8 Most Fascinating Day Trips from Washington D.C.

One of the best things about living in or near Washington, D.C., is how close it is to so many other fascinating destinations. The beauty is you can take countless Washington DC day trips that only take one or two days at a time.  

Whether you love history, art, museums, and nature or are looking for family-friendly DC day trips, there’s something for everyone. Many popular locations are only a few hours away at most, so you can leave in the morning, spend a day exploring, and return home in the evening.  

Are you ready for your next adventure? Read on to discover the best day trips from DC and start planning your next trip!  

Best Day Trips from Washington D.C.  

1. Monticello, Virginia   

Distance from Washington D.C. ~ via I-95 S (2 hours 18 minutes) 

Experience the ideal Washington, D.C. weekend getaway when you visit Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. This architectural masterpiece was the home of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence.  

USA 8 Most Fascinating Day Trips From Washington D.C. - Monticello, Virginia

There are many exciting things to see and do at Monticello, which is why we encourage you to spend at least one full day there. First, take a tour through the house itself, which Thomas Jefferson built and rebuilt over the span of 40 years. Experience breathtaking scenery, such as the “nickel view,” which has been engraved on the nickel since 1938!  

Many other experiences also await you, like Jefferson’s famous botanical gardens, the Life of Sally Hemings exhibit, interactive tours through the slaves’ quarters, and more. Visitors can explore the house and grounds on their own with an audio tour or take a guided tour with a professional guide. 

Admission Fee: Fees vary based on the type of tour you prefer. You can find all ticket information here

Pro Tip: Set aside at least three hours to explore all that Monticello offers. Since you will be spending a good portion of your time outside, we recommend that you avoid going during the heat of summer.  

2. Richmond, Virginia 

Distance from Washington D.C. ~ via I-95 S  (1 hour, 45 minutes) 

Visiting Richmond is another one of our favorite Washington DC day trips, as it’s filled with diverse activities for both individuals and families. There are endless historical sites, museums, restaurants, and activities for all to enjoy.  

USA 8 Most Fascinating Day Trips From Washington D.C. - Richmond, Virginia

If you’re traveling with kids, spending a day at King’s Dominion is a must. This all-inclusive theme park has more than 60 rides (including a 4D spin coaster), a 20-acre water park, and more. Richmond also has many outdoor activities, such as rock climbing, hiking the 52-mile Virginia Capital Trail, or white water rafting on the James River.  

History buffs will love visiting iconic landmarks like Malvern Hill Battlefield, Henricus History Park (where Pocahontas lived), and the American Civil War Museum. You can also walk the Richmond Slave Trail, explore the Hanover Courthouse, Hanover Tavern, and much more.  

Going on a day trip from DC doesn’t mean you have to spend lots of money. There are many free and inexpensive destinations in Richmond for families to experience, like Ashland Berry Farm, Belle Isle, and numerous parks and museums.  

3. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia 

Distance from Washington D.C. ~ via I-66 W (1 hour, 40 minutes) 

One of the best Washington DC day trips you can take during the fall is to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The temperatures are crisp from late September through November, and the foliage is gorgeous – one of the best US National Parks to visit in the fall. Vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows frame every walking path and transform the park into an autumn wonderland.  

USA 8 Most Fascinating Day Trips From Washington D.C. - Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park has much to offer, regardless of when you decide to visit. The 300-square-mile area is filled with breathtaking panoramic views on Skyline Drive. This 105-mile route takes you the length of the entire park and offers numerous photo opportunities along the way. There are also tumbling waterfalls to discover and miles of hiking trails for both amateur and experienced hikers.  

If you’re planning on spending a few days in Shenandoah, there is no shortage of places to stay. This popular east coast national park has many different campgrounds, cabins, and lodges in various locations, perfect for both small and large groups.  

Park Entry Fees: $30 for single vehicle/$15 per individual person (on foot or bicycling)  

4. National Aquarium, Maryland 

Distance from Washington D.C. ~ via I-95 N (1 hour, 9 minutes) 

Visit one of the nation’s top three aquariums in Maryland and take a journey to an underwater world! The National Aquarium in Maryland is only about an hour away (depending on traffic), and it’s the perfect option for families who are looking for day trips near DC.  

USA 8 Most Fascinating Day Trips From Washington D.C. - National Aquarium, Maryland

Children will love interacting with thousands of different species in spectacular habitats, including sharks, dolphins, crocodiles, exotic fish, birds, and more. As you walk through the aquarium, you can participate in interactive animal exhibits, lessons from sealife experts, and 4D films. There are also special tours during the week and at different times throughout the year.  

Take a break and stop at one of the aquarium’s two restaurants for a bite to eat. Or you can enjoy a meal at a nearby restaurant – just make sure you get your hand stamped before you leave!  

Admission Fee: $39.95 for adults, $29.95 for children (ages 3-11), and free for children (ages two and under)  

Pro Tip: Don’t miss the award-winning Blacktip Reef, an exhibit that features fascinating creatures, including whiptail rays, zebra sharks, blacktip reef sharks, and others.  

5. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland 

Distance from Washington D.C. ~ via I-270 N & I-70 W (1 hour, 17 minutes) 

Become one of over 5 million visitors that experience the wonders within this historical national park each and every year. If you’d like to spend a day trip from DC out in nature, You’ll love this scenic drive in Maryland. There are over 180 miles of recreational, educational, and historical attractions to enjoy.  

USA 8 Most Fascinating Day Trips From Washington D.C.  - C&O Canal Park

You and your family can visit the C&O Canal Park year-round, and you can even bring your dog with you for the day! The park has more than 600 points of interest, so there is always something new to explore, whether you’re interested in hiking, camping, or sightseeing.  

If you plan on staying the night, why not spend it in a historical lockhouse? Each of the seven lockhouses can sleep up to 8 people, but choose wisely – some lockhouses have all the amenities, and others lack electricity and heating. If you wish to avoid the 1800s experience, we recommend avoiding those!  

Park Entry Fee for Great Falls: $20 per vehicle/$10 per person on-foot or bicycling  

Pro Tip: Arrive early in the day to avoid crowds. 

6. Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland 

Distance from Washington D.C. ~ via I-270 N (1 hour, 27 minutes) 

Antietam National Battlefield is a must-see for those interested in America’s Civil War. On September 17, 1862, over 23,000 soldiers died on what is known as the bloodiest day in American history. Antietam is now a national park that offers its visitors many exciting and educational experiences. 

USA 8 Most Fascinating Day Trips From Washington D.C. - Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland

Begin your visit at the newly renovated visitor center, which is open year-round. The visitor center features a small exhibit and gift shop. Next, explore Dunker Church and walk down Bloody Lane, where Union and Confederate soldiers fought for almost four hours over a 1000-yard portion of Sunken Road.  

You can also stroll across Burnside Bridge, climb to the top of the Observation Tower, and explore Philip Pry Farm. If you visit during the summer or on weekends during the spring and fall,  the Newcomer House and the Pry House Field Hospital Museum are also accessible.  

Admission Fee: $10 per individual/$20 per vehicle  

7. Ocean City Beach, Maryland 

Distance from Washington D.C. ~ via US-50 E (2 hours 52 minutes) 

Voted one of the nation’s Top 10 Beaches by TripAdvisor, Ocean City Beach features 10 miles of beautiful shoreline. It’s an excellent destination for families, where all can enjoy swimming, boating, and sunbathing. Ocean Beach’s waves are also popular with surfers, and your kids will also enjoy boogie boarding!  

USA 8 Most Fascinating Day Trips From Washington D.C. - Ocean City Beach, Maryland

Ocean Beach also has much to offer aside from its gorgeous beaches. You can bike or walk along the three-mile boardwalk, which is lined with various stores, arcades, and eye-catching amusements. You can also find many free activities during the summer, like fireworks, movies, concerts, and ice cream. 

If you have extra time, enjoy a bite to eat at one of Ocean City’s many delicious restaurants. Savor fresh seafood and boardwalk fries near the beach, or sip a cold craft beer at one of the local brewpubs. If you enjoy rollerblading or skateboarding, you can visit Ocean City Skate Bowl Park or Northside Park.  

Pro Tip: There is so much to see and do in Ocean City, so plan your trip in advance and make it an overnighter if you can! 

8. Loudoun County, Virginia 

Distance from Washington D.C. ~ via VA-267 W (57 minutes) 

Loudoun County is a wine-lovers paradise, with over 40 wineries and tasting rooms less than an hour away from D.C. It’s also home to around 30 craft breweries, cideries, and meaderies. You can easily spend several days savoring all that Loudoun County offers, and it’s well worth a few repeat trips.  

USA 8 Most Fascinating Day Trips From Washington D.C.  - Loudoun County, Virginia 

Loudoun County is also one of the best Washington DC day trips for nature enthusiasts, containing beautiful parks like Morven Park, Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park, and Ashburn Park. Of course, there’s something for history lovers as well, including the National Sporting Library & Museum, Winmill Carriage Museum, Oatlands Historic House and Gardens, and more.  

If you’re traveling in the fall, why not take the Loudoun Fall Farm Tour? This free self-guided driving tour takes you to unique places like Blooming Hill Lavender Farm, Double 8 Alpaca & Llama Ranch, and the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum.  

We hope you’ve found something in this selection of Washington DC day trips your family will enjoy. Let us know all about your plans in the comment section below! 

© Family Road Trip

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