The area around Washington DC is loaded with history, culture, and attractions. If you are looking for exciting day trips, the endless options make finding things your family loves to do pretty easy. A beautiful coastline offers many water activities to help you cool off on a hot summer day. Or head out to one or two of the nearby small towns offering charming countryside and mysterious wooded landscapes within a two-hour drive of the nation's capital. Take the kids with you and venture out to some of these great day trips from DC.
1. Shenandoah National Park
Bustling with cascade waterfalls, beautiful wildflowers, rock formations, and natural beauty, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia offers 2,000 acres of protected land to explore and enjoy. You'll experience wetlands and rocky mountains and get the chance to see black bears, songbirds, and breathtaking views.
Don't miss the chance to see the park from Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road extending along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains the entire distance through the park. Get the camera ready to snap shots of the spectacular views.
Wear comfortable shoes and clothing when visiting. It can get hot, and your feet will tire. Backcountry camping gives visitors the option to stay outdoors in their tents- just the way nature intended. Fishing, biking, and hiking are other activities visitors enjoy. Make sure you check for any active closures or alerts before departing for your trip.
Don't forget to stop and enjoy the many different exhibits found throughout the park. A stop by the Dickey Ridge Visitor center at mile 4.6 provides visitors with an introduction to the park and what to expect. Stop by the Massanutten Lodge at mile 41.7, the former home of Addie Nairn Pollock, who co-owned Skyland Resort.
2. Baltimore, Maryland
An easy day trip from D.C. via direct train and bus service, Baltimore, Maryland is home to top-notch cultural activities, outdoor green spaces, and kid-approved attractions including the Maryland Science Center located downtown; the Maryland Zoo-Baltimore; and the National Aquarium. Walk along the Inner Harbor nearby the Science center and explore the historic buildings and waterfront views.
Visit the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture to tour over 400 years of art, history, and cultural contributions. Exhibits, films, performances, workshops, and delicious soul food entertain visitors. Sports fans should visit Baltimore during the in-season to catch a game at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens.
3. Alexandria, Virginia
As a favorite day trip destination from D.C., Alexandria has a plethora of choices in activities for families. Located just south of D.C. along the Potomac River, Alexandria boasts vibrant southern charm, rich history, and some of the best waterfront views in the state. Stop by the Alexandria Waterfront Park to enjoy the waterfront and amazing scenic city views.
The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria has three floors and seven galleries of art from 150+ artists. It's a great stop for art lovers who may want to converse with some of the artists. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum displays ingredients, products, and documents left behind by the 141-year-old family business. Special programs and events, like the Harry Potter Birthday Bash, ensure kids enjoy their visit as much as the adults.
4. Dover, Delaware
Visit Delaware's capital city where you can learn more about the state's rich history at the John Dickinson Plantation. Erected in 1740, the plantation is open to the public with daily tours available. The museum inside the plantation has several exhibits and historical information available. A must-see for any history buff.
The Dover Motor Speedway brings awesome races and events all the time; check their calendar for upcoming events. Older children and teens love to hang out at the speedway, even when mom and dad are hanging out with them. Hit up the Air Mobility Command Museum during your Dover day trip. This museum is dedicated to military airlifts and aircraft and the men and women who flew them. Artifacts, exhibits, and actual planes are on display to explore, and there's always guides ready to answer questions and give you as much information as you can handle.
5. Annapolis, Maryland
More than four million visitors head to Annapolis every year. At just roughly 30 miles from D.C. it is a great place to visit whenever you are looking for close and exciting day trips for your family. The interesting history in Annapolis brings many exciting opportunities to learn more about days of long ago. Check out some of the museums to learn more.
The Maryland State House, for example, was completed in 1779, an important landmark during the American Revolutionary War. The state house is still in use today but self-guided tours delve deep into its rich history. The William Paca House & Garden, erected in the 1700s, is the former home of William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The restored home and beautiful gardens sit on two acres of land.
Be sure to explore the beautiful nature found in Annapolis. The WB&A Trail is the perfect place to hike or bike and take in the fresh air and beautiful scenery. The Jonas Green Park is a nice stop for the kids along the trail. They'll burns off lots of energy playing in the park.
The US Naval Academy Museum is a free attraction worth a stop if you or the kids fancy military artifacts and exhibits. The museum contains a wealth of interesting information, including interactive exhibits, maps, flags, and many other artifacts from the inception of the Navy until present day.
6. Norfolk, Virginia
With 144 miles of shoreline from the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Norfolk is the place to be if you and the kids want to cool off with a little outdoor water fun. Holkham Beach is often rated as the best beach in Norfolk. Expect crowds who all want to cool off in the water.
The Virginia Zoo is home to more than 700 animals representing 150 different species, including Asiatic black bears, boa constrictors, rhinos, tigers, and monkeys. The 53-acre zoo includes an awesome animal garden. This stop is fun for all ages.
Don't miss your chance to visit the Hermitage Museum and Gardens. The highlight of the museum is the 5,000-year-old art collection featuring works from nationally recognized artists. The 12-acre garden includes wetlands and woodlands and houses the arthouse, beautiful plants and flowers, changing and permanent exhibits, and a visual arts studio.
7. Rockville, Maryland
One of the largest cities in Maryland, Rockville is known for its rich history and vibrant culture, both of which you will experience during a day trip. Exploring the scenic views during a around the city can be a relaxing way to enjoy the day outside of Washington DC.
Families who travel to Rockville stop at the Meadowside Nature Center where they can enjoy a hands-on experience worth their time. Visitors can view and learn more about many different animals, walk the hiking trails, and enjoy nature the way it was intended. The nature center is located in Rock Creek Regional Park.
8. Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
Berkeley Springs will become one of your favorite small towns once you discover the beauty and charm found in this hidden gem. When we say small town, we mean it: only about 750 people live here. It's one of those places you'll miss if you blink.
Despite its small size, Berkeley Springs offers many options for fun with the kids for those who schedule the town on their day trips list.
Located in the city center, the Berkeley Springs State Park is home to a fantastic mineral spa, a public outdoor swimming pool, and two bathhouses. A museum displaying artifacts from the town's history is located on the second floor of the bathhouse. The colorful historic buildings situated on the town square cheer up the already exciting atmosphere at the park.
While downtown, stop by some of the awesome shops, including the Antique Mall where you'll find a variety of treasures from many time points in history.
9. Manassas, Virginia
Another terrific small-town worthy of a visit, Manassas, Virginia is home to 41,000 people. It's situated just 32-miles, or a short hour drive, from Washington DC. If you appreciate history, Manassas has many choices of activities to fill your time during your day trip.
Tour the Manassas National Battlefield Park, the location of two major Civil War battles. The 5,000-acre park is set up just as the battles that took place on the land. Walking and driving tours of the park are available to help visitors learn more about each battle. Be sure to stop by the Stone House for an informative visual and view the Stonewall Jackson Statue.
10. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Located 12 miles south of Cambridge, Maryland, the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore is one of those day trips perfect for nature enthusiasts. Established in 1933 as a waterfowl sanctuary for migrating birds, the over 30,000-acre area is home to many different animal species, including 250 varieties of birds.
Take a hike or bike road along one of the scenic trails at the refuge or get wet at one of the water trails. Canoeing and kayaking are popular activities enjoyed along the water trails.
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