Updated: Oct 29
One of the best things about DC is being close to mountains, oceans, major cities, cute towns... pretty much you can drive to any type of destination in 8 hours or less! This means that there are so many amazing road trips from DC that you can take.
In this post, I'll outline some of the best road trips from DC that you can take. Starting with places that are the closest to the furthest distance. I'll outline the driving time, what you can do in the destination, and where to stay. I hope this helps as you decide where to go on your road trip from DC.
PS driving around DC can mean a lot of traffic. Please note these are estimated times, pulled at non-rush hour times. Plan ahead for your drive!
Within 1-3.5 Hours
45 minutes from Washington D.C. (32 miles)
The state capital of Maryland is a mid-Atlantic coastal town that is perfect for a day trip or quick weekend away. The city is along the water and lined with cute historic buildings, a pretty harbor, and historic homes.
Top things to do:
U.S. Naval Academy
Annapolis Historic District
Quiet Waters Park
Maryland State House
Kayak the Chesapeake Bay
1 hr 29 min from Washington D.C. (70 miles)
Shenandoah National Park is located in northern Virginia, not far from the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. The park stretches along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and covers an area of approximately 200,000 acres. The park offers an extensive network of hiking trails, ranging from easy, family-friendly walks to challenging backcountry hikes.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland/Virginia
2 hours 48 minutes (147.5 miles)
Assateague Island has different beaches than the rest of the area. The waves tend to be bigger and the sand is softer. The wild horses bring a unique and special feeling to this area.
Top Things to Do:
Visit the historic lighthouse
Search for wild horses
Hang out on the beach
Camping on the beach
Atlantic City, New Jersey
3 hours 15 minutes from Washington D.C. (190 miles)
Known for it's casinos, Atlantic City has an old-school feel to it. While the beaches are known for being nice, it is the gambling that draws people here.
Go to a casino
Atlantic City Boardwalk
Tanger Outlets Atlantic City
Hang out on the beach
1 hour from Washington D.C. (39 miles)
As a former Baltimore resident myself, I have to say that Baltimore is more than worth the visit. The history, laid back vibe, and awesome seafood in Fell's Point will keep you plenty busy here.
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
Hang out in Fell's Point
Go to a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Sagamore Spirit Distillery
2 hours 20 minutes (116.4 miles)
Known for it's wine and mountains, Charlottesville is a ton of fun. Don't count out the arts scene in Charlottesville, though with tons of galleries and performance spaces, it has a little of something for everyone.
Explore art & history at Kluge Rhue
Go wine tasting
Hike in the Shenandoah Mountains
Explore the arts scene downtown
Chesapeake Beach, Maryland
54 minutes (36.3 miles)
The Chesapeake Bay's first beach is Chesapeake Beach. Its closeness to DC makes it an easy day trip or road trip for a completely different feel on the water than the city.
Breezy Point Beach
Visit the lighthouse
Eat amazing seafood
Thomas and Davis, West Virginia
2 hours 50 minutes (167.1 miles)
Davis and Thomas are two historic towns in the mountains perfect for a weekend away. Go in the winter for skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and cozy vibes. In fall, the leaves are beautiful and hiking to great viewpoints is easy.
Ski/snowboard in winter
Shop and drink downtown
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
1 hour 15 minutes from Washington D.C. (67 miles)
Harpers Ferry is a unique national park easily accessible from DC. It's great to visit in every season, but fall and summer tend to have the most to do in the area.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Tubing on the river
2 hours (86.2 mi)
Lake Anna is a great alternative to the beaches near DC. This large lake has plenty of space for everyone in the area to enjoy and great house rentals for a weekend trip.
Kayak or boat on the lake
Lake Anna State Park
Lake Anna Winery
Ocean City, Maryland
2 hours 50 minutes from Washington D.C. (146 miles)
Ocean City is the closest beach town on the Atlantic Coast to DC. In the summer, there can be long drives to get out to Ocean City and it's a busy beach, but has all the amenities you need to have a good time.
Go to the beach
Ocean City Boardwalk
Trimper Rides and Amusement Park
2 hours 30 minutes from Washington D.C. (139 miles)
Full of history and amazing food, Philly is a great city break for those in DC. Spend a weekend exploring the different neighborhoods, and make sure you check out the historical sites around town where the first US government was started.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Check out the murals
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Reading Terminal Market
1 hour 50 minutes from Washington D.C. (109 miles)
The capital of Virginia has plenty to keep you busy! It's located right on the James River and near the mountains making it a more relaxed city with plenty to do outdoors. The history of Richmond is also important to understand.
Walk the Canal Walk
Brunch at the Jefferson Hotel
Rock climb or raft on the James River
Brewery hop in Scott's Addition
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
2 hours 45 minutes from Washington D.C. (141 miles)
This is my favorite beach near DC besides Assateague. Rehoboth is more relaxed than Ocean City and just a little bit further of a drive. The boardwalk is lots of fun, and the small amusement park along the boardwalk is not to be missed!
Funland on the boardwalk
Rehoboth Beach Public Beach
Delaware Seashore State Park
Within 4-5.5 Hours
4 hours from Washington D.C. (225 miles)
Does New York City need an explanation? There's so much to do and see here, but if you drive, expect $40-50 in tolls both ways. Bring cash and maybe a friend or two to split the price.
Take a food tour
Explore the skyscraper views
See art at the MET
Stroll Central Park
See a Broadway show
Hot Springs, Virginia
3 hours 37 minutes (214.2 miles)
Historic Hot Springs is a unique area in Virginia. The hot springs have been turned into the Omni Hotel, where you can have a spa day enjoying the thermal pools. Thomas Jefferson used to come to this area to enjoy the hot springs, and one of the pools has been maintained ever since.
Spa day at the Omni Hotel
Hike to Falling Springs Falls
Check out Jefferson's Pool historic hot springs
5 hr 30 min (309.3 mi)
Known for its beaches and lighthouses, there is something special about the Outer Banks in the summer. The beautiful sand dunes and big waves make these islands a great summer destination.
Go to the beach
Explore the lighthouses
Learn about the Wright Brother's First Flight
3 hr 52 min (239.6 mi)
Poconos mountains are beautiful and have been a favorite getaway for East Coasters for generations. It's set up for fun family and group vacations with plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy.
Asa Packer Mansion
Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
Seven Tubs Recreation Area
4 hours from Washington D.C. (245 miles)
Its Gilded Age sites, including the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, speak to its history as an early-20th-century industrial capital. Beautiful architecture and great food make it a perfect road trip from DC.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
4 hours 15 minutes from Washington D.C. (278 miles)
With the basketball scene, awesome bbq, and close by mountains. Raleigh-Durham has grown in population over the last few years and that population gain has brought lots of things to do.
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
North Carolina Museum of Art
North Carolina Museum of History
Virginia Beach, Virginia
3 hour 45 minutes (208.8 miles)
Virginia Beach is located right where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. A 3-mile boardwalk stretches along its beach-lined oceanfront. The bayside First Landing State Park marks the 1607 arrival of the Jamestown colonists from England. This beach town attracts people all across Virginia to visit throughout the year. Nearby is also Colonial Williamsburg and Bush Gardens theme park.
Go to the beach
Military Aviation Museum
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
8 hours from Washington D.C. (500 miles)
In the mountains, Asheville is worth a visit year-round. The Great Smoky Mountains are unique as they look like smoke is coming off of them constantly. They are full of spring-fed rivers and waterfalls, making the area stunning and beautiful. You can also see incredible architecture in town and at the Biltmore Estate.
Hike in Smoky Mountain National Park
7 hours 30 minutes from Washington D.C. (455 miles)
Another important city in American history, Boston is well worth a visit. This smaller city with cobblestone streets and colonial row homes is beautiful, but especially during the summer and fall months when the weather is nice and the leaves on the trees are stunning.
Museum of Fine Arts
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Finger Lakes, New York
6 hours (341.4 miles)
Known for it's wine and lakes, the Finger Lakes are a beautiful region of Upstate New York. Forests surround the lakes and the fresh air feels good as you walk around or take a hike. This is a quieter area for a nice road trip from DC.
Go winery hopping
Watkins Glen State Park
Corning Museum of Glass
7 hours 20 minutes (487.2 miles)
Knoxville is located on Tennessee River in eastern Tennessee. Downtown, the Market Square district has 19th-century buildings with shops and restaurants making it a great area to explore. The Museum of East Tennessee History has interactive exhibits plus regional art, textiles, and Civil War artifacts. Tenessee whiskey can also be found all over!
Ijams Nature Center
Knoxville Museum of Art
Newport, Rhode Island
6 hours 54 minutes (410.7 miles)
Another iconic coastal town, Newport is a beautiful city. Its yacht-filled harbor is beautiful and important to sailing history. Newport is also known for the Gilded Age mansions lining Bellevue Avenue, some of which are now museums. The most famous is The Breakers which is patterned after a Renaissance palace.
Niagara Falls, New York
7 hours 10 minutes (401.5 miles)
Niagara Falls has long been a popular vacation spot for Americans. Niagra Falls has an American side and Canadian side. The Canadian side has a better view, in my opinion, so bring your passport!
Visit Niagra Falls
Maid of the Mist
Journey Behind the Falls
Drive to Canada
Visit historic casinos and hotels