August 8 through the 15th or 16th, we are having our bathroom remodeled in our home, so need to vacate for a week-ish. What better excuse for a vacation, right? We have family near Wilkesboro NC we would like to visit for 2-3 days or so. We usually go to Gatlinburg TN every year, so we'd like to stop there for a couple days as well. We'd also like to take our 3 kids (8, 6, 2) to the ocean. They've never been, so we were thinking maybe Outer Banks or Virginia Beach. We also have family near Culpeper VA, it would be a bonus if we had time to see them as well. Suggestions? Routes? A loop would be nice so we don't have to backtrack, though it stinks that if we were just going straight to Wilkesboro, we could just hop on I-77 and head south. Right now I'm thinking I-75 to I-40 to Gatlinburg for a few days of hiking, then a trip through the mountains to Asheville for a day to see a cousin, then on to Wilkesboro. From there to the coast and then home through Virginia, I'm just completely unfamiliar with this area and portion of the potential route.
We like anything kid friendly, outdoors activities (hiking and exploring), historical sites, and local attractions (mom and pop type places). We also like ice cream, anything fire department related (husband is a career FF), birdwatching (I'm a bird nerd), interesting geologic formations (I'm a geologist). We don't care about amusement parks (we have 2 amazing ones in Ohio that we frequent), shopping (I can take it or leave it), or nightlife (kinda hard with the kids). Our budget is also not infinite. The place we usually stay in Gatlinburg is $85/night, so we'd like to stay at or below that for a beach hotel if possible.
I'm cross posting this in a few other forums as well. Thanks for the help!