There are so many things to do in D.C., why would you ever want to leave? We’ll tell you why: The District is surrounded by a number of towns, both big and small, that make for ideal day trips from DC. These points of interest—many accessible by public transportation—promise fun for foodies (expect tons of great restaurants) and cocktail bar-goers, nature lovers, museum buffs and all other sorts of travelers. When you need a break from work and the monotony of your everyday, hop in your car or climb aboard a train and embark on the best day trips from DC.
RECOMMENDED: Where to stay in Washington DC
Best day trips from DC
Located in the heart of Virginia’s beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, the Roanoke Valley promises small-town charm with big city vibes. Accessible via Amtrak or the oh-so-scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, the area is home to one of the most breathtaking points on the Appalachian Trail: McAfee Knob, located 3,197 feet atop Catawba Mountain. After a day’s long hike, grab a pint at one of the many area breweries like Deschutes Brewery and shop for antique relics at the cavernous Black Dog Salvage.
If you do just one thing... Be sure to grab a scoop at Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar on your way back home.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Hotel Roanoke.
This small town in West Virginia is en route to Lost River, a bucolic retreat that draws a large gay population. Once a pit stop, it is now slowly becoming a destination on its own right thanks to a concentrated effort by its entrepreneurial residents. Lost River Trading Post is a mercantile-meets-art gallery filled with locally made goods that you should definitely visit. Add to that must-be-visited list Wardensville Garden Market and Bakery, a non-profit farm market that sells from-scratch goodies, and Gallery Place, an old mansion turned art gallery and shop.
If you do just one thing… Visit Pembroke Springs Retreat, a Japanese-influenced B&B, complete with natural spring baths and some of the best Japanese food around town.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Firefly Inn.
The nautical minded will fall hard for this seaside town in Maryland. Don’t overlook the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, a favorite among locals known for its stunning sunset vantage point. Affordable cruises and water activities are also available through the museum. Continue your adventure at Lyon Distilling, which serves delicious rum and whiskey made on-site, and Justine’s Ice Cream Parlor‚ a sweet finish to the sun-filled day.
If you do just one thing… Time your visit with a workshop that will guide you through building your own boat motor.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Five Gables Inn and Spa.
Thrill seekers flock to Harpers Ferry for the chance to experience adrenaline pumping adventure sports, including white water rafting and tubing in the Potomac River. Harpers Ferry Adventure Center is one of the most trusted rental companies in town. For those who aren’t quite as intrepid, a visit to the cobblestone streets and charming architecture throughout the Lower Town area might sound like a more attractive daily activity.
If you do just one thing… Walk through the 20 miles of nature trails at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Light Horse Inn.
For the equestrian set, there’s no better day trip destination than Middleburg. The posh town in Loudoun County is filled with upscale horse farms and more than 20 wineries. You’ll also find world-class golf courses and countryside resorts, including Salamander Resort and Spa, a luxe escape with a gourmet restaurant and views for days.
If you do just one thing… Visit during the Middleburg Film Festival in October, a celebrated event that draws some of the entertainment industry’s major players.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Goodstone Inn and Restaurant.
Accessible via train, Fredericksburg is a quick trip down memory lane. There, you’ll find poignant Civil War battlefields and tons of George Washington-related history, including the homes of his mother and sister. Stroll down Caroline Street for a glimpse of the city’s many clothing and art boutiques (we love Ponshop) and antique shops. Hungry? Foode is a cult favorite and Benny Vitali’s has some of the best pizza in town.
If you do just one thing… Grab a scoop at Carl’s, a retro ice cream shop that’s been satisfying sweet tooths since 1947.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Lavender Heights Bed and Breakfast.
Richmond is rich in southern hospitality, delicious restaurants and historic sites. Luckily, it’s only a quick train ride away. Though you’ll likely have to wait for a table, Mama Zu’s is a must-visit when in town (order the carbonara and thank us later). L'Opossum is a hip newish French spot that’s also worth checking out. Don’t miss out on strolling through Carry Street, which is packed with adorable vintage shops, clothing stores and other fun destinations.
If you do just one thing… Visit the Byrd Theater, a historic movie house.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at The Jefferson.
It’s called Charm City for a reason. Baltimore is bursting with personality, as proven by all the quirky attractions and events that call it home, including the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race, during which huge human-powered structures lumber around the city. The Visionary Art Museum houses an impressive collection of outsider art and the Tattoo Museum pays homage to all things ink. For dinner, stop by Woodberry Kitchen and then proceed to the dimly lit speakeasy W.C. Harlan for a properly concocted cocktail.
If you do just one thing… Explore Hampden, a uniquely Baltimore part of town that has starred in a number of John Waters' counter-culture films.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore.
Road tripping on Skyline Drive is like cruising through a postcard. The picturesque byway leads you to Shenandoah National Park, where you can hop on the Appalachian Trail and peep where Herbert Hoover vacationed at Rapidan Camp.
If you do just one thing… Stargaze in the Big Meadows area, near Rapidan Fire Road. On nights when the sky is clear enough, you can even see the Milky Way.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Lewis Mountain Cabins.
When you’ve had your fill of cotton candy, explore other Ocean City boardwalk novelties like a carousel from 1912 and a miniature golf course. Of course, there’s also the beach. (You brought SPF along for the ride, right?) In terms of food, make sure to stop by Fractured Prune, an outpost that only sells fried doughnuts that you can customize to your liking.
If you do just one thing… Indulge in a lovely picnic at Northside Park, a 58-mile public recreation area.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Northwood Inn Bed and Breakfast.
This is an animal lover’s paradise. Let’s start with the wild ponies that reside in this popular island park. You can look at them but make sure not to touch or feed them, they’re known to be vicious and attack visitors for their food. To see dolphins, which are usually spotted, camp out on the beach. There are also deers and over 200 species of birds on the island—what else could you ever dream of?
If you do just one thing… See all the animals, obviously.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Hotel Atlantic.
Home to the historic University of Virginia, Charlottesville is at once rooted in tradition and infused with a youthful energy. Situated in the heart of Virginia wine country, the city offers a number of wineries that are worth a visit. Not into drinking? Head to the Downtown Mall, which is chock-full of restaurants, shopping and entertainment. Stop by the Virginia Discovery Museum as well.
If you do just one thing… Visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s impressive grounds, where he tinkered with famous inventions.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Dinsmore Boutique Inn.
You don’t need a set of sea legs to fully enjoy Annapolis. Though there are plenty of water-related activities—including chartered sailing trips, canoeing and lighthouse tours—landlubbers can appreciate the grounds of the United States Naval Academy, which offers tours of the esteemed school. A robust restaurant scene includes Vida Taco Bar, Les Folies French bistro and Preserve, an esteemed Annapolis newcomer offering farm fresh dishes.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at Academy Bed and Breakfast.
Bonnie Blue Southern Market and Bakery alone is worth the trip to this rural slice of Virginia. The rustic, from-scratch shop is known for its Texas-style BBQ and biscuits, which usually sell out before lunchtime. The charming Museum of the Shenandoah Valley will give you a deeper appreciation of the region, while Village Square Restaurant offers a number of sleek dishes. Hopscotch Coffee Roasters is a prime spot to fuel up and Escutcheon Brewing Co. promises a buzz.
If you do just one thing… Eat. A lot.
Want to stay overnight? Book a room at L'Auberge Provencale.