A Charlotte to Washington, D.C., road trip can be the perfect family excursion. Turn up the tunes as you all sing along at the top of your voices as you head north through the Great Smoky Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. Let your kids roam at some of the country’s most magnificent state parks. There are attractions along the way where your children can learn a thing or two while having a good time. You will also enjoy visiting some beautiful mountain communities. A Charlotte to Washington, D.C., RV road trip is an epic adventure for people of all ages.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
When you leave on your Charlotte to Washington, D.C., road trip, go east instead of heading straight north as this allows you to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Enter the 522,427-acre park and head to see the Mingus Mill and the Mountain Farm Museum, where you can see a water-powered grist mill built in 1886. Then, tour the historic buildings at the museum that were painstakingly moved to this location in the 1950s. Afterward, drive a short distance to catch the Pigeon Creek Trail leading to Mingo Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the Southern Appalachians. Explore the unique Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Consider ending your day by watching "Unto These Hills," an outdoor drama that tells the Cherokee Indians' story in the mountains from 1786 to 1900. Elsewhere in the park, there are many activities that you can do, including fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and going on horse-drawn hay wagon rides.
Shenandoah National Park
The 200,000-acre Shenandoah National Park contains the 100-mile-long Shenandoah Valley. You can access this park through four main entrances, and the only road through the park is the 105-mile-long scenic drive, which has more than 75 scenic overlooks. Think about starting your visit at the Rockfish Gap Entrance. Most of the activity at this park happens near the middle of the drive, but there are wonderful hiking opportunities throughout. If you are an angler, consider starting your adventure near Rapidan Camp. President Hoover used this camp in the summer while he was in office. Outstanding trout can often be caught near this location where the Mill Prong and the Laurel Prong streams meet to form the Rapidan River. If you are looking to go horseback riding, head to Skyline Resort at mile marker 41.7, where you can get trail rides from April through early November. You may also want to go canoeing, kayaking, or floating on the Shenandoah River. If you are a beginner, the north fork of the Shenandoah River is a great jumping-off point.
Crowders Mountain State Park
Think about spending the first night of your Charlotte to Washington, D.C., road trip at Crowders Mountain State Park near Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Numerous hiking opportunities are available, but one of the best is to climb the 330 wooden stairs to the Crowders Mountain summit, where you will be rewarded with outstanding views of the entire area. At this state park, you can also go fishing for largemouth bass and sunfish on the 7-acre lake surrounded by beautiful shade trees. Sport and trad routes are available in the Boulders area for climbing and bouldering.
Mount Mitchell State Park
Consider starting your visit to Mount Mitchell State Park about 35 miles north of Asheville, North Carolina, by visiting the park’s museum. This museum is a great place to learn more about the geology that makes the Blue Ridge Mountains special. You will also be introduced through a look at a cabin and a statue to "Big Tom Wilson" who helped track down missing people, served as a chief musician during the Civil War and made his living as a trapper. Once you've worked up an appetite, grab a great burger at the park’s restaurant. After lunch, explore many of the hiking trails, including one leading to Mount Mitchell’s summit, which is the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
Grandfather Mountain State Park
The hiking trails at Grandfather Mountain State Park near Linville, North Carolina, ramble through northern hardwood and spruce forests to grand vistas. The trails often require hikers to use ladders and tables. The trails in this park are popular with runners who use them for endurance training. Adjacent to this park is the mile-high swinging bridge. This 220-foot long swinging bridge built in 1952 is the longest suspension footbridge in the United States. You will also want to visit the nature museum to see the largest amethyst ever found in North America and see other exhibits about the plants, animals, and birds that live in the area.
Smith Mountain Lake State Park
You can find many wonderful things to do at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, which is located near Huddleston, Virginia. Spend part of a day playing on this park’s 500-foot beach. Canoes, kayaks, hydro-bikes, paddleboats, pontoon boats, ski boats, and Jet Skis are available for rent so that you can enjoy the 32-square-mile lake. Many anglers come to this park to participate in the fishing tournaments that are often held to catch striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and catfish. You can also grab a bite at the snack bar before heading out on this park’s trails.
Shenandoah River State Park
Shenandoah River State Park is between Massanutten Mountain and Shenandoah National Park. Hike along the 24 miles of trails or ride horses or bike on the 14 miles of multiuse trails, where you can see wildflowers in the spring or enjoy spectacular fall colors. If you or your children love to look at stars, this is a great stop, especially when the local astronomy society sets up their enormous telescopes about once a month.
The Biltmore Estate, which is spread across more than 8,000 acres, offers beautiful gardens. You can explore miles of hiking trails and see one of the largest homes ever built in America. You can take various tours at this 178,926-square-foot home that was originally built for George and Edith Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895. Treat yourself to a glass of wine and a spa treatment during your visit.
This zoo, home to about 800 animals, has bred more red pandas than any other zoo in the world. Stroll through the zoo, see the animals, ride the carousel, fly on the zipline, play at the splash pad, and get up-close to many animals when you stop here on your Charlotte to Washington, D.C., road trip.
Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium
At this 3,500-acre park that is owned by Kingsport, Tennessee, you can do many different activities, including seeing if you are brave enough to complete the high-and-low ropes course, ride on a barge, and hike or bike along miles of trails. Children can participate in a seasonal day camp. This park has a planetarium, and you can use the two observatory structures.
Explore More Discovery Museum
If you have children, the Explore More Discovery Museum in Harrisonburg, Virginia, is one place that you will want to add to your road trip itinerary from Charlotte to Washington, D.C. Join your child while they build with Keva planks, pretend to grocery shop and prepare a meal, see an ambulance, pretend to be a news reporter, fix an automobile, act in a play, and more.
Take a guided tour through the largest cavern in the eastern United States, where you will see some rock formations that are up to 10-stories high. Then, head to the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum to see over 75 vintage vehicles. End your visit by stopping at Toy Town Junction, where you can see antique and vintage toys.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville has a thriving art community that you will want to explore. Consider staying at Asheville Bear Creek RV Park on Hominy Creek or at French Broad River Campground, where you can fish in the river without leaving the campground. Dump stations are available at the Lake Powhatan Recreation Area or Wilson's Riverfront RV Park.
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville gives this community a youthful vibe, yet its downtown area is filled with history. Southlake RV Park on the shores of the Tennessee River and Clinton/Knoxville North KOA, which has a dump station, are outstanding camping options.
Kingsport, Tennessee, is part of the tri-cities area that includes Johnson City and Bristol. You can find many things to do in this region, including the Bristol Motor Speedway. Consider camping at the Bristol/Kingsport KOA with its dump station and organized activities or Warrior’s Path State Park Campground.
So many special events occur in this city that it has an officially designated Event Zone. You can explore it when you camp at one of the Roanoke campgrounds, including Dixie Caverns Campground or Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park at Natural Bridge. You may want to use the dump station at Clayton Lake State Park or the Bedford Welcome Center.
Harrisonburg, Virginia, is a Shenandoah Valley community that offers many outstanding camping opportunities, including at Endless Caverns, which has an underground tunnel system and at Shenandoah Valley Campground with its beautiful location. Both campgrounds have dump stations as does Shenandoah National Park.