When summer (and its humidity) finally arrives in Washington, DC, it can feel like it’s time to travel. But what if you’re done with experiencing the city of DC?
Fortunately, excursions outside Washington, DC are plentiful!
The East Coast is filled with tranquil towns and undervalued cities that are ideal for weekend getaways, particularly in the summer when outdoor activities like live music and alfresco dining are available.
So, what are the best road trips departing from Washington, DC you may ask? Here are some of my favorite road trips you can take from Washington DC any time of the year!
The Best Road Trips From Washing, DC Include:
Loudoun County, Virginia
Broadkill Beach, Delaware
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park and Rappahannock County, Virginia
Tilghman Island, Maryland
Eastern Shore, Maryland
Atlantic City, New Jersey
New York City, New York
Raleigh, North Carolina
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Table of Contents
1. Loudoun County, Virginia
Distance from DC: 45 miles
Drive time: 57 minutes
Loudoun County’s rolling hills will seem like a genuine escape from city life this summer while only an hour from Washington, D.C.
Wine tastings, historical sights, delectable food, outdoor activities, and craft beer samples are all available in this lovely little region of Virginia.
In addition, Dulles International Airport (DCA), one of the busiest airports in the United States, is also located in Loudoun County. This makes it super convenient to visit if you’re traveling from out of state!
You can’t visit Loudoun without seeing either horses or wine (or both), Loudoun’s two main attractions. Nearly 50 wineries in the region, many of which have spacious picnic areas and Adirondack chairs where you may spend the afternoon sipping red and white wine.
Include stops at Round Hill’s William Gap Vineyard, where you may have a private wine and dine for yourself and your friends. Furthermore, the county is also home to Endhardt Vineyards in Purcellville, Old Farm Winery in Hartland, and The Winery at La Grange in Middleburg, making it a wonderful spot to take your own self-guided wine tour.
Pay a visit to Middleburg’s elegant National Sporting Library & Museum when you’ve had enough of the heat and wine. The little museum offers a creative glimpse into the equine-related activities that are so pervasive in the region.
Where To Stay:
2. Annapolis, Maryland
Distance from DC: 32 miles
Drive time: 45 minutes
If you’re looking for a fun-filled weekend getaway very close to DC, look no further than Annapolis, Maryland!
Annapolis, Maryland is a historic town with a lot to offer. From its charming streets and shops to its many museums and attractions, there is something for everyone in Annapolis.
You can start by visiting the United States Naval Academy – founded in 1845, the Naval Academy is one of the most prestigious military schools in the country.
From there, take a stroll through the Annapolis Historic District and admire 18th-century architecture. Then, head to the State House to learn about the state’s history and see where George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.
For those who love the outdoors, take a kayak or canoe out on the Chesapeake Bay, go for a hike in one of the many parks, or simply relax on one of the city’s many beaches. You can also take a boat ride on the bay, or stay on land and explore the many shops and restaurants downtown.
And of course, no visit to Annapolis would be complete without indulging in some delicious seafood! Some food joints you should check out include O’Leary’s Seafood Restaurant, Wild Country Seafood, and Masson’s Famous Lobster Rolls.
All in all, Annapolis is a great place to visit for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone who loves good food and drink.
Where To Stay: Graduate Annapolis
3. Baltimore, Maryland
Distance from DC: 39 miles
Drive time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Baltimore, the most populated city in Maryland, is roughly an hour northeast of Washington, D.C. Unbeknownst to many, this city has far more to offer than what you may expect from seeing The Wire.
Baltimore, known as the largest city in Maryland and the state’s economic center, is a multicultural and vibrant city renowned for its extensive history, distinctive neighborhoods, stunning harbor, one-of-a-kind museums, and internationally renowned medical facilities.
Start your visit at the National Aquarium, home to more than 17,000 sea creatures. Take a stroll around the Inner Harbor and check out all the shops and restaurants. Don’t forget to snap a picture of the iconic Baltimore skyline!
From there, visit Fort McHenry, a historic fort that played a key role in the War of 1812. Today, it’s a popular tourist spot for history buffs and nature lovers alike.
Visit the American Visionary Art Museum to view the creations of self-taught “outsider” artists, eat one or two of Faidley’s crab cakes at Lexington Market, the nation’s oldest market, and pay your respects at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, who passed away here in 1849 while wearing someone else’s clothing.
Where To Stay:
4. Broadkill Beach, Delaware
Distance from DC: 107 miles
Drive time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Broadkill Beach is a great road trip if your priority is to enjoy the outdoors, relax on the sand, or get active in the water. Visitors can find plenty of things to do on Delaware’s coast, including swimming, fishing, kayaking, and more.
Don’t be discouraged by the moniker of Broadkill Beach — especially if you’re tired of the crowded beaches along the Delmarva Shore! Broadkill, close to Dewey, Rehoboth, and Lewes beaches, provides a comparable natural beauty without the crowds of tourists!
Prime Hook National Animal Refuge completely encircles the neighborhood to the west, giving it a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers in addition to nature lovers.
In addition, horseshoe crabs, the state sea creature of Delaware and a “signature species” of the Delaware Bay Estuary, have a designated refuge at Broadkill Beach.
The sparsely populated community has a “come-as-you-are” attitude and is situated along a tranquil section of Delaware Bay.
Broadkill Beach, is home to a wide variety of striped bass, bluefish, and black drum. If you don’t mind the flies and want to try your hand at fishing, this location may give you a sizable payday!
And since Broadkill Beach is relatively large, a day of fishing here won’t be interfered with by many beachgoers.
While you’re in the area, stop by Dogfish Head Brewery or Crooked Hammock Brewery to pick up growlers or cans of Delaware’s best craft beers.
Near the primary public access beach, The Broadkill Store is a one-stop shop offering breakfast and lunch options, including freshly prepared doughnuts, subs and cold-cut sandwiches, rustic pizzas, and ice cream.
Finally, only 15 miles away at Rehoboth Beach, you can find the exciting seasonal water park, Jungle Jim’s giant waterslides, bumper boats, go-karts, and other kid-friendly attractions.
Where To Stay: Residence Inn by Marriott Rehoboth Beach
5. Philadelphia, PA
Distance from DC: 139 miles
Drive time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Next on our list is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — known for being the birthplace of America.
The city is probably best known as being home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both signed.
Philadelphia is also known for its rich colonial history, as well as for being a major center of the American Revolution. As such, you can expect to find the city brimming with endless historical sites and museums, making it a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.
But that’s not all. Philly is a city with a lot of character, from its vibrant neighborhoods to its famous sports teams. This is also where you can find some of the best cheesesteaks in the country!
After your quintessential visit to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, you can walk along historic Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in the country.
You can then check out the amazing art collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, or visit Reading Terminal Market, one of America’s oldest and largest public markets.
If you’re into the arts, see a show at the world-renowned Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
Nature lover? Stroll through Rittenhouse Square, one of Philadelphia’s most beautiful parks.
And for the ultimate tourist-for-a-day activity, take a ride on the Philly Phlash, a hop-on/hop-off trolley that takes you to all of the city’s major attractions!
A road trip to Philly is among one of our favorite road trips from Washington DC, so be sure to dedicate at least 2 full days to see the city!
Where To Stay: 1715 on Rittenhouse
6. Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Distance from DC: 8.5 miles
Drive time: 20 minutes
Alexandria may just be the easiest and most convenient road trip from Washington DC on this list! Despite it being so close to the city, this town feels worlds away from the DC vibes.
Old Town Alexandria, an area with a national historic designation, is a lovely little area on the Potomac River in Virginia. The historic riverside district is rich in Black history and has enough boutique stores, taverns, and eateries to keep you busy for a day or longer.
In terms of what the town looks like? You can expect the colonial elegance of Boston or Capitol Hill.
There’s so much to do in Old Town Alexandria! Here are just a few of the many things you can enjoy while you’re visiting:
Stroll down King Street – Old Town’s main thoroughfare. You’ll find plenty of shopping and dining options, as well as historic buildings and monuments.
Visit the Torpedo Factory Art Center – housed in a former munitions factory, this art center is now home to over 80 artists’ studios, galleries, and shops. There’s always something new to see here!
Take a cruise on the Potomac River – what better way to see Alexandria than from the water? There are several tour companies that offer cruises with commentary about the city’s history and landmarks.
Discover Alexandria’s past as a former center of the domestic slave trade at the Alexandria Black History Museum.
Be sure to spend some time checking out the historic homes! There are several vibrant row homes in Old Town, but none stands out, like the Hollensbury Spite House at 523 Queen Street. The 7ft by 25ft house is the smallest one in the United States and was built in 1830.
Next, enjoy the magnificent Potomac from the Waterfront while trying some of the award-winning chilis at Hard Times Cafe, which has been operating on King Street since 1980.
Old Town Alexandria is reachable on the blue and yellow Metro lines and through the George Washington Memorial Parkway, less than 10 miles south of Washington, D.C., making this a potential car-less excursion. Great for saving gas!
Where To Stay: Morrison House – Spend the night in luxury at the city’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel!
7. Shenandoah National Park and Rappahannock County, Virginia
Distance from DC: 72 miles
Drive time: 1 hour 33 minutes
The Rappahannock County area fulfills all requirements for a summer getaway with its ample hiking opportunities and unbelievable award-winning restaurants and inns just waiting to be explored.
In addition, this road trip will take you into beautiful landscapes, including mountains, fields, woods, and streams.
Being situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and bordering Shenandoah National Park, you already know it’s going to be gorgeous here.
First and most obviously, start at Shenandoah National Park! You’re definitely going to want to take a hike or two while you’re in the park.
After your hike, take the Skyline Drive to Sperryville, a gastronomic hub you won’t miss. Grab crafty drinks at Francis, a pizza at Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen, followed by fresh fruit and excellent wine at the Corner Store.
If getting on the back of a horse for a day sounds fun to you, The Conyers House offers horseback riding options, inlcuding two hours of trotting along on a cross-country ride that has three levels of guided trails.
On the way back to DC, you have a few other stops to consider taking. Depending on what you’re interests are, you can check out Skyline Caverns in Front Royal, or stop at Barrel Oak Winery and Farm Taphouse in Delaplane, a modern winemaking estate and brewery.
Where To Stay: If you can swing it, spend the night at the just-opened Blue Rock Inn, a refurbished modern interpretation of a country inn with five chic rooms, an extended koi pond, and a vineyard that was just planted with assistance from the adjacent Quièvremont Winery.
Blue Rock’s Tasting Room provides regionally sourced wines, beers, and spirits as you enjoy the sunset.
Here, dinner steals the spotlight. The restaurant’s four-course prix-fixe menu has a changing range of seasonal dishes and is overseen by Bin Lu, the former chef of D.C.’s famed Pineapple & Pearls.
Definitely a highly recommended stay for foodies!
8. Wilmington, Delaware
Distance from DC: 108 miles
Drive time: 2 hours and 10 minutes
Besides being well-known as President Joe Bidens hometown, Wilmington is well-known for being the region’s urban center, the Corporate Capital of America, and the state of Delaware’s central downtown.
It is a hub for finance and innovation, with top-notch dining establishments, museums, theaters, and, of course, tax-free shopping!
Even on sweltering summer days, there are plenty of things to do in the city. You can start by wandering along the 1.3-mile Riverfront Wilmington, where you’ll find several stores, activities, and restaurants, including the recently opened Taco Grande restaurant and tequila bar.
In addition, visitors can enjoy the Delaware Art Museum to learn more about the Indigenous people of Wilmington.
Then, head to Nemours Estate to experience how the rich lived at the old home of industrialist Alfred I. duPont. Visitors can tour the mansion, which is furnished with duPont family belongings, and explore the grounds, which include formal gardens, a lake, and woods.
Finally, if you’re itching to get outside and literally smell the roses, travel just 12 miles north to the renowned Longwood Gardens, which spans over 1,000 acres and is located just on the other side of the Pennsylvania border.
The botanical garden’s summer schedule is completed with various live music performances.
Finally, don’t miss the DE.CO food hall, offering a wide variety of eats including sushi, pizza, and other cuisines.
Where To Stay: Hotel du Pont – a 109-year-old historic hotel, complete with renovations and features Le Cavalier, a contemporary French brasserie. The restaurant is drop-dead gorgeous.
9. Richmond, VA
Distance from DC: 109 miles
Drive time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Richmond, VA is known for its rich history, abundance of museums, and delicious food scene. Founded in 1737, Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. So you already know it’s steeped in history!
Today, the city is home to many historical landmarks, including the Virginia State Capitol, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson. Richmond is also home to several excellent museums, including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Historical Society.
And the historic activities don’t stop there. Visitors can tour the Virginia State Capitol, check out the Richmond National Battlefield Park, or explore the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.
The city is also known for its beautiful architecture, as well as being a major hub for Virginia Commonwealth University.
After soaking in the sights, it’s time to grub! There’s an amazing food and local brewery scene here, so take your pick based on what you’re craving for the night!
Where To Stay: The Commonwealth
10. Tilghman Island, Maryland
Distance: 93 miles
Drive time: 2 hours 10 minutes
If you’re looking for a fun-filled weekend getaway from DC, look no further than Tilghman Island, Maryland! This charming island offers something for everyone, from fishing and crabbing to exploring the local shops and restaurants.
Given that it’s surrounded by water, seafood, hospitality, and boating are what this island’s famous for.
In addition, the island offers excellent sport fishing and several marinas. If this sounds like your idea of a good time, on the island’s eastern coast in Dogwood Harbor lies Harrison’s, the most well-known of Tilghman’s fishing establishments.
You can try your hand at crabbing! The Chesapeake Bay is famous for its crabs, and Tilghman Island is the perfect place to catch them. All you need is a crab pot, bait, and a little patience.
From there, take a stroll around town to explore the local shops and restaurants. Don’t miss the chance to eat at Tickler’s Crab Shack, serving seasonal specialties such as steamed crabs, local oysters served on the half shell, and Maryland’s famous Orange Crush drink.
At Knapps Marina, you can rent kayaks or visit the Watermen’s Museum to learn more about the area’s history.
Where To Stay: Tilghman Island Inn
11. Eastern Shore, Maryland
Distance from DC: 192 miles
Drive time: 3 hours, 43 minutes
In the summer, when the Chesapeake Bay sparkles and crabs are in season, the waterways of the Eastern Shore serve to draw in many travelers.
The Eastern Shore is a distinctive American destination with its lush, broad agricultural vistas, flowing rivers, and friendly, warm shoreline communities. Experience a location unlike any other by touching the water, tasting the flavors, meeting the people, and experiencing a trip truly like no other!
First, no trip to the Eastern Shore is complete without a visit to Assateague Island National Seashore. This 37-mile-long barrier island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast. In addition to its pristine beaches, Assateague is also home to a herd of wild ponies that roam freely throughout the island!
Next on the list is a visit to St. Michaels, a historic town located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Visitors can enjoy the town’s charming atmosphere, while exploring its many shops, restaurants, and galleries.
St Michaels is also home to several museums, including the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and the St Michaels Museum.
Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the trails at Chesapeake Bay State Park or kayaking through one of the many waterways in the area. There are also several golf courses and tennis courts available for visitors to use.
Next up is Easton, MD. The renovated historic buildings in downtown Easton are a treasure mine for architecture enthusiasts.
More recently, the area has transformed many older buildings into hip and trendy eateries, lounges, and cafés adorned with rare artwork and eye-catching accents, such as The Stewart whiskey lounge and fine dining institution Bas Rouge.
The Wardroom is also worth checking out, where you can purchase wine and food items for a lovely outdoor picnic. Alternatively, you can grab eats at Roman-style pizzeria Roma Alla Pala, both providing awesome casual dining options.
Feeling more like wine? Pair wine and cheese at Crow Vineyard & Winery in Kennedyville, where you can stay the night in the establishment’s B&B for a journey centered on eating and drinking!
Where To Stay: Wildset – St. Michael’s newest hotel, a 34-room boutique hotel with a seafood restaurant. You can grab a s’mores kit for dessert and toast the marshmallows over the outside fire pit!
12. Atlantic City, NJ
Distance from DC: 190 miles
Drive time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Atlantic City, NJ is a great place to visit for a weekend getaway. Atlantic City is best known for being a premier vacation destination on the East Coast.
There are plenty of things to do in the city, including gambling at the casinos, shopping on the boardwalk, and visiting the Steel Pier amusement park.
For those looking for a little excitement, the casinos are a must-see. There are dozens of them lining the boardwalk, each with its own unique atmosphere. Slots, table games, poker rooms, and more await visitors looking to try their luck.
Shopping is also a popular activity in Atlantic City. The outlets offer great deals on designer brands, and there are plenty of souvenir shops where visitors can find the perfect memento for their trip.
And if you’re traveling with kids? Well, this place was made with families in mind too.
While Atlantic City’s glitzy casinos and vibrant nightlife are major draws, the beaches, Steel Pier, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, Central Pier Arcade and Speedway, and Historic Smithville and Green Village make it a great family vacation destination, too.
Pro Tip: With its close proximity to New York City and Philadelphia, it’s easy to see why Atlantic City is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. If you have more time, why not pair a visit to Atlantic City with another big city on this list?
Where To Stay: Ocean Casino Resort
13. New York City, NY
Distance from DC: 225 miles
Drive time: 4 hours
New York is an obvious city to add to our list of best road trips from Washington DC. Just 4 hours away is one of America’s most popular cities, boasting enough things to do to last a lifetime.
The city is full of energy and there is always something to do. The nightlife is world-famous and there are endless options for dining and shopping. Broadway shows are a must-see, and Central Park is perfect for a sunny day stroll.
Here are some other things you can do while you’re there:
Visit the Empire State Building – one of the most iconic buildings in the world.
Take a ferry ride to Staten Island – for some great views of the city skyline.
Explore Chinatown – home to some of the best Chinese food you’ll ever eat.
Visit the Museum of Modern Art – one of the world’s leading museums for modern art.
See a Broadway show – a must-do while in NYC!
Go shopping on Fifth Avenue – home to some of the best shopping in the city.
I mean, we can go on and on. If you’re planning on taking a road trip here, we recommend at least 4 to 5 days to even begin getting a taste of the city!
If you’re looking for a city to road trip to that has it all, and then some, New York City is the destination for you.
14. Pittsburgh, PA
Distance from DC: 245 miles
Drive time: 4 hours
If you’re looking for a new travel destination that has something for everyone, add Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to your list!
Just a few hours west of the nation’s capital lies Pittsburgh. This historic city is home to world-class museums, professional sports teams, delicious restaurants, and so much more.
The city really has something for everyone – whether you’re interested in bridges, art, history, or even just exploring a new city on foot for a weekend.
From traditional Pittsburgh favorites like Primanti Brothers sandwiches to newer restaurants that are putting their own spin on classic dishes, you’ll never go hungry in this city.
A must-try here? Pierogies. You can find pierogies almost everywhere you look in Pittsburgh, and one of the best places to get these bad boys is at Apteka!
This charming city is home to a variety of attractions that you can’t miss, including the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Science Center, and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
One of our faves is Phipps, a beautiful Victorian-style glasshouse that is home to hundreds of species of plants, as well as butterflies and birds.
After, take a ride on the Duquesne Incline, a historic cable car that has been in operation since 1877, for a breathtaking view of Pittsburgh.
Visitors can also enjoy a leisurely stroll through one of Pittsburgh’s many green spaces, such as Schenley Park or Frick Park.
Where To Stay: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh
15. Raleigh, NC
Distance from DC: 278 miles
Drive time: 4 hours 15 minutes
If you’re looking for a fun road trip from DC, Raleigh, NC is a breath of fresh air! Just four hours away, Raleigh is the perfect place to explore if you’re looking for a change of pace.
Raleigh is known for its friendly people and southern hospitality. You’ll definitely feel at home in this charming city. The city is constantly buzzing with energy and there is always something new to explore.
From the museums and historical landmarks to the food scene and nightlife, Raleigh has something for everyone to enjoy. And of course, no visit to Raleigh would be complete without sampling some of the delicious food the city has to offer. Seriously, save room for all the good eats!
Let’s start off with museums. When visiting Raleigh, NC, be sure to check out some of the amazing museums the city has to offer! The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a must-see, with its hands-on exhibits and planetarium. The North Carolina Museum of History is also worth a visit, for its collection of artifacts and historical documents.
And for something unique, check out the Marbles Kids Museum, which is designed specifically for children.
Next, let’s touch on food. Raleigh, NC is known for its food scene.
The first place to check out is Biscuitville, known for its delicious biscuits. They have a wide variety of biscuit flavors to choose from, and they also offer a variety of other breakfast items.
From there, head to Poole’s, Ashley Christensen’s first restaurant and the heart and soul of her mini-empire in town. If you’re feeling like Asian food, try Garland, Cheetie Kumar’s playful take on classic Indian and Asian cuisine.
And if you’re a foodie that happens to be in town on a few special weekends, try to catch the Food Truck Rodeo — a 1/2 mile of food trucks and restaurants spread out over 10 city blocks.
For outdoor enthusiasts, there are tons of hiking and biking trails galore. If you’re looking for a little more excitement, check out one of the many ziplines or go-kart tracks in the area.
Pro Tip: Along this drive, you can stop in towns including Fredericksburg, Petersburg National Battlefield, and the city of Richmond.
Where To Stay:
Hampton Inn & Suites Raleigh Midtown – free breakfast!
THE STORE – a very thoughtfully designed guesthouse
Hopefully from our roundup of the best road trip destinations from Washington DC, you found a city or two that piqued your interest!