Monday, December 29, 2014

5 great day trips from Washington DC

There are so many interesting things to see and do in Washington DC and the surrounding suburbs, however do you ever just want to put some miles between you and the city (or the traffic!) and take a great day trip?  One nice thing about living in the DC Metro area is the easy access to other great landmarks and attractions. Many of these are only an hour or two away and make great day or overnight trips.

Here are some of my top picks:

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

If you love history, outdoor recreation and nature, this is the perfect spot as it has it all. The National Park Service (NPS) runs the park itself, and there is plenty to do within the park's borders. Not to mention all of the activities in the area surrounding the park (we love to go tubing in the summer!).
Once in the park, you'll hop on a bus (or you can walk if you're up for the adventure - it's a little over 1.5 miles, but one section is pretty steep) to the bottom of the hill where lower town is. 

Lots to see and do in Lower Town, including ranger tours

Regardless of how you get to the bottom of the hill, there is a lot to explore in both lower and upper town. It's about 90 minutes from DC. From Fairfax it takes me about an hour. I'm going to do a full post on Harpers Ferry in the future.

I was standing near the rail towards the rivers/Maryland border and looked back on lower town


Fredericksburg, Va.

Located about an hour south of the District, Fredericksburg is a great city to poke around. There's a lot of history, architecture and shopping, to name a few things to do. I have only been to Fredericksburg once, but we spent a weekend and really explored the city and visited many of the attractions. If you visit at night, check out the local ghost tour schedule, if it coincides with the season, it's a fabulous tour. We also visited Chatham Manor, Hugh Mercer Apothecary, Mary Washington House, Kenmore and Rising Sun Tavern, to name a few. We stayed at the historic Richard Johnston Inn and had a lovely stay. 

Lovely interior in Kenmore, the home of George Washington's sister



These are a little further out from Washington DC proper, but easily accessible off the Interstates. Out to the west are a number of different caverns. I know of at least four - Skyline, Luray, Shenandoah and Endless, of the four the only one we've yet to see is Endless, but it's on our list. Cavern tours are generally about an hour long. Each caverns has something of its own to share and most of them have other attractions on the property or others are nearby to make it a fun-filled day. These are all about 90 minutes to 2 hours away, depending on where your starting point is. 

Taken during a day trip to Luray Caverns in 2009

(Related: My post about visiting Skyline Caverns)

Monticello and Ash-Lawn Highland

This might make a better overnight trip, but it can be done in a day if you're up for the 2-hour+ trip each way. It's worth a visit though. Monticello is the home of Thomas Jefferson and there is plenty to see on including the home, expansive property and museum. I've been there twice and spent several hours there.
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (side view)

Ash-Lawn Highland is the home of James Monroe and is located very close in proximity to Monticello. If you travel all this way, it's worth it to see both. Touring Ash-Lawn Highland doesn't need much time, even an hour to 90 minutes is enough to see everything. Also, the historic Michie Tavern is nearby - you can tour the old tavern and have lunch at the restaurant. They only are open limited hours for lunch, currently 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. We stopped in during our last visit to the presidential homes and found the food to be excellent.   

(Related: My post about Ash-Lawn Highland)


Antietam National Battlefield

This trip takes you to Sharpsburg, Maryland. It's about a 90-minute trip from DC/Northern Virginia. This is the site where one of the most bloodiest battles of the Civil War took place. You can tour the battlefield by car or on foot (we usually do a combination of both). It is a full day trip. There are some nice restaurants to eat in town.

Taken during a day trip to Antietam in July 2014

There are truly many more great day trips aside from these five. I'll be writing about more of them in the upcoming weeks and months. As an aside, there are also many other places on my "to go" list which include exploring other areas of Maryland including Baltimore, Frederick, Annapolis and the shore points. 

What are your favorite day trips?

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