Monday, October 22, 2007

East Coast Trip

As a traveler, 2 of my longtime dreams have been to see the leaves change color during Fall and visit Washington DC. On this trip, I managed to do both those. And then some.

New Jersey
We flew in to Philadelphia on Saturday and then drove to New Jersey to my brother’s place. Sunday was spent at the nearby Van Saun County Park, which was decked out quite nicely for Halloween and had a small zoo, pony rides, a train ride and a carousel. It was a relaxing start to the vacation and Kavya and Karthik had fun on the rides.

Washington DC
We drove to Washington DC Monday morning. Always wary of parking in big cities, we stayed at a hotel whose main plus point was that it was very close to a Metro station and had an on-demand shuttle to and from the station. After checking in, we took the Metro to the city and visited the White House, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. On Day 2, we spent most of the day at the Museum of Natural History. The dinosaur, ice age and Egyptian sections of the museum were very informative and interesting while the minerals and gems section, which also houses the Hope Diamond, was eye-catching. We then walked to the East side of the National Mall to see the Capitol building. On Day 3, our first stop was the Arlington Cemetery, where JFK is buried. We then visited the Air and Space Museum. It was a fun place and I think we barely skimmed its surface. The astronomy section and the exhibition on the Wright brothers were fascinating and my favorites. We drove to Fredericksburg in Virginia the same night.

Shenandoah National Park
Thursday was spent in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. With Fall colors coming in a little late this year, the mountains in Western Virginia were supposed have the colors in the second week of October, which was why I picked Shenandoah. Turned out to be the perfect choice as the colors were out in all their glory. Driving along Skyline Drive with the bright yellows, startling reds, glorious pinks and deep browns lining either side was truly a heavenly experience. We took a 1.4 mile hike to a waterfall. It had many steep sections and so the walk back was back-breaking (especially since Karthik got tired and wanted to be carried more than half the way) but the nature lover that I am, those 2 hours were easily the highlight of the whole trip. The hike amidst the bright colors was awesome and though only a little water in the falls, it was surrounded by bright yellow trees and provided a magnificent sight. A real visual feast. The rest of the drive on Skyline Drive after we walked back up was equally spectacular with some gorgeous views of Shenandoah valley and its multi-colored trees.

On Friday, we drove to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Our original plan had been to drive to Philadelphia but since we hadn’t really done much for the kids so far, we decided to make a detour to Hershey. And we were so glad we did. It is a very cute little town completely developed by Hershey. The streets have names like Chocolate Avenue and Cocoa Avenue and even the street lights on Chocolate Avenue are shaped like Hershey’s Kisses. We visited ‘Chocolate World’, which has a roller-coaster-like tour showing us how chocolate is made, a 3-D show and a very interesting and informative trolley tour of the city. We drove to Philadelphia the same night.

With just half a day in Philadelphia, we visited Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed and read out and also saw the original document. We then took the city tour which hit the main spots like Elfreth Alley, the oldest residential street in the US, and Penn’s Landing.

On-time flights, cooperative kids, gorgeous weather, wonderful sights… needless to say, this one was definitely one of my most memorable vacations. A small selection of the photos from the trip can be seen here.


At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was in shennandoah in late april and told my wife that that would be a perfect spot for fall colors. Good timing!

At 9:45 AM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...


nice write-up, reading that and seeing the pics (esp. the fall colors) took me on a 5 minute mini vacation to the east coast ): welcome back!

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, couple of questions for you. Provided you stay near a hotel which is close to a Metro are all the important spots in Washington reachable without a car or did you have to do some driving to see the Air/space musuem, Arlington and Musuem of natural history? Also are these 2 you visited the best of the Smithosonians?
The fall color photos look pretty good

At 3:50 AM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


Pls try and make it to Western NY/NW Pennsylvania (including Allegheny Natl Forest). They are quite stunning, specially during October.

At 6:27 AM, Blogger narayanan said...

u studied in MO right ? no fall colours there ?

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

Very nice photographs Balaji! Welcome back :)

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Munimma said...

ada paavi, sollave illai! :-)
I was in some of the same places this past weekend.
But the best fall colors I saw this time were within a few blocks from my home.

At 11:06 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

anon, thanx :) after all the research i did, i would've been devastated if i'd got the timing wrong :)

mitr, glad to hear that. though considering all the vacations u've been taking, this one was surely a mini-vacation :)

vijay, metro's defly the way to go in DC. all the imp. spots are reachable by metro. absolutely no driving needed. gotta walk a li'l bit from the metro stations to get to some of the attractions though.

srivatsan, with my daughter having a 2-week fall recess every oct., i hope this vacations becomes an annual thing. so will keep ur suggestion in mind :)

narayanan, no car and no money. so not much travelling when i was a student :)

merino, thanx :)

munimma, oh wow. though we probably wouldn't have bumped into each other anyway since we left philadelphia on sat. afternoon :)


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