There are countless things to do in Washington DC, but sometimes it is nice to escape the crowds and explore the surrounding area. It is also nestled in between a few states, so if you are on a quest to see all 50 of the US states, like I am, a trip to DC will give you ample opportunity to explore a few new ones. Here are a few of my favorite short trips from DC. For my favorite spots in Washington DC, check out My Top Ten Highlights in Washington DC.
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National Harbor, Maryland
Although I love DC, it is an intense place to visit. It is an exploration of America’s history, good and bad. During my one week visit to DC, I definitely needed a night of frivolousness. National Harbor is a neighborhood resting on the Potomac River in Maryland overlooking the George Washington Bridge. At National Harbor you will find many great restaurants with water views. We especially enjoyed Bond 45 for steaks. You can get a unique view over the Potomac of DC’s monuments from the top of the Capital Ferris Wheel. The open-air mail has many cute stores for shopping and cute statues all along the boulevards of figures from popular culture. If you want to stay in the area, the Hampton Inn and Suites is right in the middle of the action. You can catch the water shuttle from the national mall in DC to this area.
This colonial city predates Washington DC. Alexandria’s cobblestone King Street will take you back in history while enjoying modern restaurants and shopping. You catch the free trolley up and down the street or do a self-guided walking tour. My son loves ghost tours, so we checked one out, but it was not among my favorites, like the one I did in Salem, Massachusetts and Quebec, Canada.
There are a few great museums right off of King Street, which the free trolley has many stops on. Our favorites are the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum and the Gatsby’s Tavern Museum. You can read about them on Visit Alexandria.
Walk Among the Huge Planes and the Space Shuttle Discovery at the Dulles Location of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
This museum is an adjunct to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in DC. That museum has many exhibits squished into a comparatively small space . This museum, set in airplane hangars, is all about the flying machines- small to ginormous. Our favorites were the space shuttle, the Concorde and the very stealth Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. It is amazing to think that the Blackbird flew unseen for so many years. There are also fighter planes from many countries, even planes that are currently being used by the military. It is worth checking out the airplane hospital hanger where you can see planes being restored. You can also take an elevator from inside the building to a glass-walled observation deck for a spectacular view of the planes taking off and landing at Dulles Airport.
Although it is harder to get to, this museum is phenomenal if you have any interest in things that fly. Not only is entry free, but you can get a free, and very informative, tour at 10:30 and 1. Get more details about the tour here. Find out how to get to Dulles Air & Space from Washington DC here.
What are your favorite day trips outside of Washington, DC? Please let me know in the comments. After you visit DC, you can drive onto West Virginia and Kentucky like I did. Gotta love a US road trip!