The area around Washington has many interesting tourist attractions and historical places. The colonial towns of Williamsburg and Annapolis, and the Gettysburg Battlefield played important roles in American history. Not only that, there are some other couples of top attractions located near Washington D.C. In this guide, we’ll tell you the top day trips from Washington D.C.
1. Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon used to be George Washington’s home and was originally built as a small farmhouse in 1734 by his father. Later George Washington renovated the building to create a magnificent 11,028-square-foot mansion. It has 21 rooms and is ten times larger than the average colonial house in Virginia. It took over 45 years to renovate the building.
Visitors enter the building through the Central Passage, a large space with beautiful views of the Potomac. The Bastille Key, which George Washington received from the Marquis de Lafayette of France in 1790 during the siege of the Paris prison, is on display in this main hallway. The green-wallpapered New Room is the grandest room of the mansion. It was used as a salon to welcome guests. Occasionally, it was used as a dining room on special occasions.
The Dining Room is one of the most striking rooms in Mount Vernon. Its walls have coated in vivid “verdigris green” paint. The Front Parlor was the place where the household played games and enjoyed tea and coffee. You can see Neoclassical architectural elements and Prussian blue fabrics here. There is a room named Little Parlor. It contains the harpsichord that Washington bought in 1793 for his step-granddaughter, Nelly Custis and it was used as the music room.
There are spectacular 18th-century English-style gardens that surround the mansion. Mount Vernon has a 3,000-acre farm, with a kitchen and a barn garden planted with vegetables and fruit trees. The Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant is located on the estate grounds and you can dine at the restaurant. It serves some early American specialties, such as sirloin steak and peanut soup as well.
If you like to learn more about early American history, you can join with a guided tour. We recommend taking the Mount Vernon & Old Town Alexandria Tour. It is a half-day trip from Washington D.C. It includes a guided walk through historic Alexandra, Virginia, a stop at the United States Marine Corps War Memorial, and an entrance to Mount Vernon. It also offers tourists an hour of free time to explore the house and estate.
- Visit: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Virginia
- Official website: http://www.mountvernon.org
2. Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg is a picture-perfect historic town and one of the top day trips from Washington D.C. If you like to visit the late 18th century, colonial Williamsburg will give you an amazing experience. Colonial Williamsburg was the capital of the colony of Virginia. Also, it played a main role in the American Revolution from 1776 to 1781. George Washington went on horseback to the Battlefield of Yorktown from Colonial Williamsburg.
If you visit this amazing city, you would get the feel of an open-air museum. Because many of its buildings date back to the colonial period. Many of them are open to the public, such as the Everard House and the George Wythe House. Horse-drawn carriages and street performances with characters in period costumes are a common view of the city. If you visit the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, you can learn about everyday life during the colonial era. It displays early American furniture and ceramics.
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is another attractive place in Colonial Williamsburg. It displays many paintings, needlework, and toys. You can also visit the Governor’s Palace. It was the residence of the Virginia colony’s royal governors before the Revolution and features a large ballroom, wood-paneled interiors, and exquisite gardens. You can have a guided tour to visit there. The Capitol is another important landmark of the Virginia colony. It was built between 1751 and 1753 after a fire burned an earlier capitol building.
Anderson Blacksmith Shop (310 East Duke of Gloucester Street), and R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse (East Duke of Gloucester Street) are other attractions of the town. Most tourists come here to try coffee, tea, or hot chocolate prepared exactly how it was during the 18th century. You can also learn the history of the coffeehouse and its importance in colonial society by having a guided tour.
The King’s Arms tavern (416 East Duke of Gloucester Street) is a traditional restaurant in Colonial Williamsburg. If you visit there, you can have the impression that you have traveled back in time. Its dining room is a recreation of the original tavern that opened in 1772. The tavern’s kitchen prepares traditional colonial-era dishes such as beef with corn succotash, game meat pot pie, savory cheesecake, and fowl and beef stew.
Chowning’s Tavern (109 East Duke of Gloucester Street) is another traditional restaurant. It also has traditional colonial-era dishes such as shepherd’s pie, beef brisket, and cider cake. If you walk further down East Duke of Gloucester Street, you can reach the Fat Canary. It is an award-winning restaurant and you can enjoy a seasonal menu of innovative dishes such as short ribs with shiitake mushrooms, tuna tempura, and grilled Atlantic salmon.
Monticello is a Neoclassical mansion located in the Virginia countryside. It is constructed between 1769 and 1784 by Thomas Jefferson. It is an 11,000-square-foot building that has 43 rooms. Dome Room is the most iconic room among them. Its domed ceiling, circular windows, and an oculus skylight make it attractive. The mansion has grand reception rooms, such as the Parlor. Social gatherings and dances took place in the Parlor. Private quarters used by Jefferson’s family are another highlight of the building.
The building is surrounded by orchards, gardens, an 18-acre ornamental forest, and farmland. The floral gardens feature specific varieties of flowers such as tulips, roses, and poppies. You have several different guided tour options to choose from. You can choose a “behind-the-scenes” tour of the family quarters and the servant’s area, an “after-hours” tour in the early evening after closing time, or a tour of the house and gardens.
- Visit: 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, Virginia
- Official website: https://www.monticello.org/
4. Gettysburg Park
A day trip to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania is one of the top day trips from Washington D.C. It is located about 82 miles from Washington, D.C. The three-day Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought on July 1st – 3rd in 1863 was an important scene of American history and it took place on the fields of Gettysburg National Military Park.
Firstly you can visit the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum. You can learn about the historical background of the war, details of the three-day battle, and the results of the war, from the museum. Also, you can see the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama painting which was painted by the French artist Paul Philippoteaux. After that, you can explore the monuments and memorials on the 6,000-acre battlefield.
The Museum & Visitor Center has a cafe and a bookshop. It also serves as the starting point for guided tours of the battlefields. You can join with either a Battlefield Car Tour or a Battlefield Bus Tour. Both tours are led by licensed battlefield guides. If you like to get a bicycle tour, GettysBike Tours will be there. It is also led by licensed battlefield guides. There are some other attractions are located around Gettysburg. Gettysburg National Cemetery is one of them. On November 19th of 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
David Wills House is another attraction of Gettysburg. It is the place where Lincoln spent the night before delivering the Gettysburg Address. You can easily visit Gettysburg by having a Gettysburg day trip from Washington D.C. It is one of the top day trips from Washington D.C. You can also visit the restored home (dating to 1860) of George Washington Shriver during this tour as well.
- Visit: Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center, 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Official website: www.gettysburgfoundation.org
5. Seaport of Annapolis
Annapolis is the capital city of Maryland. It is a beautiful seaport with four centuries of history. The city looks like a living open-air museum because of the city’s old brick streets and 18th-century colonial homes. Four of the nation’s Founding Fathers had residences in Annapolis. The William Paca House which is listed as a National Historic Landmark is a highlight of the city. It was built in the 1760s for William Paca and it has a beautiful two-acre garden landscaped in English style. You can take a guided tour and see the interior of the mansion. Its garden is open to the public.
The Hammond-Harwood House is another highlight of the area. It is a registered National Historic Landmark as well. The mansion was built in 1774 as a residence for legislator Matthias Hammond and it has been designed according to colonial Georgian architecture. If you visit there, you can see colonial-era antiques and paintings by Charles Willson Peale. It is open to the public for guided tours.
If you like to learn about the story of the city, the Museum of Historic Annapolis is the place you should visit. The museum has artifacts dating from 1728 to 1864. If you like to learn about the town’s African-American heritage, the Banneker-Douglass Museum is the place you should visit. It has many interesting exhibits. Also, the museum offers educational programs like lectures.
Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park is a great place to discover the town’s 18th-century history. Annapolis is popular among tourists for recreational boating such as sailing, kayaking, and canoeing. If you visit there, you can take a boat tour or sailing cruise around Annapolis Harbor and out onto the Chesapeake Bay. Annapolis is also home to the Naval Academy Museum and U.S. Naval Academy.
6. Baltimore’s Museums
Baltimore is one of the top day trips from Washington D.C. Frequent direct train and bus service makes the tour easy. If you like to learn about art and culture, Baltimore is a place you must visit. Baltimore has three outstanding art museums. The Walters Art Museum is one of them. It covers the history of art from the third millennium BC to the early 20th century. It has expensive art collections including Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ethiopian, and western medieval arts. Also, it has an amazing collection of exhibits such as ivories, enamels, bronzes, jewelry, and illuminated manuscripts.
The Baltimore Museum of Art is another amazing place in Baltimore. It has a collection of modern art. The world’s largest collection of works by Henri Matisse belongs to the museum as well. If you visit the American Visionary Art Museum, which is located on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, you can see the quirky and unexpected exhibits of naïve art and works of self-taught artists.
Alexandria is one of the top day trips from Washington D.C. The city is located eight miles from Washington, D.C. If you visit the old Town you can stroll the cobblestone streets and red-brick sidewalks. Also, you can see buildings dating to the 18th and 19th centuries and locally owned boutiques.
If you like to shopping, you can find everything from artisan jewelry and designer fashion to home decor in the Old Town. It has great restaurants as well. There are many restaurants along the Potomac River waterfront. They are popular, especially for seafood. If you visit the harbor, you can take a boat tour to see Alexandria’s historic riverfront and yacht marina. There are many other places to visit in Alexandria such as Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, the Carlyle House, and Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum.
8. St. Michaels
St. Michaels is a peaceful coastal town in Maryland and one of the top day trips from Washington D.C. St. Michaels helped to defend against the British in the War of 1812. Later the town became an important center of fishing and shipbuilding. There are many things to do in St. Michaels. You can visit the town’s historic churches, colonial houses, and old Victorian homes.
If you like to learn about the town’s maritime heritage, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is the best place to start your journey. The 19th-century lighthouse is another highlight of the town. Also, the harbor with yacht marinas is one of the attractive places in St. Michaels. You can rent sailboats, canoes, and kayaks from the harbor. Also, you can get a boat tour and a fishing trip that depart from the harbor and sail out onto the Chesapeake Bay as well.
9. Harpers Ferry
It takes a one-hour-and-15-minute drive (67 miles) from Washington, D.C. to reach the Harpers Ferry. The town looks like the image of a painting because of its old buildings and the steepled church. Harpers Ferry is an important place throughout American history. An important battle during the Civil War has taken place in Harpers Ferry. Also, Harpers Ferry contributed to John Brown’s protests against slavery and the education of former slaves. Walking through the town’s old streets will bring you back in time. Shenandoah Street is lined with interactive historical exhibits and museums as well.
You can also participate in a historic trade workshop such as tinware making or baking of the 19th century. If you visit in July, you can enjoy the 1865 West Virginia Ladies Ice Cream Festival which is hosted by the Harpers Ferry Historical Society. You have the opportunity to take a trail and explore the natural surroundings outside of town as well. The Jefferson Rock Trail is popular among tourists. It is an uphill hike, with amazing views from the top. Some other outdoor activities you can do here are rock climbing, fishing, and picnicking.
10. Shenandoah National Park
A visit to the Shenandoah National Park, located 75 miles from Washington, D.C. is one of the top day trips from Washington D.C. Shenandoah National Park is popular among tourists because of its rushing waters, tranquil woodlands, and gorgeous views. It covers 200,000 acres of protected lands in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Skyline Drive is the only public road through the park. The road stretches for 105 miles along the crests of the Blue Ridge Mountains and you can take a scenic drive along it.
The park is home to many songbirds and deer. You can enjoy the park’s environment by getting its famous Appalachian Trail. If you like to spend a night here, you can stay at the Big Meadows Lodge, the Skyland lodge, the Lewis Mountain Cabins, or the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club cabins. The park allows visitors to camp. But you need to reserve the campsite in advance.
11. Solomons Island
Solomons Island in Maryland is one of the top day trips from Washington D.C. It will take about a one-and-a-half-hour drive (63 miles) from Washington, D.C. at the mouth of the Patuxent River to reach Solomons Island. If you visit there, you can enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants with riverside views. They are popular among tourists because of their fresh seafood.
You have the opportunity to discover the area by taking a boat tour. The river cruise offers a one-hour sightseeing tour around the Patuxent River and Solomons Harbor. The Annmarie Garden Sculpture Garden & Arts Center is another attractive place on Solomons Island. It features children’s activities, art galleries, and outdoor sculpture exhibits. Calvert Marine Museum is another highlight of the area.
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