Best 5 day trips near Washington D.C.

Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

Not everyone can afford a week-long vacation in a distant paradise. For many of us, time and budget constraints make such a getaway seem like a distant dream, especially if you’re planning a family trip. The cost of vacations, from travel to accommodation and meals, can quickly spiral out of control. But fear not, there's a more budget-friendly way to escape the daily grind, even if it's just for a day.

Day trips are great because they are a fraction of the price of a vacation, and you get to sleep in your bed once the activities for the day have ended. There is a chance you’ll eat out once or twice and possibly even pick up a couple of souvenirs, but it won’t wreck your budget like a fancy vacation. In Washington, D.C., the hustle and bustle can get old quickly, and many people need to recharge away from so much ruckus. Why not take a lovely short break to one of these 10 day trip locations?

Top 5 Day Trips

1. Harper's Ferry, West Virginia: 2 hours away

Harper's Ferry is a beautiful small town in northern West Virginia, near Washington, D.C., Witnessing the Shenandoah and Potamac rivers gracefully merging among the moss-covered rocks and boulders in the rivers. The small town is exactly that: a small town. However, this small town has a fantastic vibe that's hard to pass up. There's even a hostel in the neighborhood if you need to stay a little longer for dirt cheap. Harper's Ferry National Park is gorgeous, and it is a Civil War Museum and Fort that once belonged to John Brown. The Appalachian Trail meanders its way through the wilderness. Start at the Visitor's Center, as directed by a traveler on TripAdvisor, and work your way down the main street, where you will find lots of unique shops and other small oddities. You will not want to miss this wonderful town.

2. Luray Caverns, Virginia: 45 minutes - 1 hour away

Located just west of Luray, Virginia, lies Luray Caverns. Exploring the largest and most popular caverns in the eastern U.S. will fill you with a sense of awe as you wind through the intricate cave system. Some of the ceilings are an incredible 10 stories high, and some of the rooms are enormous, considering this is all taking place under your feet, underground. The cave is ready for visitors with its well-lit walkways and fantastic rock formations.

3. Annapolis, Maryland: 45 minutes away

Maryland's beautiful capital, Annapolis, is just a hop and a skip away from the always intense and busy Washington D.C.; in fact, you can be relaxing in Annapolis after a short 45-minute drive. Coined "a museum without walls," Annapolis is dressed in four centuries of architecture. It's also known for its nautical heritage, which involves sailboat racing on Wednesday nights. The quaint town is adorable and boasts many unique and wonderful shops along the main street through town. If you wish to add a splash of nature to your escape from D.C., check out the small, eight-acre Annapolis park.

4. Shenandoah Skyline Drive, Virginia: 1.5 hours away

The Shenandoah mountains are magnificent, and honestly, that term is not enough to describe the Shenandoah. The Shenandoah National Park feels like you've traveled to a different country entirely. It is hard to imagine this wild place existing so close to the capital of the U.S. This is an excellent place for a day trip if you are lucky enough to be close enough for such. There is much to see and more to experience, so while a day trip is lovely, spending a week in the Shenandoah mountains and experiencing the phenomenal night sky belongs on all bucket lists. For a quick day trip, Skyline Drive, which runs through the most scenic areas of the park, offers frequent pull-offs for photos without wrecks.

5. Rocks State Park, Maryland: 1.5 hours away

Maryland is no stranger to fabulous parks, and Rocks State Park is on the list. The 855-acre park is a nice escape from the nearby busy cities. Within Rocks State Park, visitors will find a rocky landscape in the heart of the wilderness. Bring your lunch to enjoy at one of the picnic areas, then go on a 3.5-mile hike through the park. Once you become sweat-drenched with tired legs from navigating the boulders, take a well-needed and quite fabulous break tubing or kayaking down Deer Creek.