Inspiration From an Eastern Road Trip

Whew. The past 2 weeks have been a bit of a blur. But a colorful, inspiring, historical, blur. With my oldest graduating from high school and getting ready for college, we decided to plan an epic road trip with the kids along the east coast of the United States to visit the large cities there (including the nation’s capital) as well as hit some of the abundant historical sites.

 Now that I’m home (and pooped) I’m realizing how ambitious (and maybe crazy?) we were. It was a busy, full 2 weeks, but I’m so glad we did it. I thought I’d share a few glimpses of some of the places we visited for those who are interested. And I promise there is sewing and quilting related content too. 😉

Our first stop was Williamsburg, Virginia. I’d only ever visited here once when I was 16 and I’ve always dreamed of taking my kids here. Williamsburg was the colonial capitol of Virginia and played a large role in the American Revolution.

Later the capitol was moved to Richmond, which meant Williamsburg remained a little, untouched town in southern Virginia. As a result the area is being preserved and restored to look as is did in that historical era. It’s a beautiful spot with lots of buildings – including homes, businesses, and gardens – restored to look as they would have in the 1770’s.

One spot of interest for me was the milliner’s shop that specialized in clothing, hats, dry goods, etc.

The guide talked briefly about quilting in the 18th Century saying. Small items – like the pieced “pocket” (aka bag that could be tied on and worn at the waist) could have been pieced from leftover fabric scraps, but pieced quilts were not being made yet. However quilting two pieces of fabric together with a batting in the middle was happening at that point. The two were just not combined generally until the 19th Century.

Here’s a little clip of her talking. (Not the greatest video – I should have pulled out my camera sooner, but enough to give you the flavor.)

So, no quilts in Colonial Williamsburg, but lots of other colorful eye candy. These photos were from the restored Governor’s Palace. What do you think of that super-saturated green paint color? Apparently really saturated wall colors were all the rage in the late 18th Century. I love that rug! Also, apparently gingham was in use back then too! (Good taste, right? 😉 ) A lot of the furniture was slipcovered in big gingham checked fabric.

From Williamsburg we also visited Jamestown and Yorktown. (I’d just like to take a moment here to publicly thank Lin Manuel Miranda for writing a hip hop musical about the American Revolution. My kids’ love of the musical Hamilton made them much more interested in all of these Revolutionary War era homes and battlefields. 😉 We walked into one of the houses and my kids were starting to lose interest until the guide said, “The Marquis de Lafayette stayed here.” and suddenly they were riveted. haha)

From Williamsburg we headed north and stopped along the way to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. That home + setting is just so beautiful – especially on a summer day when the gardens are in bloom. I couldn’t take pictures inside the house (there are some photos here) but the rooms were fascinating. And again featured the intense wall colors. Jefferson’s library and bedroom had just recently been restored to the original paint colors which, again, had the intense green for the library and a gorgeous robin’s egg blue in the bedroom.

I think they do a really good job at Monticello of honoring and respecting Jefferson, but also frankly acknowledging his complexities (i.e.  promoting the ideal that “all men are created equal” at the same time as being a slaveholder.) The tour about the Hemmings family and other enslaved people at Monticello was equally fascinating and moving.

From there we spent a few days in Washington DC. My husband is from this area and we have a lot of nostalgia when we get to visit. (Fun fact: my husband and I got engaged in Washington DC 20 years ago this summer!) The last time we visited with the kids was 7 years ago, so this time around we did a lot more ‘big kid’ stuff – touring the Capitol Building, Archives, Library of Congress, memorials, etc.

Pictures of the big monuments and icons are familiar, but I love catching all the details too. On the left are the ceiling and floor of the Capitol Building. Top right is the Library of Congress (that is a stunning building!) and bottom right is the rotunda inside the National Gallery. (Another favorite.)

In the DC area we also visited Arlington National Cemetery and watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns (moving) as well as a trip to Mount Vernon, home of George Washington.  Ack. I love that place. I’m ready to move in. Again, not photos allowed inside, but George was also very stylish with the bright green formal room. A gorgeous time of year to visit (if not a little warm) and once again the gardens are beautiful.

My recommendations if you go to any of the above places: get your tickets ahead of time online. The houses have timed entries and there is a slight discount buying online.

A few more stops in the mid-Atlantic region before you start to get bored with a travelogue: an afternoon in Baltimore and Faidley’s crabcakes lived up to their billing. They were the best I’ve ever had. Also a stop at Fort McHenry where the flag flew during the War of 1812 that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner. Their presentation was really moving!

We learned a little about Mary Pickersgill who sewed the flag that inspired the National Anthem. (It was 30 feet x 42 feet!! It didn’t even fit in her house when it was completed. Talk about a big sewing project.) The flag we’re holding is a much smaller replica, but it was fun to hear about the original after seeing it in the Smithsonian museum a few days earlier.

After Baltimore we spent a couple of hours in Frederick, Maryland. My husband lived there during some of his high school years and then his parents lived there again for 10 years when our kids were younger. We’d visit most summers so it’s a favorite spot.

One of my favorite stops was always the Emporium antique mall. The last time I visited in 2010 I found an abundance of antique quilts – and even bought the hand-pieced Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt that is a favorite of my collection.  This time as I ran through (time was short + husband and kids waiting) I only saw a small handful of quilts. I’d thought it would be fun to find another treasure, but didn’t see anything I was dying over. Although, hindsight, looking at the picture of those crazy stars, I wish I’d brought it home with me. Oh well.

Thanks for letting me share a few glimpses of our adventures along the east coast. You can read about our continued travel up the eastern states with stops in Amish country – Lancaster Pennsylvania, and finished visiting family on the seacoast in New England with more pictures of this blue and white scrappy quilt and spectacular scenery.

And now: time to clean up the house (and sewing room) after the past 6-week whirlwind! And maybe a nap too.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Kathie L
    June 22, 2017 at 9:34 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed yourself in the Mid-Atlantic. We do have loads to see and do.

  • Reply
    June 22, 2017 at 9:46 am

    I just love the east coast! I lived in Virginia and Maryland for years and my daughter was born Arlington. We ended up leaving for Seattle when she was 4 and now 20 years later she’s just moved there with her husband. You never know where life will take you.
    What I do know is I’m with you, that star quilt would be calling my name long after the fact! Oh but that is why someone invented UPS, right? ?

  • Reply
    Laura Coffin Mendez
    June 22, 2017 at 9:59 am

    OMG you were in my town! I love the antique mall, such a fun place to wander around although it’s much harder to do now that I have a 4 year old. It’s a great place to live despite the fact that all the quilt shops closed 🙁

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 22, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      Oh no! I’m sad to hear about the quilt shops. 🙁 Love Frederick! I miss going there every year!

  • Reply
    Sandra B
    June 22, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    There is absolutely some amazing history here in Virginia…..glad you and your family enjoyed your trip!! I love all of the places you went to….

  • Reply
    June 22, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    So kool where you visited. We went to Colonial Williamsburg as well, we spent 5 days there and it was just enough to see everything including the museum where they were having a quilt exhibit. We ate in a old Tavern too , very fun.I bought a bundle of fat quarters there and began a blazing star. When we ate at the Tavern they put white bibs on us LOL!!!! They said that’s what the wealthy used to dine with !! We ate at Christiana Campbell who was the first female landowner of her own place..On the way back to NJ we stopped by Jinny Beyers studio but it was closed.. I love hand quilting so she was one of my first teachers back in the 80s .

  • Reply
    Sarah B
    June 22, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    We live in the D.C. Suburbs–so great to hear someone else’s perspective on our area!

  • Reply
    June 22, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Looks like a wonderful way to spend time with family. I haven’t traveled on the east coast and do hope to do so someday. Your pictures make it all the more tempting to do that.

  • Reply
    June 22, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Glad you posted this as it is your diary. I love reading about others travels. I have been in many parts of this great country, but never our capital. It’s about time I considered it.

  • Reply
    Monica Kostak
    June 22, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    How wonderful to hear of your adventure-i think this would be nice to do too but my kids are grown now. Maybe some day. Thanks or sharing!

  • Reply
    Karen Seitz
    June 22, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    I always love your travelogues. It was fun to see glimpses of Colonial Williamsburg. I haven’t been there since the years I would go to attend their sampler seminars. And I ship packages of mortgages to Frederick, MD every single work day, but I haven’t been there myself yet. 🙂

  • Reply
    Kerrie Kean
    June 22, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    Hi Amy
    Glad you enjoyed your trip-it looks like you all had a great, event packed, visit.
    Thanks for the lovely photos. As I live in Australia and am unlikely to ever visit the US it was a great pleasure for me to see all the fascinating houses that are part of your history. It was also lovely to see the quilty parts of the trip.
    I love the Grandmother’s Garden quilt you bought-I am in awe of all the countless hours and dedication of the person who created this. What a treasure for you to own it!



  • Reply
    June 23, 2017 at 12:20 am

    I love the travel posts. I’ve been to the places you mentioned and can never get enough of them. I miss the east coast and all its colonial history.

  • Reply
    Ms Sam Nicholson
    June 23, 2017 at 5:22 am

    Wow, you had a fantastic trip!! The pictures are beautiful!! Did you get to Boston historical sites?? I’m originally from there and have done the same trip as you, very inspiring.

  • Reply
    June 23, 2017 at 5:55 am

    Thanks for this post complete with all those wonderful photos! Congrats to you for making American history come alive for your children. I love every one of those sites.

  • Reply
    Leslie K.
    June 23, 2017 at 7:15 am

    It was so much fun to read your travel stories. My husband actually works part-time at Monticello and I have volunteered there (in the gallery) in the past. I love to read other people’s impressions of Monticello. We lived in Northern VA until 5 years ago so we have visited all the DC sites….so much to see in that beautiful city (and most of them free!). We have also visited all your other sites except for Faidley’s crab cakes and Ft McHenry. We will have to take a trip to Baltimore soon! Looking forward to your next travel spots.

  • Reply
    kittylet2Kitty Letsch
    June 23, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Thank you for sharing your trip with us. It brought back many memories. Too bad you couldn’t have extended your trip to Amish Country in PA. Lots of quilts and quilt shops. We’re an hour away.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 23, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      I did! Future post to come about visiting Amish Country! 🙂

  • Reply
    June 23, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your trip and your photos are terrific. I also loved Williamsburg and mount Vernon when we went. Our 5 boys found Williamsburg boring, which annoyed me so much. I could have stayed there for days. It was my kind of place and one day, Ulf love to go back. The lack of quilting in that early era is fascinating to me. Who would have thought!?

  • Reply
    Hedy Hahn
    June 23, 2017 at 8:14 am

    I lived in Alexandria VA for a few years and have been to all the places you visited. We took advantage of the area and traveled extensively to all the states around Washington. I didn’t enjoy actually living there but the history was great.

  • Reply
    Jenny Grandfield
    June 23, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I was hoping to take a little trip up the east coast this year to Williamsburg and then work our way back south, but time constraints kept us from being able to take the trip. We had to settle for a short trip to Asheville and the mountains. Your post makes me want to do this trip even more! Hopefully soon.

  • Reply
    June 23, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Excellent. Glad you survived. It was hot here. I live in the very north western part of Virginia and have been to “the Burg” a hundred times. Both of my daughters went to William and Mary.
    We have visited all of these places and even icky Baltimore. I do not like Maryland…. I do have family that live there though.’
    This was a great time to go, and I am glad you are back home. Monticello is my favorite, also Mount Vernon. There are a lot of other cool old places. But, you would be driving all over the creation.
    Frederick MD is nice. I like the western part very much.
    Thanks bunches for sharing your adventure

  • Reply
    June 23, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    What a wonderful trip! Great job taking such beautiful photos. Looks like you saw and learned a lot. I’m surprised about the saturated wall colors too… that and the gorgeously colorful rugs!

  • Reply
    June 25, 2017 at 5:34 am

    You really packed in a lot in two weeks! My mother and father in law live on the same block (only a few doors down) as that Emporium! Have found some goodies there myself 🙂

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 26, 2017 at 3:29 pm

      No way! What are the chances?! I still love Frederick.

  • Reply
    Anne Weaver
    June 27, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Williamsburg is one of our favorite vacations! We do it every couple of years because we just can’t get enough. On our last visit to Colonial Williamsburg we got to watch people making a reproduction of George Washington’s war tent. All made in the old way. From the fabric to the thread to the hand sewing. it was fascinating. Glad you had such a great vacation! I’ll admit I’m just a wee bit jealous.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 27, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      That sounds so cool! I wish it wasn’t all so far away – it all felt like a blur trying to pack it all in to a short time frame. I’d love to go back and just take my time. But I’m not complaining! I’m just glad we got to go at all. 😉

  • Reply
    Karen S
    June 27, 2017 at 10:45 am

    What fun! Thanks so much for the trip, Amy!

  • Reply
    July 6, 2017 at 4:19 am

    OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!! I see your comments on Colonial Williamsburg!!!!!!! I LIVE there, and work in the Museum — which you obviously missed!!!!! We have a WONDERFUL quilt collection there in one exhibit unto itself, and then several other exhibits with quilts. We have tours on quilts, and you could have asked for a special one on one tour to talk about quilts. I am so so sorry you did not find us!!!!!!! I you ae interested, let me know, and I can take photos of the quilts on exhibit and send them to you. We have an area where all the quilts are stored, another conservation area, and so so much more.
    I just started following this site a few weeks ago, as I am just beginning quilting and love it, wish I had known you were coming here. I would have been happy to help with the arrangements for you. Please come back!!!!
    Come in February when we have the Mid Atlantic Quilt show (Mancuso) in Hampton, it is so so fantastic.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      July 6, 2017 at 9:03 am

      Wahhh! I totally blame myself that I didn’t research better ahead of time. (I was living in a perfect storm pre-trip.) Also the fact that I was traveling with 4 teenagers. lol. It sounds like I missed out! What an amazing resource!! Which confirms what I decided while I was there: I need to make a trip back by myself. Or maybe just bring my mom. 😉

  • Reply
    Lauren Deel
    July 6, 2017 at 7:23 am

    Amy! I LOVE this post! I took my two oldest (ages 9 and 8) on a trip to D.C. in February (and surprisingly had 70 degree weather!). They LOVED the city: the memorials, the monuments, the Monets at the National Gallery. 🙂 And Mount Vernon was spectacular. In May, we took the whole family to Charlottesville. My husband and I met while at school at the University of Virginia. We visited Monticello and the University. I will tell you: I have taken that Monticello tour so many times that I’m almost able to give it myself! 🙂 I told my husband, “When I grow up, I want to be a tour guide at Monticello.” I love that place so much! 🙂 I’m so happy you and the family were able to enjoy these treasures.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      July 6, 2017 at 9:06 am

      How cool that you met at UVA! It is such a beautiful campus! And I just love Charlottesville. One of my best friends lived in Charlottesville while her husband attended med school at UVA. They LOVED it. I went to stay with her once while they lived there (about 17 years ago) and loved it too! It was fun to go back. You’ll have to let me know when you start giving tours at Monticello because I want to come take one! 😉

  • Reply
    August 22, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    Loved your travelogue! I live about 25 minutes from Frederick. Charlotte’s Cottage is a sweet little quilt shop in Shab Row. And there’s a big quilt shop just outside Gettysburg called Needles and Pins. I’ve been to all the places you traveled too, and Wburg is always a favorite because it’s so relaxing. I hope you got to the rocky coast of Maine and enjoyed some lighthouses. And New Hampshire’s Lakes Region is wonderful, too. It’s where Keepsake Quilts is–right on the lake! But I hear it’s leaving there. I’ll miss it!
    Love your blog!

  • Reply
    Mimi F
    August 24, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    Amy – thanks so much for the trip. I’ve been to most of those places, but it was so long ago, that it was fun reliving those memories, especially because I may not get to go again. (I’m 96 years old, and thankfully in good health, but sensibly staying home).
    Looking forward to your next trip!.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.