There are so many amazing Road Trips from DC in Virginia and Maryland and I want to share our favorites! Each of the road trips are under 2 hours from Washington DC and either a great addition to your DC trip or a fun getaway for locals. I have included recommendations for What to Do, Kid-Friendly Restaurant and a Treat Idea for you and kids (aka coffee!)
The list below is organized by Virginia and Maryland day trips but you can also use the map below to go directly to the trip that is interesting to you. And if these are not enough, check out the DMV with Kids Database for 412 kid-friendly spots in the area which you can filter by type (farm, winery, park, playground) and 9 other criteria.
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Virginia Road Trips from DC
1) Old Town Alexandria - Close, Historical Day Trip From DC
Distance from DC: 8 miles
What to See and Do: The historic Old Town of Alexandria, Virginia is older than America and remains a vibrant and fun place for all ages! We love to park around King Street and walk down to the marina popping into fun shops and restaurants on the way! Another great option, especially for kids, is the free King Street Trolley which takes families from the King Street Metro all the way downtown to the waterfront.
Once you are down by the waterfront, be sure to check out the Torpedo Factory Art Center that houses tons of events as well as a place to just stroll through the art studios and watch artists work. Our family loves the Waterfront Park for playing and kite flying! Check out our Instagram of Waterfront park and Reel of the Torpedo Factory.
If you want to get on the water, there are tons of boat options located at the marina. One of the most family friendly is the is the water taxi to National Harbor, Maryland which only takes 35 minutes each way.
Where to Eat: There are lots of food options all around King Street. Our kid’s favorite (and a hit with parents!) is Café Banh Mi serving great Vietnamese food. If you have older kids and some energy left after your fun day, then check out the Ghost & Graveyard Tours with costumed guides!
2) Mount Vernon - George Washington's Estate
Distance from DC: 18 miles
What to Do: Mount Vernon is huge at 500 aces and much more than just the mansion. There is so much to do and see here, I would plan on spending some time. Your ticket includes a self guided audio tour that covers 29 stops and they also offer an "Enslaved People of Mount Vernon Tour" Friday through Sundays. Things to see:
- Mansion of 21 rooms (10x the average home in Virginia in the 17th century.)
- Beautiful piazza facing the Potomac River
- George and Martha Washington's tomb
- Tour. the grounds with 4 gardens
- Education Center is a museum of Washington's life including a 4D Revolutionary War film
- Tour "Enslaved People of Mount Vernon" Friday through Sundays
- Your ticket includes a self guided audio tour that covers 29 stops
Money Saving Tip: If you purchase your tickets 3 days in advance you receive $2 off! Also check out these George Washington books and save time going to the gift shop: National Geographic under $5 and Picture Book under $8.
Where to Eat: The estate has a food court which has kid-friendly options including breakfast, grill Items like cheeseburgers, Papa John's, salads and snacks.
Treat Idea: The food court also serves desserts including soft serve ice cream, hot chocolate and freshly baked bakery items.
Tour Idea: If you'd rather have a guided tour of Mount Vernon and Alexandria, check out this top rated 5 hour tour which includes a drive through Alexandria, tour of Mount Vernon and time to explore the estate at your leisure.
Mount Vernon – Photo credit: Wikimedia
3) Annandale, Virginia (Hidden Oaks Nature Center and Koreatown)
Distance from DC: 13 miles
What to Do: You probably won’t find this trip on any other blogs but it’s a go-to for our family and for playdates with friends! Annandale is a hub for Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese and Japanese restaurants and treats. Combined with the super fun Hidden Oaks Nature Center (reel here), it’s a great half day trip that’s fun for the whole family! Here’s my recommended itinerary:
Start at Breeze Café, a two-story Korean bakery that serves delicious homemade treats and coffee. The upstairs is a great kid-friendly casual area to eat your chocolate bun or sweet roll. Outdoor seating available on their roof. Then, go to Hidden Oaks Nature Center operated by Fairfax County that is wonderful in any weather! (Note: closed Tuesdays) They have a great indoor nature center with live snakes, turtles, fish and other creatures as well as tons of hands-on activities for kids including an awesome treehouse. The Nature Center also has great easy trails for the family in 52 acres.
Where to Eat: For lunch or dinner check out the amazing restaurants in the area. Our favorite Korean restaurant is Lighthouse Tofu, our favorite Taiwanese is A&J and our favorite Food Hall is The Block.
4) Arlington National Cemetery
Distance from DC: 3 miles (you can even take a city bike or walk here)
What to Do: Arlington National Cemetery is very large at 600 acres. It is a somber place but also an active cemetery with approximately 30 funerals a day. Please check out the Visitor Rules and Etiquette ahead of time when traveling with children. And check out the cemetery’s website to find a grave.
We have only visited when my eldest was a baby, so I don’t have specific tips for older kids but this blog post gives a great overview.
Where to Eat: Food is not allowed at the cemetery but there are lots of options at neighboring Metro stations. Pentagon City has dozens of options from Bun’d Up with outdoor seating and Nando’s Peri-Peri.
Tour Idea: If you would like to take a 5 star rated tour, check out this Guided Walking Tour with Changing of the Guard offered daily with free cancellation.
5) Vienna, Virginia (Meadowlark Botanical Garden + Downtown Vienna)
Distance from DC: 18 miles
What to Do: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is definitely worth the drive! This 95 acre park in Vienna, VA is a lovely place for families or anyone. Our favorite areas for kids: Children’s Garden, Korean Bell Garden and counting the huge fish on the lake boardwalk. More pictures here on Instagram. ♿️ All the main trails are wheelchair and stroller accessible. 🎄: They are also famous for their Winter Walk of Lights which goes from mid-November to January.
Cost: Free under 6, $3 ages 6-17, $6 adults, $3 over 55. You do not need to purchase ahead of time.
Where to Eat & Treat: After your time at the gardens, drive 3 miles to downtown Vienna. Check out Caffe Amouri which is a great neighborhood cafe with sandwiches, coffee and treats . Finally check out the Town Green a block away with a caboose, small park and W&OD Trail.
6) Clifton, Virginia (Charming small town road trip from DC)
Distance from DC: 27 miles
What to Do: Clifton is a charming well preserved old town. It only has 282 residents but has lots to do and see! The drive to Clifton makes you feel like you are hours away from the beltway instead of just a half hour. There are rolling hills, farms and beautiful fields on your entry into the small town.
In town, we love to check out the restaurants and shops, watch the trains the go by regularly, climb on the big red caboose and play at the train-themed playground. There is also the Webb Nature Center nearby.
Where to Eat: Lots of cute chops and cafes but the two we go back to often are Clifton Cafe and The Main Street Pub. They are right next to each other so you can check wait times to decide! Clifton Cafe offers sweet and savory crepes and Main Street Pub has a lot of grill and pub food. Both have great outdoor seating.
Treat Idea: No trip to Clifton is complete without ice cream from Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot! It has been voted best ice cream in northern Virginia a couple of times!
7) Bluemont, Virginia (Beautiful views and Brews Road Trip from DC)
Distance from DC: 56 miles
What to Do: We’ve continued to visit the rolling hills of Bluemont for the past 10 years and keep finding more incredible spots! Most recently we hiked the 1.9 mile trail to Bear’s Den Overlook on the Appalachian Trail. So cool to hike part of the Appalachian Trail just 1hr away!
- Hike to Bear’s Den Overlook starts at the large parking lot of “Snickers Gap Appalachian Trailhead” in Google maps. Check out Go Hike Virginia’s detailed blog post for more info and a 0.5 mile hike version too. More pictures on instagram here.
- After our hike, we drove 0.4 miles or 2 mins down the road to Bear Chase Brewing Company for more epic views! (see below and this reel for more details)
- Great Country Farms is the best farm/pick-your-own/family activities spot we’ve been to in the DMV. Tons of wonderful activities all 4 seasons so check it out!
- Bluemont Winery has beautiful views and family friendly atmosphere. We took our out of town relatives here. (Next door is Dirt Farm Brewing which I have heard is also very kid-friendly but we haven’t been)
Where to Eat: Bear Chase Brewing Company is a really a great kid-friendly and dog-friendly brewery. Lots of food options and the highlight was the huge delicious pretzels! 🥨 Also my husband said the beer was really good (and he’s pretty picky!)
Treat Idea: Bluemont General Store in the very small town of Bluemont has pies, hot coffee, antiques and other treats!
Hiking Gear: After our summer of hiking, we love adjustable hiking poles. My husband has pricy REI ones but I found a great option for the kids and I at a much lower price! These hiking poles are less than 25 on Amazon and have great reviews.
8) Colonial Beach, Virginia
Distance from DC: 65 miles
What to Do: Colonial Beach is a lovely family-friendly day trip away on the Potomac River. They have brought in a lot of sand for a very wide beach for kids to play in. There are beach car rentals on Colonial Ave as well as kayak and paddle board rentals at Ferry Landing Pier. A few miles away, you can check out Ingleside Vineyards and Monroe Bay Vineyard. Note: not many waves on the Potomac and sometimes the water quality is not so good for swimming. Check the town website for info whether swimming is permitted when you are visiting. (Currently September 16, 2021 it is open!)
Where to Eat: We ate at Suki the Cuisine a Thai French Restaurant close to the beach. I’ve also heard good things about Dockside Restaurant where you can eat on their boardwalk OR with your toes in the sand on their picnic tables.
Treat Idea: A couple of ice cream shops including Nancy’s Ice Cream Shoppe close to the beach.
9) Shenandoah National Park (Front Royal Entrance)
Distance from DC: 71 miles to the Front Royal Entrance Station
What to Do: Shenandoah National Park is a must visit when in the DC metro area! We have visited in all 4 seasons and it is beautiful year-round! For a day trip, I recommend entering at the Front Royal Entrance Station which is closest to DC. If you plan to spend an overnight or more, I would recommend entering slightly halfway at Thornton Gap Entrance Station because then you have the option to go north or south.
There are tons of hikes that all begin along Skyline Drive. It is the famous 105 mile drive along the spine of the mountains. Famous hikes include Upper Hawksbill, Stony Man and Old Rag Trails.
For kids, I highly recommend the Limberlost Trail is a 1.3 mile stroller accessible loop. For waterfalls, check out Dark Hollow Falls Trail. And for views, just pullover at one of the 70 overlooks on Skyline Drive! More pics and tips here on Instagram.
🍁 Fall is naturally the busiest with visitors seeking the changing color trees so plan ahead if you are visiting then by buying your pass online and arriving early. There can sometimes be 1-2 hours waits at the entrance stations!
Where to Eat: We’ve had lunch at Skyland Lodge a couple times and while the food wasn’t particularly noteworthy, the views were! Make sure you have snacks and water as there are not many places to buy food within in the National Park.
Treat Idea: This pie at Skyland looks amazing! We got the kids hot chocolate there once when seeing the fall foliage!
Maryland Road Trips from DC
1) Great Falls and C&O Canal - Maryland Side
Distance from DC: 17 miles
What to Do: We take all our out of town guests here and they can’t believe these beautiful waterfalls are so close to DC!
There are actually 2 Great Falls parks, Great Falls Park in McLean Virginia and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Potomac Maryland with the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center… confusing? Absolutely! More photos and info here on instagram.
We’ve been to both and have a slight preference for the Maryland side because:
- The boardwalk to the falls is so cool. It goes through a rare bedrock terrace forest and crosses over the falls. The Virginia side has great overlooks but not this trail. My kids love climbing the rocks at the end!
- You get to walk along the C&O Canal! We read about how the locks work and saw the canal boat and around the almost 200 year old Tavern.
- They are now offering boat rides on the restored canal boat! “Rides are every Saturday and Sunday at 11am and 2pm. Tickets are free and available on a first come basis.”
📍- Maryland side aka Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park: 11710 Macarthur Blvd, Potomac, MD 20854
Cost: $20 per vehicle or National Park pass is $80 for the year and free entry to all National Parks.
Where to Eat: Bring a picnic or check out Old Anglers Inn right outside the park’s entrance.
Treat Idea: There’s a small vending machine near the parking lot and my kids really, really love it! 😋 We use it for bribes to get through a longer hike.
2) National Harbor
Distance from DC: 12 miles
What to Do: There is SO much to do at National Harbor it’s hard to contain to one blurb! There are tons of shops, restaurants and convention center. Also, lots of activities for kids including a carousel, the huge Capitol Wheel, lots of sculptures and a small sandy beach. You can also tour an Air Force One replica. Pictures of my kids climbing on the sculptures on the beach here!
Where to Eat: There are over 40 restaurants from fast casual to fine dining. We liked Thai Pavilion.
Treat Idea: Savannah Candy Kitchen is the epitome of “treat spot!” It’s an old timey candy store with too much candy!
3) Wheaton, Maryland (Brookside Gardens and Wheaton Regional Park)
Distance from DC: 11 miles
What to Do: Wheaton Maryland gets its own special section on this road trip from DC list because of the 2 wonderful “worth the drive” destinations. We love Wheaton Regional Park with tons to do for free and some surprises for just $2.50 a ticket:. The mini train and carousel require 1 ticket and there is a small discount for 10 tickets. Buy at the Depot or online to save time. My kids always ask to go back to the Adventure playground with 3 giant slides, astroturf hill (bring cardboard!), ropes course and swings up on hill. Check out our adventure on this reel.
Located inside Wheaton Regional Park is Brookside Gardens which is an award winning 50-acre free garden. There seems to always be something in bloom and they also have a conservatory for wet days. (Fully disclosure we have only visited for a wedding which was beautiful and can’t wait to return to explore more!)
Where to Eat: I highly recommend grabbing take out and bringing to the park for a picnic! Lots of spots on your way into the park around Wheaton Metro including Jollibee and Pollo Campero.
Treat Idea: There was a shaved ice truck when we visited on a weekend over the summer. Or maybe bring popsicles?
4) Annapolis (One of the best Kid-Friendly Road Trips from DC)
Distance from DC: 32 miles
What to Do: We love Annapolis so much, I wrote a blog post of 16 Things to Do With Kids in Annapolis! Some of the highlights of this road trips from DC include: walking along Ego Alley (aka the Annapolis City Dock) and playing ping-pong, water taxi, Chesapeake Pirate Adventures, the free trolley, Quiet Waters State Park and so much more!
Where to Eat: I list 3 kid-friendly spots on the Annapolis blogpost from casual to slightly more fancy and historical!
Treat Idea: Donuts at a Thai restaurant?! You must stop at Carlson’s Donuts and Thai Kitchen on your way in or out of Annapolis! The donuts are so fresh and huge and my kids loved them! Yelp Review here.
5) Kent Island (Chesapeake Bay Road Trip from DC)
Distance from DC: 48 miles
What to Do: This is a great road trip from DC because you can be on a beach in less than an hour (provided there’s no bridge traffic!) Kent Island is home to about 17,000 residents and has a lot to offer just over the Bay Bridge!
- Terrapin Nature Area: We love Terrapin! There is a 10-15 minute walk from the parking lot to the beach so on our second trip we brought a beach wagon to help hold all our things. The walk is through a pretty park and swamp and then you arrive to beautiful views of the bay, bridge and pretty nice sand! Note: Summer 2021 it was closed to swimming. More from instagram here.
- Matapeake Clubhouse and Beach: We haven’t been yet but Yatzi at KidsQuarantineandMe highly recommends this spot with a public swimming beach and family friendly area!
Where to Eat: Stevensville Crab Shack is delicious and just a couple minutes from Terrapin!
Treat Idea: I don’t think the crab shack had desserts but there is a Chick Fil A down the road on Kent Island!
6) Solomons, Maryland (Best of the Road Trips from DC... in my opinion!)
Distance from DC: 64 miles
What to Do: Hands down, our family’s favorite of all our road trips from DC area this summer was our trip to Solomons, Maryland! It only took us an hour from Fairfax but I felt like we traveled much further. There is so much to do we are already planning a trip back.
First we toured Calvert Marine Museum and the 1883 Lighthouse. The lighthouse is open daily 10 AM to Noon (closed for lunch) and 1-4PM. Then we explored the amazing museum with fossils, boats, otters, live sting rays and more!) Cost: $9 for adults, $4 ages 5-12, under 5 free. Military, AAA and AARP $7.
After lunch, we went to Annmarie Sculpture Garden. “I wish we lived closer so we could come everyday!” My 8 year old spoke for all of us! It is so much more than a sculpture garden! Favorite Spots:
- The Art Lab was SO cool! Free and no reservations needed. All the supplies you need to make whatever you want. Great social distancing rules including 1 table per family and sanitized “Family Pack” of the most used supplies. They also have laminated cards of creative ideas.
- 1/4 mile Walking Path with incredible sculptures, many on loan from @Smithsonian and @NGADC
- The Fairy Lolly nature play space! Colorful, playful and huge! This would be worth the drive alone 🙂 So many great spots to explore
- Nature Nook is in the Murray Arts building and has lots of hands-on activities for kids including turtles, fish, plants and a cicada circus!
TIP: Check out their website for Sculpture Garden Guides for Kids and a Sculpture Scavenger Hunt! They also have tons of events including September 18/19 ArtsFest, Halloween in the Garden, Holiday Garden in Lights and something called Mud Day in the summer.
Where to Eat: In between our two big adventures, we got take out at The Island Hideaway where they have outdoor seating right on the water. It was a long wait because of the holiday weekend so we took our burgers and crab cakes across the street to the pavilion right on the Chesapeake.
Treat Idea: Cone Island Ice Cream is right on the boardwalk!
7) Baltimore, Maryland - Super fun of the Road Trips from DC
Distance from DC: 39 miles
What to Do: Baltimore was the biggest surprise of the past year! There is so much to see and do and we just scratched the surface. Here are my recommendations of kid-friendly spots:
- Maryland Science Museum: Seriously cool with so much to see and experience. First floor has a dinosaur exhibit where kids can even brush away sand to find fossils. They also have a separate Kids Room for ages 8 and below with a water table, Chesapeake Crabbing Ship and tons of building stations. My daughter's favorite spot (and mine too!) was the SciLab where you can do 6 real chemical experiments including extracting DNA from wheat germ!
- Rawlings Conservatory: What a hidden gem near the Maryland Zoo! We loved going inside this small observatory and seeing the fish and stunning orchids! More about our day here on instagram.
- National Aquarium: One of the world's best aquariums with 20,000 animals. We went when the kids were younger and the Dolphin Feeding and Demonstration was incredible! Need to go back.
- Port Discovery Children's Museum: Rated in the top 5 of children's museums in the US!
- Maryland Zoo: We haven't been yet but a big hit with families!
Where to Eat: We are still talking about Di Pasquale's subs and bruschetta months later! 2 locations and we ate at the Harborside one because just a mile from the Maryland Science Museum. Outdoor eating right on the harbor!
Treat Idea: Tons of little food treats along the Inner Harbor including Lucky's Coffee, Ice Cream and Candy.
8) Frederick, Maryland - One of the Historical Road Trips from DC
Distance from DC: 45 miles
What to Do: We loved visiting Frederick! Beautiful parks, canals, a great downtown area, and covered bridges!
- Carroll Creek Park - canals and bridges in downtown
- Visit the 3 covered bridges in Frederick County
- Brunswick Heritage Railroad Museum
- Gathland State Park
Treat Idea: Sweet Maddies Bakery
9) St. Michaels, Maryland - Another of the Chesapeake road trips from DC
Distance from DC: 79 miles from DC
What to Do: Full disclosure, we haven't visited yet but hope to in the next couple weeks and I will update then! What's on our list include:
Where to Eat: Highly rated:
And if you want even more spots, check out 26 Social Distancing Spots including Sky Meadows State Park (VA), Huntley Meadows (VA) and National Colonial Farm (MD).
Road Trips from DC - Full List
- Old Town Alexandria
- Mount Vernon
- Arlington Cemetery
- Annandale (Koreatown and Nature)
- Vienna (Meadowlark Botanical Gardens and Downtown)
- Clifton, Virginia
- Bluemont, Virginia
- Colonial Beach
- Shenandoah National Park
- Great Falls and C&O Trail
- National Harbor
- Brookside Gardens and Wheaton Regional Park
- Annapolis, MD
- Kent Island
- St. Michaels
- Solomons, MD Day Trip
- Frederick, Maryland