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5 Unique Day Trips Around Washington D.C. That Are Worth The Drive

There are hundreds of amazing day trips that you can take from the nation’s capital. Here are some fun and easy day trips from D.C.

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What are some cool day trips to take around Washington DC?

The best day trips from D.C. include Gunpowder Falls State Park, Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Most of these places are open throughout the year, and they are all within a short driving distance from the capital.  

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The Best Day Trips From D.C.

But, you may have already explored most of the capital’s main attractions and you want a change of scenery.

Or you may simply want a quick getaway from the city’s politics and noise for a couple of hours to clear your head. Washington DC is an ideal place to consider for this. 

Fortunately, the areas around the capital are filled with lakes, mountains, charming towns, the Atlantic Ocean, history and hundreds of other attractions. So, if you love going on day trips, then your options are almost endless around D.C. 

In this guide, we will walk you through the top five best day trips from D.C.

Gunpowder Falls State Park

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Gunpowder Falls State Park is an hour’s drive from Washington D.C. It sits on an 18,000-acre piece of land, and it’s one of Maryland’s largest state parks. 

This expansive park is divided into six different areas, with each area representing a certain terrain, including rugged slopes, open land and tidal wetlands.

This park has more than 120 miles of trails, which are used for different outdoor activities like horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking. 

This park also hosts numerous other activities like swimming, fishing, water tubing, archery, and kayaking. Also, there are picnic grounds for couples looking for a romantic getaway in the woods.

Some of the trails in the park lead to various waterfalls. In addition, there’s a full-service Marina located close to the Dundee Creek fishing area, in the Middle River part of the park.

If you happen to go for your day trip from D.C. to this park with your kids during fall, you should make sure you pass by Weber’s Cider Mill Farm.

Your kids will have an enjoyable time at this place while you enjoy freshly baked goods and sip apple cider.  

Monticello

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If you love American history, then a visit to Monticello should make your list of day trips from D.C.

Located in Virginia, Monticello is a 2,500-acre estate and plantation, which used to be the home of former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson. He’s also buried here.

The house on the estate has around 43 rooms, featuring private quarters, which were mainly used by his family. It combines a Neoclassical architecture historic house, a presidential library, a research institute and a museum. So, there will be plenty to learn during your visit.

Also, the house is surrounded by orchards, gardens, farmland and an ornamental forest. There’s also a floral garden on the estate, featuring numerous varieties of flowers such as roses, tulips and poppies. 

With so much to offer visitors, it’s easy to see why Monticello has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Williamsburg

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While a day trip from D.C. to colonial Williamsburg may take you around two hours on the road, this visit will be worth it.

Located to the south of the capital, colonial Williamsburg is a quaint, historic town, which will take you back to the 18th century. During this period, the town used to be the capital of the Virginia colony. 

And, it played quite a significant role during the American Revolution.

Most of the buildings in the town date back to the late 18th century. So, a stroll down the streets feels like a journey back in time. Your visit may sometimes coincide with some of the events held in the town, including historical reenactments, with the participants wearing period costumes.

The majority of the town’s historic homes and buildings are open to the public. The most notable ones include the Everard House and the George Wythe House. 

These two buildings still maintain their original 18th-century décor.

Also, make sure you check out the Governor’s Palace, which used to be the residence of the colony’s governors. Built to resemble a royal palace, this building features exquisite wood-paneled interiors, delightful gardens and a spacious ballroom.

Other highlights of this area include the Anderson Blacksmith Shop, where the weapons used during the Revolutionary War were created. 

There’s also the R. Charlton Coffeehouse, where you can learn how hot chocolate, tea, and coffee were prepared during the 18th century. You will also get an opportunity to sample. 

While here, you should also check out the King’s Arms tavern, Chowning’s Tavern, and the Fat Cavern.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

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If you are looking to spend your day in a place where you will be surrounded by nature, peace and quietness, then you should consider visiting the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Established in 1933, this park is a sanctuary for more than 250 migratory bird species, which visit the area frequently. 

Some of the birds that you can spot in this park include the large waterfowl and the American bald eagle.

Besides birdwatching, this park also offers hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and various other adventures. Once you’ve had your fill of the park, you can explore nearby places like the Long Wharf Park Spocott Windmills, Choptank River Lighthouse, and Sailwinds Park East.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

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Another amazing day trip from D.C. is a visit to Mount Vernon. 

Situated on the banks of the iconic Potomac River, this is the home of the first United States President, George Washington. It was originally by his father in 1734.

But, George Washington later enhanced and enlarged it.The location has received many visitors over the years. 

The entire building is filled with some of the most amazing art pieces. During the tour, you will learn more about George Washington and his family. You will also get an opportunity to visit the English-style gardens surrounding the house. These gardens feature landscaped pathways, a botanical garden, a formal garden, and several lawns. There’s also a woodland, filled with wildflowers and native shrubs.

Also, there’s enough space for children to run around. So, a visit to Mount Vernon is also ideal for those looking for a family-friendly getaway from D.C. 

Also, they can see various animals on the estate like chickens, sheep, cattle, and hogs, among others. You can then enjoy a meal at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant still located on the estate.

If you have some time left after exploring Mount Vernon, you can proceed to Old Town Alexandria. Here, there are several antique shops, where you can purchase some souvenirs to take home. 

Also, you can check out the iconic Spite House, which is considered one of the smallest homes in America, measuring only 320 square feet.

Key Takeaways

  • The area around D.C. is filled with amazing destinations for day trips
  • There are destinations for nature lovers, history lovers and beach lovers
  • These destinations are ideal for solo trips, family getaways or romantic vacations
  • You can visit most of these places without making any reservations