t even really wrap my mind around it all!
All of this to say that giving the big cities a try is well worth it, even if you don’t consider yourself a city person. It makes you not only appreciate the outdoors and the wilderness even more, but stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things is when the most personal growth happens! And that is why we live in an RV.