Have you ever considered a trip across the USA? If not, maybe I'll convince you to do so, by describing my experiance. I've got to explore the eastern part of it between the capital (Washington) and the financial centre (New York) quite well in a relatively short amount of time. I've enjoyed the comfort of a rented car for only a day, the rest was covered by public transport, which includes an almost 5 hour drive back between Washington and New York.
So let’s begin. And I don’t mean the year of 1492, when got lost Columbus on the way to India. OK, it wasn’t that he got lost, exactly, he was just trying to circle the globe to the to the other side, but let’s skip the details and half a millennium to the current day.
Since I was arriving late, too late to use public transport to Washington, I’ve hired a car. It was cheaper than a taxi ride. I’ve picked up the rental at the Dulles airport and returned it as the Ronald Regan airport (which is connected by the subway), but since I had the car for 24 hours I’ve decided to start exploring right away – so I’ve headed towards Philadelphia, also on the east side.
Traveling by car is interesting and rather cheap. You can rent a car for 30€ a day (including all the insurances), or even less, if renting it for a longer period of time. The fuel in USA is also rather cheap, the price of a litter is around 1$ (which can come to about half the price in many EU countries). The tolls are not too high and almost always there’s a parallel road without having to pay it.
If you decide to visit the cities of Annapolis, Philadelphia and possibly even Baltimore, I suggest the following route, which can be done in a single day, IF you start early enough (and I do mean early)!
Washington – Annapolis – Philadelphia – Baltimore – Washington
This was the circle I did my first day. Most of us Europeans have no trouble getting up early upon arriving to the USA, due to the time difference. Calculating into the equation the fact I basically had to rent the car, the cost of this trip was just a few litres of gas more, than the taxi from the airport to my hotel would have cost me.
Annapolis the Maryland state capital, has just under 40.000 inhabitants and has got to be the most beautiful town I’ve seen on all my travels across the USA thus far. You don’t need a lot of time to get to know the town, you can see all the main sights in about an hour, but I believe the town will impress you and you’ll love getting your morning coffee at the marina near the naval academy of the US armed forces.
Right after Annapolis you’ll get the next highlight of the trip – the crossing of the bridge across the bay. It’s an 8km long bridge that allows you to get to the other side of the Chesapeake bay and the website travel+leisure claims it’s among the top ten most horrifying bridges in the world. It’s exposed to frequent and heavy storms, with almost no visibility at all. The construction of the bridge also contributes to this eerie feeling, as it seems everything but solid – but that’s only the appearance, the bridge is actually very safe and during nice weather a very nice tourist attraction.
After the bridge, there are only two hours of drive left until Philadelphia, although you’re driving in three states: Maryland, Delaware and the last few kilometres in Pennsylvania.
If arriving to Philadelphia by car, you should try and find a parking place at the Market street, which is the main artery of the old city (and parking costs 2$/h). The area has many restaurants and pubs, not to mention it also features the main attraction of the city - the liberty bell (the one with a crack), which is also the symbol of the city. While there, it’s well worth it to see the independence museum as well. The entry is free of charge, but you’ll still need to pick up your free ticket, since the number of daily visits is limited.
The next thing to see is the China town, where you can also try their food – especially if you love Chinese. If you don’t prefer the Asian cuisine, you can just get something near the place where you’ve parked.
All of you, who are fans of Rocky films, will remember the stairs where he trained. They lead up to the city museum, which is most likely the mightiest building in the city, and the Rocky statue will greet you once you get on top of those stairs.
Naturally, the city like Philadelphia offers a lot more, but for me, my visit concluded in the, probably, most interesting part of the city – the museum in the former penitentiary.
The penitentiary makes up quite a big part of the neighbourhood and has several wings, where the inmates served time. It was here that the most infamous of US gangsters – Al Capone – served his sentence. You can see the old hallways, yards, dining room and the cells of the prison, where the prisoners lived. The most interesting cell of them all is, naturally, the one where Capone served time. It’s furnished with a writing desk and other stylish furniture. You can find more about the entire museum at the www.easternstate.org
At the end of the day trip let’s just quickly see Baltimore. Because the time is limited, I strongly recommend you go to see the Fort McHenry first, as it’s the monument of national importance. The rest of the city you can see later, especially the area around the Baltimore stadium Orioles and enjoy an evening meal at the end of a long and expeditious day.
As I’ve said before, you can do this trip only if you really get up early. If you sleep in, or decided to stay in Annapolis or Philadelphia for a bit longer, you can leave Baltimore for another day. It’s very well connected both by bus and rail to Washington, so you’ll have no trouble getting there.