We are fortunate to have so many day trip and weekend trip options surrounding Washington DC in Maryland and Virginia.

day trip from dc

So why not pack in your car and take a few quick day trips from DC to take in nature and explore what the surrounding areas have to offer. 

Here’s a list of the best day trips from Washington DC:

  • Strawberry Picking in Maryland
  • Live!
  • Wineries in Maryland 
  • Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
  • Brookside Gardens
  • Assateague Island
  • Lavender Farm
  • Sunflower Fields
  • Delaware National Seashore
  • Annapolis Rock
  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Swimming Holes
  • Scott’s Run/Potomac Gorge
  • Blackwater Falls West Virginia
  • Shenandoah River State Park
  • Luray Caverns
  • State Arboretum of Virginia
  • Lexington Virginia

Strawberry Picking is the Perfect Family Day Trip from Washington DC.

Within a 30 minute drive from Washington DC there is a plethora of pick your own farms!  One of the first crops in season for pick your own is strawberries!

strawberry picking maryland

Strawberries are amazing from the farms in Maryland, they are bursting with flavor and so worth the trip.  Plus picking your own fruit makes for one of the best afternoon day trips from DC!

My favorite farms for picking your own strawberries in Maryland are Gorman Farms and Butler’s Orchard.

Gorman Farms offers organic strawberries, but they don’t have them every season.  Butler’s Orchard requires reservations as part of their pandemic guidelines and their tickets sell out fast, so book early!

Pick your own apples in Maryland and visiting a pumpkin patch in Maryland are also fun family-friendly day trips from DC in the fall.

Fun Date Night or Staycation from DC at Live! Casino & Hotel in Maryland

Looking for some fun indoors to escape the heat of summer?  Live! Casino & Hotel is the perfect place to get out of the city for a date night and some staycation fun.

day trip from dc

Their lux hotel rooms will have you sleeping in after a night of games!

live hotel maryland

day trip from dc

live md hotel

Or catch a show at The Hall at Live!, their new 75,000-square-foot, 3-story multi-use concert and event venue which is the LARGEST in Maryland.

Spot all the beautiful art around the hotel and even play some complimentary games like ski ball, shuffleboard, or foosball at the 212-seat Sports & Social, sports bar! 

maryland staycation

Better yet catch a game at this sports bar with a state-of-the-art AV system, more than 100 linear feet of LED screens, including a giant, 47-foot wide main screen!  The perfect experience for sports fans!

For June Live! is celebrating the traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival!  So head to their restaurant, Luk Fu because they are launching a new menu of delicious Asian delicacies.

day trip from dc

luk fu

Day Trip from DC for at Day Date:  Check Out a Winery in Maryland

A perfect way to spend a day is exploring a winery in Maryland!  This is a great day trip from DC for couples or just a few friends!  Maryland wineries offer delicious wine available by the flight and bottle at most locations.

winery maryland

Plus all most of the vineyards in Maryland offer outdoor seating, have onsite food trucks (or you can pack your own picnic), and fire pits during winter!  Some of our favorite wineries in Maryland include Windridge, Springfield Manor, and Catoctin Breeze.

Definitely add wineries in Maryland to your list of day trips from DC!

Day Trip from DC for Hiking:  Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park 

Great Falls, formally known as the Chesapeake & Ohio Cana National Historic Park, is a fun day trip from DC for the whole family!  The Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls in Maryland is my favorite because you get to do a bit of rock climbing and not to mention the incredible views of the Falls.

billy goat trail

This trail can get busy on weekends.  So I would come early if you want to hike.

If you don’t want to hike, Great Falls is still worth checking out.  There are 2 viewing platforms for you to see the falls that are just a short walk from the entrance.  

Additionally, you can just walk along the C&O Canal which is also a pleasant experience.  Usually, if you come here later in the afternoon (around 3-4 pm) it’s not busy because the park closes at sunset.  

Location:  11710 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, MD 20854

Visit Brookside Gardens

Brookside Gardens is an award-winning garden in Wheaton, Maryland.  This is one of my favorite gardens in the area and would make a great day trip from DC.

brookside gardens cherry blossoms

If you love flowers then Brookside is your best bet!  There are flowers blooming here spring all the way through the end of summer.  Cherry blossoms, tulips, and wisteria bloom in the spring.  During summer there’s a gorgeous garden of roses!

It is one of my favorite gardens to see tulips near DC!  

I’ve been here during the week and on weekends, it’s never super busy.  Plus it’s completely free!

Location:  1800 Glenallan Ave, Wheaton, MD 20902

Hours:  Sunrise to sunset, Visitor Center is currently closed

Assateague Island is the Best Summer Day Trip from DC

Assateague Island is my favorite beach in the DC metro area.  It’s about a 3-hour drive, so it’s just close enough to make a great day trip from DC.

day trip from dc beach

Assateague Island is divided into 3 parts, Assateague Maryland State Park, Assateague National Seashore, and Chincoteague (Virginia).  I’ve been to all three and I prefer the National Seashore portion because it is the least crowded.

assateague

You can access Assateague National Seashore from Maryland.  

Have fun splashing in the waves, check out the wild horses that roam the beach, enjoy the sunset over the bay, or even drive across the sand!

Feel the Zen on a Day Trip from DC to a Lavender Farm

You might be surprised to find out that we do indeed have lavender farms in the DMV!  Springfield Manor and Purple Rain Lavender are both lavender farms in Maryland that bloom in mid-June to early July.

day trip from dc

You can pick your own lavender here and does it smell amazing!  If you are closer to the Virginia side of DC, there’s Seven Oaks Lavender Farm in Virginia as well.  

Out of these three, Springfield Manor is my favorite lavender farm in Maryland.

Visit the Sunflower Fields in the Summer

There are tons of sunflower fields around the DC area.

day trip from dc

The most popular and free sunflower field is Mckee Beshers in Maryland.

Mckee Beshers

Mckee Beshers sunflowers bloom around mid-July, but if you happen to miss it there are several other sunflower fields in Maryland and Virginia that bloom later.

 

Delaware National Seashore

The beaches at Delaware Seashore State Park are stunning!

beach day trip from dc

This beach is near Rehoboth beach, but it’s a lot less crowded since there’s no boardwalk!

delaware seashore state park

At about 2.5 hours away it’s the perfect secluded beach trip from Washington DC.

 

Take a Hike to Annapolis Rock

The Annapolis Rock hike is one of my favorite hikes in Maryland.

annapolis rock sunrise

This hike is great any time of year but fall is especially stunning.  It’s a great place to see the fall foliage in Maryland.

The hike is not particularly hard and the only true uphill portion is at the beginning of the hike.

 

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is only about a 1.5-hour drive from Washington DC and makes a great day trip!

shenandoah waterfalls

Skyline Drive, the one road that goes through Shenandoah National Park is 105 miles long with 75 overlooks along the way that do not require any hiking!

things to do in virginia

However, if you are up for an adventure, there are tons of easy hikes and secret waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park to explore.  Check out this post for the specific waterfall and swimming hole hike we did (as seen on my TikTok):  Shenandoah National Park Waterfall.

Find a Swimming Hole

There are plenty of places to cool off in the wild around Washington DC besides the beach and pool.

maryland swimming hole

One of my favorite swimming lakes is Greenbrier State Park.  This man-made lake is just about 1 hour outside of DC and offers nature trails, a small beach, and swimming!  The entrance fee is $4 per person on weekends and it’s well worth it!

There are bathrooms, changing rooms, and shower facilities.

Location:  21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713

Another swimming hole near DC is in Poolesville, MD at Seneca Creek.

swimming hole poolesville maryland

We had a fun time splashing at this spot made for river tubers!  Read more on the exact location and details in this article on swimming holes in dc.

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

The Scott’s Run hike is part of the Potomac Gorge. 

scotts run hike

The preserve is just 30 minutes from Washington, D.C., and covers over 300 acres of pristine natural beauty, offering a sanctuary for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The trails are well-maintained and well-marked.

potomac gorge virginia

The best part of Scott’s Run is a short hike leads you to a magnificent waterfall!  The Scott’s Run Hike is child and pet friendly, though if you want to get to the other side of the waterfall, you must scramble up and down some rocks.  However, you are not allowed to wade or swim in the water here, and it does look inviting on a hot day!

scotts run virginia

I did this hike with my dog and my daughter!  I have a tiny dog though so I had to carry her across the creek to get to the other side of the waterfall.  If you have a bigger dog she may be able to cross on her own because it’s not deep.

The hiking distance varies depending on where you park and which path you take.  If you park in Scott’s Run Nature Preserve Parking and take the River Trail along the creek, it is 0.7 miles one way, the shortest path to the waterfall.  If you park at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve East Entrance, then the hike will be about 1.2 miles one way to reach the waterfall via Scott’s Run Trail.

scotts run trail map and parking

The two small parking lots for hiking Scott’s Run both fill up quickly on weekends.  You’ll either have to go early or wait for a spot.

Hours:  Sunrise to Sundown

Fee:  Free

Location:  7400 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA

Blackwater Falls State Park West Virginia

Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia is home to several waterfalls, with the main attraction being Blackwater Falls itself. In addition to Blackwater Falls, the park features several smaller waterfalls and cascades along the Blackwater River and its tributaries. Some notable waterfalls within the park include Elakala Falls, Pendleton Falls, and the Upper Falls.

These waterfalls offer their own unique beauty and charm, contributing to the overall enchanting atmosphere of the park. Visitors can explore the park’s trails and discover these hidden gems as they meander through the lush wilderness, providing ample opportunities to enjoy the splendor of multiple waterfalls in a single visit.

Park Attraction:

  • Blackwater Falls: The main attraction, a stunning waterfall known for its unique black color and picturesque beauty.
  • Elakala Falls: A series of four waterfalls located along Shays Run, offering scenic views and photo opportunities.
  • Lindy Point: A breathtaking overlook that provides panoramic views of the Blackwater Canyon and the surrounding forested hills.
  • Pendleton Falls: A smaller waterfall located on Pendleton Run, accessible via a short hike from the park’s main area.
  • Park Trails: Numerous hiking trails crisscross the park, allowing visitors to explore the natural beauty of the area, including the Canyon Rim Trail and the Balanced Rock Trail.
  • Blackwater Canyon: A deep and rugged gorge carved by the Blackwater River, offering spectacular views and a great spot for outdoor activities like kayaking and fishing.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, black bears, wild turkeys, and various bird species, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and photographers.
  • Picnic Areas: Scattered throughout the park, these designated picnic spots provide a peaceful setting for outdoor dining and relaxation.
  • Nature Center: Visitors can learn more about the park’s flora, fauna, and natural history at the on-site nature center, which often hosts educational programs and exhibits.
  • Camping and Cabins: The park offers options for camping and cabin rentals, allowing visitors to extend their stay and immerse themselves in the natural surroundings.

About 3 hours from D.C. Blackwater Falls can be either a day trip or a weekend trip.

This is one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever been in and it is FREE!  I was kind of shocked honestly.  All the hikes are kid and dog friendly and they are pretty easy leading to stunning scenery.

Location:  1584 Blackwater Lodge Rd, Davis, WV 26260

Shenandoah River State Park

Shenandoah River State Park is a breathtaking natural haven in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. This pristine park spans more than 1,600 acres along 5.2 miles of shoreline on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

The park’s centerpiece is the majestic Shenandoah River, whose crystal-clear waters meander through the surrounding mountains and create a serene ambiance.

The Overlook Trail viewpoint offers a grand view of the bend of the river without any hiking since there’s a parking lot right next to it!

Nature enthusiasts flock to this park to indulge in a myriad of outdoor activities, from kayaking and fishing to hiking and camping. The park’s extensive trail system leads adventurers through dense forests, revealing breathtaking vistas at every turn. Whether you’re seeking solitude and tranquility or thrilling outdoor adventures, Shenandoah River Park is a paradise that promises unforgettable experiences and lasting memories.

Location:  350 Daughter of Stars Drive, Bentonville, VA 22610

Entrance/Parking Fee:  $10

Distance from DC:  1.5 hours

Luray Caverns

Luray Caverns, located in Luray, Virginia, is a mesmerizing underground wonder that attracts visitors from near and far.  It is the largest cavern on the east coast of the United States.

luray caverns

Situated approximately 90 miles from Washington, D.C., it offers an easily accessible day trip for those craving a unique adventure. As you descend into the depths of the caverns, you’ll be awe-struck by the stunning geological formations, including majestic stalagmites and stalactites, mirrored pools, and intricate calcite formations.

Ticket prices may vary depending on the season and age of the visitor, but they typically range from $30 to $40 per adult, with discounted rates available for children.  The cost is well worth the opportunity to witness the breathtaking beauty and learn about the fascinating geological history that lies beneath the Earth’s surface at Luray Caverns.

I came here as a child with my family and recently went back with my daughter who absolutely loved it!  I’d forgotten how big it was, we spent about 1.5 hours inside the cavern.  Our favorite view was probably the Wishing Well. 

wishing well luray caverns

There are several other attractions at Luray Caverns such as a hedge maze that have an additional entrance fee, so you could spend a whole day here.

Location:  101 Cave Hill Road, Luray, Virginia, 22835

Hours:  9 am to 6 pm

Distance From DC:  2 hours

State Arboretum of Virginia / Blandy Experimental Farm

State Arboretum of Virginia sits inside Blandy Experimental Farm.  Blandy Experimental Farm, located in Boyce, is a renowned research and education center affiliated with the University of Virginia. It spans over 700 acres and serves as a hub for innovative agricultural and environmental studies.

The State Arboretum of Virginia stands in the central 172 acres of Blandy Experimental Farm. This living museum is a testament to Virginia’s rich flora, featuring over 8,000 trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants from around the world. Its serene gardens, nature trails, and scenic landscapes provide a tranquil escape for nature enthusiasts, horticulturists, and visitors seeking solace in the beauty of nature.

Visitors can explore its diverse plant collections, including the notable Ginkgo Grove and Boxwood Gardens, while learning about cutting-edge research initiatives.  300 ginkgo trees turn golden in fall!

The arboretum is child and dog friendly.

Hours:  Sunrise to Sunset

Entrance:  FREE

Location:  400 Blandy Farm Ln, Boyce, VA 22620

Distance from DC:   1 hour

 

Lexington, Virginia

Lexington, Virginia is a great jumping point for many natural wonders in Virginia.  From Lexington you can access so many adventures.

One of the best things to do in this area is Natural Bridge State Park.

things to do in virginia

The 215-foot-tall Natural Bridge is a limestone gorge carved out by Cedar Creek. Beautiful forests and rolling meadows showcase the area’s karst terrain, and vistas of surrounding mountains and the James River valley display nature’s splendor. Access these via 7 miles of hiking trails, including Cedar Creek Trail, which leads from the park’s Visitor Center under the bridge to the Monacan Indian Village and Lace Falls with its 30-foot cascade.  The park is very child friendly, my daughter was able to hike all the way to the falls.

Hours:  8 a.m. to dusk

Location:  6477 S Lee Hwy, Natural Bridge, VA 24578

Fee:  Per person admission: Ages 3‐12 – $6. Age 13 & up – $9. $5 per car at trail heads

Distance From DC:  3 hours