I-81 Road trip

Interstate 81 is an 846-mile north-south route favored by truckers and travelers who want to avoid the congestion around major cities on I-95 to the east. The northern end of I-81 is at the Canadian/U.S. border in New York, and the southern portion merges with I-40 in Tennessee, 34 miles northeast of Knoxville. Along the route, you will find biking and hiking trails through natural wonders, American Civil War history, motor speedways and delicious food and wineries.

New York and Pennsylvania

Boldt Castle‌ on Heart Island in the St. Lawrence River is open for tours between May and October. Designed to be a tribute to millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt’s beloved wife Louise, construction abruptly stopped when Mrs. Boldt passed away suddenly in 1904. Today travelers access the island through tours or private watercraft to visit the grounds and the castle.

Just a couple hours south on I-81 in Syracuse is the nationally acclaimed ‌Dinosaur Bar-B-Que‌, opened by a couple of bikers in the 1980s after they perfected the low and slow cooking style of great barbecue at motorcycle shows, fairs and festivals throughout the Northeast. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has been featured on "Good Morning America," "Man v. Food" and "Best Thing I Ever Ate." Stop by Gannon’s Isle Ice Cream for a sweet treat before heading on your way.

Auburn, in the heart of the Finger Lakes region, is where abolitionist Harriet Tubman settled after the Civil War under the advisement of William H. Seward, President Lincoln’s secretary of state and governor of New York. The ‌Harriet Tubman Home‌ and ‌Seward House‌ are both open to tours. These two integral players in American History are buried in nearby ‌Fort Hill Cemetery‌ overlooking the city of Auburn.

The ‌Lackawanna Coal Mine‌ located in the heart of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was originally opened in 1860. Visitors board a mine car and descend 300 feet beneath the earth to learn how men and boys worked the hard coal mine to heat the nation. The mine is open for tours from April through November. Scranton is also home to the railroad museum at the ‌Steamtown National Historic Site‌ and the ‌Electric City Trolley Museum‌. An hour south in Pottsville is the ‌Yuengling Brewery and Gift Shop‌, the location of the oldest continuously operating brewery in America.

East of Harrisburg is Hershey, Pennsylvania, home to the Hershey chocolate empire and the ‌Hershey's Chocolate World‌ attraction. Enjoy a chocolate tasting, or create your own candy bar. Continuing the food theme, pick up a bag of ‌Middleswarth Potato Chips‌ in Harrisburg or Wilkes Barre. Ira Middleswarth and Son, Inc., was founded in 1942. Middleswarth chips are kettle-cooked and shipped to distributors in Pennsylvania only.

North of the Pennsylvania/Maryland border is the ‌Gettysburg National Military Park‌. The three-day Battle of Gettysburg was the Civil War’s bloodiest engagement and a turning point in the war with the defeat of General Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North.

Maryland and West Virginia

The shortest section of I-81 is just 12 miles through the state of Maryland. For racing lovers, west of Hagerstown is the ‌Hagerstown Speedway‌, a one-half mile red clay track. A detour to the east is the ‌Antietam National Battlefield‌. On the way back to I-81 from Antietam, have a meal or stay the night at the ‌Bavarian Inn‌ in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and walk around the quaint small town community of historic Harpers Ferry before grabbing a bottle of Roundstone Rye at ‌Catoctin Creek Distillery‌ in Purcellville, Virginia.

Virginia and Tennessee

The longest section of I-81 is Virginia road, with 325 miles across the state. The Interstate goes through the Shenandoah Valley between the Allegheny Mountains to the west and the ‌Blue Ridge Mountains‌ to the east, crossing towns like Roanoke, Lexington, Staunton, and Harrisonburg. In fact, ‌Stonewall Jackson‌ is buried on Lexington.

The ‌Museum of the Shenandoah Valley‌ in Winchester, dedicated to the history of the region, includes a house dating to the 18th century. South of Winchester, see almost life-sized dinosaurs at ‌Dinosaur Land‌, a 50-year-old roadside attraction. Travelers have their pick of ‌caverns‌ to tour; the Luray Caverns, Shenandoah and Grand caverns are all within 30 miles of I-81. Between the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and I-81 in southern Virginia is the ‌Natural Bridge‌ of Virginia, once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Overlook the vistas of the Appalachian Mountains at an elevation of 3,405 feet at the ‌Big Walker Lookout‌ in Wytheville before heading into Tennessee.

The city of Bristol, Tennessee, is split in half by the border of Virginia and Tennessee. The ‌Bristol Motor Speedway‌ on the Tennessee side, is a half-mile concrete oval where the "Cars" film begins, and the site of the final regular season race for the NASCAR Cup Series driver’s trophy. Along the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east is the ‌David Crockett Birthplace State Park‌ in Limestone and the ‌Andrew Johnson Historic Site‌ in Greeneville.