Road Trips

6 Classic Cultural Destinations on the Great American Road Trip (East)

April 1, 2014 • By

Mr. H and I are now on the fourth “leg” of our Progressive Road Trip across America. If you haven’t been following, our MO is to drive for two weeks (or more), park the car at a cheap place with an airport shuttle, return home, do some work – and repeat in a couple of months. At the moment, we are covering close to 1500 miles in the Desert Southwest and I’m way behind on my blog posts.

US road trips are all about classic Americana for me. Here are six great places we’ve stopped along the way, on the Eastern part of our road trip, with an emphasis on style and design…(stay tuned for scenes from the American Southwest…)

6 Classic Cultural Stops – Eastern US Version

1. Washington, DC

This is pretty obvious.  Sadly, Mr. H suffered an injury on this part of our journey, so his site-seeing was limited.

If nothing else, you have to drive through the downtown/National Mall area to see the classic monuments to American history. At night, the lit monuments are particularly impressive as you come in off the interstate. You could spend a full day at the Air & Space Museum alone. The newer monuments and museums are also worth seeing – the WWII Memorial or the National Museum of the American Indian. Then bar-hop in China Town after a game or show at the Verizon Center.

If you can, spend some time in the real DC, not just on the Mall. You’ll find great bars, restaurants and outdoor cafes, coffee houses, quaint smaller museums, galleries and great, walkable neighborhoods.  Adams-Morgan and Dupont Circle are must d0 neighborhoods, full of great restaurants, shops, bars, bookshops and parks full of chess-players, street musicians and bike messengers taking naps.

Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, by AgnosticPreacherKid on WikiCommons

Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, by AgnosticPreacherKid on WikiCommons

If you are in DC on the weekend, make a trip to the Eastern Market, the farmer’s market on Capitol Hill where you must stand in line for local-favorites like blueberry pancakes. In the farmer’s market itself, buy berries, cheese, meat, fish and more. And check out the outdoor antique and flea market outside.

If you happen to head south instead of North or East, take in the sights of Virginia, as well. One of my all time favorite places is Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

2. Philadelphia

Reflections of the Past, Philadelphia

Reflections of the Past, Philadelphia

With its multiple museums and photo ops (Rodin’s Thinker, the Rocky Steps), restaurants, bars and epic American history, Philadelphia is a great road-trip stop. You can read more about our Philly stop here.  From Philly you can head east, as we did – or head north to NYC.


3. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water – Pennsylvania

We were lucky enough to be traveling in Pennsylvania near Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday, and were able to join in on a special celebration at this architectural masterpiece. Definitely a must see – and if you are an aficionado, go to Taliesin as well.


The vision of this great architect changed the world and while we now take some of these things for granted, the way Wright saw the world in the time in which he lived is pretty impressive.  Fallingwater itself is definitely a masterpiece. Make sure to pay attention to the story of Wright’s live and loves – which is pretty operatic.



4. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

A definite must-do for art and culture lovers – or anyone interested in the 1960s, 1970s and early 80s.

Of course you’ll see many of Warhol’s iconic images, along with films and artifacts that document his life. Another great thing about this museum is the space itself, which is made to feel like the loft spaces where Warhol worked and played…

We did a Pittsburgh “drive through”…stopping at The Warhol, having lunch, walking around a bit and continuing on.


At the Entrance of the Andy Warhol Museum


5. Chicago

This is a must-do for architecture lovers. Plus, you’ll get great food, art, museums and more. Don’t forget this is the “Windy City” and it lives up to its name. Cold and blustery in winter, and in the summer it can be stifling and humid, so pack accordingly.

Stay in a downtown hotel if you can and take in the sights and sounds of the city. We even did one of the bus tours and it was pretty fun. Chicago’s architecture is legendary.



6. The Historic Bedford Springs Hotel in Pennsylvania

This was an unexpected surprise for us. We had not heard of Bedford Springs before, but made impromptu plans to stay in the Bedford Springs Hotel.

The original hotel was built in 1806 on a site used for its healing waters for many years prior. Added on to over the decades, the exterior is an architectural history lesson of classic resort styles, strung together in a way that somehow works.

Inside, there is an amazing swimming pool with a two-story atrium, as well as elegant rooms and restaurants.

In your room, gnarled wood walking sticks wait by the door. Enjoy a morning constitutional, Thoreau-like meander or strenuous hike through the lush woodlands and discover the seven healing mineral springs that made the property famous.


Stay tuned for road trip tips and reviews as we continue…our Great American Road Trip.

And happy road-trippin’. If you visit any of these places, let me know what you think!