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15+ Day Trips from DC You Need to Explore Next

Looking to escape DC? Here are amazing day trips you need to check out.

History comes alive on many of these amazing day trips from DC. Sure, it’s fine to look at a statue or object commemorating a historical event or figure but isn’t it so more exciting to stand in the spot where history happened?

Rather than reading about it, you can immerse yourself in key moments that have defined the United States.

If you’re not much of a history buff, you can also find natural beauty dominating the region. Whether you want to relax and unwind or have an adventure, outdoor activities are never in short supply.

15 Stunning Day Trips from Washington DCPin

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Last Updated: October 13, 2023

15+ Stunning Day Trips from DC You Can’t Miss

With a variety of places to visit for a quick getaway from historical spots to the great outdoors, these day trips from Washington DC highlight why so many people love to visit the area.

1. Great Falls Park, Virginia

9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean, VA 22102, map

Distance: 19.6 mi / 30 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Great Falls Overlooks, River Trail
What to Eat: Amoo’s RestaurantChiang Mai Thai CookhouseRoll Play Grill

Washington DC and the Potomac River go hand in hand. The river calmly flows through the city, but if you venture up the river, you’ll find yourself at waterfalls and rapids.

Great Falls Park is surrounded by green hills and feels far from the big city. To make a day out of it, bring a picnic, and enjoy a meal with the sound of the river as your background. Or go for a hike on any of the 15 miles of trails in the park, the most popular being the River Trail.

Local Tip: Leave your swimwear at the hotel as swimming is prohibited due to the strong currents.

See More: Ultimate Washington DC Bucket List

Great Falls Park Virginia + 15 Best Day Trips from DCPin

2. Baltimore, Maryland

401 Light St, Baltimore, MD 21202, map

Distance: 38.3 mi / 50 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Fort McHenry, Inner Harbor, Maryland Historical Society
What to Eat: Thames Street Oyster HouseJoe Benny’sEkiben

In the bustling city of Baltimore, you can find significant moments of American history around every corner. Though the original Star-Spangled Banner hangs at the Smithsonian, you can see where the flag flew during the War of 1812 at Fort McHenry. Then travel to the Maryland Historical Society to see the handwritten poem by Francis Scott Key that would become the national anthem.

You can return to modern life by walking around the Inner Harbor, enjoying the shops and restaurants, or journeying to watery depths at the National Aquarium.


3. Kent Island, Maryland

425 Piney Narrows Rd, Chester, MD 21619, map

Distance: 48 mi / 1 h (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Stevensville, Terrapin Beach Park, Hiking Trails
What to Eat: Stevensville Crab ShackFrix’s Fire GrillFisherman’s Crab Deck

Once a fur trading post for early European settlers, Kent Island is now a relaxing day trip from Washington DC. The largest island in the Chesapeake Bay boasts plenty of shops and restaurants to sample in Stevensville.

Relax on the sand at Terrapin Beach Park or enjoy one of the two trails on the island: Cross Island Trail and Kent Island South Trail.

See More: 25+ Best Free Things to do in Washington DC

4. Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

171 Shoreline Dr, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425, map

Distance: 63.4 mi / 1 h 15 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: John Brown’s Fort, Maryland Heights, Appalachian Trail
What to Eat: Hamilton’s Tavern 1840The Rabbit HoleKelley Farm Kitchen

Harper’s Ferry is best known for John Brown’s last stand, and you can stand at the fort where he and his fellow abolitionists barricaded themselves in hopes of freeing slaves.

Walking around town, you’ll fall under its charm as you tour historic buildings. A must-visit is True Treats, the only historical candy shop in the US where you can taste the evolution of candy from the 1700s to the present day. It’s one experience you won’t forget.

Perhaps the true charm of Harper’s Ferry is found when viewing the town from above. Hike the Maryland Heights Trail for the iconic view over the town. For outdoor enthusiasts, it’s worth noting that the Appalachian Trail passes through Harper’s Ferry. Though doing the entire Appalachian Trail is a massive undertaking, it’s exciting enough to walk a mile of this epic trail.

Harpers Ferry Potomac RiverPin

5. Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland

302 E Main St, Sharpsburg, MD 21782, map

Distance: 66.2 mi / 1 h 30 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Battlefield Drive, Hiking Trails, Observation Tower
What to Eat: Blue Moon CaféMarias TaqueriaBistro 112

The American Civil War had a lasting effect on American life, and battlefields dot the landscape in Maryland and Virginia. However, the Battle of Antietam stands out among the others where the bloodiest fight in a single day took place in the war. Over 22,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing by the time the battle ended.

Driving around the peaceful green fields, you can truly feel the land and to reflect on the key moments during the war. Take time to hike several of the short hiking trails on the battlefield including the Bloody Lane, Cornfield, or the Final Attack. Or view the entire battlefield from atop the Observation Tower.

See More: 49 Best Places to Eat in Washington DC

antietam national battlefield marylandPin

6. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325, map

Distance: 82 mi / 1 h 30 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Self-Guided Audio Tour, Jennie Wade’s House, Ghost Tour
What to Eat: Food 101Mason Dixon DistilleryThe Garryown Irish Pub

Taking in the tranquil beauty of these green fields, it’s hard to imagine the horrors that took place over the three days at Gettysburg. Even when listening to how events played out during your self-guided audio tour, it’s impossible to take it all in.

Monuments, large and small, line the route honoring all those who fought here. Witnessing the turning point of the US Civil War is a moving experience, but there is more to see than the battlefield.

The town of Gettysburg has many historic buildings that still carry scars of the war. To glimpse daily life in the 1860s, tour the Jennie Wade House, who was also the only civilian killed during the three days of fighting. While in town, enjoy browsing the antique stores or go search for the paranormal on a ghost tour.

Gettysburg PAPin

7. Luray Caverns, Virginia

101 Cave Hill Rd, Luray, VA 22835, map

Distance: 94.5 mi / 1 h 45 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Geology’s Hall of Fame, Toy Town Junction
What to Eat: West Main MarketTriple Crown BBQGathering Grounds Patisserie & Café

Journey to another world as you venture underground at Luray Caverns, the largest cavern in the eastern US. It’s awe-inspiring to be in the presence of nature’s sculptures that took millions of years to form. Tours take visitors through the Geology Hall of Fame and rooms that are 10-stories high.

Once you return above ground, take in the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Toy Town Junction, and the Luray Valley Museum.


8. George Washington & Jefferson National Forest, West Virginia

38.928859,-78.7289453, map

Distance: 107 mi / 1 h 50 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Cascade Falls, Sherando Lake
What to Eat: Woodstock Garden CaféSpring House TavernWoodstock Café

George Washington and Jefferson National Forest offers unbridled wilderness and unlimited outdoor activities. You can spend the day hiking, kayaking, fishing, bicycling, and more.

Highlights include the 66-foot Cascade Falls and the serene Sherando Lake.

Tibbet Knob George Washington National ForestPin

9. Richmond, Virginia

405 N 3rd St, Richmond, VA 23219, map

Distance: 109 mi / 2 h (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: American Civil War Museum, Belle Isle, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
What to Eat: Secret Sandwich SocietyHeritageBocata Latin Grill

There’s no escaping history in Richmond. The capital of Virginia is older than the United States. During the Civil War, it was the capital of the Confederacy. Learn about the foundations of the Civil War and why it happened while touring the American Civil War Museum.

In addition to its history, you can also surround yourself in nature. Belle Isle is a gem situated in the James River with hiking trails and plenty of large boulders to relax along the shore. Or take a stroll in the 50 acres of colorful gardens at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

richmond va skyline + 15 best day trips from dcPin

10. Shenandoah Valley National Park, Virginia

17065 Skyline Dr, Front Royal, VA 22630, map

Distance: 117 mi / 2 h 10 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Skyline Drive, Dark Hallow Falls, Old Rag Mountain
What to Eat: Blue Wing FrogSpelunker’s Burgers & Frozen CustardPaveMint Taphouse & Grill

Shenandoah National Park was made for anyone who appreciates the outdoors. If you love a good road trip, Skyline Drive is one of the best scenic drives in the US. Snaking its way along the entire length of the national park, this 105-mile road offers nonstops views and overlooks of the endless valleys and mountains.

There are also hundreds of miles of trails to enjoy. Highlights include the easy Dark Hollow Falls trail or the popular 10-mile loop trail to the summit of Old Rag Mountain.

fall foliage shenandoah national park + 17 Stunning PlacesPin

11. Charlottesville, Virginia

610 E Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22902, map

Distance: 117 mi / 2 h 15 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Monticello, Highland, University of Virginia, Vineyards
What to Eat: Croby’s Urban ViddlesAce Biscuit & BarbecueAl Carbon Chicken

As you stroll the grounds of Monticello, you’ll find it hard to think of another home that’s more perfectly situated. With rolling hills stretching out in every direction, Monticello feels like its own world. Thomas Jefferson’s home (designed by him) offers insight into one of the prominent founding fathers of the US.

Just three miles away is the estate of the fifth US president, James Monroe’s Highland.

If you love touring campuses, the University of Virginia is one of the most stunning college campuses in the US. Take a tour of this UNESCO World Heritage site founded by Thomas Jefferson. In the afternoon, enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants in the downtown mall or relax over a bottle of wine at one of the many vineyards in the region.

wineries in charlottesville vaPin

12. Hershey, Pennsylvania

150 W Chocolate Ave, Hershey, PA 17033, map

Distance: 130 mi / 2 h 15 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Hersheypark, Hershey Story Museum, Hershey Gardens
What to Eat: Rotunda Brew PubThe Chocolate Avenue GrillBabes Grill House

Everyone is a kid at Hershey Pennsylvania. Relive childhood memories on the many rides at Hersheypark, and walk among the endless rows of chocolate treats at Hershey’s Chocolate World. Learn about the history of Hershey, the man, the chocolate, and the town at the Hershey Story Museum.

You can find a quieter, less sugary, time at the Hershey Botanical Gardens. This 23-acre site overlooks Hersheypark.

13. Ocean City, Maryland

12319 Ocean Gateway #202d, Ocean City, MD 21842, map

Distance: 139 mi / 2 h 40 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Ocean City Beach, Ocean City Boardwalk, Assateague Island National Seashore
What to Eat: HookedLiquid AssetsOn the Bay Seafood

When the temperatures rise, it’s beach time. Ocean City is the perfect day trip from DC with its 10-miles of beach and waves. There’s even a boardwalk complete with restaurants, shops, and an arcade, to round out the perfect day at the shore.

If you don’t need a full day at the beach, you can get away to the Assateague Island National Seashore with its wild horses, gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean, and hiking trails.


14. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania →

1601 Market St #200, Philadelphia, PA 19103, map

Distance: 140 mi / 2 h 25 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Philadelphia Museum of Art
What to Eat: Dalessandros Steaks & HoagiesDigBarbuzzo

Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States and the city of brotherly love, cheesesteak, and Rocky Balboa.

Step into history at Independence Hall and see where both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were debated and ratified. Then visit the Liberty Bell next door.

Philadelphia has several world class museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Its collection contains some amazing gems and you can spend hours in all the exhibits.

Even if you’re not an art lover, a run up the museum’s iconic steps is a must. The steps were made famous by the movie, Rocky, plus it helps to burn off all the cheesesteaks.

See More: 25 Free Things to Do in Philadelphia

Need some ideas for easy and short getaways from NYC? Save this pin and click through to get out of the city and visit amazing spots in the northeast. Whether you're planning romantic weekend getaways from nyc for couples, road tripping with a bunch of friends, or just looking for last minute getaways from nyc, everyone needs to escape the big apple from time to time. // Local Adventurer #philadelphia #pennsylvania #roadtrip #visittheusaPin

15. Williamsburg, Virginia

101 Visitor Center Dr, Williamsburg, VA 23185, map

Distance: 153 mi / 2 h 40 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Colonial Williamsburg, Governor’s Palace, Busch Gardens
What to Eat: Food for Thought RestaurantSecond Street American BistroThe Hound’s Tale

History comes alive at Colonial Williamsburg and you can experience it for yourself. With over 500 historic buildings, learn all about daily life and trade from a bygone era with hands-on activities.

One of the grandest buildings is the Governor’s Palace, built before the American Revolutionary War. See how the wealthy and powerful lived on a tour of the building.

If you need more stimulation, feel the adrenaline rush of one of the many roller coasters found at Busch Gardens.

Williamsburg VA in NovemberPin

Map of the Best Day Trips from DC

More Day Trips from Washington DC

  • Manassas National Battlefield Park (28.4 mi / 38 min, map)
  • Annapolis, Maryland (32 mi / 41 min, map)
  • Fredericksburg, Virginia (52.7 mi / 1 h 12 min, map)
  • Gunpowder Falls State Park, Maryland (56.8 mi/ 1 h 8 min, map)
  • Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (79.3 mi / 1 h 41 min, map)
  • Elk Neck State Park (95.8 mi / 1 h 53 min, map)

Best Places to Stay in DC

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Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

Follow on Instagram (E + J), YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest.

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