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Five reasons to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway with your family

2010 is the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway – 469 miles of scenic roads that connect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah Valley National Park in Virginia.

The road construction began in 1935 as part of FDR’s New Deal job creation efforts, and I am so appreciative of the visionaries who thought to preserve the gorgeous waterfalls, upland meadows and forests that make up the terrain.

It’s one of the best drives out there for families, and here are my Top 5 reasons why:

1. You have to slow down.

No, really, you have to slow down. The speed limit on much of the parkway is 45 miles per hour, and with all the curves in the road, you couldn’t speed if you wanted to. This forced slow-down is great for all the too-busy, stressed out among us (i.e. ME). There’s no hurrying, so you may as well take a deep breath and take in that gorgeous scenery.

2. Scenic overlooks abound.

There are places to stop every few miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Some serve as hiking trailheads, and others have great little picnic spots.

3. Cell phone service is spotty.

That’s not something I would usually count as a blessing, but in this case, it means several hours with no calls from the office and no new e-mails coming in. And the teens in the car can’t spend all their time texting or on Facebook. Plus, radio stations are hard to come by. No radio + no cell phone service means your family will actually have to engage in a conversation together. A lengthy one.

4. Tunnels!

What kid (or adult, for that matter) doesn’t love to drive through a tunnel? There are tons of them on this mountain drive.

5. There’s a mountain everyone can climb.

Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississppi, and it’s also one of the easiest to climb. Just turn off the parkway at Mount Mitchell State Park in North Carolina, and drive until the road ends. From there, it’s just a 680-yard walk to the summit (and there’s a snack bar and restrooms, to boot!).

There are many 75th anniversary activities planned throughout the summer and fall in communities adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I encourage you to drive a piece of it on your travels – whether it be 10 miles or all 469, it will be worth it.

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  1. yes – a lovely drive with or without family! I totally agree on the slowing down part since we had to go slow as we watched for deers near the road!
    The views are out of this world!

  2. We live on the Parkway and love driving home each night just so we can look out for all the Deer. Sadly, we have hit a deer before on the parkway. It literally just jumped out of nowhere. So, yes slow down. Thankfully we were going slow so it didn’t do much damage to our vehicle.

  3. I would love to take the Blue Ridge Parkway with my kids someday. I sounds like turn after turn is just filled with beauty and nature.

  4. When on the northern part of the parkway in Virginia, take a break from the parkway, down to the Natural Bridge of Virginia (mp 61). See the amazing natural wonder & historic landmark, visit caverns and other attractions all on one ticket; it’s a really fun family destination, stay on-site at the Natural Bridge Hotel… really good package deals. Take a wagon ride through nearby Virginia Safari Park.

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