Travel

Head Out Of Washington DC For These Scenic Road Trips

From the mountains to the Main Streets.

Nestled between Maryland and Virginia and surrounded by several states within a short drive, DC’s location makes it easy to take road trips and explore nearby destinations. As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts air travel, there’s never been a better time for travelers to explore nearby cities, waterfront towns, and mountain escapes. So prep your playlists and download your podcasts for the trip because we’ve rounded up easy weekend getaways near DC -- with information on what’s open and the latest social distancing guidelines.

Chesapeake Bay, Virginia

Distance from DC: Two hours

Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay region is brimming with state parks and scenic waterfront spots. Hike the trails or rent a kayak on the Potomac River’s Northern Neck at Westmoreland State Park in Montross. Note that the visitor center and campgrounds are open, but the outdoor swimming pool is closed for the season. Head to Belle Isle State Park in Lancaster where you can enjoy seven miles of shoreline and birdwatching. Note that the visitor center is closed.

The area is home to quaint B&Bs and the recently refreshed Tides Inn. Stay in a Victorian charmer Kilmarnock Inn or a Greek Revival mansion Essex Inn Bed and Breakfast. Irvington’s the Tides Inn reopened in May after implementing new cleaning and safety standards. The hotel offers several restaurants, electric boats for rental, culinary classes and a makerspace featuring artists and art classes.

Rye Street Tavern
Rye Street Tavern

Baltimore, Maryland

Distance from DC: One hour

Baltimore has established itself as a destination all its own, with a vibrant food and drink scene and diverse neighborhoods -- each with its own individual character. Several attractions have reopened for the time being, including The National Aquarium in Baltimore, which is open at 25% capacity, with required face coverings and temperature checks for guests. Or make a reservation to see the penguins and polar bears at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

Take advantage of outdoor dining while the warm weather lasts. Businesses, community groups, and city officials have created popup outdoor dining spaces in Fells Point, Canton, Mount Vernon and Downtown, after transforming vacant lots and parking spaces. Chow down on arepas at Canton’s Alma Cocina Latina, tacos at Remington’s Clavel Mezcaleria, and comfort food at Water for Chocolate while sitting in their newly reopened outdoor spaces. In Hampden, enjoy Indian tapas at the Verandah Kitchen, Spanish small plates at La Cuchara, and Italian at Cosima. Elsewhere in the city, enjoy al fresco dining at Port Covington’s Rye Street Tavern, which recently unveiled expanded outdoor seating and beer garden with a waterfront view. 

The city offers plenty of outdoor drinking options as well at Guinness Open Gate Brewery, Monument City Brewing, Union Craft Brewing and its new sister wine venue the Wine Collective. Check out the newly opened Whitehall Market, whose vendors include Crust by Mack bakery, Cucina Luchadoras Taqueria and Heritage by Chef Ray Eugenio among the vendors. Enjoy dining by the Jones Falls River at True Chesapeake Oyster Co.

Charlottesville, Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia | Sanjay Suchak

Charlottesville, Virginia

Distance from DC: Two hours, 30 minutes

While best known for its historic neoclassical University of Virginia campus or Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Charlottesville possesses surrounding natural wonders, and a quaint pedestrian-friendly downtown with plenty of outdoor restaurants, including Bashir’s Taverna, Christian’s Pizza, and Sal’s Caffe Italia. Wine lovers should explore the Monticello Wine Trail, which lists half a dozen wineries that have reopened with outdoor seating. Don a face mask to purchase bottles from the Black-owned Wisdom Oak Winery and visit one of these Black-owned restaurants in Charlottesville

Outdoor enthusiasts and leaf peepers will find few places as resplendent as Shenandoah National Park, which has reopened campgrounds, lodges, and concessions. Drive the 105-mile scenic Skyline Drive (about three hours) or explore the hiking trails. Stay overnight at the Massanutten Resort, which offers mountain biking, golf, and other outdoor recreation on its 6,000 sprawling acres. Check out its new social distancing and cleaning policies.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Distance from DC: Four hours

This former rust-belt town has become a magnet for food, beer, and arts lovers looking for an affordable weekend of restaurant and museum hopping. The four museums that comprise the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, have reopened with new guidelines in place for visitors, including timed reservations and requiring guests to wear face masks. Make the Warhol Museum your first stop on a cultural tour. Featuring exhibits and interactive experiences on eight floors, it’s bound to enhance your appreciation of pop art’s most famous proponent. Nature and bird lovers can head to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and the National Aviary.
 
Pittsburgh officials have sectioned off sections of areas in several neighborhoods to facilitate outdoor dining. Some of the best bets for al fresco dining include food hall Federal Gallery, which contains four restaurants and a bar, brewpub Church Brew Works and the Porch at Schenley.

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland

Distance from DC: Three hours

With abundant state parks and a freshwater lake that covers 3,900 acres, Deep Creek Lake offers the perfect escape for your socially distant getaway. While the visitor center is currently closed, Deep Creek Lake State Park’s hiking and biking trails, picnic tables, and boat ramps are open. Watersports enthusiasts can rent a boat, kayak, or paddleboard. Stay overnight in one of the park’s cabins or 112 campsites. 
 
Other adventures await at Wisp Resort, which has implemented new post-COVID-19 measures, including more frequent cleaning and sanitizing common rooms and guest rooms. Take a scenic chairlift ride to relish the aerial view unobstructed by snow or play a round of golf.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Distance from DC: Two hours, 20 minutes

Drive through the rolling hills in bucolic Pennsylvania Amish country and stop at area roadside stands selling produce from nearby farms. Many of the tours and activities have reopened with reduced capacity and increased sanitation measures. First-time visitors eager to deepen their knowledge of Amish life can stop at Amish Village to tour an 1840s farmhouse while wearing a face mask. Be sure to stop at a country store to pick up whoopie and shoofly pies, freshly baked cinnamon buns, and other goods.
 
For a more urban experience, discover antique shops and local boutiques on the 300 Block of North Queen Street in downtown Lancaster. The walkable historic downtown is also home to Lancaster Brewing, where you can sit outside and drink Shoo-Fly Pie Porter. Dine at gastropub the Pressroom Restaurant, which recently reopened its indoor space along with outdoor dining. The trip downtown wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Lancaster Central Market, which houses more than 60 vendors selling locally sourced meat, poultry and cheese.

Easton, Maryland

Distance from DC: One hour, 30 minutes

While St. Michael’s might get all the glory, this neighboring Talbot County town is building a reputation as an idyllic getaway for food and art lovers. Dubbed the cultural capital of the Easton Shore, the town is home to many reopened art galleries, including Studio B Art Gallery and the Trippe Gallery. Just don a mask before entering. The annual open-air arts festival Plein Air Easton runs through July 19 and is relying on smaller events that are more socially distant. Architecture buffs will find a treasure trove in downtown Easton’s rehabbed historic buildings. Bluepoint Hospitality Group has many of them and turned them into glitzy restaurants, lounges, and cafes filled with priceless art and eye-catching details, all of which have reopened. 
 
Dine indoors at  The Stewart whiskey lounge, which boasts two paintings from Peter Caulitz, a court painter to Frederick the Great, and a single-malt Scotch collection worth half-a-million dollars. Fine dining establishment Bas Rouge displays an Austrian Lobmeyr crystal chandelier as the focal point. Offering indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant is hosting renowned visiting chefs on Fridays and Saturdays this month. Paying homage to Coco Chanel’s middle name, ice cream shop, Bonheur features outdoor tables where you can enjoy classic ice cream, pies, and root beer floats.

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Julekha Dash is a Maryland food, travel, and arts writer who is always looking for her next weekend getaway in the Mid-Atlantic. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram and check out her Contently portfolio.