A Road Trip from Capital to Capital
America’s East Coast cities are among the most culturally invigorating in the country, and this 320-mile road trip takes in no less than five of them. Leading from Washington DC and the Capital Region up to irrepressible New York, it’s a drive that combines history with the pulse of modern life. And with stop-offs as varied as Baltimore, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, it’s also a chance to experience parts of the US away from the showpiece sights. Altogether, a packed car-hire journey.
Conceived as the national capital in the late 1700s, Washington has spent more than 220 years evolving into today’s cultured metropolis. For art and heritage, it remains arguably the country’s most eminent city. Capitol Hill, The White House and the various museums of the Smithsonian Institution are among the most obvious draws, but look further afield too. Lesser-billed attractions like the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Ford’s Theatre and the interactive Newseum are extraordinary in their own right. Elsewhere, Dupont Circle is full of high-end restaurants, while the U Street Corridor has become a hub for shopping and nightlife. Baltimore is just an hour’s drive away.
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From the city that gave us House of Cards to the city that gave us The Wire. Baltimore often gets misrepresented – thanks in large part to the grittiness of the aforementioned TV series – but its historic neighbourhoods can be hugely enjoyable. The downtown waterfront area, in particular, gives plenty to explore. Call in at the hundred-plus food stalls of Lexington Market (try the crab cakes at Faidley’s), catch a Major League Baseball game at Oriole Park or visit Edgar Allan Poe’s memorial at Westminster Hall. From Baltimore, Philadelphia lies 102 miles north.
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The capital of the USA, before Washington took its crown, Philadelphia, remains an imposing prospect. As well as skyscrapers and grand civic architecture, however, you’ll also find a trove of museums and heritage buildings. Once you’ve seen the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, try heading to the Eastern State Penitentiary and the Philadelphia Museum of Art – and yes, they’re the steps that appear in Rocky. Don’t leave town without sampling an authentic Philly cheesesteak from Pat’s King of Steaks. Back on the road, a 107-mile drive brings you to Harrisburg.
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A small but handsome city characterised by proud waterside buildings, Harrisburg is the state capital of Pennsylvania. The city’s excellent National Civil War Museum is reason in itself to stop here, but call in too at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park for river views and 300 years of history. At dinner, make your way to Home 231, which prides itself on local, sustainably sourced dishes. And if you have a sweet tooth? Divert ten miles east to Hershey, hometown of the famous candy bars – it even has a Chocolate Avenue. New York is two and a half hours away.
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If the planet had a capital city, this might just be the place. New York is awash with big-name sights, from Central Park to the Empire State Building, but much of its magic comes simply from the thrum and taxi-honk of day-to-day life. Pick up tickets for everything from art exhibitions to basketball games, take a tour along the recently opened High Line walkway or step off the beaten path with a visit to the Museum at Eldridge Street. From Brooklyn to The Bronx, this is a big, thrilling city. And whether you’re here for New York shopping, dining, sight seeing or just to absorb, it’s somewhere that can be explored in a thousand different ways.
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