Affordable Guide to a Road Trip across the Appalachian Wilderness

Winter Vacation with Toddler: Surviving Mercury Retrograde

Surviving a Winter Family Vacation with a Toddler during Mercury Retrograde

Gear up for an unforgettable family road trip, an expedition that takes you from the sun-drenched shores of Myrtle Beach to the crisp, frost-kissed peaks of West Virginia. As you embark on this Appalachian adventure, prepare to weave through a tapestry of experiences that blend the natural beauty of the East Coast with the unique charm of small-town Americana. Picture this: you’re navigating winding roads with the car packed to the brim, a soundtrack of toddler giggles (and occasional wails) setting the rhythm of your vacation. This isn’t just any vacation; it’s a story in the making, peppered with the quirks of Mercury Retrograde. So, fasten your seatbelts and embrace the unexpected.

Buckle up!  Let’s go!

Total Drive Time: 6-ish Hours (Thanks, Mercury Rx!)

In an ideal world, where the stars align and the universe plays nice, this scenic drive from Myrtle Beach to West Virginia should neatly clock in at around 6 hours. But let’s not forget, we’re rolling the dice with Mercury Retrograde in play.

Day 1

📍Stop 1: Winston-Salem

Lunch at Yamas Mediterranean Street Food, Winston-Salem, NC

Exterior view of Yamas Mediterranean Street Food in Winston-Salem, a culinary delight awaits (Road Trip)
Credit: Megan Parker
Delicious spread at Yamas Mediterranean Street Food Baklava, Rice Pudding, Salad, Grain Bowls (Chicken & Lamb), Kombucha, and Root Beer

Our adventure begins with an unexpected ‘bang’ – a tire blowout, courtesy of Mercury in retrograde. But every cloud has a silver lining, and ours is the aromatic allure of Yamas Mediterranean Street Food. Here, we dive into a salad grain bowl, where each bite is a fusion of Mediterranean flavors, promising to transport your taste buds to far-off lands. Don’t forget to indulge in “Crazy Bill’s” homemade rice pudding, a dessert so delightful, it almost makes you grateful for the flat tire.

🕛 Yamas is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.,

🍴 meals range from $10-20 per person.

📍Stop 2: Discount Tire

Replacing the tire you just blew trying to get to the mountains. 

No road trip is complete without a bit of unplanned excitement. We find ourselves at Discount Tire, where the team works at lightning speed to get us back on the road. Watching them work is like witnessing a pit crew at the Indy 500 – efficient, fast, and absolutely impressive. In just 45 minutes, we’re ready to roll again.

📍Stop 3: Pilot Mountain State Park

Sunset at the Summit

A captivating sunset at the overlook on Pilot Mountain, where the sky blazes with brilliant shades of orange and pink, illuminating the majestic landscape and the distinctive peak of the mountain.
Credit: Megan Parker
At the Pilot Mountain overlook, a serene sunset bathes the sky in a spectrum of oranges and purples, casting a peaceful glow over the unique geological formations and verdant valleys below (Road Trip) (Vacation)
Credit: Megan Parker
The sunset at Pilot Mountain's overlook presents a breathtaking scene, with the sun dipping below the horizon, its rays creating a dramatic interplay of light and shadow over the rugged landscape.
Credit: Megan Parker

Next up, stretch those legs and catch your breath at Pilot Mountain State Park. Witness a sunset so stunning, it almost makes up for the earlier mishaps. Ideal for a much-needed potty break and a moment of zen.

Pilot Mountain State Park is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is free of charge.

📍Stop 4: Wytheville, VA and Bluefield, WV

Drive inside of a Mountain

A captivating photo of the Big Walker Tunnel, featuring its sturdy, historic structure as it carves through the rugged mountain terrain, framed by lush greenery and a clear, expansive sky (Road Trip) (Vacation)
Credit: Megan Parker

Get ready for a bit of magic as we drive through the Big Walker and East River Mountain Tunnels. It’s like being in a sci-fi movie, minus the aliens (we hope).

🕛 The tunnels are open 24/7, and are free of charge.

📍Stop 5: Hinton, WV

A photo of a 1930s vintage chandelier in a Greenbrier Avenue Airbnb, displaying intricate designs and elegant crystal hangings, casting a warm, ambient light in a charmingly decorated room
Credit: Megan Parker
Elegant stained glass flower window decor graces the 1930s Airbnb living room with vibrant colors and timeless beauty.
Credit: Megan Parker
Vintage radio adds a nostalgic touch to the 1930s Airbnb living room's decor.
Credit: Megan Parker
A 1930s-style kitchen in the Greenbrier Avenue Airbnb, featuring a classic checkerboard floor, retro appliances, and period-appropriate decor, creating an inviting, nostalgic atmosphere.
Credit: Megan Parker
An image of an old-fashioned, deep iron bathtub in the Greenbrier Avenue Airbnb, perfect for relaxing baths, set against a backdrop of vintage tiles and a serene, inviting ambiance.
Credit: Megan Parker

A home away from home awaits us in Hinton, WV. This 1930s Airbnb charms with its blend of historical allure and modern comforts, complete with a classic bathtub ideal for thawing out after a day of adventures. The radiators click and hum, lulling us into a restful sleep, ready for the next day’s escapades.

Greenbrier Ave stay starts at $79 per night.

Summit couples selfie at Winterplace Conquering the peak with a triumphant smile! (Road Trip)
Credit: Megan Parker
Snowboarder carving up the slopes at Winterplace
Credit: Megan Parker
Winter Getaway (Vacation)
Credit: Megan Parker
Winter Getaway
Credit: Megan Parker

Ah, Winterplace Ski Resort – where our plans of an early morning on the slopes turn into a comedy of errors. Between sleeping through alarms and toddler nursing marathons, our morning takes an unexpected turn. But as luck would have it, the resort is a haven for families. As grandma watches over a napping toddler, the ski slopes beckon.

Winterplace Resort sign welcomes skiers to a snowy wonderland (Vacation)
Credit: Megan Parker
Insider tip Enjoy the thrill of tubing in the evenings for a magical and less crowded experience
Credit: Megan Parker
Winterplace Resort sign welcomes skiers to a snowy wonderland
Credit: Megan Parker
Ski lifts at Winterplace Resort, a snowy paradise for winter sports enthusiasts
Credit: Megan Parker

Continuing the saga at Winterplace Ski Resort in Ghent, WV, my return to skiing after a 20-year gap was… let’s just say, eventful. Imagine a classic ski comedy scene: there I was, mistiming my ski lift approach and inadvertently barreling over two snowboarders. My apologetic confession to the lift attendant – “Sorry ma’am, I haven’t skied in 20 years, I guess it shows” – might have earned me a few sympathetic chuckles.

The adventure reached its peak, quite literally, at the mountain’s summit, where my attempt to disembark the lift became a spectacle. A tumble, a dramatic stop of the lift, and an awkward hoist back up marked my grand re-entrance into the skiing world. But, as if to redeem myself, I didn’t fall once on my way down the slope – a small victory against the backdrop of earlier escapades.

But wait, there’s more! As dusk fell, we embraced a local insider tip and headed for the snow tubing hills during the 5-7 PM slot. This was no ordinary tubing experience; it was like channeling Clark Griswold on his infamous saucer from ‘Christmas Vacation’. The evening hours gifted us with slicker, faster lanes, turning our tubing adventure into a thrilling ride under the stars. The speed, the excitement, and the chilly evening air made for an exhilarating experience, adding another memorable chapter to our Mercury Retrograde-laced winter journey.

Insider Tip:For thrill-seekers, the 5-7 PM snow tubing segment promises an adrenaline rush akin to Clark Griswold’s iconic saucer ride in ‘Christmas Vacation’.

Day 3

📍Stop 7: Pipestem, WV

Pipestem Falls Park offers a serene escape, where the soft sound of cascading water and the rich history of the region intertwine. Here, we’re mindful of the parking challenges – a tilted spot that tests our skills. But the view of the falls, with its peaceful ambiance, makes it all worthwhile.

🕛 Pipestem Falls Park is open 24/7, and is free of charge, although I wouldn’t venture too far after sunset due to steep rocks!

📍Stop 8: Fayetteville, WV

Grab a bite at Pies & Pints

My mom fell in love with her cheesecake and licked the strawberry topping.  Was a little embarrassing!

In the heart of Fayetteville, WV, Pies & Pints emerges as a culinary haven, not just for its renowned pizzas and craft beers, but also for its inclusive menu. Alongside their gluten-free crust options, they offer an array of vegan and vegetarian choices, ensuring that every guest, regardless of dietary preferences, can indulge in the flavors of artisanal pizza. Paired with unique draft beers and root beer from Bridge Brew Works, a local gem in brewing, Pies & Pints stands as a must-visit spot for food enthusiasts. Nestled near the New River Gorge National Park, it’s an ideal location to unwind and enjoy the local culinary delights.

I chose the specialty pie, “Peppadew,” on a gluten-free square crust topped with red onion, bacon, goat cheese, and peppadews, finished with parmesan, honey, and fresh herbs. So tasty!

🕛 Open Sunday – Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

🕛 Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

🍴 Meals range from $10-20 per person.

Day 4

📍Stop 9: Pinnacle, NC

Hike Pilot Knob Trail

The Pilot Knob Trail beckons for a final escapade. As we trek around the loop trail, the landscape unveils its winter beauty, offering panoramic views that leave us breathless and reflective. The trail, with its natural splendor, provides a fitting conclusion to our Appalachian journey.

🕛 Pilot Mountain State Park is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is free of charge.

📍Stop 10: Winston Salem

Eat at Yamas Mediterranean Street Food

In a serendipitous twist, road construction leads us back to where we began, kind of – Yamas at their Creekshire location. A second vacation feels like a sign from the universe, reminding us to savor the vacations’ unexpected turns. As we dig into another delicious meal, we reflect on the adventure that brought us full circle. 

And so, our winter road trip saga concludes. Through tire blowouts, sleepy mornings, and cheesecake love affairs, we’ve embraced the chaos of traveling with a toddler during Mercury Retrograde. It’s a vacation filled with laughter, a few groans, and plenty of unforgettable memories. Safe travels!

Megan Parker

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Megan Parker, Marketing Director at Coastal Insider, is a seasoned videographer and photographer residing in Market Common with her family, including her son Bodhi. A Coastal Carolina University alumna, Megan combines her experience in domestic and international fashion photography with her marketing skills, creating a structured and dynamic approach that drives her professional success.

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