A Local’s Guide to the Best Day Trips from Washington D.C.
Ready to escape the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C.? Then you have come to the right place to find the best day trips from Washington D.C. We admit that after living in the Washington D.C. area for more than two years, we do not love it. However, we do LOVE the surrounding areas. So were are always looking for the best day trips from Washington D.C. Whether the drive is one hour away or four hours away, each one of these day trips from D.C. will leave you breathless.
From wineries to beaches, historical destinations, outdoor adventures and more, each destination can be enjoyed in a full 24 hours. So if you are looking to leave and arrive the same day or leave during the afternoon and return the following day; we consider all of these destinations to be the best day trips from Washington D.C. In fact, if you are like us, you will want to revisit again and again or perhaps make it a weekend getaway from D.C.
Best Outdoor Adventurous Day Trips from D.C.
There is no better way to escape D.C. than with a breath of fresh air in the wilderness. So here are some of the best day trips from Washington D.C. that involves you to break a little sweat.
Great Falls Park
Distance from Washington D.C. – 15.8 miles (27 minutes)
One of our very first day trips from D.C. was chasing a beautiful waterfall at Great Falls Park. Great Falls Park is located in both Virginia and Maryland with two separate entrances in each state. It is known for its main attraction, the Great Falls, but it also has some fantastic hiking trails. The most popular trail on the Virginia side is the River Trail because of the rock scrambling opportunities, scenic bridges and walk along the Potomac River. The overall best trail to hike at Great Falls is the Billy Goat Trail on the Maryland side. This trail is broken into three sections that can be completed individually or together. Section A is the local favorite as it is both strenuous and fun with ample rock scrambling. If hiking is not your thing, Great Falls Park is still a great day trip from D.C. because you can easily see the waterfall from three different outlooks on the Virginia side.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 67.3 miles (1 hour and 16 minutes)
One of the best reasons to visit West Virginia is for its beautiful scenery and hiking. Our favorite West Virginia day trip from D.C. is Harper’s Ferry (especially in the fall), for its most scenic views and hikes in the area. The most popular hiking trail is called Maryland Heights and though it is a strenuous 6.5-mile (3 to 4 hours) round trip trail, it rewards hikers with a stunning view of Harper’s Ferry. For those who love history, Harper’s Ferry also offers visitors the opportunity to partake in workshops which teaches the 19th-century trades and skills. Furthermore, the town also has a well-known living history museum that hosts events throughout the year.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 85.7 miles (1 hour and 38 minutes)
For those seeking a thrilling and adrenaline rushing day trip from D.C., drive south to Kings Dominion. Kings Dominion is known as one of the best amusement parks on the East Coast because of its abundance of intense roller coaster rides. We have never experienced so many thrilling rides in a single amusement park before Kings Dominion. With that said, there are also plenty of low key and family-friendly rides throughout the park. Furthermore, Kings Dominion is also the ultimate summer day trip from D.C. because of their Soak City water park. It is truly a day trip packed with fun for all ages.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 94.1 miles (1 hour and 47 minutes)
Walking through the Luray Caverns (the biggest cavern on the East Coast), will make you feel like you have escaped to another world. The caverns are so large that the ceilings are ten stories high! Furthermore, the Luray Caverns are filled with so many natural wonders – crystal clear pools, stalactites, stalagmites, a 47-foot formation and more. And if the natural wonders of the cavern were not magnificent enough, deep inside Luray Caverns is the Great Stalacpipe Organ, the largest musical instrument in the world. Needless to say, there is plenty to discover inside Luray Caverns. Moreover, if you can extend your D.C. day trip to a weekend trip, you can also enjoy Shenandoah National Park as well.
Shenandoah National Park
Distance from Washington D.C. – 110 miles (2 hours and 7 minutes)
Shenandoah National Park is one of our favorite day trips from D.C. that we would revisit often. It is one of the best backyards in the U.S. that we could ever ask for, with stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, incredible hiking trails of over 500 miles (including the Appalachian Trail) and scenic drives. I recommend spending a full 24 hours in Shenandoah National Park by camping to get the most of your outdoor experience. Some of the best hiking trails in the northern part of Shenandoah National Park are Old Rag, Dark Hollow Falls, Upper Hawksbill, Stony Man Trail and Bearfence Rock Scramble. The best time to visit Shenandoah National Park is between May and November when the trees are either full of green or are starting to turn color for the fall foliage.
Best Beach Day Trips from D.C.
A summer in Washington D.C. is not complete without a trip to the beach! So whether you want to visit Delaware, Maryland or Virginia, each state has the perfect beach day trip from D.C.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 170 miles (3 hours and 14 minutes)
If you are seeking a secluded and charming beach city, look no further than Chincoteague Island. Though the island is known for the famous book, Misty of Chincoteague, and the Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim, there is so much more to the island to make this the perfect day trip from Washington D.C. We love Chincoteague Island so much, that we did this day trip more than once. The first time we went was to experience the Annual Pony Swim, which I highly recommend that everyone adds this to their bucket list. The Pony Swim is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you get to watch ponies swim across the Assateague Channel. Furthermore, there are so many fun things to do in Chincoteague such as an eco-kayak tour or a sunrise boat tour where you can see the ponies in the wild. Not to mention the food in Chincoteague is absolutely delicious! From fresh oysters to crab cakes, ice cream, gourmet sandwiches, BBQ and more. There is simply so much to enjoy on Chincoteague Island.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 146 miles (2 hours and 51 minutes)
One of the most popular beach day trips from D.C. is Ocean City in Maryland. For several years, locals and tourists have flocked to Ocean City to enjoy not only the beach but the famous wooden boardwalk with its iconic Ferris wheel. However, the amusement park and boardwalk are not the only reasons to visit Ocean City. This beach town also has great waves for surfing, an awesome skate park, craft beer, crabcakes and more. If you didn’t know any better, you might think you were on the Southern California coast because it is truly special and unique. Whether you visit by yourself, with your family or loved ones, there is something for everyone to enjoy at Ocean City.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 121 miles (2 hours and 36 minutes)
Our last favorite beach day trip from D.C. is to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We like to think Rehoboth Beach is the perfect mix of Chincoteague and Ocean City. Just like Ocean City, they have a fantastic boardwalk and amusement park. On the other hand, it also has fewer crowds and a charming town-esque atmosphere like Chincoteague. Besides visiting the beach, a trip to Rehoboth Beach is not complete without ice cream, lunch, a beer flight and a walk down Penny Lane. I highly recommend grabbing lunch and a beer flight at Dogfish Head Brewery. Then put your fate in the hands of a spinning wheel to choose your unique ice cream flavor at The Ice Cream Store. They have 100 different flavors with some crazy ingredient combinations and funny names such as Booger, Cereal Killer, Deez Nuts…need I say more? So grab your crazy ice cream flavor and take a stroll through Penny Lane to find some cute boutique stores.
Best City Getaway Day Trips from D.C.
Washington D.C. can often feel overcrowded and stuffy, so what better way to escape than a quick day trip to a different city. There are several different wonderful cities to explore. Some are romantic, sports-driven, or even a step back in time.
Old Town Alexandria
Distance from Washington D.C. – 8 miles (16 minutes)
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia is a charming city situated along the Potomac River. Rather than driving, you can take a water taxi from The Wharf, Georgetown, the National Mall, Nationals Stadium or Audi Field to enjoy this day trip from D.C. One of the best things to do in Old Town Alexandria is walking along Kings Street to shop until you drop. Of course, shopping is exhausting, so make sure you refuel at one of the many outstanding restaurants featuring every cuisine imaginable. A few favorite restaurants of ours are Murphy’s Irish Pub, Bastille, Chadwicks, Jackson 20, RedRocks Neopolitian Pizza, Vaso’s Mediterranean Bistro and Nicecream.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 41.5 miles (50 minutes)
Baltimore is a city rich in culture, art, history, and cuisine. To see some incredible art and architecture, head to The Walters Museum and George Peabody Library. To get one of the best views of Charm City, climb to the top of the Washington Monument or walk along the Waterfront Promenade. I don’t think a day trip to Baltimore would be complete without a visit to Fort McHenry, the birthplace of the “Star Spangled Banner”, or without enjoying crabs at Captain James Crabhouse for their All You Can Eat crab special.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 11.1 miles (18 minutes)
Another fun waterfront city to visit, especially for a 3-day trip to Washington D.C., is National Harbor. Like Alexandria, you can also take a water taxi to visit National Harbor. Though this is a quick D.C. day trip, there are so many fun things to experience such as a waterfront Ferris wheel, movies on a giant plaza screen, luxury shopping, public art displays, water sports activities, Top Golf (soon to be open), fine dining and more. Or you can try your luck at MGM National Harbor at their state of the art casino floor.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 139 miles (2 hours and 20 minutes)
Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and the birthplace of America, is a great D.C. day trip for sports fans, history enthusiasts and foodies. The city is well known for its dedicated fan base for their sports teams. We saw first hand what a sports experience is like when we watched the St. Louis Blues play against the Philadelphia Flyers. It is truly a sporting event to experience, so if your team is playing in Philly, I highly recommend you plan a day trip. Furthermore, a trip to Philly is not complete without trying a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, climbing the same steps as Rocky and a trip to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Believe it or not, during our 10 hours in Philadelphia, we were able to watch a hockey game, visit the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and eat a couple of great meals – talk about a great day trip from D.C.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 108miles (1hours and 40 minutes)
Richmond, Virginia is becoming more than just the capital of Virginia, it is evolving into a premier culinary, craft beer, and outdoor destination – all of our favorite things. If this is your travel language too, then Richmond definitely needs to be added to your list of D.C. day trips. From James Beard semi-finalist restaurants to BBQ, southern soul food and more, there is something delicious for everyone on every corner. In addition, there are several great apple cider and beer breweries to wash down a good meal. Then to finish your day trip, you can work off all those calories by biking on the Virginia Capitol Trail or going white water rafting, kayaking and tubing down the James River.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 153 miles (2 hours and 20 minutes)
If you want a D.C. day trip that will take you back in time, then look no further than Williamsburg, Virginia. The Colonial Williamsburg is known as the world’s largest living history museum because visitors get to experience a true feeling of life during the 18th century. Williamsburg was named one of the top 15 cities in the U.S. in Travel + Leisure’s “2017 World’s Best Awards”. If those two reasons were not enough to make you visit this cute city, then perhaps a thrilling adventure at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, beautiful wineries or a historical visit to a Jamestown Settlement will do the trick. There are also several different romantic things to do in Williamsburg for a couples outing. So whether you love history, are looking for romance or family fun – there is truly something for everyone.
Best Drinking Day Trips from D.C.
For a fun, boozy, adult-friendly day trip from D.C., enjoy a wine and beer trail in Virginia. Just remember, please drink responsibly.
Charlottesville Monticello Wine Trail
Distance from Washington D.C. – 118 miles (2 hours and 31 minutes)
Calling all wine enthusiasts, this is a day trip from D.C. you cannot miss! With at least 33 wineries in a span of 70 miles, there is plenty of wine to go around. The Monticello Wine Trail is not only full of spectacular wineries, but it is also filled with history as it is the birthplace of American wine thanks to Thomas Jefferson. Furthermore, a lot of the wineries are surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, so you can enjoy a great glass of wine with stunning mountainous views. Some of our favorite wineries are Veritas, Jefferson Vineyard, Early Mountain, Pippin Hill, and Barboursville Vineyards.
Beltway Beer Trail
Distance from Washington D.C. – 79.4 miles (1 hour and 20 minutes)
Calling all beer enthusiasts, the Beltway Beer Trail brewery experience can be done on multiple day trips from D.C. because they are spread throughout Northern Virginia. In fact, this is the largest brewery trail in Virginia with 25 different breweries across 12 cities – Manassas, Woodbridge, McLean, Vienna, Alexandria, Arlington, Lorton, Reston, Falls Church, Chantilly, Sterling, and Lake Ridge. Each brewery is unique with a variety of different beer styles, in-house restaurants, trivia nights and of course tours and tastings. Our favorite brewery on the trail is Caboose Brewery in Vienna because of their exclusive beer selection and delicious food. Seriously, their food can rival the fine dining in D.C. – you must visit and taste for yourself!
Best Historical Destination Day Trips from D.C.
From battlefields to one of the most historic mansions in the world, here are a few destinations that make a great day trip from D.C.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 79.4 miles (1 hour and 20 minutes)
One of the most historical battlefields in the history of the United States is less than two hours away from Washington D.C. making it a great day trip. There are several different ways to tour the bloodiest battlefield of the Civil War. You can do a self-guided tour or enjoy a professionally guided tour by bus, carriage, bicycle, segway, horseback or scooter – your options are almost endless. There is also an informative Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War which features relics of the Battle of Gettysburg, interactive exhibits and more.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 28.4 miles (35 minutes)
For a quick D.C. day trip to learn about another historical battlefield in U.S. history, drive to Manassas, Virginia. Manassas Battlefield is where two major American Civil War battles took place – the First Battle of Bull Run and the Second Battle of Bull Run. This National Battlefield offers visitors a free guided walking tour, some beautiful hiking trails, a museum with an orientation film and living history demonstrations throughout the year.
Distance from Washington D.C. – 17.1 miles (28 minutes)
Whether you are visiting D.C. for the first time or are a local resident, Mt. Vernon is a great day trip. This estate is one of the most patriotic destinations of the United States. It is the house of America’s first president, George Washington. Mt. Vernon is not only a beautiful mansion but also an estate with lush gardens, a stunning landscape, a tomb where President George and Martha Washington are laid to rest, a slave memorial, pioneer farm, distillery, museum and more. There is plenty to explore and learn at Mt. Vernon for both children and adults.
I hope this list has provided you with an idea of where you can go for your next day trip from D.C. There is truly so much beauty and history to discover surrounding the capitol. I am sure you will love these destinations as we have and possibly turn these day trips into weekend getaways.