Last Updated on January 29, 2024 by Kristin
Brimming with historical sites, museums and buzzy restaurants, Washington DC may be one of the most tourist-friendly cities in the U.S. The nation’s capital is also a great starting point for a number of road trips. They offer everything from city life to historic getaways to peaceful escapes into nature. Here are the best road trips from Washington DC.
Fabulous Road Trips from Washington DC
32 miles / 45 mins.
For a quick jaunt outside the city, head east on US-50 to Maryland’s capital city of Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay. Explore founding father William Paca’s 18th-century mansion and well-manicured garden, take a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy and pay a visit to the riverfront Annapolis Maritime Museum. For dinner, hop on a water taxi to explore the city’s Eastport neighborhood, which boasts the waterfront “Restaurant Row”’ district famous for fresh oysters.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
63 miles / 1 hr. 22 mins.
Harpers Ferry may appear like any other small town. But its historical and geographical significance makes it a must-see attraction and exciting road trip from Washington DC. Explore the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park at the point where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet. Here, guides illustrate how abolitionist John Brown’s raid on the town served as an important precursor to the Civil War. Browse a collection of period shops, taverns and museums, and walk a part of the Appalachian Trail passing through town.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
71 miles / 1 hr. 23 mins.
Shenandoah National Park’s mountain lookout points, waterfalls and wildlife sightings make it a welcome nature escape after exploring the hustle and bustle of the city. Whether you’re just taking a spin on Skyline Drive or planning a multi-day camping trip, the nearly 200,000-acre wilderness of Shenandoah provides a relaxing retreat. One of the most interesting attractions in the area is the underground network of rock formations at the nearby Luray Caverns.
82 miles / 1 hr. 45 mins.
If you want to understand the scope and impact of the Civil War, visiting Gettysburg—the site of the war’s turning point and the historic speech by President Lincoln—is a must. The National Military Park and National Cemetery in Pennsylvania can be explored by car, by foot, or even by Segway. Nearby, downtown Gettysburg is rich with its own historic buildings and charming shops and restaurants. >> Recommended hotels in Gettysburg
140 miles / 2 hr. 43 mins.
Head northeast to experience one of the nation’s historic gems, Philadelphia. Take an obligatory selfie at the Liberty Bell, and run victoriously up the “Rocky Steps” leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art before enjoying a diverse collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. Round out your visit with a trip to the Reading Terminal Market boasting more than 80 stalls, with cuisine ranging from the famous Philly cheesesteak to vegan eats. >> Recommended hotels in Philadelphia
153 miles / 2 hr. 38 mins.
To truly immerse yourself in history, head south on I-95 to Colonial Williamsburg. The city, which bills itself as the world’s largest living history museum, is a blast from the past with over 300 acres of historical homes, shops and artisanal workshops. For high-energy thrills, head to the nearby Busch Gardens amusement park for roller coasters and water rides. On the way there, stop by Virginia’s capital of Richmond to get a taste of the city’s lively arts and music scene. Stop by the Victorian-era Maymont estate and Edgar Allan Poe museum to get your history fix. Then, have lunch at one of Richmond’s fine-dining restaurants and stretch your legs with a stroll down the riverfront Canal Walk.