Washington, DC is filled with numerous fascinating attractions and family-friendly museums as well as abundant fine dining and entertainment options. In addition to this treasure trove, the District is also situated in close proximity to many other places offering wonderful things to see and do. These charming locales make wonderful day trips from DC. Consider adding one of these destinations near DC to your itinerary.
The remains of more than 400,000 active duty service personnel, veterans and other distinguished Americans are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. A guided tour is a solemn reminder of their selflessness and sacrifice. The monuments and memorials inside and surrounding the cemetery are a journey through the country’s military history. The headquarters of America’s military, the iconic Pentagon also offers public tours. The grounds are the setting for a moving memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks. Explore the Theodore Roosevelt Island wilderness preserve and observe a wide range of flora and fauna along the 2.5 miles of footpaths. Check out this interactive Arlington map to learn more about the cemetery.
A former Colonial-era river port, Old Town Alexandria features a number of historic buildings, including Gadsby’s Tavern and Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride and travel back in time as you learn the history of the city. Tour the George Washington Masonic Memorial that includes a 17-foot-tall bronze statue of the first president and a collection of interesting artifacts. A former munitions depot, the three-story Torpedo Factory has been transformed into a vibrant arts space filled with working studios and galleries. Part of the capital’s defensive works, the Civil War-era Fort Ward is a 40-acre historic park chronicling military life during the period.
Home to George and Martha Washington, Mount Vernon is a scenic attraction on the banks of the Potomac River near DC. Several outbuildings dating from the mid-18th century are on the grounds of the 500-acre estate that includes a 14-room mansion filled with restored and original period pieces. Visitors can explore the smokehouse, slave quarters, kitchen and stables. Bike the scenic Mount Vernon Trail that stretches along the Potomac River from the president’s home to Roosevelt Island.
The historic home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello is located in Charlottesville approximately a 2.5-hour drive southwest of the District. This national historic landmark is the only residence in the U.S. to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can enjoy guided tours of the house and grounds. The furnished rooms and colorful gardens provide a glimpse into the life of the third president. Visitors can also learn about the free and enslaved people that worked the plantation, including the Hemings family.
Situated on the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, Harper’s Ferry is the site of abolitionist John Brown’s famous October 1859 raid. Containing numerous historic homes and buildings, the town is less than two hours from DC. National Park Service rangers provide tours and lectures that detail the community’s rich Civil War history. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are numerous scenic hiking trails nearby, including access to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Featuring a 40-square-block historic district set along the banks of the Rappahannock River, Fredericksburg is at the epicenter of four key Civil War battlefields. A network of self-guided tours enables history buffs to explore the military parks surrounding this former river port. The childhood home of George Washington, the city is filled with antique shops and meticulously restored 18th- and 19th-century buildings. This charming Virginia locale is home to numerous living history museums, eateries and art galleries.
Just a short drive west of the metro area, Middleburg sits at the heart of Northern Virginia’s wine country. You can tour several wineries producing different varieties, including vintages made from the Norton grape, which is native to Virginia. Middleburg features a number of upscale eateries. The community is also near Sky Meadows State Park, which offers hiking, fishing and picnicking venues in the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Part of the Appalachian Trail runs through the park.
Shenandoah Valley National Park
You can trade the hustle and bustle of the city for the peaceful bucolic setting of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Less than three hours away, the national park features a variety of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. A network of paths covers various distances and features differing skill levels. Skyline Drive is one of the most scenic fall foliage day trips from DC. Enjoy a variety of local eateries serving Southern favorites.
If you want to venture beyond the city limits of the nation’s capital, there are numerous scenic, historic and inspiring places near DC. Whether you are a city resident or in town for a holiday, you can easily enjoy a number of exciting and informative day trips from the District of Columbia.