Do you live in DC and need a weekend getaway? Or, are you thinking about taking an East Coast road trip in the DC area? Well, these incredible destinations would be perfect for your itinerary! They are all within a 3-hour drive (without traffic) from downtown Washington, DC which makes them convenient weekend trips. With a variety of opportunities to get out in nature, taste culinary delights, delve into history, or just lounge on the beach - there's a little something for everyone!
Quick Note: Because I grew up in this region, many of these road trips were ones that I took as a child or are places I've previously lived. Some of these destinations, I haven't visited in years. As a result, some of the images are not my own but I've credited the photographers and linked to their Flickr accounts.
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Weekend Road Trips from DC in Maryland
To begin the list of weekend road trips from DC, we'll head to Maryland - the state just north of Washington, DC. These Maryland getaways include both urban fun and remote natural beauty with some adorable wildlife thrown in.
Distance from DC: 32 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 45 min
Annapolis - Maryland's charming capital city along the Chesapeake Bay - provides an excellent weekend getaway, or even a day trip, from Washington, DC. With loads of historical charm, cute shops, great seafood, and a variety of watersports, you'll find plenty of activities to keep you occupied.
History enthusiasts will enjoy strolling through the quaint streets and admiring the historic houses. To learn more about Annapolis' history and its landmarks, sign up for a guided walking tour or try this self-guided walking tour. During your visit, you may also appreciate a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy, established in Annapolis in 1845.
If you prefer to spend your day on the water, consider renting a canoe or a kayak and paddling down the Severn River. Or perhaps charter a yacht to explore the Chesapeake Bay!
Distance from DC: 39 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 53 minutes
Another great waterfront city, Baltimore, Maryland is rich in history and perfect for a weekend trip. Many visitors explore its downtown Inner Harbor area, including the National Aquarium. Or tour Fort McHenry, whose defense of Baltimore in 1812 inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem which later became the U.S. national anthem.
Though these sites deserve recognition, other neighborhoods deserve attention as well and, in my opinion, provide a more authentic Baltimore experience. Take the water taxi to Fell's Point, one of Baltimore's oldest neighborhoods, and wander the streets and admire the historic houses and boutique shops.
Or, feast on delicious food in Little Italy then jump in a taxi to Hampden. There you'll find some great local breweries such as Union Craft Brewery or Nepenthe Brewing Company, where you can enjoy a pint of craft beer.
3) Assateague Island
Distance from DC: 147 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 2 hr 45 min
Assateague Island is a 37-mile barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean split between Maryland and Virginia which is known for its herds of wild horses. The Maryland portion contains Assateague National Seashore and Assateague State Park. The Virginia portion contains Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
Although the island is best known (at least by me) for wild horses, it's also an excellent place for camping, beach hiking, fishing, and swimming. Since campsites are only ~US $30 per night, a weekend trip to Assateague Island can be a cheap getaway from DC.
Weekend Road Trips from DC in Virginia
Since Assateague Island is split between Maryland and Virginia, it's a nice transition into DC weekend getaways in Virginia - the U.S. state directly to the south of Washington, DC.
4) Northern Virginia Wine Country
Distance from DC (to closest winery): ~30 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 40 minutes
One of the great things about living in DC is the close proximity to many amazing vineyards in Northern Virginia. On the weekends, it's easy to drive out to the wineries for wine tastings or a picnic lunch with a group of friends.
But what's even better than a day trip? Booking an Airbnb or vacation rental right in the heart of wine country and staying for the weekend!
Since many of the vineyards close at 5pm or 6pm, staying for the weekend allows you to enjoy the evening in the countryside. And, perhaps admire a gorgeous sunset with your wine as well?
5) Lake Anna
Distance from DC: 85 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 1 hr 35 min
Lake Anna is a large freshwater lake in central Virginia with over 200 miles of shoreline. It's the perfect spot to rent a cabin or go camping for the weekend.
Staying on the lake, you can pass the day fishing, kayaking, and swimming. And at Lake Anna State Park on the northwest shore, you can explore the ~15 miles of trails or go horseback riding.
Where to Stay at Lake Anna
Although you could camp or stay in a cabin at Lake Anna State Park, you can find some incredible properties around the lake on Airbnb. Spacious homes with lake access, like the one below, seem like an excellent spot for an extended family vacation or a trip with a group of friends.
Spacious, modern home with large decks, boat dock, hot tub on Lake Anna.
Location: Mineral, VA
Avg. Price per Night: $499
Guests: 11 guests
Beds/Baths: 5 bedrooms · 10 beds · 3 baths
Special Features: Lakefront property with boat dock and lounge area, multiple decks, open-concept kitchen, washer/dryer, kayaks/canoes, fire pit, hot tub, grill, outdoor shower.
This incredible home on Lake Anna is a wonderful place to get away from DC for the weekend. With plenty of bedrooms, it's a great place to have a family reunion or to hang out with a group of friends. But the outside is where this house shines. The spacious dock and boathouse provide a great place to hang out on a warm day. During the winter, stay cozy and enjoy lake views from the hot tub!
*Note: During peak season, this home rents from Saturday to Saturday.
Perfect stay for: Multiple Families or Friend trip
6) Shenandoah National Park
Distance from DC: 88 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 1 hr 45 min
The Shenandoah National Park in Virginia's beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains is a nature-lover's paradise. Rolling green hills with tons of hikes to lovely viewpoints and stunning waterfalls on densely-forested trails - it's a great way to rejuvenate a nature-lover's soul.
From Washington, DC, the quickest way to get to the park is to drive west to Front Royal, Virginia. There, you'll start your journey on Skyline Drive - the main road through the Shenandoah National Park. It's a scenic, yet very curvy road, that winds up into the park. (Makes me so carsick!) Along the drive, you'll see various trailheads at which you can park to take a hike.
Trying to decide which hike to do in the Shenandoah National Park? Check out these helpful articles for ideas:
Distance from DC: 111 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 1 hr 45 min
The capital of Virginia and one of the oldest cities in the United States, Richmond has a bountiful history. But it also has a cool vibe plus lots of fun outdoor activities which make it an awesome weekend getaway.
Explore historic Richmond on foot by following the Liberty Trail which takes you past many of the historic sites. Be sure to check the websites of these landmarks for opening times if you wish to visit the interiors.
If you're a street art fan like me, you'll love wandering various neighborhoods in search of the 100+ murals scatted around Richmond. This Richmond Region Mural Map is a handy tool to help you start your search.
Perhaps you'd like to boost your Richmond adventure? Try renting a kayak or joining a rafting trip on the James River. Afterwards, celebrate that exhilarating experience with a craft beer from one of the 40 breweries on the Richmond Beer Trail.
Distance from DC: 118 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 2 hr 21 min
Home to the University of Virginia, Charlottesville is a charming, walkable town with cute shops and delicious restaurants. Plus, it serves as a perfect jumping off point to local Virginia wineries as well as the southern entrance of the Shenandoah National Park.
During your CVille getaway, book a tour of Monticello - the stately, historic mansion of former president Thomas Jefferson. Buy your tickets in advance online to make sure you get the tour you want.
Explore the nearby vineyards and enjoy the rolling green hills of central Virginia while enjoying a glass of wine. End your day in Charlottesville with a hearty meal and/or a beer from a local brewery.
Wondering where to eat in Charlottesville? Check out these recommendations from a local on Kath Eats - Best Restaurants for Dinner in Charlottesville.
Distance from DC: 166 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 3 hours
Get ready to step back in time on a visit to Williamsburg, Virginia. The world's largest living history museum - Colonial Williamsburg - is full of historic sites, two museums, plus participatory experiences for the whole family.
After soaking in some history, head over to Busch Gardens amusement park for some exciting rides. Here, you can also "travel" through Europe without ever leaving Virginia! As a kid, visiting Busch Gardens' sparked my wanderlust to see more of the world for myself. During the summer, you may also wish to to cool off at Water Country USA - Virginia's largest water park.
Weekend Road Trips from DC in West Virginia
Next, we'll head to West Virginia. Because most of the state is in the heavily-forested Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia has incredible natural beauty to explore on a weekend road trip from DC.
10) Harpers Ferry
Distance from DC: 63 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 1 hr 15 min
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is a quaint, historic community located at the juncture of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where the states West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland meet.
Historically, Harpers Ferry is known for abolitionist John Brown's raid in 1859. Although the raid failed, it's seen as one of the impetuses for the U.S. Civil War.
Today, this town is part of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Nestled in the green hills, it's a picturesque spot with historic charm. Plus, it's surrounded by hiking trails and river adventures.
During the summer, I highly recommend organizing a river tubing trip for a group of friends. Several years ago, we booked the Potomac Whitewater Tubing experience with Harpers Ferry Adventure Center. Floating down the river with great friends plus a separate tube for the cooler - it's a lot of fun! The small rapids add a bit of excitement along the way as you try not to get separated.
Do you enjoy visiting small towns in the U.S.? Then you'd love Traverse City, Michigan!
11) Blackwater Falls State Park
Distance from DC: 170 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 3 hours
Blackwater Falls State Park, located in the Alleghany Mountains of West Virginia, is a rugged, yet tranquil place to spend a couple days in nature. Without a doubt, the highlight of the park is the magnificent Blackwater Falls, a 57-ft powerful, tannic-tinted cascade. However, the park offers other amazing activities as well.
Twenty miles of gorgeous hiking trails lead visitors to beautiful waterfalls and scenic overlooks - some of which are accessible for bikes as well. Adventure seekers should head to nearby Cheat River to experience a thrilling whitewater rafting experience!
In winter, Blackwater Falls State Park offers winter activities such as an epic sledding experience complete with a people-mover to take you to the top of the hill. Plus, plenty of cross-country skiing trails in snow-covered forests.
Weekend Road Trips from DC in Pennsylvania
Finally, we'll wrap up this list of getaways in southern Pennsylvania - the U.S. state north of Maryland. Here, both history fans and thrill seekers will appreciate the places you can visit on a weekend road trip to PA.
Distance from DC: 82 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 1 hr 30 min
This Pennsylvania weekend getaway is for history enthusiasts! Gettysburg is a small town in southern PA whose name you probably recognize from the Battle of Gettysburg. This famous, bloody battle was a turning point of the U.S. Civil War which took place over three days in July 1863.
Today, it's home to the Gettysburg National Military Park where visitors can learn more about the battle and tour the battlefield. When you arrive, visit the park's museum and visitor center to pick up a map and watch the Diorama show which explains the battle. The sites are spread out so you may wish to drive to some of them. However, outdoor lovers will enjoy hiking the picturesque battlefield trails.
Not sure if Gettysburg is for you? Check out this virtual tour of the Gettysburg battlefield.
13) Lancaster County
Distance from DC: 110 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 2 hr 15 min
Known for its sprawling farmland and Amish community, Lancaster County, PA (also known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country) is a unique weekend getaway from DC. And, it's where I lived for 13 years growing up!
Don't know much, or anything, about the Amish community? Then start your Lancaster County trip with an Amish Farm and House experience to learn a bit about their traditions and customs. As you drive around the country roads, you'll undoubtedly encounter horse-drawn Amish buggies, picturesque covered bridges, and LOTS of farmland.
Personally, I can only spend so much time in the farmland. However, in the past decade or so, Lancaster City has undergone a major revitalization. From cute cafés to quirky art galleries, urban parks to colorful murals, Lancaster has a lot to offer urban enthusiasts as well.
One of the highlights of a visit to Lancaster is the Lancaster Central Market. Opened in 1730, it's the oldest, continuously running public farmers' market in the United States. Open only on certain days, it's a fun place to pick up some treats, fresh flowers, deli meats, etc.
Plan your Trip to Lancaster County
Distance from DC: 131 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 2 hr 19 min
Home of delicious Hershey's chocolate and Hersheypark - an awesome amusement park - Hershey, PA is a great weekend getaway for families.
As a kid, I grew up visiting Hersheypark every summer. Since then, the park has expanded a lot! It has a variety of rides for all ages, but a huge draw is their thrilling roller coasters designed to give you an adrenaline rush. And on hot summer days, save time for The Boardwalk - a water park included in the price of admission.
If you don't want to spend the entire weekend at Hersheypark, check out Hershey Gardens, a 23-acre garden overlooking the town with an indoor butterfly atrium. Or, spend time at the Hershey spa, play a round of golf, or grab a pint of delicious craft beer at Tröegs Brewery. There's enough fun for the whole family in Hershey!
Distance from DC: 139 miles
Approx. Driving Time (no traffic): 2 hr 25 min
On an East Coast road trip, you can't miss Philadelphia - the birthplace of the United States. The "City of Brotherly Love" is also a great spot for street art, museums, waterfront parks, and delicious food.
Start your visit at Independence Hall - the place where the founders signed the Declaration of Independence and laid the framework for the U.S. Constitution. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is part of the Independence National Historical Park and is a good way to kick off your first Philly trip.
Other fun activities include strolling along Penn's Landing and the Delaware River waterfront, consuming an artery-clogging, but oh-so-delicious Philly cheesesteak, searching for street art, and posing with the Rocky statue on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Hopefully this list of wonderful weekend road trips from DC gives you an idea of what you can explore in the region. Whether you're looking for a nearby weekend getaway or are planning your itinerary for an East Coast road trip, these spots are ones for the travel bucket list!
Are you local to DC? Let me know what weekend road trips from DC you've enjoyed in the comments below.
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Great post. I didn’t remember you hail form there. Apart from NYC I only visited the Northeast of the U.S. once. Broadly speaking I think I’ve done four of the trips you recommend and I like all of them. Philly gets a lot of bad rep but I think it was probably my favourite.
Thanks, Stefan! I agree about Philadelphia and it seems like it isn’t as widely visited as NY or DC. Yet it’s an important city in US history and these days it has a really cool vibe and delicious places to eat. So glad you enjoyed it!
I had no idea there were so many things to do from gorgeous sunsets, rollercoaster thrills to chilled out tours round wineries.
Thanks for sharing.
Washington, DC is near so many great places, though having (or renting) a car for a road trip definitely helps you see more!
My sister went to school at Shenandoah so I know the area very well! I’d love to visit Assateague Island. I’ve never heard of it and it looks like such a delight. And those wild horses 😍
You must have had fun exploring this region with your sister, Lannie! Glad to put a new place on your list. The wild horses on Assateague Island are definitely a draw.
We had the privilege of visiting DC and this area for the first time a couple of years ago. Absolutely loved it, but reading this, I realise there is so much more to explore. We visited Assateague and saw the wild ponies; toured the Virginia wine country and visited Monticello; and spent some time in Shenandoah, among other things. Feel quite nostalgic reading this and cannot wait until we can return to explore more of these great places. Would love to see Philadelphia and visit Gettysburg especially.
Sounds like you’ve done quite a few road trips in the DC area, Jane. Now you need a Pennsylvania getaway for your next trip! 😉
Wow there are so many fantastic places near DC. We never knew. This may well have swayed us to visit Washington. We’ve always fancied Baltimore but Lake Anna look fantastic too. As well as the vineyards obviously! 😆
I’m biased but I definitely recommend a visit to Washington, DC! 😉 It’s a great jumping off point to that region of the U.S., as well as a beautiful city. And it’s even easy to travel between DC and Baltimore via public transportation.
As a DC native, your list is spot on! Have been to all places you recommend here & would happily go back to each. 💕 Annapolis, Williamsburg & Assateague! Also would consider Bethany Or OC Beaches (more like 3 hr drive) as well as Massanutten in Southern VA, especially in winter. Great ideas here & you have given a lot of wonderful experiences for each season- Bravo!
Thanks for checking out the list, Cindi! Bethany, Ocean City, and Massanutten are wonderful ideas for DC road trips as well. It’s great how many beautiful places are only a short(ish) drive away from the city.
When I first started reading this I didn’t think I would be able to tick any off the list. Ha! We have been to 8.
8 out of 15 is pretty good! Now I’m curious to know which ones you have left to visit on your next trip to DC.
Oh, I remember the Stony Man Trail well from my days in DC! Thank you for the walk down memory lane!
Glad you enjoyed the post, Jen. The Shenandoah National Park is such a gem to have nearby when living in DC. I only wish I’d taken more photos in those days!
You’ve listed some great road trips here Becky! I don’t know DC well at all, so I found this post so helpful. I’d like to see the national park, and the northern Virginia wine country!
Thanks, Lisa! I’m glad you found this to be a good intro to the DC area. Hopefully one day you’ll make it over to explore the parks and Virginia wine country!
It’s been many many years since I’ve been in the DC area, but I had forgotten how so much history is within an easy drive. This is a great and well-organized summary!
Thanks, Steven! I appreciate that. It’s certainly a perk to be surrounded by so much early-American history in the DC area.
Oh wow there really is quite a lot to see nearby. I would be wowed by the wild and intrigued by the history at Williamsburg and Gettysburg. Not to mention love the hiking at Shenandoah and the Blackwater Falls. Great post Becky.
Thanks, John! It’s true that there’s a lot you can see on a visit to the DC area or on an East Coast road trip. Lots of history and nature in this region of the US.
I love the East Coast as you can take so many beautiful and historic day trips – and love all these just a quick road trip away from DC!
I agree! Growing up on the East Coast, I may not have always appreciated that as much as I do looking back on all the road trips we took.
Nice! We’re still yet to get further than DC, so this is a little inspiration for when it gets warmer!
Glad to help out with some ideas for an East Coast road trip this summer! 🙂