Road trips are on the agenda for many travelers, and we are no different. In the time of coronavirus, avoiding public transportation is considered a safer way to go. Safe vacations during the coronavirus are out there, you just need to put a little more effort into your planning.
Our family took a 10-day road trip through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. It was great to be out traveling again, but we were a bit more challenged on what our activities would look like. Normally we visit breweries, hike, visit museums, etc… this time we got beer to go (yup, it’s a thing!), hiked, and packed our scooters to zip around outdoors.
We loved our road trip and made a lot of memories – it pays to do your research. How safe you will feel depends on your destination. Check travel restrictions and quarantine rules, check the number of cases and hospitalizations rates in the area, and please please please ALWAYS wear your face mask!
North Carolina – Asheville
Ah Asheville, you have it all! We love everything from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the art scene and delicious beer. Our family went to Asheville last year, you can read about that here. Thankfully this vibrant city has so much to offer in terms of covid safe activities – and we always felt comfortable and safe when we were out and about. Breweries and restaurants are offering curb-side pickup, people downtown donned their very stylish face masks, and there was plenty of hiking to go around for everyone (even on 4th of July weekend!).
We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Asheville Biltmore Area. Hilton has launched a new cleaning program to make sure hotels are safe for travelers, called Hilton CleanStay. They use Lysol on top of their normal cleaners, limit housekeeping to request online, and practicing social distancing in the common areas (face masks are required).
We loved our stay here – everything from the responsible social distancing to the mountain view from our room was amazing. We also had grab and go breakfast in the morning which was very convenient! Other guests at the hotels were also very mindful of keeping distance and using separate elevators. This hotel is highly recommended for those visiting Asheville area , we felt very safe there and were able to relax after a fun day of hiking in the mountains!
Catawba Falls – I wish we could tell you about the falls – but we never made it. Upon arriving in the parking lot mid-afternoon this place was a mad house. You could tell it was a popular spot – about half the people were wearing face masks. We felt uncomfortable here so instead of continuing the 1.5 mile hike to the falls, we stopped at a little offshoot without people and enjoyed playing in the water here. I would recommend going in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Fryingpan Tower – This is a historic fire tower lookout that offers unparalleled views of the Blue Ridge Mountains! I heard about this trail from a local, and we were the only ones there (amazing to have the tower to ourselves!). This tower is not for the faint of heart with heights, it is a bit shaky, and very loud. Going up was easy, coming down… let’s just say I slid down on my hind parts holding my daughters hand! It is 1.5 miles round trip, though it felt longer.
Downtown Asheville – We packed our girls scooters and went downtown to explore. Shockingly, it was pretty empty and we were able to roam around without concern. Pack Square was where we spent a majority of our time.
North Carolina Arboretum – Located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, The North Carolina Arboretum offers acres of cultivated gardens and groomed trails. This was very close to our hotel and a must visit when in Asheville. The gardens are breathtaking, be sure to walk through the Bonsai area, that was our favorite. There was also LEGO art sculptures when we went, bonus!
DSSOLVR – This is a brewery we love that was offering curb side pickup! Their tagline is brewed until surreal, and it really is. Their beer is delicious and the cans have some incredible artwork. Try S’mores Eat the Rich (bourbon barrel chocolate stout), you can thank us later.
Apollo Flame Bistro – This place is the real deal, offering a wide variety of cuisines and large portions. We were able to eat for both dinner and lunch the next day. Delicious!
Second stop on our road trip…
Tenneessee – Sevierville
The drive from Asheville to Sevierville was beautiful, and a bit nerve-wracking! I realized on this trip that mountain roads give me extreme anxiety (worth it though). I will be completely honest with everyone – our visit to Eastern TN was uncomfortable (in terms of covid). We were in a vast minority of people wearing face masks, and it was very crowded. That being said, if it were not for covid – this easily would have been the most kid friendly part of our trip.
Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg area is like a giant playground, with SO much to do for families. We were surprised at how much there was and hope we can revisit after covid to really experience all they have to offer.
We stayed at a family paradise in Tenneesee, the Resort at Governor’s Crossing. This condo lodging was perfect for our family, offering two bedrooms and a full kitchen. You are minutes from several popular attractions like Dollywood, and only a 35 minute drive to Knoxville.
There is so much to do here you would never really need to leave. There is an indoor pool with slides and an outdoor pool with two kids play areas that were quite impressive, the “best part of the trip” according to our kiddos. Every 2 hours the pools were closed for 30 minutes to clean due to covid, and everyone got hand sanitizer spray as you walked in. Miniature golf, fire pits, and scheduled activities throughout the day were also included.
It is not mandatory to wear face masks in Tenneessee, so some staff were not wearing them. Also, we were not given a room until 5:30 when checkin is at 4, due to additional covid cleaning. So you may want to call in advance to see when your room will be ready!
Clingman’s Dome – This is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (it is the highest point in Tennessee). The parking lot offers great views, but the steep .5 mile walk to the tower is worth it. The temperatures can be a lot cooler up there – so bring a jacket!
University of Tennessee – We went to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, to soak up the beautiful campus and massive football stadium. Since it was July, the campus was completely empty, making it a fun afternoon of scooting around.
World’s Fair Park – Also in Knoxville, this was a fun stop to see where the 1982 World’s Fair was held. There are interactive water fountains and green space to play – but they were closed.
Rocky Top Mountain Coaster – This alpine coaster was a fun stop for the whole family! Littles must be 38″ to ride with an adult. At speeds of up to 30 mph and 9 minutes from start to finish, our girls were all screams of joy!
We cooked all of our meals in Tennessee 🙂
Third stop on our road trip…
Kentucky – Richmond
This was our families first visit to Kentucky, and we will definitely be back! The hospitality we experienced here was second to none, and you can’t beat the rolling hills of horse farms! This area has so much history, not to mention the nature, antiquing, golfing, shopping, stargazing, etc… We truly felt so welcomed by the people, and they have a passion for their city which is contagious (pun intended… too soon??). If ever in this area, reach out to Visit Richmond Kentucky for some awesome recommendations!
The TownePlace Suites by Marriott Richmond was conveniently located for our family and the perfect place to stay in Richmond. With two bedrooms and a full kitchen, it felt like our home away from home. There is a lovely indoor pool, but that was closed during out stay. They also offer grab and go breakfast which had great options! The staff at this hotel always took the time to chat without little ones (everyone distanced and wearing masks!), and they felt like old friends. We are so grateful to have stayed here!
Cumberland Falls – Sometimes called the Niagara of the South, we stopped here on the drive from TN to KY. Cumberland Falls is the largest waterfall in KY and is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest, it is also the only “moonbow” site in the Western Hemisphere. Sadly, there is a pollution problem leaving large amounts of trash at these beautiful falls. The area floods when there is excessive rain, and the trash gets stuck in the debris.
Fort Boonesborough State Park – This is a must see when in Kentucky. Fort Boonesborough was a frontier fort in Kentucky, founded by Daniel Boone and his men in 1775. The settlement they founded, known as Boonesborough, is Kentucky’s second oldest European-American settlement. The fort has been reconstructed as a working fort. History is brought to life with craft demonstrations and 18th century life skills. All the re-enactors were wearing face masks – covid safety!
Horseback Riding – We went riding at Whispering Woods Riding Stables, only myself and our 5 year old went (our 3 year old decided it was not for her!). We took the Cabin Ride and had a great time, even if my horse only wanted to eat.
Kentucky Horse Park – This is a haven for horses, and it is meticulously maintained. Here you will see a working horse farm, international equestrian competition venue, and an educational park. We were able to meet a Kentucky Derby winner, and see several breeds of horses up close. Check the schedule of activities ahead of time.
Newby Country Store – A store is an adventure? YES, yes it is. Established in 1891 Newby Country Store is one of the only true country stores left in Kentucky, and the hospitality that comes with it is reason enough to stop in! We got some delicious sandwiches to go and they let us borrow a fishing pole to take down to the creek. Just down the road from here is an amazing spot that only the locals know about… so how did we find out about it? One of the employees took us there! She drove and we followed to a little paradise where we ate, swam, fished, and played for hours. Want to know where it is? Stop in and ask 🙂
River Hill Ranch – A woman veteran family farm in Richmond, promoting living simply, with quality before quantity, making everyday decisions to positively impact our world.. yes please! We loved our tour at this farm, it was very educational and downright fun! Who wants to get up close with some quirky alpacas?!
Newby Country Store – Stop here for a delicious sandwich, cool drink, and some great conversation!
Last stop on our road trip…
Daniels, West Virginia
Another exciting mountain drive (full of me holding my breath) took us to Daniels, WV! Another first for our family, and only 3 hours and 45 minutes from Raleigh. Wild and Wonderful is the state slogan and it fits that description perfectly. Southern West Virginia offers hiking, biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, golf, fishing, horseback riding, caving and so much more. The area contains the beautiful New River Gorge, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East” and miles of green shade roads waiting to be explored.
The Resort at Glade Springs was an oasis of relaxation, and we are so glad to have wrapped up our road trip here. When arriving at the guard gate, they provide your family with face masks – we loved this aspect of covid safety measures. Activities at the resort include everything from indoor/outdoor pools and paintball to laser tag and bowling. Other activities include hiking, golf, tennis, nightly movies, fishing, biking and more.
This is more than a resort, it is a community, and we were welcomed by staff and residents with open arms (not literally though, covid and all). Our room had a king, pull-out couch and a balcony. We enjoyed breakfast every morning with a pre-fixe menu (huge portions and very delicious). We swam all morning and had the pool to ourselves until noon. I accidentally threw my face mask in with the pool towels and had it back that afternoon from housekeeping (amazing service!!).
There are four places you can eat on site, all with different cuisines. Their play ground was open (the first we have seen open in 4 months) and our kids were elated. We highly recommend this resort, it is a step back in time where people are very kind and genuine.
Grandview – From 1400 feet above the river at Main Overlook, after a very short walk you are rewarded with one of the most outstanding views in the park. On a clear day you can see directly into the heart of New River Gorge National River. Catawba rhododendrons bloom here every spring (purple Catawba rhododendrons bloom in mid May, the white great rhododendrons bloom in July). We spent a lot of time here – a train was going by when we were at the overlook and it was like something out of a painting.
The rest of our time was spent exploring the Resort at Glade Springs and relaxing!
Bunkers Sports Bar – This restaurant is on site at the resort, and we got the food to go. It was delicious, try the buffalo chicken sandwich!
Dominos – Just down the road we got pizza to go and enjoyed a pizza night at the hotel with a movie!
That’s all for our road trip! If you have any questions about our trip or traveling during covid shoot us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Until next time…