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East Coast Road Trip: Blacksburg, VA to Alexandria, VA (Frugal Family Fun)

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here.


We started Day 2 of our East Coast Road Trip in Blacksburg, VA and ended it in Alexandria, VA. It is SO beautiful in this state! I just can’t get over it!

Using Groupon to Save On Our Vacation

A few years ago, I used to post a lot of here with my referral link (which meant that I would earn referral credit every time someone purchased a deal).

Back in the beginning, had some really, really fantastic deals and, as a result, we collected a lot of Groupon referral credit. We used it to buy a number of Groupons and then, all of a sudden, the credit stopped working.

In fact, we just plain couldn’t order anything from Groupon at all with our account. It would try to place the order, it would spool forever on the order page, and then it would time out.

I ed Groupon multiple times and they couldn’t help me. I figured they had just flagged our account because I had maxed out the referral credit (sadly, this has happened multiple times in the past with other companies and I have had thousands of dollars in honestly-earned referral credit taken away just because they said that too many people redeemed a deal through my blog).

As a result, we stopped ordering from Groupon (since our account wouldn’t work) and I kind of forgot about it and about the few thousand dollars in credit I still had on Groupon. And life went on.

But recently, I was on again and decided to try using the credit again and it WORKED! This was right when we were in the middle of planing our 14-Day Road Trip and it couldn’t have been more perfect timing!

So you’ll see that we are using Groupon for most of our deals on this trip — because not only does it mean we get in at a discount, but since we are buying the Groupons with referral credit, it actually means we’re technically getting in for FREE!

Before we head to a new area, I’m searching on Groupon to see what deals they have available. You have to look closely at the fine print because many area only good for two people or are only good during certain dates.

I’m specifically looking for places that will allow us to buy five passes and that will allow us to use them in one order. This narrows down the possibilities, but so far, there are still some great options that we’re finding!

The Smithfield Plantation House

The was one such option we found on Groupon. It’s usually $8 per ticket, but we bought the Groupon to get admission for 6 for just $18 (they were running a special to get an additional $6 off tickets through July 6, 2017).

We loved the tour. It was just an hour long, but I couldn’t believe how up close and personal they let you get with everything in the house — including furnishings that were really old and valuable.

Our guide was really fantastic and made the tour so interesting. You could tell she absolutely loves bringing history alive to people!

The grounds were so beautiful and peaceful and it was amazing to hear how much history went down right in this house and area. Our whole family enjoyed this tour and would recommend it — especially if you love American History like we do!

Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea

We left the Plantation with our sites set on making it to Alexandria. However, we only made it as far as Salem, VA before we were all really hungry. We decided to stop in Salem, VA and look for a local coffee shop.

So I googled “coffee shops” and we found this gem: . We instantly fell in love! It was adorable, the food was really good, and the service was excellent.

(One downside: the bathrooms weren’t very clean. I’m not sure if they’d just had a rush of customers that morning or if the bathrooms usually aren’t very clean.)

The Rest of the Day

We then headed to Purcellville, VA to stop by , where Jesse went for one year before he moved back home to marry me. What memories!

We didn’t get out and walk around because it was getting late, but it was fun to show our kids the area where Jesse lived for awhile and to reminisce about when I came to visit him there with my dad and brother (my first time to go to DC!)

It was such a good day and we enjoyed so much laughter together, there was very little arguing, and I’m so glad we decided to go on this Two-Week East Coast Road Trip.

Books finished today: (read aloud to the kids, we really enjoyed it, but I had to edit out some crass language) and (great, quick read).

To be continued…

Want to follow along with our trip in real-time? Follow  where I’ll be sharing a daily recap + videos and photos via Instagram Stories.

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28 Comments

  • Janet says:

    Crystal if you are this close do not miss Fall Church VA go to Great Falls National Park this is a must see waterfall.
    Everyone in your family will LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!!!

  • says:

    We went to Virginia last year and found out what a beautiful state it is! It has a little bit of everything from mountains to ocean.

  • Mary Price says:

    You drove right by my house today–if I’d known I would have waved! I am so glad you are visiting our state. Come back anytime!

  • Quinn says:

    I think about all you write about and share about your days. You are journaling a lot via your blog. Do you journal separately too? What are you thoughts sharing with your kids someday when they get older and possibly get married? Have you thought about doing that in what way? Through your blog? You have so much content and history (of your own family) on here. I think you had mentioned something at one time using Instagram too for your daily life stuff. Do you print any of it out in a book format?

    I use journey app and add pictures with my journal entries.

    • Jo says:

      There are lots of photos and stories I don’t share here on the blog that I save on my phone/online and some we print in photo books, but I am happy to have the stories and photos here and on Instagram to remember and to have for the future!

  • Amanda says:

    Ahhh! I grew up in Blacksburg and went to Virginia Tech. You are making me miss ‘my’ mountains! I loved looking at them. They always made the verses ‘I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’ seem so real to me. 🙂

  • Christine says:

    I learned from the chef who wrote Kitchen Confidential that if a restaurant’s bathroom is dirty, it is highly likely the kitchen is dirty.

  • Mandy Rottman says:

    Yay! Welcome to Purcellville! We love our town. Wish you had more time to explore. It is a really neat place.

  • Suzi says:

    Hooray! My neck of the woods!
    We live in Chicago now, but grew up in VA…went school in Blacksburg and got married and taught for a few years in Roanoke/Salem. We miss VA so much, but seeing Mill Mountain brought me right back. Oh, and Purcellville is just lovely.
    Enjoy your east coast vacay!

  • Mara says:

    Welcome to Virginia! If you’re in Alexandria, make sure to visit the Torpedo Factory. My daughter LOVES poking around the the different artists’ studios (and it’s free!). You can also drive over to Mount Vernon – the tickets are a little pricey (though cheaper online) but if you love history it’s a can’t miss. And like someone else posted, Great Falls is awesome!

  • Caroline says:

    One of our favorite activities to scout for on Groupon is Segway tours. It’s different and fun, and we like the combination of scripted info the bit of local flair you get with each tour guide. And I think your kids are all old enough now to participate (how did that happen?!). Just a thought for as you plan things on-the-go a bit!

    • Jo says:

      Thanks for the suggestion! The kids *really* wanted to do a Segway tour, but it said they had to be 16 years old to do them in DC. I wonder if there are different age limits in different areas?

  • Julie says:

    I was married on the grounds of Smith field…..and ran many a cross country meet in those corn fields by the house. there is a mill mountain coffee shop in Blacksburg….I love it!

  • Lori says:

    I cannot believe you were at Salem Mill Mtn Coffee & Tea today! I love meeting up with friends there. We live just a couple minutes away from there🙂

  • says:

    Wow, you were only a couple miles from my house! Too bad you didn’t drive up Mill Mountain to see the Roanoke Star. It’s the largest manmade illuminated star in the world, and many visit the Star each year just for the spectacular view. You can see all over the Roanoke Valley for miles, and the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is just beyond it! Here’s a link where you can see the Roanoke Star and information about it:

  • Chris Pedck says:

    I can’t believe you were in Smithfield and yet did not visit Jamestown or Williamsburg or Yorktown – the 3 most historic areas in the nation!

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