As a DC native, it’s safe to say I’ve taken more than a few day trips from my hometown. The way most people’s vacation days are set up, we don’t tend to have too much time to experience places for long periods of time. And I for one don’t want to waste that on a trip close to home. I’ve compiled this list of five amazing day trips from DC that will cure you wanderlust, if even temporarily.
Day Trips from DC
1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2 h 20 min)
Not only is Philadelphia the largest city in Pennsylvania, but it is arguably the most historic. In many ways it reminds me of Baltimore, but it has plenty of unique qualities outside of the residential neighborhoods. You may have studied this city in school due to it being home to Independence Hall and the infamous signing of the Declaration of Independence. Or maybe you’re fascinated by artifacts like the Liberty Bell. Either way it’s a great place for adults and children alike to have a blast.
Fun Things to Do in Philadelphia
I got the opportunity to play tourist in Philly one weekend, so here’s my detailed itinerary of what I did and where I ate.
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
Philly is one of the few American cities that I’d recommend buying a ticket for a hop-on hop-off bus. I know it may be a little touristy for some, but it’s a great way to see the hot spots when you only have a day in the city of brotherly love.
Take a Ghost Tour
I tend to be a little morbid and am obsessed with all things paranormal, so a unique activity to give a shot would be a candlelight ghost tour. This is out of the ordinary as far as tours go in most US cities, but why not give it a try in Philadelphia.
The Reading Terminal Market is already listed in my prior Philly itinerary, but what I didn’t know was that they offered a gourmet food tour complete with five tastings. This way you don’t have to find one thing to eat, but you can try a bunch of things and get a feel for what you really like.
2. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia (1 h 15 min)
One of my favorite activities is hiking, and when people think of DC, they rarely think of hiking. We technically have a couple national parks in the city, and better ones just a half hour away, but I’d recommend Shenandoah National Park to really feel like you’re getting away from the hustle and bustle of DC.
This park happens to be home to the Blue Ridge Mountains and contains Appalachian trails as well. The above photograph is from the infamous Skyline Drive, which is a scenic mountain drive that runs the length of the park. If you’re into road trips and cruising along the highway, that alone may be reason enough to visit.
Things to Do in Shenandoah
If you went to a national park and didn’t hike, did you really even visit? This park is filled with different trails with varying levels depending on what type of hiker you are. It’s a perfect way to immerse yourself in nature and not in office buildings. Afterwards treat yourself to a waterfall view. I bet you didn’t know they had those, huh?
Shenandoah National Park is home to various bird species and other wildlife. I’d recommend bird or nature watching during your trip. This is a great way to educate yourself or your children on all of the species native to the area and it’s a sure way to keep the kids entertained.
3. Atlantic City, New Jersey (3 h)
I’m embarrassed to say how many times I visit Atlantic City a year. Even when I lived in New York City, I’d hop on the greyhound bus to meet my mom there. It’s the perfect distance where you can meet in the middle. I should also say that I visit this coastal New Jersey town all year round, it’s not just a summer destination.
Things to Do in Atlantic City
The first thing you may think of when it comes to Atlantic City is gambling. Yes, they have casinos galore and no, you don’t have to throw money away if you visit one. Some of the casinos are home to amazing restaurants and shops that if you don’t go inside, you’ll never get to see.
I highly recommend roaming the Boardwalk if you only have a day here. If the weather is right, my favorite thing to do is lay out on the beach. Get in the water at your own risk, you won’t be alone. The boardwalk is also home to arcades and a mini amusement park that has a rollercoaster that I still get on. I’ve actually never ridden it as a kid.
One perk of Atlantic City for shopaholics is the Tanger Outlets. There is never not a sale here and I wish I was exaggerating. Download the outlet app for plenty of daily coupons at your favorite stores.
4. Baltimore, Maryland (50 min)
If you live in the DC area it may be hard to consider Baltimore as a day trip from DC, but bear with me.
Baltimore, MD is home of the National Aquarium and it’s easy to get lost among the ocean-life for a couple hours, but there is so much more to the city. It’s filled with history and museums, such as the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, and plenty of restaurants and cafes along the harbor. It’s more than worth it to hop on I-95 and visit for a day.
What to Do in Baltimore
Edgar Allen Poe lovers rejoice, as Baltimore is home of the Poe House. While Poe was not born in Baltimore, he undisputedly has strong ties to the city and it’s hard to think of Baltimore and not one of my favorite, morbid authors.
Get fancy and take a 2 hour buffet lunch cruise around the harbor. This is perfect for a couple that just wanted to escape to another city and relax for a day. It also gives a chance to see the harbor from a different angle, versus from a restaurant or on foot and from afar.
In this part of the country we know a thing or four about seafood, and you can’t visit Baltimore without chowing down on some crabs. If you’re allergic to seafood then stay away as Old Bay is sure to be floating in the wind. There are plenty of seafood restaurants on the harbor and in the residential neighborhoods so you have pa plethora of options for affordable and upscale dining.
If you know me then you know I love a good walking tour. This Fells Point walking history tour is a great way to learn about this historic neighborhood, but you also get to enjoy some famous Maryland crab cakes while you’re at it. You get to indulge in food tastings at five stops and alcohol tastings at two.
5. New York, New York (3 h 40 min)
I have a love/hate relationship with my former home, but I swear it’s mostly love. Especially in the summer. It’s true this city never sleeps and it definitely comes alive in the summer time. If you can avoid the summer, visit NYC during the spring and fall months. I know winter sounds like a good choice but tourists especially flock to the city around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so unless you want to be one of millions on the street, avoid it like the plague.
Fun Things to Do in New York
Statue of Liberty
I’ve been on several boats that took me as close as possible to Lady Liberty, but I’ve yet to see her up close. Get a ticket to see the Statue of Liberty in person and you’ll be able to say you’ve done something the majority of born and raised New Yorkers haven’t.
I ate my way through NYC during my three years there and I still visit places I’ve never been every time I return. One of the things I love about the city is the fact that it’s not filled with chain restaurants you can eat at all over the country. There are so many one-off eateries and food trucks that you’ll never have to eat the same thing. This food tour is a cool activity to try out when you visit.
I’ve been to so many museums in New York and most of them I’ve visited many times. It sucks that they aren’t free like DC museums, but they tend to have free admission days. The American Museum of Natural History is one of the few museums I never got to visit while living in NYC, so I want you to go for me.
Do you have a favorite day trip from DC? Let me know what it is!