Washington, D.C. is packed with attractions, and it is surrounded by dozens more attractive places, many of which are only a two-and-a-half-hour drive away. Many of these locations are great for families, but they’re also great for romantic getaways and business retreats. From stunning parks and beaches to distinctive museums and monuments brimming with historical value, there’s something for everyone. Certain attractions may be closed temporarily or require reservations in advance. Currently, some eateries only provide pickup. It’s possible that the hours and availability have changed.
We’ve all been there: you’ve been in your city for a few months and need to get some fresh air and see something new. However, with limited vacation days, flying somewhere exotic can be tough. Those of you who work in or near Washington, DC, are in for a treat! There are a plethora of fantastic day vacations – or “daycations” – that you may do on a free Saturday or Sunday. If you’re looking for a quick getaway from the city, consider one (or all!) of these simple and enjoyable day trips from Washington, DC.
Table of Contents
- 1 Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
- 2 Mount Vernon
- 3 Maryland State House
- 4 Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
- 5 William Paca House and Garden
- 6 Brookside Gardens
- 7 Baltimore’s Museums
- 8 National Aquarium
- 9 Antietam National Battlefield
- 10 Ocean City Beach
- 11 Assateague State Park
- 12 Rocks State Park
- 13 Pittsburgh
- 14 Green Ridge State Forest
- 15 Shenandoah National Park
- 16 Philadelphia
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Monticello is a former tobacco farm that served as the primary residence of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. Jefferson started construction on the house while he was only 26 years old, and he worked on it until his death in 1826.
Jefferson’s grave is currently known as the Monticello Cemetery, which is located on the grounds. A family-friendly tour, a sunset tour, and a special behind-the-scenes tour are among the options available to visitors at Monticello.
One of America’s most iconic mansions in this aristocratic estate overlooking the Potomac River in Virginia. George Washington’s favorite home, initially erected as a tiny farmhouse in 1734 by his father, is now a historic mansion.
Later, George Washington expanded and improved Mount Vernon, renovating it over a 45-year period to create a magnificent 21-room manor mansion. The 11,028-square-foot estate is ten times the size of the ordinary Virginia colonial home. The cupola, which was finished in 1774, has a weathervane topped with a dove to represent peace.
Maryland State House
The Maryland State House in Annapolis, which has been in continuous legislative use since 1779, is the oldest state capital currently in existence. With the exception of Christmas and New Year’s Day, when the building is closed, visitors are welcome every day between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
The Office of Interpretation, located on the first floor, can provide visitors with the information they need to perform a self-guided tour. By appointment, guests can arrange for specialized guided tours of the building. There is no charge for entrance or tours, but gifts are gratefully accepted.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, first opened in 1933, is a haven for birds traveling along the Atlantic Flyway. The refuge covers more than 28,000 acres, including wetlands, freshwater dams, and woods.
On-site activities include bird-watching tours and educational programs for youngsters, as well as animal exhibits, viewing platforms, and a real eagle’s nest. The park has a number of walking trails, and visitors who want to cycle or drive can use the paved four-mile-long Wildlife Drive that runs alongside the Blackwater River.
William Paca House and Garden
The William Paca House, formerly known as Carvel Hall, is a historic five-part Georgian palace that dates back to the 1760s. William Paca, a Maryland governor who signed the Declaration of Independence, used to live in this house.
The mansion, which has been meticulously restored to its former state, is set inside a lovely 2-acre walled garden. The estate is furnished with antiques and artworks from the period, and the grounds contain a fish-shaped pond and an old-fashioned outdoor kitchen. Daily tours of the house and grounds are available, and group tours can be arranged with previous notice.
Brookside Gardens, a 50-acre public display garden located within Wheaton Regional Park, is an award-winning public display garden. A butterfly garden, a rose garden, an aquatic garden, and a Japanese-style garden are among the several locations in the garden.
On-site, there are two conservatories that allow guests to enjoy the splendor of the garden all year. The Brookside Visitors Center has a horticulture reference library for individuals who desire to broaden their horizons. The gardens are open every day of the year from sunrise to sunset, and group excursions are available for guests of all ages.
Thanks to frequent direct train and bus service, Baltimore is an easy day trip from Washington, D.C. This city’s three exceptional art museums make it a desirable destination for art and culture lovers.
The Walters Art Museum, which covers the history of art from the third millennium BC to the early twentieth century, could easily fill a day. The large Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ethiopian, and western medieval art collections are highlighted, but the ivories, enamels, bronzes, jewelry, and illuminated manuscripts exhibits are equally impressive.
The Baltimore Museum of Art features the world’s largest collection of paintings by Henri Matisse and specializes in modern art movements from the Impressionists to the present.
Don’t miss the American Visionary Art Museum’s eccentric and unusual exhibits of naive art and works by self-taught painters for a different viewpoint on art and artists. The structure, which is located on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, is a work of art in and of itself, with its bright mosaics and three-dimensional art filling its courtyard.
The National Aquarium, located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, is a non-profit public aquarium with over 2,200,000 gallons of water and about 20,000 specimens representing over 750 aquatic species.
The aquarium has a special 4-D theater that shows 3-D films with a variety of special effects, in addition to exhibits that simulate a wide range of natural aquatic ecosystems. A variety of trips, including overnight alternatives and customized experiences, are available to visitors.
Antietam National Battlefield
Antietam National Battlefield is a National Park Service-protected region along Antietam Creek that was the location of a bloody fight during the American Civil War in 1862. The Visitor Center, which is open all year, houses a number of museums displays as well as a theater and a gift shop.
Throughout the year, park rangers deliver daily interpretive presentations, and expanded versions of these talks are available during the summer. The Antietam National Cemetery, the Pry House Field Hospital, and the Dunker Church are just a few of the attractions near the battlefield.
Ocean City Beach
Ocean City Beach is an excellent place to go swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing because it has almost 10 miles of sand. The beach is also noted for its excellent waves, making it a popular surfing and boogie boarding destination.
Surfers have their own portion of the beach to themselves. An adjacent boardwalk offers a range of retail, dining, and hotel options, and the beach includes a number of free washrooms and showers.
Assateague State Park
Assateague State Park is Maryland’s only coastal park, located on Assateague Island. The island is home to a large number of wild horses, but tourists are warned not to approach them and to keep a safe distance.
Swimming, beachcombing, sunbathing, and surfing are all popular activities on the park’s two-mile beach. Visitors who want to go away from the shore can explore the bay in a canoe or kayak. There are over 300 campsites in the park, each with a fire pit and a picnic table. During the high summer season, reservations are strongly advised.
Rocks State Park
Rocks State Park is an 855-acre woodland area in Deer Creek Valley featuring a lot of big boulders that give the park its name. Hunting, fishing, and tubing on Deer Creek are all popular activities in the park, and there are also 3.5 miles of lovely hiking trails to explore.
Picnic tables, grills, public washrooms, and children’s playground equipment are available in several day-use picnic locations; visitors should be aware that there is a small service fee to use these facilities. Large picnic pavilions can be rented out for weddings and other special occasions by large groups.
Pittsburgh is a terrific place to visit with the whole family.
The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are ideal for a romantic day excursion, while Kennywood is ideal for thrill-seekers and the Andy Warhol Museum is ideal for culture vultures.
Pittsburgh named one of the finest places to visit by Harper’s Bazaar in 2017, is a busy and energetic metropolis that offers a modern contrast to historic Washington, DC. Stay until after dusk on the banks of the Ohio River to see the city lights dance on the river below.
Green Ridge State Forest
Green Ridge State Forest, with its 46,000 acres, is the ideal day trip for hikers, ramblers, and lovers of the great outdoors.
Cycling, hiking, and fishing are all permitted in the park, and camping is accessible for a nominal fee if you arrive and decide not to leave.
It’s a bit of a hidden gem. Green Ridge State Forest is peaceful and only receives a few visitors throughout the year.
Keep your wits about you since there are Black Bears in the park.
Green Ridge State Forest is home to a variety of bird species, including Pileated Woodpeckers, Wild Turkeys, and owls.
Shenandoah National Park
If you’re looking for a taste of nature and the great outdoors, a trip to the Shenandoah National Park is a must. Shenandoah National Park, which includes a piece of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is stunningly beautiful, with waterfalls and rolling hills galore.
If you’re coming from Washington, DC, be sure to stop by Skyline Drive, a 105-mile stretch of road that runs the length of the park and features several spectacular viewpoint sites. Hiking is a popular activity in Shenandoah National Park, and any of the Visitor Centers may provide information on trails and paths.
Philadelphia, as one of Pennsylvania’s largest cities, is one of the greatest long-distance day trips from Washington, DC. The city, which is home to some of the country’s most historically significant sights, does not lack things to do for first-time visitors.
Head to Independence Hall if you’re a history geek and want to see the famed Liberty Bell in person. Or, for the world’s foodies, visit the Reading Terminal Market or the South 9th Street Italian Market for a world-famous Philly Cheesesteak or another local fare. Take a walk or ride your bike along the Schuykill River if you prefer to be outside.