There’s so much to see and do in Washington, D.C., including loads of free museums, memorials and sightseeing tours. However, when you’re ready to get out of town, there’s even more to do within a two-hour drive in Virginia and Maryland. Here are our six favorite day trips from Washington, D.C.
1. Go Wine Tasting in Charlottesville
Photo by: Chris Parker
Just two hours from D.C., there’s a lot to love about Charlottesville. For starters, there’s Monticello, the University of Virginia and the Downtown Mall, home to nearly a dozen art galleries, arts festivals and outdoor concerts. However, you’ll really want to go for scenic views and tastings across the Monticello Wine Trail, which boasts 30 wineries, like award-winning Barboursville Vineyards. Forget wine tours by bike. In Virginia you go on horseback as part of a private half-day tour across multiple vineyards in Albemarle County with Cville Tours. Prefer beer to wine? Hop on the Brew Ridge Trail, of course.
Photo by: Walter Bibikow
2. Go Whitewater Rafting in Harpers Ferry
A day trip to go whitewater rafting in West Virginia is a must, so head west to River Riders, which offers guided and self-guided whitewater rafting trips along the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Make it a day in Harpers Ferry by pairing your rafting adventure with tubing, biking, ziplines or walking across the tree tops at the aerial adventure park. Make time for hiking to Jefferson Rock, which is less than a mile and rewards with incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Before you head back into D.C., join a Harpers Ferry Ghost Tour. Or, stay overnight in a rustic treehouse at The Treehouse Camp at Maple Tree Campground.
Photo by: Greg Pease
3. Hunt for Beach Treasures at Solomons Island
No need to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to get to the beach. Head to Maryland’s western shore instead for a day trip to Solomons Island, which is an hour from DC. Explore the Calvert Marine Museum and climb the Cove Point Lighthouse before wandering about this quaint waterfront village in Calvert County. Next, head to nearby Calvert Cliffs State Park, a cliffside recreation area complete with a sandy beach and hiking trails. Sign the kids up for a Fossil & Shark Teeth Hunt with Ruddy Duck Adventures to search out ancient treasures on the beaches of the Chesapeake Bay. Before you head home, grab a bite at Ruddy Duck Brewery & Grill.
Photo by: Sam Spicer
4. Hike to Waterfalls at Shenandoah National Park
Just 90 minutes from D.C., enter Shenandoah National Park in Front Royal at the park’s north entrance. From there, make your way along Skyline Drive, stopping at scenic turn-offs along the way, to the Dark Hollow Falls Trail at Mile Post 50.7. At just 1.4 miles, this is the shortest waterfall hike in the park, but it’s also one of the most popular. Another great hike for panoramic views is the Stony Man Trail. Make it a day with a guided horseback trail ride or kayaking on the Shenandoah River. Love roadside attractions? Stop at Dinosaur Land just a few miles from the park entrance to snap selfies with more than 50 dinosaurs (and King Kong).
Photo by: Education Images
5. Tiptoe Through the Topiary Gardens in Monkton
One of the best-kept secrets when it comes to D.C. day trips is Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, MD, which is just under two hours north of Washington, D.C.. Explore 22 acres of gardens featuring more than 100 life-size topiary forms. One of the most famous is Hunt Scene, which depicts horses, riders, hounds and a fox. Later, plan to hike around nearby Rocks State Park and stop in Millstone Cellars for a free tour of the farmhouse cidery and samples in the tasting room. Bring the kids – the cidery has a kids’ corner with toys and coloring books. Before you head home, make a detour in Glen Arm for banana splits and milkshakes at Prigel Family Creamery.
Photo by: Education Images/UIG
6. Hop Scotch Across the Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail
Head south to Luray, then drive along I-81, making fun stops along the Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail in Virginia. Start by going deep underground to explore Luray Caverns before heading back up to see if you can make your way out of The Garden Maze at Luray Caverns. Continue along to White Oak Lavender Farm in Harrisonburg where you can pick lavender stems and pet baby farm animals. Stay for a wine tasting or two at The Purple WOLF Vineyard & Tasting Room. Lunch at nearby Grilled Cheese Mania is a must. Further down the road, Staunton is the place to go for the Frontier Culture Museum, as well as The Split Banana, a retro-style ice cream shop.