Top 14 Best Day Trips From Washington

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Washington, D.C. is brimming with activities, and it's bordered by dozens of attractive sites, many of which are only two and a half hours away by vehicle. ... read more...

  1. One of America's most iconic mansions is this aristocratic estate overlooking the Potomac River in Virginia. The historic mansion was George Washington's treasured home, initially built by his father in 1734 as a tiny farmhouse. George Washington later expanded and improved Mount Vernon, transforming it into a magnificent 21-room manor residence during a 45-year period. The 11,028-square-foot estate is ten times larger than the average Virginia colonial house. The cupola, which was finished in 1774, has a weathervane topped with a dove to represent peace.

    It can be seen as one of the Best Day Trips from Washington. Visitors enter the Central Passage, a large space with beautiful views of the Potomac. This center hallway exhibits the Key to the Bastille, which was given to George Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette of France after the siege of the Paris prison in 1790.

    Visitors can dine on the estate grounds at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant (admission to Mount Vernon is not required). This welcoming restaurant has an authentic 18th-century atmosphere and serves early American classics like peanut soup and sirloin steak.

    Consider taking a guided tour to discover more about early American history during your visit. The Mount Vernon & Old Town Alexandria Tour is a half-day tour from Washington, D.C. that includes a guided stroll through old Alexandra, Virginia; a stop at the United States Marine Corps War Memorial; and admission to Mount Vernon, with an hour to view the mansion and estate.

    Address: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mt Vernon, VA 22121, United States
    Phone: +1 703-780-2000
    Opening hours: 9AM–5PM
    Rating: 4.8/5.0, 12,477 Google reviews

  2. Colonial Williamsburg, about two hours south of Washington, D.C., is a picture-perfect historic town that transports tourists to the late 18th century. From 1776 to 1781, the town was the capital of the colony of Virginia and played an important role in the American Revolution, and it was from here that George Washington rode to the Battle of Yorktown.

    Williamsburg has the feel of an open-air museum, with most of the town's buildings going back to the colonial period. The entire town has been recognized as a Historic Area. Horse-drawn carriages and historical reenactments (street performances) with characters dressed in period clothes add to the sense of being transported back in time. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, which includes early American furniture and pottery, and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, which displays paintings, needlework, and toys, provide visitors a taste of daily life during the colonial era.

    Visit the Governor's Palace, a painstaking copy of the 18th-century palace that served as the residence of the Virginia colony's royal governors before to the Revolution, to discover more about the nation's political legacy in this Revolutionary City.

    Continue down East Duke of Gloucester Street to the Fat Canary, an award-winning restaurant. Despite its historic location in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg, this restaurant focuses on contemporary cuisine. Guests can choose from a seasonal menu that includes items like tuna tempura, grilled Atlantic salmon, and short ribs with shiitake mushrooms.

    Address: 101 Visitor Center Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23185-4565, Canada

    Opening hours: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

    Rating: 4.5/5.0, 12,542 Tripadvisor ratings

  3. Monticello is a fantastic day excursion from Virginia. It is also one of the best day trips from Washington for history buffs. Monticello was Thomas Jefferson's primary residence and estate, which he began developing at the age of 26 after receiving land from his father. Thomas Jefferson served as the third President of the United States and was a founding father. Keep in mind that Monticello was a plantation, and Jefferson did have enslaved people working on the property. Please be respectful of the house's history if you take a tour.

    When you visit Monticello, you will see that the plantation's tragic history is not hidden. Instead, you'll learn about slavery at the period and how Jefferson benefited enormously from it. You will be reminded as you explore Monticello that it was built on the backs of enslaved peoples. This is set against the backdrop of discovering more about Jefferson and his family while living at the mansion. It is frequently an eye-opening approach to learn about one of the Founding Fathers' lives. You'll discover how that history has shaped the United States of America in general.

    More eateries along the Potomac River waterfront, many of which specialize in seafood. Tourists can also take a boat tour of Alexandria's historic riverfront and yacht marina from the harbor.

    Address: 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902, United States
    Phone: +1 434-984-9800
    Opening hours: 8:30AM–5:30PM
    Rating: 4.7/5.0, 7,756 Google reviews
  4. Saint Michaels is a community in Talbot County, Maryland, United States. It is sometimes known as St. Michaels. Saint Michaels is named after the Episcopal Parish that was formed there in 1677. St. Michaels, Maryland, is a tranquil coastal town with a history reaching back to the mid-1600s. It was formerly a trading hub for tobacco farmers and fur trappers. During the War of 1812, the town assisted in defending against the British and afterwards became a significant hub of shipbuilding and fishing.

    Tourists will appreciate the town's ancient churches, colonial residences, and beautiful Victorian homes. Visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum along the waterfront to learn more about the town's maritime history. St. Michaels also boasts a notable 19th-century lighthouse and a charming waterfront with yacht marinas. Tourists can rent sailboats, canoes, and kayaks from the harbor. Several firms also provide chartered boat tours and fishing trips from the harbor out onto the Chesapeake Bay.

    The combination of popular marinas, inns and bed and breakfasts, shops, and restaurants in St. Michaels makes it a popular destination for boaters as well as those traveling by vehicle. The community is located on Maryland's Eastern Shore, close to other prominent locations such as Easton and Oxford. St. Michaels features a variety of eateries ranging from casual pizza to sophisticated dining. The restaurant reviews on Tripadvisor are an excellent resource for finding something that suits your taste and budget.

    Address: Talbot County, Maryland, United States

    Rating: 20,835 Tripadvisor reviews

  5. On the fields of what is now Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, just 82 miles (a 90-minute drive) from Washington, D.C., a critical episode in American history occurred.

    It's advisable to start your visit at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum before exploring the 6,000-acre battlefield's monuments and memorials. The museum provides historical context for how the war began, as well as details of the three-day combat and explanations of the war's outcomes. The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama, painted in the late 1880s by French artist Paul Philippoteaux, is a showpiece of the museum.

    The Gettysburg National Cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, and the David Wills House in historic downtown Gettysburg, where Lincoln spent the night before delivering the Gettysburg Address, are two more must-see tourist attractions in Gettysburg. There are free shuttles from the museum and visitor center to the David Wills House.

    The Gettysburg Day Trip from Washington D.C
    ., a guided excursion to Gettysburg National Military Park, is an easy way to explore Gettysburg. The trip also includes a stop at George Washington Shriver's renovated home (about 1860). Civil War bullets unearthed in the house are on display, giving visitors a feel of the Shriver family's wartime experience. This can be considered as one of the Best Day Trips from Washington.

    Address: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325, United States

    Phone: +1 717-334-1124

    Opening hours: 8:30AM–5PM

    Rating: 4.8/5.0, 5,059 Google reviews

  6. Annapolis, Maryland's capital city, is a magnificent seaport with a four-century history. The town is a live open-air museum, with its old brick streets and 18th-century colonial homes. On successive weekends in the fall, the world's largest in-water boat exhibits for sail and power enthusiasts are hosted.

    Annapolis served as America's first peacetime capital, and four of the country's founding fathers lived there. The William Paca House is the most notable mansion. The inside of the William Paca House is available for guided tours, and the garden is open to the public for self-guided strolls. The Hammond-Harwood House, a National Historic Landmark, was constructed in 1774 as the home of politician Matthias Hammond. The structure epitomizes colonial Georgian architecture with its symmetrical lines. The Hammond-Harwood House is open for guided tours to the public.

    The Museum of Historic Annapolis
    illustrates the story of the city with objects dating from 1728 to 1864. Visit the Banneker-Douglass Museum to discover more about the town's African-American legacy. It has excellent exhibits as well as talks and other educational programs.

    Today, Annapolis is a famous recreational boating location for activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and sailing. Alternatively, take a boat trip or sailing cruise around Annapolis Harbor and out onto the Chesapeake Bay and entrust the navigating to someone more skilled. Annapolis is also home to the United States Naval Academy, as well as the Naval Academy Museum.

    Address: Main Street, Annapolis, MD 21401, United States

    Opening hours: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

    Rating: 4.5/5.0, 1,267 Tripadvisor reviews

  7. The Historic District Alexandria is one of the city's early settlements, located just minutes from Washington, D.C., Old Town is located in the city's eastern and southeastern areas along the Potomac River. Old Town is laid out on a grid of roughly square blocks. Alexandria has an enticing blend of old-world beauty and a bustling atmosphere.

    The city boasts a designated historic district that has been properly kept and is a joy to explore. Visitors can explore the cobblestone streets and red-brick walkways of Old Town, stopping to admire the picturesque buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries and browse the locally owned boutiques. Shoppers will find artisan jewelry, fashionable apparel, and home furnishings. There are also several restaurants in the Old Town.

    More eateries along the Potomac River waterfront, many of which specialize in seafood. Tourists can also take a boat tour of Alexandria's historic riverfront and yacht marina from the harbor.

    Other things to do in Alexandria include visiting the three museums at Market Square, which are situated in magnificent 18th-century buildings: Gadsby's Tavern Museum, the Carlyle House, and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum.

    Address: 1 Prince St, Alexandria, VA 22314, United States

    Phone: +1 703-838-5005

    Opening hours: open 24 hours

    Rating: 4.8/5.0, 1,867 Google reviews

  8. Harpers Ferry and its surroundings are designated as a National Historic Park, nestled amid the undulating hills of Maryland's Blue Ridge Mountains along the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, formerly Harpers Ferry National Monument, is located in and around Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, at the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.

    It's worth the one-hour and fifteen-minute drive (67 miles) from Washington, D.C. to visit this idyllic location. Harpers Ferry appears to be a painting, with its charming old houses crowded around a steepled church. Despite its fairy-tale aspect, the small village made enormous contributions to American history, including a crucial Civil War skirmish, John Brown's anti-slavery protests, and the education of former slaves.

    Tourists can travel back in time by strolling through the town's picturesque old streets and partaking in a 19th-century trade workshop such as tinware manufacture or baking. Museums and interactive history exhibits along Shenandoah Street. Outside of town, visitors can also enjoy the natural environs. The Jefferson Rock Trail is an upward trek with spectacular views from the top. It is also a great area for birdwatching. Rock climbing, fishing, and picnicking are some of the other activities available at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

    Address: 171 Shoreline Dr, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425, United States

    Phone: +1 304-535-6029

    Opening hours: 9AM–6PM

    Rating: 4.8/5.0, 9,825 Google reviews

  9. Shenandoah National Park is located in Virginia among the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors to Shenandoah National Park can escape to a pristine natural setting about 75 miles from Washington, D.C. The park is a fantastic spot to visit for recreation and relaxation. Shenandoah National Park, which encompasses 200,000 acres of protected property in the Blue Ridge Mountains, enchants tourists with its rushing waterways, calm woodlands, and breathtaking views. Wetlands, waterfalls, and rocky peaks such as Hawksbill and Old Rag mountains may be found in the park. The Shenandoah Valley is home to several bird species, as well as deer, squirrels, and the elusive black bear.

    Skyline Drive, which runs for 105 miles along the crests of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is the park's only public route. Visitors can take a picturesque drive along this route or simply utilize it to access the park's hiking trails, including the well-known Appalachian Trail. Hikers will appreciate the park's natural setting, which is home to numerous songbirds and deer.

    If a day trip isn't enough and you want to spend the night, the Big Meadows Lodge and Skyland Lodge provide nice lodging. A more rustic overnight experience can be had at the Lewis Mountain Cabins or the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club cabins. Camping is permitted in the park, and campsites can be arranged in advance.

    Address: Virginia, United States

    Phone: +1 540-999-3500

    Opening hours: open 24 hours

    Rating: 4.8/5.0, 13,978 Google reviews

  10. Gunpowder Falls State Park is a spectacular recreation area that has occupied around 15000 acres since its establishment in 1959. Gunpowder Falls State Park spans 18,000 acres in Maryland's northeastern Baltimore County and western Harford County. The Gunpowder River and Big and Little Gunpowder Falls were established as Maryland state parks to safeguard them. The park is divided into six sections. The park features nearly 120 miles of hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing trails, as well as picnics, tubing, canoeing and kayaking, tide-water fishing and crabbing, fly fishing, and hunting.

    The well-known Mill Pond Cottage is also located here. Torrey C. Brown (TCB) Rail Trail is a rail-trail and one of the best treks in Gunpowder Falls State Park, providing family-friendly summer outdoor activities.

    Hiking and horseback riding are popular activities in the Sweet Air Area. The Central Area is the park's oldest section. It is also home to the historic Jerusalem Mill Village, in addition to several recreational opportunities. The Hammerman Area features a beautiful swimming beach, picnic spots, and playgrounds for children. Dundee Creek Marina offers boat rentals as well as dry and wet slips. Gunpowder Falls is one of the greatest family day trips from Washington, DC (and the active traveler).

    Address: 7200 Graces Quarters Rd, Middle River, MD 21220, United States
    Phone: +1 410-335-3461
    Opening hours: 8AM–8PM
    Rating: 4.5/5.0, 2,770 Google reviews
  11. The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is located on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is perfect for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. The park was established in 1933 and encompasses over 28000 acres in total. It is home to about 1000 animal species, including over 200 bird species. The refuge is home to the most surviving Delmarva fox squirrels and bald eagles on the East Coast. The Blackwater River and the Little Blackwater River feed the Blackwater Refuge. The term "blackwater" refers to the tea-colored waters of the local rivers, which have been darkened by tannin taken up as the water drains through peat soil in the marshes.

    Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
    also provides a plethora of recreational and tourism activities for people of all ages. Despite the fact that much of Blackwater Refuge is comprised of marshes, there are several opportunities to interact with wildlife and enjoy the beauty. Because of the number of great routes, such as the Marsh Edge Trail, the Key Wallace Trail, and the Tubman Trail, hiking, biking, running, and strolling are the most popular activities here. Water trails for kayaking, canoeing, and boating are also available in the Maryland wildlife refuge. You can also go fishing and hunting if you have the necessary license.

    On Key Wallace Drive, the refuge has a visitor center with animal exhibits, a genuine eagle's nest, Eagle Cam and Osprey Cam TV monitors, the Eagle's Nest Book and Gift Shop, a butterfly garden, toilets, and maps and brochures to assist visitors make the most of their visit. The park also offers bird-watching tours to its visitors.

    Address: 2145 Key Wallace Dr, Cambridge, MD 21613, United States
    Phone: +1 410-228-2677
    Opening hours: 10AM–4PM
    Rating: 4.8/5.0, 423 Google reviews
  12. The Assateague Island National Seashore is a protected region on a long barrier island off Maryland and Virginia's coasts. It is well-known for its Atlantic beaches as well as trails that wind through marshland, dunes, and pine woodland. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in the south is home to wild Chincoteague horses, bald eagles, and migrating seabirds. The Assateague Lighthouse, built in the late 1800s, is located near Toms Cove. It is the largest natural barrier island ecosystem in the Mid-Atlantic region and one of the most well-known in the United States.

    This is one of the Best Day Trips from Washington. It is a naturalist's paradise, with sunny beaches, salty marshes, scenic bays, maritime woods, and more. If a day excursion is not feasible for you, the location is ideal for camping (honestly, this area deserves way more than a day trip). Oceanside Drive-in, Oceanside Walk-in, Bayside Drive-in, Group Camping, and Horse Camp are all popular campgrounds.

    Hiking and biking are popular activities on the island, and route maps may be found throughout the national seashore. Visitors can also go crabbing, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, or simply float in the water!

    Address: 7206 National Seashore Ln, Berlin, MD 21811, United States

    Phone: +1 443-614-3547

    Opening hours: open 24 hours

    Rating: 4.8/5.0, 8,561 Google reviews

  13. Luray Caverns, formerly known as Luray Cave, is a cave located just west of Luray, Virginia, that has drawn many visitors since its discovery in 1878. Speleothems such as columns, mud flows, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, and mirrored pools embellish the cavern system. The caverns now have a step-free entrance. The caverns are not advertised as disability accessible, despite the fact that the enlarged pathway will allow wheelchair access.

    The large chambers and Virginia display cave are loaded with dozens of stone formations and pristine ponds and it is one of the top attractions in VA. The Dominating Giant's Hall, the highest calcite column, is the most remarkable feature. The Great Stalacpipe Organ, the world's largest musical instrument, may also be found and enjoyed here.

    Don't miss the Car & Carriage Caravan, which features an exhibition of 140 transportation vehicles going back to 1725. Visit the Luray Valley Museum and the Shenandoah Heritage Village. Toy Town Junction will be a popular attraction for children. The Garden Maze, an attractive garden, is also part of the complex. If you want to stay overnight and make this a longer excursion, there are lots of alternatives and things to do in Luray, VA.

    Address: 101 Cave Hill Rd, Luray, VA 22835, United States

    Phone: +1 540-743-6551

    Opening hours: 9AM–7PM

    Rating: 4.7/5.0, 17,324 Google reviews

  14. Great Falls Park is a small National Park Service park located in Virginia, USA. The park, located on 800 acres along the Potomac River in northern Fairfax County, is a separate but essential portion of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. If you want to get some fresh air, visit a gorgeous location, and avoid the crowds around the National Mall, Great Falls is the place to be. A spectacular cascade of water over jagged rocks can be found at the Potomac River's breaking point. This is Great Falls, Montana. What's the best part? Many DC residents are unaware that this hidden gem of a park exists.

    The Great Falls area
    can be explored from two perspectives: Maryland's C&O Canal National Historic Park and Virginia's Great Falls Park. Serious hikers should proceed to the Maryland side, which has the Billy Goat Trek, a moderate to difficult trail that includes some scrambling over a rock wall. For those who merely want to see the falls, there are overlook locations on both the Virginia and Maryland sides of the river where you can see the river and the falls below.

    Plan a visit during the fall season to view the greatest foliage displays - Great Falls may be the best site in the DC metro area to enjoy the fall colors.

    Address: 9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean, VA 22102, United States
    Phone: +1 703-757-3101
    Opening hours: 7AM–8:30PM
    Rating: 4.8/5.0, 9,883 Google reviews

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