Hi Susan -
Lots of choice of places to stay but I would avoid the lakeside towns of Bowness and Windermere and Ambleside itself. There’s a ton of accommodation in these places but they are generally crazy busy and a bit tacky. For more scenic spots, handy for Sawrey and Hill Top, although not actually on a lake, try Hawkshead (also pretty busy, but off the tourist beaten track) or Esthwaite (I’ve stayed at the Ees Wyke Hotel which was good but it was some time ago). There’s an excellent pub/B&B, the Drunken Duck at Barngates (address is Ambleside, but it’s on the other side of Windermere (the lake) to the main town. I have also stayed there, but again quite a while ago now.
Another place you might want to consider, handy for both Hill Top and Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home in Grasmere (he also lived at a couple of other places nearby but Dove Cottage is the famous one) is Elterwater - another very good hotel there and nearby, the ever popular Britannia Inn. Avoid Grasmere itself if possible. It’s lovely but gets manically busy. Elterwater also gives access to the beautiful Langdale valley.
For something bigger but not directly on the Windermere - Ambleside - Grasmere - Keswick Road, I like Coniston and the surrounding area, admittedly for the surrounding hills.
I’d allow a full day for the drive from London, unless you plan to set off at dawn! As mentioned previously, it’s a good five to six hour drive, mainly on motorway (I think that’s what you’d refer to as an Interstate) turning off the M6 at the turning for Kendal (I think that’s the A590 but I’d need to check).
The Lake District is packed with things to do mostly of an ‘outdoors-y’ nature.
Hope you find somewhere that fits your plans and that you have a great time! Feel free to give me a shout if you need further help or advice!