If you know me, I love a good road trip. Especially the ones that make you feel like you’ve hopped on an airplane and you’re miles away from home but in actuality, you just jumped into your car. So if you’re like me, I created a list of my favorite summer destination that are 3 hours or less from Washington DC with a variety of adventures waiting for you. So if you like being in the outdoors, this list is for you:
Great Falls Park:
I’ve mentioned this place a hundred times on my blog so it’s definitely a favorite. Less than 20 miles outside of Washington DC, find some peace in Great Falls Park. From the roaring falls, to plenty of space to roam or have a picnic, Great Falls is kind of an unexpected gem outside a major US city. The great part about Great Falls is that there’s a Virginia and Maryland side. You can see actually see the Maryland side while in Virginia and vice versa but they are very different.
Virginia has a better view of the falls and in my personal opinion, the park just feels a little bit more open with wider fields and more viewing spots of the falls. It’s a great place to have a picnic or go on a hike with friends.
Maryland allows you to be closer to the rocks but I personally enjoy the views on the hike on the Maryland side much more.
Don’t be surprised if you see kayakers navigating the rough waters or blue herons fishing for the dinner on either side of the park.
Specifically, Old Town Alexandria. Old Town Alexandria is just 8 miles away from Washington where you can enjoy a day by the Potomac River. Surrounded by cute shops and even better restaurants, it’s shouldn’t be a surprise if you find yourself smiling while walking around the neighborhood. If you of age, The BRÜT Wine Bar is a personal favorite if you like bubbly adult drinks. Waterfront Park is a fantastic place for kids to run around and to experience free outdoor art. I can’t express how much I enjoy this cute little town every time I visit.
But Alexandria is also a great central point for many other excursions. Hop on a scenic water taxi that will take you the National Harbor in Maryland or to DC destinations such as the Wharf, Georgetown, the National Mall, and Nats Stadium. It is also along the Mount Vernon trail that gives you access to Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve and Huntly Meadows Park, both wetland areas with boardwalks that make it fun for birdwatchers and photographers to enjoy the views.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is beautiful summer, fall, spring, winter, whenever! Just 70 miles outside of the District, it’s the best place to get a great hike in. My personal favorite is Old Rag Mountain Trail and Hawksbill Mountain Trail. Both give you an unbelievable view of the mountains and surrounding areas. Just know that both of these hikes are steep but Hawksbill Mountain Trail is significantly shorter, so plan accordingly with the time you have in the mountains.
If hiking isn’t your thing, I highly suggest finding a rental company where they’ll take you down to the river. You can rent canoes, rafts or tubes to float your way down the river. It’s so relaxing.
But if you just want an easy way to enjoy the views, Skyline Drive has stunning views from multiple overlooks along the way.
I’m a little bias because I went to school in Richmond, Virginia but I love going back and checking out the old spots I used to enjoy. Richmond is just 110 miles from the United States Capital but this state capital city has so much to offer. For example, along the James River, Belle Isle is a 54-acre island with evidence of its history to explore and bike trails all along the way. Don’t forget the nearby Art Walk where you’ll see crazy good street art and murals. And if you are hungry, you got to stop by Proper Pie Co for a variety of sweet and savory pies. If you have the time, I love the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
So visit this city when you are looking for a little creative or natural inspiration. The city has great examples of both!
Rehoboth Beach has been an annual tradition for my husband and me since we met. I believe it was the first time we had ever gone anywhere together and we’ve been going back year after year. Our initial trip was a weekend and since then, we’ve cut it down to a day because we are able to get everything we want out of this little beach town without having to spend the night. It’s a long day, but it’s something I look forward to year after year.
Pro-tip: stop at Vanderwende Farm Creamery along the way. It’s in the middle of farmland, Deleware but it is the freshest ice cream with an abundance of flavor and ice cream given. Enjoy the ice cream while looking out at the cows who produced the milk.
Since we are only at the beach for a day with no place to shower, Andrew and I don’t actually lay out or get into the water. If anything, we’ll just walk along the water and get our feet wet. Otherwise, we’re on a serious mission for Thrashers Fries, hanging out on the boardwalk and playing a few games, casually shopping in the cute beach stores, and then eating some crab legs before we head home. It’s a great beach getaway on the East Coast.
66 miles from Washington DC, Harpers Ferry is the perfect little town with amazing views. I must admit that I’ve only been once but that one time made an impact. Located in West Virginia, it was a little more than an hour to get here and I would highly suggest going early. We hiked the steep Maryland Heights Loop hoping to get some of the early morning light as it was rising above the horizon. Even though we were a little late for that, it was still very peaceful and rewarding making the hike so early in the morning. As we were hiking down, I could see that the trail was getting busier and busier.
The best part was getting breakfast at the end. Country Cafe had some fresh, delicious donuts. I kinda wish I had one now.
So when you’re in the need to break away from the monotony, I hope you refer to this list to find a fun place to visit. I tried to add a variety of places so if you think I’m missing a location, please let me know!
Safe travels and happy snapping!