With so much happening in the nation’s capital, many residents are looking a bit of respite from the hubbub. Luckily, the mid-Atlantic coast is rife with day trips and excursions within two hours of Washington D.C.
The Best Day Trips from D.C.
These landmarks, parks, and outdoor spaces are excellent places to visit and shake off the cabin fever vibes. Wherever you decide to visit, be sure to wear a face covering and to check the public health restriction in place at your destination.
Designed and constructed by the third President of the United States (and author of the Declaration of Independence), Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s primary residence. He began building the estate, which recently reopened to the public, in his mid-twenties and continued construction all the way up until his death. He was buried on the grounds in an area now known as the Monticello Cemetery. Jefferson had quite the green thumb and today Monticello visitors can stroll through the expansive gardens. He grew over 330 kinds of vegetables and the 1,000-foot garden is still in operation today. They’re also growing 170 different kinds of fruits and have started a botanical laboratory for ornamental plants. The estate is currently accepting timed-entry reservations and operating at limited capacity. Face masks are required for all staff and visitors.
Ladew Topiary Gardens
The Ladew Topiary Gardens are in Maryland, 2 hours from Washington D.C. by private car. Named one of the “10 Incredible Topiary Gardens Around the World” by Architecture Digest, Ledew has more than 100 topiaries and beautiful indoor gardens around the property. The Butterfly House is a popular attraction where docents regale visitors about the life cycle and other facts about the 20 different butterfly species that live there. The 22-acre property is divided into “garden rooms,” or themed topiary gardens. There are currently almost 25 garden rooms including the ever-popular Rose Garden, Wildflower Meadow, and Temple of Venus. To enjoy the gardens and nature walk, prospective visitors must reserve time-entry tickets in advance.
Antietam National Battlefield
So many Civil War battles were fought in Virginia and Antietam National Battlefield is a great place to take a deep dive into history without venturing more than 2 hours from D.C. The brutal exchange between Union and Confederate troops lasted 12 hours and 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing by the end of the battle. Hike or cycle past Dunker Church which was used as a medical outpost towards the end of the battle. The church’s facade still retains the scars from hundreds of bullets and other artillery fire. Pay respects at Antietam National Cemetery or wander the grounds looking at the monuments to the fallen. The visitor center is currently closed due to COVID-19 but the park roads and trails are open. The Observation Tower is due to reopen in late July pending the completion of repairs on the inside structures.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is a quiet, natural oasis just over an hour from the bustle of Washington D.C. The long, slender park runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River Valley. The 105-mile Skyline Drive is a popular way to explore the length of the park and take in the sweeping vistas. Hikers and backpackers flock to this park because of the numerous, cascading waterfalls hidden throughout the woodlands. It’s a great park for social distancing; there are more than 500 miles of trails, 101 miles are part of the famous Appalachian Trail. Shenandoah is also home to hundreds of indigenous plants and animals to observe from a safe distance in their natural habitat.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was originally established in 1933 as a sanctuary for waterfowl. Today, the refuge is home to lots of plants and animals while still providing a safe haven for migratory bird species along the Atlantic Flyway. It is often referred to as the “Everglades of the North” because it contains 33% of Maryland’s tidal wetlands. The drive from Washington D.C. to the refuge takes just under 2 hours to complete, leaving a large portion of the day free to explore the 28,000-acre site. There are hiking trails meandering through the deciduous and hardwood forests; keep an eye out for the bald eagles roosting in the canopy. With appropriate permits and restrictions, visitors can hunt turkey and deer or go fishing and crabbing in the tidal waters.