7 Must-Do Day Trips from Washington, D.C.

You could spend a lifetime exploring Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian museums alone, but there are tons of nearby cities worth exploring. Whether you want to see the coast or climb into the mountains, the capital is a great starting point.

Make these best day trips from Washington D.C.

Best day trips from Washington, D.C.How do these rankings work?

1. Ellicott City 

Nestled in the hills of Maryland, Ellicott City might be familiar if you remember the terrible floods it’s suffered over recent years. The city has recovered and continues to be an adorable east coast town with incredible seafood restaurants. Wander the shops and order crab cakes with dinner.

best d.c. day trips

2. Philadelphia

There’s some great sightseeing to be had in Philadelphia. From the Liberty Bell to the Philadelphia Museum of Art–otherwise known as the Rocky stairs, there are tons of things to see and do in this nearby city. Don’t forget to snack on local delicacies or get a beer-boiled bagel at Philly Style Bagels.

best d.c. day trips

3. Baltimore

Baltimore has some incredibly fresh seafood, especially around the Inner Harbour where there’s great shopping and restaurants. This is the birthplace of the United States’ National Anthem, too. Stroll around and try a pint of a local brew.

best d.c. day trips

4. New York City

New York City isn’t a bad drive straight up the interstate. Naturally, you’ll find plenty of things to do and then some in New York. Stroll through Central Park, catch a show or go shopping. Afterward, there’s an entire world of cuisine at wonderful restaurants to be found too.

5. Alexandria

For something closer to Washington, D.C., visit Alexandria. It’s a very short metro ride across the river, and it is an incredibly charming town. There are boutique shops and fine dining as well as an atmospheric downtown to explore. Cozy up to a fireplace with a good book and a better cocktail here.

6. Annapolis

Nestled right inside the Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis has its city center right on the water making it quite picturesque. There’s beautiful 18th-century architecture and even the Maryland State House from the 1700s. Shop around town and soak in the atmosphere.

7. Charlottesville

There’s a surprising amount of things to do in Charlottesville. Apart from shopping and dining along the pedestrian street, there are wineries and cideries to tour as well as historical tours to take too. Catch a live music show or venture outdoors for some breath-taking landscapes.

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Molly Harris
Molly Harris

Molly Harris is a freelance travel journalist dividing her time between the United States and the Western Balkans.

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