Where do you want to go, we asked each other. We couldn't decide what in the world to do with our long weekend. We pondered and we talked about options. Undecided, we knew we had to make a decision and we had to make it soon. It wasn't until the simple comment was made, "There is so much I want to see in this world" that we knew. Immediately, we knew what the plans were going to be. We were going to visit two locations in western West Virginia. Places that we had each longed to visit. I was going to finally visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV and Jason was going to be able to see the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, WV. We couldn't be happier with our plans.
We took our time and researched everything fully and settled on our plans. We woke up early and drove to Weston, WV and arrived at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum at 11:30. The first tour was set to start at Noon. I had already ascertained and decided on the tours that we would be doing, so I quickly paid and we went out to wait for our tour to start. Ohhh my word, this building and tour is everything I could have imagined. This building is quite historic and is just teeming with stories and happenings.
WeThe tour guide was knowledgeable and was able to give a history of the architecture and inhabitants through a variety of stories and information about the site. I already want to go back!
We were tired at that point so we headed to our hotel. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and we couldn't be any happier with our hotel. The staff working the hotel were super friendly and the building was immaculate. It was so clean in fact that we asked if the building has just been built and opened to the public!
The next morning we were ready to head to our next destination, The New River Gorge. Before we left the town though, we decided to head into the Museum of American Glass. This museum dedicated to glassware was interesting. We enjoyed the oil lamp collection and I absolutely loved the Lady Jane Stained Glass Dollhouse. The drive from Weston to Fayetteville was through mountains where nature surrounded us. The scenery alone made the drive worthwhile. It was about an hour drive and eventually we arrived! We were so excited to get our first glimpse of the bridge. We started at the National Park Service visitor Center parking lot. We walked the boardwalks to the overlooks and took in the bridge.
It is hard to describe the massive proportions of the bridge. This thing is huge!
This is located in a national park and unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic the visitor center was closed. However all overlooks and trails were open. We took every chance we could to see the bridge.
One of the highlights of this weekend was the visit to Thurmond, WV. This is an abandoned town nestled in the bottom of the gorge. Once a boom town, this town slowly faded to a collection of empty buildings as the coal mines shut down. The buildings are intact and have been secured and maintained by the National Park Service. The commerce area of the town is right on the edge of the railroad tracks while the residential area stood on the hill above the town. Walking through this town was amazing. It is hard to not think about the people that walked those roads many years before.
The trail system and scenery in this area are second to none. There are trails that take you to overlooks, trails that take you to abandoned coal mines and trails that lead you to rivers edge. It seemed as if we saw a waterfall at every turn, each one just as pretty as the one before. We could have stayed for a week and still not seen and experienced everything that this area has to offer. There are mountain bike trails, miles of hiking, ruins, kayaking and so much more.
On this trip, we even managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Monster Museum in Sutton, WV! The quirkiness of this little museum was a great stop along the drive home.
We have already decided that we will be returning to New River Gorge as soon as possible. It's pretty and full of activities that will have you appreciating history and nature. A weekend at New river Gorge National Park and visiting Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was a perfect getaway!
Check out the in detail descriptions for the locations visited during this trip
New River Gorge
Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Museum of American Glass
A visit to The New River Gorge National Park would not be complete without a visit to the town of Thurmond, WV. Before we visited the area, I did my due diligence and researched many of the attractions and trails in the area. We only had a short time during that visit and I wanted to see as much as I could and to hit the most important locations. As soon as I saw the words ‘abandoned town’, I was hooked! Thurmond was one of the ‘musts’ for this trip!
The town of Thurmond was once a bustling boom town. The steady flow of money from the local coal mines and the railroad station in town fueled the economy. Over the years the coal mines began to shut down which caused a decline in the financial wealth of this community. Simultaneously, the rise in popularity of the automobile brought around a steep decrease in passenger train travel, which further hampered the economic prosperity of the town. Slowly, people began to leave the town for more prosperous towns. In the 2010 Census, the population of the town was listed as 5 and most of the buildings are now owned by the National Park Service.
The Commercial Area of Thurmond, WV
The first thing you will see as you drive into the town is the train station. This station has been completely redone and serves as a visitor center for the National Park. It is the focal point of the town. This is still a flag stop for Amtrak service. So if you want to begin and/or end your vacation in Thurmond, you can definitely arrive by train!
To tour the business area of the this abandoned town you will be walking along the railroad tracks. The commercial area of town is nestled between the side of the mountain and the railroad tracks. These railroad tracks are still owned, operated and used by CSX, so please be careful. It is fascinating to walk by the businesses and imagine how life was in this town during the heyday when it was a bustling center of activity that while small was so prosperous that it was able to support two banks.
The Coaling Tower
There are still remnants of the bygone era of steam locomotives. The coaling tower still stands tall and proud at the end of the commerce section of town. Along with some of the outbuildings that supported the thriving railroad. Proud of the history of this town, in recent years they have held a Thurmond Train day for rail fans.
The Residential Area of town
We walked through the commercial area of the town and walked by a few buildings that were obviously residential in nature before we came to a winding road that led up the side of the mountain. It was a hot day when we were there, but we decided to walk up a bit of the hill to explore. Oh my word! I am so glad I did. Abandoned house after abandoned house stood at the side of the road a testament to the lives that had been lived in this town. The houses have been secured by the National Park service, so they are not readily available for entry. However, it is possible to walk onto the porches and peer in some windows.
Remnants of lives once happily lived are evidenced in the flowers that were once carefully planted but now grow wild. As we wound up the hill and back down, we came across the town church standing proud on the side of the mountain. Oh, if walls could talk!
Thurmond, WV quickly became the absolute favorite part of our visit to this area. It is not often you get to walk through an abandoned ghost town that is still almost fully intact. The history and vibe of the area was something to behold! We explored that town as fully as we could! We have both on many different occasions since we have been home have made the remark that we will go back to that town to explore more!
For more about this area, check out The New River Gorge Bridge.
I have heard so much about the New River Gorge Bridge! Jason had always wanted to see the the bridge and I had grown interested through hearing about him talk about this bridge. We were in Western West Virginia to visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and realized that the New River Gorge was only an hour away. We had to go! Completed in 1977, The New River Gorge Bridge opened as the worlds longest single span arch bridge. It held that record for 26 years. Even now, it remains the fourth largest single span bridge. The bridge was built as a means of traveling from one side of the gorge to the other. Before the completion of this bridge traversing from one side to the other required a 40 minute trip down to the bottom of the gorge and back up the other side. The new bridge reduced the travel time to roughly one minute.
National Park Service Visitor Center
We arrived at the new river gorge around lunch time. We couldn’t wait to lay our eyes on this bridge that we had heard so much about! We immediately headed to the National Park Service Visitor Center parking. I knew that the actual visitor center was closed due to the pandemic, but the website had indicated that the boardwalks and overlooks were open. While it would have been nice to be able to see and learn more about the bridge , I was grateful that I would still be able to visit the overlooks. After all, that was what I came for! We parked in the parking lot at the National Park visitors center. We were ready to get our first taste of the New River Gorge Bridge!
There were signs that indicated the direction to the overlook. The path quickly turns into a wooden boardwalk. The walk is easy and in just a few short moments you will come to the first overlook. We could see the bridge and we stood in awe for a bit.
AThis boardwalk trail was not over though. There are a series of steps that head down to a second overlook. We didn’t have to ponder long. Although as we headed down there was a bit of trepidation about the return climb up the steps. Halfway down the steps there is a nice area that includes some benches if you need a break. We reached the bottom and the view was spectacular. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized exactly how deep this gorge is and how utterly mammoth this bridge really is.
The hike back up isn’t too bad. We were out of breath but it only took a few minutes. We decided to walk a bit around the visitor center area and we came to a second overlook. This on also had some neat displays showing information about the bridge.
After we had explored all we could see we headed out. It wasn’t until the next day that we explored the bridge more fully.
Fayette station road
The road that up until 1977 had been the primary means to get from one side of the gorge to the other is called the Fayette Station Road. It is still open and the visitor center offers audio tours of this road. I knew from my pre-trip research that we could stream the audio tour in lieu of going into the visitor center (which was closed). Perfect! We happily headed on this tour. The audio tour is well done. It gives the history and background of this road that winds down and then back up the mountain utilizing switchbacks while carrying you by sheer rock walls and waterfalls.
Along the way there are ample opportunities to stop to view the New River Gorge Bridge. Each different view and angle only reinforces the mammoth proportions of this bridge. At the bottom of the gorge there is camp/day use area with plenty of parking. This allowed us the chance to view up close the river that runs through the gorge. We saw kayakers drop into the water, fisherman fishing and swimmers enjoying the cool temperature of the water on a hot day. We took the opportunity to walk back to the bridge that spans the water at the bottom of the gorge. It was here that we were given a full view of the bridge.
andThe Fayette Station Road has a few pull offs that are at trailheads. We hiked one of the trails for a bit, enjoying the flowing water of streams and the gushing waterfalls that the trail took us too.
The overlooks located at the visitor center and the views of the new River Gorge bridge from the Fayette Station were spectacular and made the bridge experience a most amazing part of this trip! The new River Gorge is definitely a must see location!
For More West Virginia travel, visit the Museum of American Glass in Weston, WV and Thurmond and abandoned town in the New River Gorge Area.
Nestled in the heart of downtown Weston, WV sits a little gem of a museum, The Museum of American Glass. This museum is dedicated to the artform that is American Glass. We were in town to visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum but I didn't want to leave town until I knew that I had seen all that there was to see. I turned the online resources to see if there were any other must see attractions. The Museum of American Glass kept appearing on my screen.
Do I really want to go see Glass?
Glass? I kept asking myself. Do I really want to go into a building full of glassware? I debated. I went back and forth in my decision. At one moment I would be thinking that I should really go to the museum because when would I be back in the town of Weston, WV and the museum was free to tour! After a few minutes though, I would be back to the thought that it sounded, well....boring! When we left the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum after a full day of tours, we actually drove by the museum. The mural on the side of the building was neat and I was temporarily swayed to go visit. But not that night, we were tired and it was time to go get some dinner and go back to our hotel.
I went back and forth with the decision all evening long. To go or not to go, that was the true question of the evening. The next morning I woke up quite early. I knew that we had to make a decision about the Museum of American Glass soon because we were leaving town in just a few short hours! I picked up my phone and pulled up their website once again. This time, something caught my eye! I saw that they had a nice collection of Oil Lamps!
I knew at that exact moment that we would be going to this museum. Jason has a keen interest in antique oil lamps and has his own collection. This was now something that would have interest to us! I got ready to close out of the website and my eyes caught sight of something else. The website announced a new display. It announced the arrival of a Lady Jane Stained Glass Dollhouse. I build, collect and love miniature houses. I was hooked now!
There was no question about going to visit this museum now. The website indicated that on the day we were going to visit that they opened at 9:30. We arrived at 10AM. The museum is housed in a storefront in the downtown of Weston, WV. We stopped to look at the interesting displays that they had in the front windows before walking inside.
We walked in and we were greeted with a room full of display cases. There was multi colored glass filling each case. While we knew what we really wanted to see, we knew that we were going to enjoy and explore the complete museum. I saw glassware from companies that I was familiar with, such as Fenton. But there were various glass pieces from glass makers that I had never heard about.
While the array of colors and types of glassware was amazing, we were happy strolling through the museum and taking in the vibrant colors. The curators of this museum have each glass maker separate so we were able to see the glass art displayed before us. While each maker was identified, there was not much background information displayed. We stopped and read the names of the glass makers, but I would have loved to learn more about each one.
Eventually we came to the oil lamps and we slowed down and really perused the displays. They have some amazing and unique oil lamps on display.
We say displays about glassworks and glassblowing and then I saw the Stained Glass dollhouse. It was huge! I was in my glory.
The museum of American Glass was a neat little visit. We only spent about a half hour to hour in the museum, but it was an interesting collection and the price was right. While I would have liked to have seen a bit more information on the collections so that I could learn more about each glassmaker, I would definitely recommend a visit to this museum. This museum is a great way to round out a trip to Weston, WV.
I first learned about the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum somewhere right around 2010. I had been searching for abandoned and historical buildings online and the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum came into my radar. I read all that I could about the building. I was fascinated with the history and filled with thankfulness that this building had been purchased and open to the public for tours. Immediately, this location skyrocketed to one of the top three places to visit on my bucket list. I wanted to visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in a really bad way. Unfortunately, life and circumstances kept me away. I may have not been able to visit at that point, but I kept a close eye on the website. I was pleased to see that the tours were supplying the funds for ongoing restoration. As a result, through the years they began to offer a larger variety of tours and more access to the property. My interest only grew, but more years passed.
FINALLY, the arrangements were made and I had plans to go visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. I was beside myself with excitement. I had researched the different tours and I knew that there were two of the available tours that I was planning on taking. I wanted to do the Four Floor tour and the Criminally Insane Tour. We planned to arrive in time to start with the first tour, which would give us the option to add on a third tour at the end of the day if time permitted.
We pulled up to the building and I was practically giddy! The pictures that I had seen (and that I took) do not do this building justice. This building is quite immense and imposing. (I am honestly struggling to not just fill up this post with pictures!)
The building was opened in 1864 and operated as a hospital until 1994. It was opened under the name of Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum but later changed its name to Weston State Hospital in the year 1913. The name was changed back to “Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum” when it was reopened to the public for tours. This imposing structure is the largest hand cut stone building in the United States and is the second largest in the world, second only to the Kremlin in Moscow.
The main floor opens up to a grand entrance that has been beautifully restored. Here you will have the chance to buy your tickets, sign your waiver and visit the gift shop. Your price of your admission (no any of the variety of tours) will give you access to the museum which is housed on the main floor and right wing of the main floor. There are artifacts from life in this mental hospital and the property that included fields for producing their own food and a coal mine. As you walk through the right wing you will see various examples of common treatments for mental illness. You can read about them and then take in the re-creations that they have set up.
The first tour in my day was the Four Floor Tour. This guided tour is fantastic. In 2020 it was $30 and will last for about 90 minutes. The tour guide will lead you through the main building and talk about the various features of the architecture and history of the building. The tour guide will point out various points of interest and will share stories of the patients and personnel who lived, worked and resided in this grand building. During the tour there will be opportunities to learn about the history and uses of the other buildings that surround the main building on this medical campus. The tour will lead you through beautifully restored areas. You will see what the building looked like when it was at the height of it’s use.
However you will also see similar areas that are showing signs of the years of disuse and decay. The juxtaposition between the two is amazing to witness.
The tours will lead you through many areas of the building that are rough and raw and showing signs of the years decay. You will see the peeling paint. You will see decay as you learn about how the areas were used. You will see the sheer beauty of this building.
The four floor tour will also give you access to the Medical Building. This building served as the for not only the asylum but also for the community. While this building may not be as old and prestigious as the main building, the history and stories are no less plentiful and fascinating.
We were absolutely pleased with our tour and our tour guide. It was 90 minutes of amazing sights and fabulous stories about what we were seeing. But our day was not over yet! We had a thirty minute break before our next tour. We spent our time strolling through the museum portion of the building. The artifacts are well displayed and you can tell that they were carefully chosen to convey the life of the people that worked in the building as well as the life that was created for the patients that spent most of their lives within the confines of this property.
All too soon it was time for our next tour but we knew that we would have time to see the rest later in the day! Up next was the Criminally Insane Tour. Yes, this hospital housed the criminally insane and at one point they had a building that was built for this exact purchase. This tour is again led by a tour guide who was quite knowledgeable In fact, we were lucky enough to get the same tour guide for this tour but even luckier, we were the only two people on our tour. A personal tour! We headed back to the criminally insane building. Our tour guide let us peak into the windows of the hospital library and look at the patient graffiti that still graced the walls outside the library before heading into the main portion of the building.
This tour was just as good as the first tour. We learned that they housed two types of patients in this building. They housed the patients that were deemed criminally insane but the state also used the building to house prisoners while they were awaiting on the trial for their mental competency. The doctors and staff of the hospital would work with the prisoners/patients to determine the level of their sanity. Much of the building was in a dorm room style where these criminally insane patients were housed together. The stories, history and architecture on this tour was just as impressive as the first tour that we went on. It was a great decision to add this tour onto our day’s activities. It was an additional $15, but worth every penny.
After our two tours we continued to explore the museum and visited the gift shop. We were seriously debating adding on the Daytime Paranormal tour to our day . This tour would lead us through the buildings. It would be full of stories of paranormal experiences and show different areas that were noted to have higher than average paranormal events. We eventually decided to not do the tour so that we would have plenty of time to enjoy the museum.
Visiting the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was on my bucket list for years and after visiting, I question why I waited so long to actually visit. The money from the tours goes back into the building and each year they work on restoring and stabilizing this grand building, so the money is well spent. But these tours are preserving not only the buildings, they are preserving the stories and the life that was held within these buildings. As we were driving away Jason looked at me and said “we will have to come back to Weston, West Virginia in a few years to do the paranormal tour and to see what they have restored!” Yes, this building really is that awesome!
We all have dreams for our futures. We all want more from life and so many times, that requires more freedom. It requires freedom from the burden of a nine to five job and sometimes it requires financial freedom. It is the act of being financially independent, living a life without the constraints of being reliant on being employed or relying on others. But how do we get there? How do we follow the dream of travelling full time? How do we attain the dream of self sufficiency and financial freedom that allows us to see the world? People are constantly searching the internet, reading books, watching youtube videos in an effort to learn how to make their dreams come true. Just type in whatever your dream is and ask how to achieve that dream and you will find hundreds and thousands of internet links for blogs, websites and videos. There are tons of different ideas out there and people are reading and searching for them. Seriously, there are a lot! Why is it so popular? It is popular because we all have dreams for our lives. It is only natural. I have tons of dreams and aspirations and I frequently spend time on the internet research how to bring them to fruition. But probably the most common dream that I research is how to afford to travel full time and how to live a financially free life. How can afford to travel the world? Your dream doesn't have to be my dream. You may be trying to figure out how to afford to buy your first hour or how to afford that dream vacation. It can be anything. That is the beauty of dreams. We are only limited by our own imagination. But what happens once we dream and actually take the first step to research and find plan to implement our dreams.
How to become Financially Independent
We gather our information and ideas from the internet and then we sit back and think. And here is where there comes a divide in the road. What are you going to do with the information? This first choice is upon you immediately. What exactly are you going to do with this information? How ambitious are you? Are you going to look at the information you gathered and think 'Yes, someday! That sounds like a good idea, but not today"? Maybe you are one of the people that lament the fact that it's not going to be easy and set all ideas and plans aside? Do you look at the information and think 'someday'? Have you gathered your information only to find yourself totally overwhelmed? Do you feel as if it's too late to start? Or maybe, just maybe you are one of the people that do your research and dive right in. No matter what type of person you are, it's ok. I just want you to remember that there is always the perfect time to start and that perfect time is right now.
Start today on the road to financial freedom
OK, when I say that right now is the perfect time to start, that is assuming that you haven't already started to put your plans and ideas into action. Because, lets be honest, the best time to put your plans into action is always going to be yesterday, last year, 5 years ago. Basically the best time some time in the past simply because the ground work would already be laid and you would be a few steps forward in the process. But if you haven't started, it's ok. You can't let that bother you. We are not looking at the past. We are dreaming about the future. And that is what makes right here, right now the perfect time to start. If you give up simply because you did not start years ago, then you will never succeed because you will always be lamenting the fact that you haven't started and now it's an uphill battle that may even seem insurmountable.
I have spent more time than I would like to kicking myself for not pushing through with ideas and thoughts that I had years ago. I started writing in what started as an online journal. It was for my own personal use. I have consistently written posts there since January of 2006. I was writing there for my own personal growth and well being and while my readership was growing, I never capitalized on that blog for monetary purposes. I resisted 'selling out' on what I considered my personal journal. I even thought about doing video vlogs to complement that as early as 2008, but it was too much work. Where would I have been had I pushed my blog/website back when blogs were just starting to gain momentum? I could have been well on my way to traveling full time and earning my living off of my website. I eventually did start a YouTube channel for vlogs and as a companion to my website. I played around with it. It was a hobby for me. I never pushed myself past the hobby stage. Yet what would have happened had I tried to turn it into a stream of income? Could that have been funding our long weekends of exploration? Could it be paying for a fabulous vacation each year? Better yet, would I be financially capable of realizing my dreams
You see, it's easy to look back and ask yourself why you didn't do something. Why didn't you start earlier? Why didn't you take things more seriously? Why didn't you put more effort into your hobbies? But that isn't going to help anything. It's time to stop looking at the past and to start looking to the future. Today is the day to start making the changes in your life that will help you achieve those ambitions and dreams. Today is the beginning of a new future where our dreams and goals come true. Today is the first day in the journey to being financially free and independent.
About 70 miles northwest from DC there is a little known Maryland State Park. The park is centered around a monument of great importance to our national history. This monument is dedicated to one of our founding fathers of the United States of America. I am talking about the Washington Monument State park.
This state park is here to allow visitors the chance to see and visit the monument that was completed that was dedicated to George Washington. The park is conveniently located along the Appalachian trail and the state park utilizes much of the Appalachian Trail system within the park. In fact, the monument is located only a short distance from the Appalachian Trail. To get to this park you will need to take Alternate 40 to the top of South Mountain which looms on the outskirts of Boonsboro, MD. At the top of South Mountain, you will follow the signs to the park entrance. There is an honor system entry fee box at the entrance of the park. Upon paying, you can proceed into the park where the road will wind you further up toward the top of the mountain where you will find a parking lot, some pavilions, bathrooms and a small visitor center. During our winter visit, the visitor center and bathrooms were closed. However, they conveniently had a port-a-potty on the grounds for visitors use. (A very clean port-a-potty also!) The website indicates that you can rent a pavilion and that youth groups can camp on site, both of which require a reservation. The lower parking lot can be used by hikers that are hiking and camping on the nearby Appalachian Trail for a few days. The trail begins northward from the upper parking lot. There is plenty of signage to help you navigate the park. The information board will give you more information about the park and how this monument came into existence and it’s history. There are multiple waysides to talk about the flora and fauna in the area. My personal favorite was the raptor board. This is a board that captures a running tally of how many different birds of each species was seen in the area. It was neat to realize that bald eagles had been seen more than 60 times during the year in which we were visiting. The trail from the parking lot is quite wide and well packed as it meanders up the hillside. Along the trail there are signs that indicate certain milestones in George Washington’s life.
They start with his birth and as you go up the short hill to the monument you will see more signs with more events and happenings in his life until finally you are in sight of the monument and you see the sign chronicling his death.
The monument itself was built in 1827 and has been rebuilt at least twice…the most recent time by the CCC. It towers on the edge of the mountain and the walkway around the monument allows visitors the chance to see the spectacular views.
The monument is open and visitors can climb to the top. The steps are narrow, winding and steep; but the view at the top makes it worth it all! The view is breathtaking as this monument is located on the top of a mountain. Therefore, you can see an incredible distance. The informational plaques at the top will help you recognize not only the towns and landmarks before you but also the various birds you may see soaring high overhead.
Overall, this is a small gem of a historical site. But don’t think that your visit is over!
No, remember that the Appalachian Trail meanders quite close to the Monument! The hiking in this area is fantastic. The tail is well used and in great shape. There is a rather steep grade down at the beginning, but it is all graded with stepping stones and logs to not only help the hiker navigate the trail but to keep the natural erosion in check.
You will come to a ridgeline. If you are hiking in the summer you may not even realize that it is a ridge…but if you step off the trail 100 feet in either direction at various locations, you will find yourself standing before more breathtaking views. It is a great place to hike!
The Washington Monument State Park in Boonsboro, really packs a punch. It is the perfect place for a short visit. There is history about the building of the Washington Monument as well as history about the life of George Washington. There are breathtaking views! There is nature and hiking. This is the perfect little place to visit for the day!
For a fun trip with more history and fun, check out Lancaster County, PA
Everything is starting to open up and we are just itching to get out. It is vacation season after-all! We want to have some semblance of normalcy in this crazy times we are living in. We want to have our vacations! But is it possible to travel and go on vacation safely in the times of a pandemic? Can you go away and not risk your health and the health of your loved ones? Would we even have fun or would it all be closed down? I am here to tell you that you absolutely can go on a vacation and still remain safe amidst the worldwide panic of a pandemic. I have done it and I have felt just as safe and even just as isolated as I do in my own house.
Initial Planning for travel During the Covid-19 Pandemic
The first step toward taking any vacation is in planning. But with a pandemic raging around us, planning a vacation takes even more work. As with any vacation, you are going to need to sit down and think about what you normally like to do on vacation and where you normally like to go. Researching those areas is the first step. . Are the hotels even open? Will I be in a large crowd? Will I have to wear a mask 100% of the time? These questions are very important as your first step in planning. We had talked about going to the Ocean and we really wanted to go. However, all we were seeing when we checked social media and news outlets were crowds of people. People standing shoulder to shoulder with no face masks. No thank you. I have family members that are in the at risk population. It's not worth it. SO for me, that was not an option. I have friends that have opted to travel to the beach amidst the crowds and potential risks. They weighed the risk and for them, it was not a deterrent. I have friends that have gone to an amusement park and spent a full day in a mask out in the baking hot sun. For them, it was worth it. But for me? Not worth it at all! This is a purely individual choice. If your first option for a vacation locale seems a bit risky look elsewhere. You will not enjoy your vacation if you are constantly worrying about your health and the risks that you are taking. Calculate the risks versus your comfort level when choosing your vacation destination
When we were planning our covid get-a-way, we decided that we wanted to go to places that were more secluded. We wanted our primary destinations to be out in nature where we would not be required to wear a mask and where we would not be in large crowds. I pulled up a map and I started to search for State parks and National Parks. I was able to narrow down our search for a Pandemic Vacation Destination to one or two places. Once I got to that point, I dove deeper into the details of the travel.
Planning the Details for a Vacation during a Pandemic
Once we had our possible destination chosen, I started to research hotels. I started to look at museums that may be nearby. I started to look at possible activities. I created a list and I researched each open. Were the hotels open? Would we need to wear a mask? What was the status of restaurants in that area? Would we need to take all of our food to go or were they offering in house dining. What capacity were they operating at...would there be sufficient room between tables? What regulations would be mandated at museums? Many of these answers were online, but I did have to call a few hotels and a few locations to get the answers I needed. I knew that the small details that we usually take for granted would be utterly important!
Make your lists and check for the details!
We have done a few get-a-ways since they have started to lift the restrictions. I learned some valuable lessons about travelling in a pandemic along the way. The biggest thing I learned was that you need to ask for the details. Each state has different regulations. Each town has their own set of rules and each individual business has the right to make their own decisions about how and when to follow those mandated guidelines.
We went to a hotel in Weston, WV that had an indoor pool. For the same vacation I then made reservations at a hotel that had an outdoor pool in Fayetteville, WV where we were going to be travelling. I had researched the state's website about the pandemic and had noted that pools were allowed to open. We were going swimming! We arrived at the first hotel and found that the pool was open, just as we expected. No problem! However, when we arrived at the second hotel with the outdoor pool, it was closed due to the pandemic. It was disappointing, but completely my fault. I did the first part of the research but failed to specifically ask if the pool was open. A few weeks later when we went away again, I called hotel after hotel to find one that had a pool that was open! I had learned my lesson!
Food during a Pandemic Travel
Food is another big item to research while traveling. As was mentioned earlier, different locations have different regulations and this also pertains to restaurants. Are the restaurants even open? Can they do delivery and takeout? Can you dine in? Food is a necessity and often a large part of vacation. Don't find yourself in a predicament where your food options are not to your specifications. Likewise, if you are counting on the hotel to provide your breakfast, check before you book. We have stayed at three hotels during the pandemic. One of the hotels simply shut down their breakfast. One hotel gave a grab and go bag that contained a piece of fruit a granola bar and a bottle of water. Better than nothing, but a far cry from what we typically get for breakfast at a hotel. The third hotel (Hampton Inn in Weston, WV) did an amazing breakfast. Even better? It was done in such a way that the quality of the food did not suffer yet they managed to do so while making everyone feel safe within this pandemic. We have seen three different versions of how hotels are handling this situation. Check with the hotel before you go if this is something that you are concerned with.
Be prepared on your Pandemic Vacation
Take your masks! The state you are visiting may not require masks, but you WILL encounter places that do require the use of a mask. While we were visiting WV on our first trip, we found that only museums were requiring masks. I had researched and called beforehand, so we were expecting this. On our next visit to West Virginia a few weeks later the museum we visited did NOT require a mask but the local gift shop/stores did. It really does depend on each area. Do you research and go prepared with your masks!
It is definitely doable to go on vacation during this pandemic. Your decisions will need to be determined by your own personal comfort levels and the safety and precautions of the area in which you wish to travel. Traveling during a pandemic will require you to research and look deeply at your destinations. You will need to chose your options carefully based on the amenities, restrictions and allowances of each place. It may seem like a lot of work, but it is well worth it when you can step back into living, forget about all the craziness in our world and have a fabulous vacation in the middle of a world wide pandemic.
About an hour and a half away from the craziness of Baltimore and Washington DC is the most bucolic and peaceful vacation destination. I am talking about Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The simple and slow pace of the Amish community that intersperses throughout the county harkens to a day when life was much simpler. It is hard to visit and NOT think longingly of life as an Amish person.
This visit was no different. We arrived and just breathed in the peaceful slow pace of the Amish life even amidst the hustle and bustle of a thriving tourist community.
We arrived on a Sunday. This day is not the ideal day to visit Amish Country. Many of the businesses are closed on Sunday due to the religious practices of the Amish community. However, even if you do find yourself in the area on a Sunday there is plenty of things you can do. We started our afternoon at the Amish Village. This is a small village that is dedicated to educating the public about the Amish way of life.
The price of admission (roughly $10) will take you on a guided tour through a farmhouse that is set in the 1950's. The guide will talk about the history of the Amish and how the Amish live even into the current modern age. At the conclusion of the guided tour you will exit the house into the village. You can visit the barn and the animals that are kept on the property. Make sure you have a few quarters to buy some snacks for the animals!
As you go around the property you will have the opportunity to sit in Amish buggies and look at farming practices. You will even have the chance to go into an Amish style schoolhouse.
Our day was about over by the time we were done with the antique shops and it was ready to call it a day. I knew that I wanted to indulge in a Lancaster County delicacy....I wanted a piece of Shoo Fly pie! The problem? Most of the stores that sell this Amish delicacy are closed on Sundays! No problem! I headed to The Dutch Haven! The Dutch Haven is a landmark that is right on Route 30 You can't miss it due to the large replica dutch style windmill. They have lots of touristy items for sale but the main reason for me to go.....they sell Shoo Fly Pie! Usually when you go in they will offer you a nibble of the pie. This is great because this gives the uninformed a chance to try the pie before you purchase. They sell the pie in different ways. You can definitely buy a whole pie (they do ship also) but you can also buy a single piece! I bought a single piece to enjoy in the hotel room that night! It was definitely delicious!
Monday morning dawned and it was a rainy mess! We relaxed and finally got a start to our day. We started the day at the Kettle Kitchen Village in Intercourse.
This is a village that is set up to sell various items. and is free to visit. What will cost you are your purchases if you can't resist the temptations! There is a jam and canned goods shop that has various homestyle canned goods to buy, a a smoke shop and shops that sell their own individual niche of items...things such as candles, knick knacks, quilts, leather goods. The skies the limit and it seems to change every time I go! You can also grab a ride in a horse drawn buggy at this location. (we did not do that this visit!)
After a rainy time spent shopping we decided it was time to head to Lititz! Why Lititz? Why the Wilbur Chocolate Factory Store of course! But first we stopped at the Sturgis Pretzel factory and bought some pretzels and went on the Historic Tour!
You will get a master Pretzel Maker Certificate when you are done..which is always a fun one for the kids in the group......or for the big kid like myself!The tour guide will take you into the original factory of this pretzel company. This company is one of the oldest continuously operating Pretzel companies in the United States. It has been in operation for over 150 years. The tour guide will show you how to make a pretzel and walk you through steps of making their famous delicacy.
The tour guide will go further and talk about how the company and the making of pretzels has evolved over the years. You can even buy a hot soft pretzel at the end of the tour! For $3.50 this tour is well worth it
After we had our fill of pretzel knowledge we headed over to the Wilbur Chocolate Factory Store. Ohhh the smell of chocolate is heavenly when you walk into the store. There are displays to show you the history of Wilburs. There are windows allowing you to watch workers hand dipping chocolate. And there are tables and displays of chocolate! Delicious chocolate!
This is a great little visit (and they have clean bathrooms!)
If you have the time, walk through the town of Lititz. There are some amazing shops. The Savory Gourmet is awesome. They have amazing cheeses and exotic meats. I but you won't be able to get out of there without a purchase! There are antique shops and other various shops to stroll through while you are in Lititz! Definitely take the time to explore!
A visit to Lancaster is always a favorite get a way of mine. It is fun as a day trip and fun as a short overnight trip! Lancaster, I will be back! (Stay tuned for more travel tips on places in Lancaster!)
A trip to the Washington Monument State Park is a great way to spend a day.
We needed a get-a-way! We needed to step away from life and go away for a quick weekend trip….just an overnight trip away. With just the typical weekend, we knew that our options were more limited and that we didn’t want to drive too far. We settled on a trip to Manassas, VA.
Manassas, Virginia sits about 37 miles outside of Washington, DC. It is the perfect distance for a quick day trip to or from the City and offers a variety of options for entertainment.
We started our time in Manassas with a stroll through downtown Manassas. The downtown area is only a few blocks. The area is full of quaint shops, stores and businesses. There is history in the buildings and structures all around this town.
The buildings are old and full of history and contain some amazing little shops. We especially loved the candle shop where we purchased quite a few candles at the Shining Sol Candle shop!
So many stores tempted us to make purchases. The Manassas museum is a small but free museum that is located near the downtown. It will walk you through the history of the area and the people of Manassas. They have some awesome artifacts that will intrigue everyone.
The town boasts the Harris Pavilion that plays host to various events, concerts, farmers markets and in the winter months becomes the towns ice skating rink. It is an area designed to meet the needs of the community.
For the Civil War Buff, the much famed Civil War Battlefield is located nearby. The Battle of Manassas (or The Battle of Bull Run depending on which side of the war you were on) is a great place to visit to get a little bit of historical knowledge. (Stay tuned for a future post about the battlefield.)
Downtown Manassas, Virginia is often overlooked as a travel destination but really does deserve a visit. The downtown has a charm that is hard to beat and will leave you with a smile on your face.
History and hiking can be found at the Washington Monument State Park.
Belief In Living
Travel with us as we explore!