10 Breathtaking Day Trips From DC To See The Sights And Explore

These breathtaking day trips from DC bring history back to life. While it’s all well and good to observe an object or statue memorializing a specific historical figure or event; however, standing in the exact spot history took place is even more exciting. 

10 Breathtaking Day Trips From DC To See The Sights And Explore

Instead of reading about the histories that have shaped the United States into what it is today, why not fully immerse yourself in the past and key moments on one of these day trips? 

If this doesn’t sound like your thing, then don’t worry, we have plenty of different activities to keep the whole family occupied. Whether you’re looking to relax and unwind or looking for something more thrilling and exciting – we have something for everyone! 

With this in mind, this article explores the most breathtaking day trips from DC. Let’s jump straight into them!

Baltimore, Maryland

In the vibrant city of Baltimore, you can see reminders of American history plastered on every corner. While the original Star-Spangled Banner flies from the Smithsonian, you can see where it once flew during the 1812 War at Fort McHenry. 

From here, make your way to the Maryland Historical Society to view the handwritten poems by Francis Scott Key which would later become the national anthem. 

Step back in time by walking across the Inner Harbor, stopping at the local restaurants and shops along the way, or venture to the depths of the sea at the National Aquarium. 

Great Falls Park, Virginia

The Potomac River and Washington DC are like two peas in a pod. The river itself travels gently along the city; although, if you were to venture up the river, you’d find yourself among rapids and waterfalls. 

While Great Falls Park is situated a short distance from the city, once you get there; you’ll feel hundreds of miles away. Surrounded by glorious green hills, it is the perfect city escape. 

Don’t forget to pack a picnic! Make the most of your trip by bringing a packed lunch and enjoying alongside the riverside; listening to the background music of nature. 

Alternatively, choose one of the many available hikes in the park, the most popular is the 15 miles River Trail. 

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry is considered a National Historic Park in the United States. During the Civil War, it was a crucial site situated on the border of the Confederacy and the Union. 

These days, the park is located on the borders of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. It’s home to many historic towns, river crossings, railroads, and many miles of stunning hiking trails to journey upon and explore. 

When in Harpers Ferry, you can’t forget to take a stroll along the cobblestoned streets of the town. Simply wander around or grab a coffee at one of the full-service cafes.

Then, make sure to make your way to Jefferson Rock and walk the grounds of St. Peter’s Church. Likewise, if you’re feeling ambitious, take a hike along the Maryland Heights Trail which offers a healthy dose of all things nature with breathtaking views of the below river and town. 

If you are making this an all-day trip, make sure to stick around till the evening when the Harpers Ferry Ghost Tour takes place. During the peak seasons (spring and summer) the tour starts at 8 pm every night – you won’t want to miss it!

Shenandoah National Park

Looking to escape the crowds at the National Mall, and, instead, enjoy some fresh air and beautiful scenery, then you can’t go wrong with the Shenandoah National Park – get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to spend some quality time with nature. 

From the main city of Washington DC, the park is located approximately 75 minutes away, perfect for a day trip! 

Essentially, the Shenandoah National Park is nothing more than a slither of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park itself is beautifully surrounded by the Shenandoah River and the Virginia Piedmont. 

When it comes to things to do and sightseeing, the possibilities here are endless. From biking, hiking, camping, or even relaxing and watching the beautiful waterfalls the area is known for, you won’t be short on activities. 

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

10 Breathtaking Day Trips From DC To See The Sights And Explore

From viewing these peaceful and beautiful green fields, it’s hard to imagine the wars and horrors that took place over the course of three days at Gettysburg.

Take a guided audio tour to learn about events that took place; although, it’s impossible to imagine such a thing taking place! 

Along the route, you’ll find monuments, small and big, of those who sacrificed themselves to the war and their country. Learning and witnessing the history of the US Civil War is a truly moving experience, but there is much more beyond the battlefield to view. 

Gettysburg, the town itself, has much to offer in the form of historic buildings which, to this day, carry reminders of the war. Step back to the 1860s with the Jennie Wade House tour – which focuses on the only civilian who died during the three-day war. 

When in town, take some time to browse through the antique stores or go looking for the paranormal during a ghost tour. 

Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland

The lasting effects of the American Civil war can be found in the form of battlefields dotted around the landscapes of Virginia and Maryland.

However, the Battle of Antietam stands out as one of the bloodiest battles in the United States during the war. Once the battle ended, over 22,000 soldiers were missing, wounded, or killed. 

Taking a trip around the peaceful green fields can truly help you connect and reflect on one of the key moments that ultimately shaped the country. Around the battlefield, you can hike one of the many hikes available including the Final Attack, Bloody Lane, and Cornfield. 

Alternatively, from the Observation Tower, you can view the battlefield in all its glory. 

East Coast Ski Trip

During the winter and early spring months, many folks from the city like to take advantage of the short snowboarding and skiing season. 

Luckily for you, there are a few ski resorts within a few hours’ drive of the capital city. The perfect way to spend a cold winter’s day is without a doubt along the slopes. 

While there are many ski resorts all over Virginia and West Virginia, the closest resorts to Washington DC can be found in Pennsylvania. 

Luray Caverns, Virginia

Explore the underground Luray Caverns and feel as if you’re in another world – these caverns are the largest in the eastern United States! 

Prepare to be awe-struck by nature through these impressive sculptures that have taken millions of years to form. During the tour, you’ll journey through the Geology Hall of Fame and rooms that are 10-stories tall!

After returning above ground, visit the Luray Valley Museum, the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, and the Toy Town Junction. 

Ocean City, Maryland

Looking to spend the warm days by the beach? Then you can’t go wrong with Maryland’s Ocean City. 

While it may be a slightly longer trip, at 3 hours each way, it is the closest beach to the city. Trust us, it’ll be worth the drive!

There is so much more to do in Ocean City than simply laying on the beach all day. With a range of activities – including water sports, seafood restaurants, mini golfing, and amusement parks – you won’t be short on things to do!

While the beach itself is on par with any other beach town along the east coast, it makes for the perfect break from the hustle and bustle of the city for a little while. 

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond is rich – excuse the pun – in history! In fact, the capital of Virginia is even older than the United States itself. 

In the course of the Civil War, it was known as the capital of the Confederacy. Here, you’ll learn all there is to know about the foundations of the Civil War when touring the American Civil War Museum. 

In addition to being surrounded by history, you’ll also be surrounded by nature. Located in the James River, you’ll find the hidden gem: Belle Isle. Here, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails and large boulders to have a picnic or even relax! 

Alternatively, visit the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and take a stroll along the 50 acres of beautiful and colorful gardens. 

Final Thoughts

Washington DC is the perfect starting point for many exciting day trips. From waterfalls and battlefields to beach towns and ski trips – there’s so much more you can do in the area than you may think with something for everyone!

Hopefully, this guide has informed you on the best places to spend your day trips when in DC. 

Mylene Mace