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Washington D.C., Baltimore and Annapolis form a triangle, so you're never more than 30 minutes away from a great day trip. If you're staying in D.C. and you've had enough of the national landmarks, top-notch eateries and Georgetown's amazing shopping, there are plenty of outings you can take.
During the summer, Annapolis is far and away one of the best destinations. (Of course, I'm a little biased considering I grew up there.) With the Chesapeake Bay teeming with blue crabs and sailboats, and historic downtown Annapolis' charming brick streets, it's a refreshing break from the busy — and touristy — day in D.C. One of my favorite things to do in the summer is hop on the boat and head over to Cantler's (officially known as Jimmy Cantler's Riverside Inn) for what may be the best crabs on the East Coast (in my opinion, of course). It's also fun — tourist or not — to explore the U.S. Naval Academy. It's downtown and right on the water; don't forget your photo I.D. to get access to campus.
Another fun day trip is Baltimore. Like Annapolis and D.C., Charm City sits on the water with a massive harbor (the Inner Harbor) as its centerpiece. There are tons of things to do in Baltimore, both historic and contemporary. For history buffs, don't miss Fort McHenry where Francis Scott Key penned "The Star Spangled Banner." Just walking around the Inner Harbor is fun, too. There are museums, shops, restaurants and even paddleboats. Come summertime, baseball fans flock to Camden Yards to cheer on the beloved Baltimore Orioles. And when August rolls around, everyone soars over to M&T Bank Stadium to root for the Super Bowl XLVII champs, the Baltimore Ravens.
If you happen to be in the nation's capital in the fall, you're in for a treat. Head south out of the city and drive down to The Inn at Little Washington. It's about 70 miles outside of D.C. and it's well worth the drive any time of year. But there's something about driving through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains when the leaves are bursting with rich red, gleaming gold and vibrant orange hues. And when you get to the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel, which you should've booked a room at well in advance, get ready for the meal of a lifetime. Chef Patrick O'Connell has retained Five-Stars for both his hotel and restaurant for more than two decades.
After an early renaissance that was, for some wineries, as rocky as Burgundian soil, Virginia vineyards are blooming into their full potential. For one-stop tasting, head to Early Mountain Vineyards where owners Steve and Jean Case have created a hub for showcasing Virginia wines and food. Opened just last year at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the tasting room offers sips from ten or so different Virginia wineries, including the spectacular Linden, Barboursville, and Thibaut-Janisson labels. Our favorite comes from Early Mountain’s own property, a lush 2008 Merlot.
Early Mountain shows off the state’s terroir by matching local artisanal foods with their wines in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. Antipasti plates of famed Virginia ham and local cow- and goat-milk cheeses paired with vino taste even better when sinking into one of the long room’s plush couches. Live music and a blazing fireplace welcome imbibers from 6 to 8 pm Fridays in the winter, and there’s a picnic space for warmer weather. Or buy a sandwich to-go from the Marketplace and take a stroll through nearby Shenandoah National Park, where the wildflowers arrive in March and April.
Another fantastic destination for locavores is The Inn at Perry Cabin, which recently added five hives that house 80,000 bees. The Inn’s chef uses their honey in dishes, and massage therapists incorporate the honey in treatments at the Linden spa.
The greater Washington, D.C. area offers a wealth of opportunity for day trippers. From Virginia to Maryland and beyond, many wonderful attractions are within an easy day's drive. Here are a few of our favorites:
The home of our first president is just a 15-minute drive from Washington, D.C. and a great time of year to visit is during the holiday season, when the historic home opens for evening candlelit tours. The onsite distillery is also quite popular.
There are several dozen wineries within an hour's drive of the city. Most are located down Route 66 and offer low-cost tastings on weekends. Many also allow you to bring your own picnic or a furry friend or two, making this an ideal escape when the weather is nice.
Just over an hour outside Washignton, Skyline drive is one of the area's most scenic escapes. The parkway winds along the Blue Ridge Mountains, which begin in Virginia. Hike, horseback ride, camp or simply take a drive and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. If you'd like to extend your stay, you can drive almost all the way to nearby Charlottesville from the park. Here, you can enjoy a tour of University of Virginia, a number of wineries and James Madison's Montpelier, to name a few.
This historic Maryland capital is just a 45-minute drive from Washington, D.C. and is quite popular as a local escape. Take a boat ride on the harbor, walk up Main Street and enjoy quaint shops and restaurants, or tour the United States Naval Academy.