When is the last time you were on a road trip? Many of us grew up with the yearly tradition of getting in the car with our families and hitting the road. For those of you who grew up in the eastern part of the country, many of your road trips began and sometimes ended on Interstate 95. Although you may have stuck to the highway and passed countless truck stops, Motel 6’s and one too many Cracker Barrels, this interstate intersects some of the most interesting cities and small towns in this country.
Running from Maine to Florida, this route has been well-traveled for the last 60 years. Beginning at the top of Maine and winding down through one of the most congested corridors in the country. It splits cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC. For many travelers, it is the most direct route and quickest way to get to their destination, but I encourage you the next time you take I-95, leave a little early as there are some amazing destinations right off of the highway.
Here are just a few:
In Maine, jump off the highway at the city of Portland for a glimpse at the picturesque Portland Head Light and walk the grounds at Fort Williams Park. On your way back to I-95, head downtown to check out its unique architecture.
No trip through Maine is complete without making a stop In nearby Freeport (off of I-295) where you will find the flagship LL Bean store. This century old store located in the heart of downtown Freeport is open 24 hours a day.
As you are heading south, if the weather is warm, stop by Old Orchard Beach to ride the rides at Palace Playland, a unique amusement park located directly on the beach!
Boston is a bustling city that is filled with history and charm. Boston is not only home to a few champion sports teams, it’s also home to many major historical events that shaped this country. If you have some time to spare and they aren’t sold out, catch a Celtics, Red Sox or New England Patriots game. Not a sports fan? Take the Duck Tour. This unique amphibious tour will give you a tour of the city by land and sea (well, actually river) all while learning about Boston’s rich and colorful history.
One of the oldest cities in our country, Philadelphia is another must-stop destination. If you only have a short time, take a drive through Old City and stop at Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in the country, then head to South Philly for some of their world famous cheesesteaks (try Pat’s and Geno’s – both located at 9th and Passyunk). Before you leave and jump back on I-95, stop at Reading Terminal Market to stock up on some snacks for the rest of your trip. The nation’s oldest market, Reading Terminal Market is filled with culinary delights and quaint shops.
On a long drive you can work up quite an appetite. If you are around Petersburg, VA you can take a detour off of I95 into bar-b-que country. Petersburg is home to a host of many southern food joints, but one of the best is Saucy’s Bar.B.Q. If you have the time, you can sit down or grab a sandwich to go from their small walk-up. Saucy’s has a funky vibe and great home-cooked food that will keep you fueled up for your journey. Although their delicious bar-b-que is near impossible to imitate, you can grab some of their rub and sauce to-go and give it a shot at home.
Bentonville Battlefield – Four Oaks, NC
This charming town of 1900 people is filled with rich southern history. Take a walk down it’s historic main street, stopping in at the general store filled with North Carolina local crafts and foods, drive through town and see its gorgeous centuries old homes or have a picnic in picturesque Barbour’s Grove Park (after picking up some barbecue at Holt Lake Bar-B-Que and Seafood of course). After exploring this quintessential southern town, head over to Bentonville Battlefield the site of the largest Civil War battle in NC. After the hustle and bustle of the highway, this quiet stop is the perfect respite on your long journey. From this point, you can intersect Route 40 to take you to Raleigh (30 miles) or Wilmington, NC and North Carolina shore points (100 miles).
Historic Yates Mill is near Raleigh. A beautiful 174 acre wildlife refuge and park with water and an old Grist Mill and many places around the park to picnic. The trails are well-designed and are perfect for pictures by the waterfall and waterwheel. There are various areas to enjoy – small pond for fishing, a small amphitheater and a lovely porch area with rocking chairs.
South of the Border – Dillon, SC
Anyone travelling I-95 for the last few decades has seen the signs promising an out of world experience at South of the Border, affectionately coined the gateway to the south. Near the North Carolina, South Carolina border, this was once an infamous stopping point for the north to south (or vice versa) journey. Although this colorful and exotic tourist trap has lost its original shine, it’s still a place millions stop each year to stretch their legs, grab a souvenir or fireworks before heading on their journey. No I-95 trip is complete without stopping here.
Forsyth Park and Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia is known for it’s character and southern charm. It’s also home to the largest historic district in the United States, so stopping there is a must. While you are in Savannah, drive through the historic downtown and take in the views then head to Forsyth Park to stretch your legs and revel in the beauty of the pristine setting filled with spanish moss.
Titusville is home to the NASA Kennedy Space Center and the US Astronauts Hall of Fame. For those with kids (or who are kids at heart) being an astronaut for the day (or learning about them) is a bucket list item. If you are lucky and time your trip just right, you may be able to see a rocket launch!
The next time you are taking a road trip on I-95, be sure to give yourself some extra time to explore. There are thousands of tiny towns, roadside attractions and green spaces that you would never find if you didn’t veer off the beaten path.
Have you ever driven I-95? Share some of your favorite stop-offs in the comments below!