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:

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


2. Fredericksburg, Va.

Located about an hour south of the District, Fredericksburg is a great city to poke around. Not to mention, a very walk-able city. There is plenty of history, architecture and shopping, to name a few things to do. Great eateries too. We've taken a few day trips there (once spending a weekend) and really enjoy exploring the city and visiting 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've also visited Chatham Manor, Hugh Mercer Apothecary, Mary Washington House, Kenmore. James Madison Law Museum and the Rising Sun Tavern, to name a few. On the overnight, we stayed at the historic Richard Johnston Inn and had a lovely stay. 

Lovely interior in Kenmore, the home of George Washington's sister. At the time of my visit the paintings and furniture were removed during renovations and photos were allowed to be taken inside. That is not the case now.


3. Caverns

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 (and more the further south you go on I-81), of these 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 cavern has something distinct of its own to share and most of them have other attractions on the property or other nearby attractions to make it a fun-filled day. These are all about 90 minutes to 2 hours away from the District, depending on where your starting point is. 

Taken during a day trip to Luray Caverns in 2009

(Related: My post about visiting Skyline Caverns)

4. Monticello, Michie Tavern and 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. However long you decide to stay, it's worth a visit. 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. You can easily spend the whole day.
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (side view)

Highland is the home of James Monroe and is located very close in proximity to Monticello (formerly "Ash-Lawn Highland" previously named after two owners is now simply "Highland" after Monroe's name for the property). If you travel all this way, it's worth it to see both. Touring Highland doesn't need much time, even an hour to 90 minutes is enough to see most 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 3:30 p.m. We stopped in during our last visit to the presidential homes and found the food to be excellent. (Note: We've eaten there several times since this post was first written and always a good experience).

(Related: My post about Highland)


5. 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 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 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.

Related reading: Fun day trips from DC: Terrapin Nature Center, Md.  

What are your favorite day trips from the D.C. region?

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