Gettysburg in Pennsylvania is considered the most important battle of the U.S. Civil War, and it has the most extensive museums, monuments, souvenier shops, guided tours, and other facilities for serious Civil War fans and re-enactors - more so than other battlefield sites.
Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia is possibly the world's best restored living-history town - it is truly outstanding - one mile long, with costumed re-enactors and 18th century atmosphere. 10 miles from Williamsburg, in different directions via a scenic road, are Jamestown settlement - also a reconstructed living-history exhibit including early ships, and Yorktown Battlefield.
Harpers Ferry with its unusual scenic location in a mountain gorge between 2 rivers (site of John Brown's slave rebellion), and Antietam Battlefield, are within a few miles of each other.
In Washington D.C. are the large grassy central "Mall" (2 miles long) containing the many Smithsonian museums - all free of charge - http://www.si.edu - the magnificent domed Capitol building, and the monument structures to great men and war veterans.
Close to Washington D.C. are Annapolis and Alexandria, major tourist meccas which both have 18th century atmosphere and charm, many gift and artist shops, a nautical atmosphere, and tours of the Naval Academy at Annapolis.
The Amish area near Lancaster in Pennsylvania is intriguing as you observe the old-fashioned lifestyle of these traditional people riding in horse-drawn buggies, cultivating with horses, and selling their farm products, furniture and handicrafts.
Charlottesville in the Virginia foothills is rated on many lists as one of the best cities in America to live, or retire. It offers tours of the outstanding designed "Monticello" home of Thomas Jefferson, on a hilltop - also numerous nearby winery vineyards.
I'd recommend staying in Gaithersburg, Maryland, near the Shady Grove Metro Station. You'll be within an hours drive of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and Gettysburg, and 90 minutes from Harpers' Ferry (where some say the Civil War actually began). And if the wife doesn't care to join you, she'll be a 30--minute subway ride from downtown Washington DC. Many of the hotels will provide her with a complimentary lift to the station.
For the Virginia sites of Manassas (Bull Run), you may want to move across the river (unless you want to take White's Ferry across the Potomac from Gaithersburg for a day trip). And to tour Yorktown and the site of McClellan's failed Peninsular Campaign (didn't Churchill also experience one in the Dardanelles?), you may want to quarter down there - Williamsburg has a lot of affordable lodging places. Fredericksburg is also along the way south, as is Guinea Station and the Stonewall Jackson shrine.
Great ,thanks for info will use shady oak .Thats one base found !!
<<For the Virginia sites of Manassas (Bull Run), you may want to move across the river (unless you want to take White's Ferry across the Potomac from Gaithersburg for a day trip).>>
Unless you do it in the throws of rush hour-driving from Gaithersburg to Manassas via I-270 and 495/66 won't take you but an hour. The Battlefield National Park is right of I-66, so unless you really want to, I wouldn't make plans to change hotels to get closer. (I have made that drive hundreds of times.)
You can take White's Ferry, which runs across the Potomac, but unless you are familiar with the roads, it can be tricky to find. If you are up for adventure though, it is a very nice drive and will make a lovely day trip to go up through rural Montgomery County, across the river via the ferry and into Leesburg, then down Route 15 into Prince William County and then 234 to the Battlefield.
If doing this does tickle your fancy, be aware that there are times that they do have to close the ferry if we happen to get heavy rains, so if you think there is a chance, check with them.
Consider this itinerary:
Day 1: rail from Newark airport to Philadelphia main station (super easy -- Newark Airport and Phila. are on the same rail line, and only about an hour apart by train). Find a nice hotel in downtown Philly near historic sites.
Day 2: Philadelphia.
Day 3: hire a car; plan for a one-way rental, returning it in D.C. (discussed below). Drive to Gettysburg (under two hours). Spend the night in a country Inn or tourist hotel near the park.
Day 4: drive to Antietam and Harper's Ferry (under two hours). End day in Leesburg, Va. (20 minutes from Harper's Ferry) (be sure to visit the old part of town -- lots of charm).
Day 5: Drive to Bull Run (45 minutes). End day in Charlottesville, Va. (2 hours from Bull Run).
Day 6: Charlottesville. See Monitcello, the old downtown area, and the historic campus at the University of Virginia. Maybe visit a winery.
Day 7: Drive to Williamsburg / Yorktown (2 hours). Enroute, perhaps stop at one of the battlefields or historic sites around Richmond, Va.
Days 8 & 9: Williamsburg / Yorktown / Jamestown. Lots and lots to see and do in this historic Triangle.
Day 10: drive to Washington D.C. (3 hours) Plan to stop at Mount Vernon in Alexandria en route, before returning rental car near hotel (perhaps to Reagan airport, which has metro and taxi access to many hotels).
Day 11-13: Washington D.C. there are countless historic places in and around our city, certainly enough to fill up three or four days. You won't need a car for any of them, unless you want to detour out to Annapolis MD as one of the prior posters mentioned.
Day 14: Train back to Newark airport. Again very easy -- the main rail line to New York City from Washington runs past Newark airport, and many trains each day leave Washington that stop there. It is about a 2 hour 30 minute ride.
The above trip should make for a very comfortable, interesting trip, that goes through lots of gorgeous countryside and visits all of the major historic sites within a few hours of D.C. The longest drive you'll have on any day is that from Williamsburg to Washington, and that is on major highways so it shouldn't be too bad. The only downside is it is lots of checking into and out of hotels for a night or two at a time, which I know some people don't like, but to me this seems like the best way to hit all the sites you want.
If you are looking for one area to be your base for Washington, then I would look at Leesburg. It will put you within a very easy drive of about an hour to Gettysburg and Manassas as well as harpers ferry and DC.
Thanks a lot , booked leesburg[6 days] & gettysburg [3 days]to stay with flexibility on remainder !!
Leesburg would have been one of my top picks as well, being a short hop up Route 15 to Gettysburg and a shorter drive to Harpers Ferry, but I thought if the Missus wasn't too interested in marching across battlefields for two week, it would have been much easier for her to head into DC via the Metro, versus trying to find her way in from Leesburg.
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