Blog Home > By Activity, East Coast, Meetup, North America, United States Best Day Trips From DC For People Who Like To Have Fun EC Staff Writer March 12, 2022 Share Our nation’s Capital can provide for a perfect hub when visiting the Washington metropolitan area, affectionately known as the “DMV” (DC, Maryland, Virginia). With Washington DC as home base, it has the opportunity for the perfect mix of local urban adventures coinciding with day trips and outdoor experiences that are sure to create a well-rounded, memorable vacation. For residents themselves, these destinations can make for some of the best day trips from Washington DC for planning any staycation or weekend getaway. After all, not everyone is here to see Capitol Hill and all of the (very) many infamous Washington DC monuments. Whether you’re looking for some scenic hiking trails through the rolling hills surrounding our favorite capital city, or for just a day trip to some of our country’s most historic sites, we’ve got you covered. Here are our favorite DC day trips for all of our Explorer Chicks exploring the East Coast this summer. Best Outdoor Attractions within a 2-Hour Drive from DC While DC offers all the cultural, historical, culinary and political experiences, within just a few hours’ drive outside of the city are endless possibilities that will leave outdoor enthusiasts spoiled for choice. From art galleries to walking trails, you can find whatever your heart desires on a weekend trip. As for us? Our hearts desire outdoor activities (and drinks after). Here are some top spots for adventure seekers. 1 Shenandoah National Park Address: 3655 US-211, Luray, VA 22835Time from DC: ~2 hoursMore Info: Shenandoah National Park Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains offer a scenic drive into the National Park, making this one of the best day trips from DC. Iconic Skyline Drive weaves over 100 miles through the park, so while you may not have time to see everything in one day, there are a few highlights to squeeze into a day. Get out on the trail, with over 500 miles of trekking around the park, including about 100 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail. Old Rag, Hawksbill and Stony Mountain are all challenging but rewarding hikes to get some stunning views of the rolling valleys below. If you’re a fan of autumnal leaf change, be sure to visit Shenandoah in the fall. The foliage is an impressive display and this northern Virginia scenic drive alone is worth a trip in October. Stop in Luray for some lunch and a beer, then marvel at all of the quirky tourist attractions with your post hike beer buzz. Swing by the Shenandoah Heritage Village to peek back into American history. This village is a re-creation of a small 19th century colonial town. Think: American Civil War era. When your buzz wears off, head back to Washington DC for more beers and historical sights. 2 Manassas National Battlefield Park Address: 6511 Sudley Rd, Manassas, VA 20109Time from DC: 40 minutesMore Info: Manassas National Battlefield Park This was where not one, but two battles took place during the American Civil War, creatively called the First and Second Battles of Bull Run (didn’t ever want to confuse which one came first). For history buffs, you can follow these self-guided walking tours. Be sure to not miss a bit of the conflict here between the Union and Confederate soldiers. Don’t worry, it’s not all battlefields and history. A quick drive to Bull Run Regional Park and you have over 1,500 acres of historic land now available for hiking, going for a picnic or enjoying some outdoors activities. And if you’re really looking to get your blood pumping? Join us for a ½ day survival challenge or zipline and wine in Middleburg, 30 minutes up the road. We like to wrap things up with pedicures and a massage at Salamander Resort and Spa. 😉 3 Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Address: C&O Canal Lock 20, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, Potomac, MD 20854Time from DC: 40 minutesMore Info: Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Hugging the Potomac River, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is a scenic byway that boasts over 200 miles of hiking and biking trails along a historical walkway through the C&O Canal towpaths. With locks, mills and boathouses offering mile markers, you can spend a day seeing how the waterways connect Washington DC all the way to Cumberland Maryland. Feeling adventurous? 4 Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Address: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MarylandTime from DC: ~2 hoursMore Info: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Just about 100 miles from DC is one of the best day trips to experience finding wildlife in nature. With nearly 30,000 acres this refuge is home to over one thousand species. This is the place to spend a day if you’re interested in bird watching. There are recreational and educational tours available for the public. In addition to observing wildlife, there are trails for hiking and biking, most popular are Marsh Edge, Key Wallace or the Tubman trails. When visiting during warm sunny days, you can kayak or canoe within the waterways of the park. 5 Gunpowder Falls State Park Address: Gunpowder Falls State Park Hammerman AreaTime from DC: ~1.5 hoursMore Info: Gunpowder Falls State Park Just over an hour away in Maryland, this state park makes for a convenient day trip from DC. The park consists of 6 areas. Be sure to hike the rail trail, Sweet Air area is best for horseback riding in addition to hiking. The Central area is the oldest part of the park and Hammerman area has a great beach spot for swimming in the warmer months. With the Gunpowder River and both Little and Big Gunpowder Falls within the park, kayaking, canoeing, tubing and swimming is an absolute must. A visit to the Historic Jerusalem Mill Village is a perfect stop to embrace the ways of living in small-town early America. Explorer Chick Guide Kat McKittens recommends this little gem as well. “Super fun tubing in the warmer months and a cute café at the end. Plenty of places to rent tubes if you don’t have your own.” Sounds like exactly the kinds of SHE-nanigans we’re after 😎 Other Stuff You HAVE to Do While in DC, According to our Team Not everyone is up for an epic adventure while on a weekend getaway from DC. Or even to DC, depending on the Explorer Chick who likes cherry blossoms or museums. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t know our way around the DC area. Our guide Kat McKittens—a Maryland native—shares her favorite day trips. EC Guide, Kat McKittens My background has been a decade in the climbing industry as a competitive climbing coach and an outdoor rock/ice guide. I’m in Baltimore, MD but love any excuse to travel. I am beyond psyched to guide tours with you Explorer Chicks. I also love playing the ukulele, scuba diving, snowboarding, and am new to skateboarding. Billy Goat Trail, section A Potomac River | 26 minute drive from DC | A fun loop with some mild challenging scrambles and great views of the river. Here’s the trail map on AllTrails. Great Falls | 33 minute drive from DC | Beautiful outlooks of the river and friendly to newer hiker. Places to bring food to cookout and bathroom with running water. We suggest Old Brogue Irish pub afterwards! Annapolis Rocks | an hour drive from DC | | Maryland | 3 mile hike with a slight uphill on the hike in but a beautiful overlook awaits at the end! Here’s the trail map on AllTrails. Cunningham Falls | 1 hour 15 minute drive from DC | 14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd, Thurmont, MD 21788 | Moderate hike to one of the longest waterfalls in MD. As an added bonus: during the warmer months there is a “beach” with sand around the lake that is family friendly with lifeguards. Very fun! Larriland Farms | 1 hour drive from DC | Larriland Farm Inc, 2415 Woodbine Rd, Woodbine, MD 21797 | Cute apple orchard that you can pick your own apples and sunflowers and just fun good times on a pretty property. Starbright Farms | 1 hour 46 minute drive from DC | Star Bright Farm, 2950 Garrett Rd, White Hall, MD 21161 | Cute lavender farm on a pretty property and often have wreath making events/ wine vendors/ live music etc in warmer months Old Rag | 2 hour drive from DC | Old Rag Mountain, Virginia 22743 | My favorite hike in Shenandoah region. Fairly challenging with lots of scrambling for the last section to the summit but great views and very rewarding. Weekends are crazy but they have started a permit system that should help. No dogs are allowed on the trails for their safety. Here is the trail map on AllTrails. Final Thoughts We told ya. Colonial towns, cobblestone streets, survival courses… there is something for everyone just a day trip away. If you’re on the East Coast, then join one of our weekend getaways. We’ll show you all the good stuff.