Last Updated on October 1, 2022 by Maggie McKneely

Headed to the nation’s capital but don’t want to spend your whole trip in the city? Here are some of the best day trips from DC.

Day Trips from DC You Shouldn’t Miss

I’ve lived an hour from Washington, DC my entire life, yet I never get bored of the city. Where else can you tour the home of the American president, watch a play from the same seat where Abraham Lincoln was shot, see the Wright brothers’ original plane, all before eating a Virginia ham biscuit at a National’s baseball game?

The city truly does have a little something for just about everyone – it’s one of the best cities for both families and those traveling alone. For that reason, Washington, DC should be on every traveler’s list of places to visit. Regardless of what you think about politics, the District is absolutely worth your time.

But Washington can get a little…swampy, after all 😉 As someone who works in the United States capital, I highly recommend not spending your entire trip within the city limits. Get out and get some fresh air beyond the crazy world inside the Beltway!

Fortunately, there are dozens of options for great day trips from Washington, DC! Washington is minutes away from tons of historical, beautiful and friendly spots in Virginia and Maryland. The hard part is just picking which places to visit. To help you out, here’s my list of some of the best day trips.

Best Day Trips From DC

Manassas Battlefield

If you’re interested in the Civil War, one of your day trips from DC needs to be to Manassas National Battlefield Park. At Manassas (also known as Bull Run), the first battle of the war was fought in July of 1861. The park itself has nearly 20 miles worth of trails, with interpretive signs along the way that teach about the 1st and 2nd Battles of Manassas. You can also take Ranger-guided tours or visit the museum.

  • Distance from DC: 1 Hour
  • Admission: Entrance is free
  • How to get there:
    • Address: 6511 Sudley Road, Manassas, VA 20109
    • By train: Trains run from Union Station to Manassas Station. From there, taxi or Uber to the Battlefield.
    • By bus: Take bus G100/M100 from 19th St/H St. NW to the Manassas Commuter lot. From there, taxi or Uber to the Battlefield.
    • By car: Take I-66W to the Centerville/US-29 exit. Follow the signs to Manassas Battlefield Park.
Manassas Battlefield

Cannons at Manassas battlefield

Great Falls Park

Need an escape to nature? Great Falls makes the list of best day trips for the nature enthusiasts. At Great Falls Park, the normally tranquil Potomac River gains speed and power as it’s squeezed into a rocky gorge. From several observation points, you can see the river tumble over boulders and rock ledges, and watch daring kayakers navigate the churning water. There’s also a trail that goes along the top of the gorge and follows the river for several miles.

  • Distance from DC: 45 minutes
  • Admission: Entrance fee: $20
  • How to get there:
    • Address: 9200 Old Dominion Drive, McLean, VA 22102
    • By metro: Take the Silver Line metro to the Spring Hill station. From there, taxi or Uber to Great Falls Park
    • By car: Take the George Washington Memorial Park Way North. When the Parkway ends, merge onto 495 South. Take the first exit and turn right onto Georgetown Pike. Stay on Georgetown Pike until you reach the turn-off for Great Falls Park.
Great Falls Park

The Potomac River at Great Falls

Udvar-Hazy Center

The Smithsonian’s main Air and Space Museum location is in DC on the Mall, but a visit to the (in my opinion) more interesting location near Dulles Airport – the Udvar-Hazy Center – makes for one of the best day trips from DC. The center is housed in two redesigned aircraft hangars and is where the museum displays the most fascinating and famous aircraft in its collection, such as the Space Shuttle Discovery, Enola Gay of WWII, and the original Mars Rover.

  • Distance from DC: 1 Hour
  • Admission: Free (but parking is $15 if you drive)
  • How to get there:
    • By metro: take the Silver Line metro to the Wiehle-Reston station. From there, take Fairfax Connector Bus No. 983 to the Udvar-Hazy bus stop
    • By car: take I-66 West to Exit 53B/ Route 28 North. Travel on Route 28 North for 5.3 miles. Exit at Air and Space Museum Parkway and follow the signs to the Udvar-Hazy Center
Udvar-Hazy Center - day trips from DC

Udvar-Hazy Center

Mount Vernon

Just across the river from downtown DC, take a step back in time to the days of the first American President. Mount Vernon was George Washington’s beloved Virginia estate, perched on a hill overlooking the Potomac River.

The mansion has been meticulously restored to what it would have been like in 1799. You can also wander through the four separate gardens on the estate and explore the woodland forest trail, or visit the working farm and see many of the animals that the Washingtons would have had in their day. Mount Vernon is so close to the city that you can even combine it with some of the other options for day trips from DC!

  • Distance from DC: 40 minutes
  • Admission: $20 for adults, $12 for kids 6-11, free for kids under 6
  • How to get there:
    • Address: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Mount Vernon, VA 22121
    • By metro: Take the Yellow Line to Huntington Station. From there, take the Fairfax Connector Bus #101 to Mount Vernon’s gate
    • By car:  Take the George Washington Memorial Parkway south. Stay on the Parkway until you reach Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon in the winter

National Museum of the Marine Corps

Just a few miles south of DC, the National Museum of the Marine Corps is dedicated to the legacy of America’s Marines. Learn about their history, from the Revolutionary War to modern-day conflicts in the Middle East, as well as what it takes to become a Marine, from recruitment and boot camp to the front lines. Not interested in military history? I’m not either, but I found this museum to be a fascinating surprise and a worthwhile day trip from DC. The displays and exhibits are very engaging even for those of us not military-minded.

Note: this museum may not be appropriate for very young children. The exhibits try to be as objective and accurate as possible, and sometimes that includes depictions of casualties, movie footage of combat, and lifelike cast figures that some kiddos may find frightening or unsettling.

  • Distance from DC: 1 hour
  • Admission: Free
  • How to get there:
    • Address: 18900 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Triangle, VA 22172
    • By train: Trains run regularly from Union Station to Quantico. From the Quantico station, take a taxi or Uber to the museum
    • By car: Take I-95 South. Exit 150A and follow the signs, you can see the museum from the interstate so it’s really hard to miss
National Museum of the Marine Corps

The distinctive National Museum of the Marine Corps

Shenandoah National Park

If you really want to escape the city life for a day, how about heading out to Shenandoah National Park? Shenandoah encompasses Virginia’s beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has cascading waterfalls, mountain peaks, and flora and fauna that are unique to the park.

You can hike some of the over 500 miles of hiking trails, which range from beginner-friendly to more strenuous hikes. If you don’t want to get out of your car, you can drive along the world-famous Skyline Drive. Regardless, Shenandoah is definitely one of the best day trips from DC.

  • Distance from DC: Between 1-3 hours, depending on which entrance you go to.
  • Admission: $30 per vehicle
  • How to get there:
    • By car: The best method. Take I-66 west. Exit at 43A onto US-29 south. Merge onto US-15 south. Turn onto US-211 west. Follow the signs for Shenandoah National Park.
Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park in the fall

Purcellville, Virginia

Interested in wine, beer, and whiskey? If you are, one of the best day trips from DC is to the tiny, 3-mile wide town of Purcellville, a hotspot for Virginia’s craft alcohol scene. For vino lovers, Purcellville is in the heart of Virginia’s wine country, with nearly a dozen wineries just five minutes from the main street.

There are also six (and counting) breweries in town, along with one of the nation’s up and coming distilleries, Catoctin Creek (try their whiskey and gin flight, you won’t regret it!). There are also a number of great restaurants in Purcellville, so you won’t have to worry about finding food on this day trip from DC.

  • Distance from DC: 1.5 hours
  • How to get there:
    • By metro: Take the Silver Line to the Wiehle-Reston station. From there, taxi or Uber to Purcellville.
    • By car: Take the George Washington Parkway North. When the Parkway ends, merge onto 495 South. in 1.4 miles, take the exit for the Dulles Toll Road. Stay on the toll road until it ends. Merge onto Route 7 West towards Leesburg. Stay on Route 7 until you reach the Purcellville exit.
Purcellville VA - day trips from DC

A wine-themed “love sign” in Purcellville, placed by Virginia’s tourism board

Nearby Frederick, Maryland is also worth exploring!

Baltimore Aquarium

Did you bring the kiddos with you to DC? Are they tired of staring at white marble buildings and statues of dead people? For all of the awesome things to do that DC has, it doesn’t have an aquarium. The good news is that there’s a fantastic one just up the road in Baltimore that’ll keep the younger family members entertained on the perfect day trip from DC!

The National Aquarium in Baltimore is a multi-level aquarium home to nearly 20,000 different animals, including birds, frogs, sharks, dolphins, turtles, monkeys, and even sloths. In addition to the live animal exhibits, there’s a 4D movie theater. The aquarium also has a great rescue and release program, where they rehabilitate injured animals and release them back into the wild when they’re healed.

  • Distance from DC: 1 hour
  • Admission: Prices are steep, but when you visit the aquarium, you’ll understand why. Adults are $39.95, kids are $24.95. Purchase tickets online here.
  • How to get there:
    • Address: 501 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21202
    • By train: Take the Amtrak train from Union Station to Baltimore Penn Station. Then take the bus from Penn Station to Light St. From there, it’s a short walk to the Aquarium.
    • By car: Take I-95 North. Take the 395 exit for downtown Baltimore. Turn right onto Conway St, left onto Light St., then follow the signs for the Aquarium.
Baltimore National Aquarium

From the outside, the Baltimore Aquarium looks more like a modern art museum

Fort McHenry

Just a few minutes from the National Aquarium is Fort McHenry. You may not have heard of the fort, but you have definitely heard of the song inspired by events that took place there! Francis Scott Key watched the defense of the fort from a ship in the bay and was inspired by a certain star-spangled banner, gallantly streaming over the fort despite cannon blasts and gunfire.

  • Distance from DC: 1 hour
  • Admission: Ages 16 and older is $15; kids younger than 16 are free
  • How to get there:
    • Address: 2400 East Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230
    • By train: Take the Amtrak train from Union Station to Baltimore Penn Station. From there, Bus Line #1 stops at the front gates of the Fort.
    • By car: Take I-95 North. Then take Exit 55/ Key Highway and follow the signs for Fort McHenry.
Fort McHenry

Fort McHenry

Richmond, Virginia

If you’re interested in checking out a city that has a completely different vibe from DC, consider taking a drive south to Richmond. As the capital of Virginia, Richmond has plenty of things to offer. For the history buffs, Richmond was the site of a major Civil War battle. It’s also home to the church where Patrick Henry proclaimed “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

The city has one of the finest art museums in the country, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. And if you’re a foodie, the city has endless options of taste bud tantalizing restaurants. Don’t miss out on this great day trip from DC.

  • Distance from DC: 2 hours
  • How to get there:
    • By train: Take Amtrak from Union Station towards Newport News and get off at the Richmond Station.
    • By bus: Buses headed for Richmond leave Union Station on a regular basis. Check here for the current bus schedule.
    • By car: Take I-96 South until you reach Richmond.
Richmond VA

The James River flowing through downtown Richmond

Fredericksburg, Virginia

In between DC and Richmond is the oft-overlooked city of Fredericksburg, Virginia. But because it’s overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, Fredericksburg is not touristy and never crowded, which is one of the reasons it makes for one of the best day trips from DC!

Fredericksburg was the boyhood home of George Washington and has a plethora of historical sites connected to the Washington family, including his sister’s plantation and his mother’s home. The town was also the site of another Civil War battle.

  • Distance from DC: 1 hour
  • How to get there:
    • By train: trains run directly from Union Station in DC and the Fredericksburg train station. You can take either Amtrak or the local VRE trains.
    • By bus: Buses headed for Fredericksburg leave Union Station on a regular basis. Check here for the current bus schedule.
    • By car: take I-95 South until you reach the Fredericksburg/ Rt. 3 East exit. Stay on Rt. 3 until you reach William St. Turn left onto William St. and that will take you into downtown Fredericksburg.
Fredericksburg VA

Fredericksburg, VA

Related: Check out these great day trips from nearby Philadelphia!

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There are so many great places to visit just a short distance outside of the US capital! Check out the best day trips from DC #washingtondc #virginia #usa #travel    There are so many great places to visit just a short distance outside of the US capital! Check out the best day trips from DC #washingtondc #virginia #usa #travel




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