DC Day Trip Ideas: Five Nearby Destinations

There is so much to see and do in DC. But what if you want to get out of the city and take a day trip? This could be a great option if you are staying more than just a few days. The best DC day trip one that’s close enough to travel there and back in one day, but far enough to feel like you’re really getting out of the city. Here are five of our favorites.

5 Washington DC Day Trip Ideas

1. Old Town Alexandria

Is Alexandria really a day trip? It’s only about ten miles from DC. However, Alexandria is it’s own unique city that has its own history and charm. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and fun things to keep you busy.  

Just taking a stroll down King Street can be a fun experience. The Torpedo Factory Art Center on the waterfront is a destination on its own. When you come to Alexandria, you can sign up for a guided walking tour or a food tour and learn all about the area. If you’re thinking that taking the Metro won’t make it feel like a day trip then why not try the water taxi instead? You can use it to get from the Wharf in DC to Old Town Alexandria. There is something about taking a water taxi that makes the experience feel more unique and special.

2. Baltimore

Baltimore often gets overshadowed by DC, at least as far as tourism goes. But, people forget that Baltimore is a major city and it’s very easy to get to from DC. You can take the MARC commuter train from Union Station for this DC day trip. In about an hour and for less than $10 you can get to Baltimore.

Once you arrive, the National Aquarium is a huge aquarium right on the Inner Harbor.  DC does not have its own aquarium. So, if you’re into this sort of thing then this is a great excuse for a day trip. If you are a big US history buff, Baltimore has quite a few notable sites. One is the Star-Spangled Banner House. this is the actual home where Mary Young Pickersgill made the flag that now hangs in our American History Museum. It’s the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write that famous poem that is now our national anthem.

You can also see Fort McHenry – the spot where that actual flag actually flew. If you’re an art lover, the American Visionary Art Museum has a lot of funky cool art that you can’t really see in DC. And if you’re a sports fan, the Ravens and the Orioles both play downtown.

3. Gettysburg

When people hear Gettysburg they usually think straight to the Gettysburg Address – the famous speech that Abraham Lincoln delivered during the Civil War. Gettysburg is an ideal day trip for a Civil War history buff. It’s about 90 miles away in Pennsylvania and you can get there in about two hours. Gettysburg National Military Park is the main attraction. It’s where you can visit the Gettysburg National battlefield and the Gettysburg Museum. The park is part of the National Park System and it’s free to visit. Make sure to check out the NPS website in advance to see what special programming they have coming up.

4. Annapolis

Annapolis is the capital of Maryland. It’s located about 30 miles from DC. In good conditions you can make that drive in under an hour. But be very careful because that number could go way up if you attempt to do the drive during rush hour.  

Of course you can tour the Maryland State House, one of the oldest state capitals and often considered one of the most beautiful. You can also take a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy, especially if you’re into the U.S. Navy or naval history. Annapolis is located right on the Chesapeake Bay so if you go during a warm weather month you can rent a sailboat take it out on the water. Or you can go on a fishing charter and see what you can catch. Even if you don’t catch your own seafood, definitely eat Maryland’s signature dish: steamed Chesapeake Bay crab covered in Old Bay seasoning.

5. Charlottesville

Charlottesville is the farthest day trip from Washington, DC.  It is about a hundred and twenty miles and a two and a half to three hour drive. If you’re interested in the founding fathers or early U.S. history, this is where Thomas Jefferson lived. You can visit his home: historic Monticello.

Charlottesville is a small city and considered a college town because of the campus of the University of Virginia. But Charlottesville also has a lot of great restaurants without the hustle and bustle of a big city. Virginia has a thriving wine scene and a lot of vineyards are located around Charlottesville. So, if you’re a wine person, you don’t have to go all the way out to Napa Valley or France to go to vineyards. Of course, if you choose to do this make sure you’ve got a designated driver to take you around.

Coming to Washington, DC and want us to show you around?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today!Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

About Trip Hacks DC

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation's Capital.

Everyone wants to get the most out of travel experience; we know that planning a trip can be fun but sometimes stressful. The tips and travel hacks offered here will help you make the most of your trip and avoid missing out on the best things the city has to offer. Our trip planning e-book is the perfect resource for every first-time Washington, DC visitor.

If you're looking for a guided experience once you arrive, Trip Hacks DC specializes in private tours; but has public tours options as well. Visit the Guided Tours section to learn about some of the suggested tours and the trip planning resources section for help preparing for your trip. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

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