Escape DC on a Summer Road Trip to These Easy Nearby Destinations

It’s time for a weekend getaway from DC.

Once summer (and all of its humidity) officially descends on DC, along with a beach day, what’s also very necessary is a total escape from the District. And luckily, our region is filled with underrated cities and sleepy hamlets that make for a perfect getaway.

The possibilities are endless when planning an easy excursion from DC, whether you’re an avid hiker or if your idea of the great outdoors is lifting a glass of cabernet in a vineyard. From Delaware and Pennsylvania to Virginia or Maryland, we’ve rounded up all the intel on where to go nearby and what to do when you get there. Here are the best weekend getaways for a city escape from DC this summer.

Endhardt Vineyards
Endhardt Vineyards

Though just an hour away from DC, Loudoun County’s rolling hills will make you forget everything about city life.

The area is home to nearly 50 wineries, where you can cozy up next to a wood-burning fireplace or an outdoor firepit while sipping red and white varietals. Several new wineries opened last year, including Endhardt Vineyards in Purcellville, Old Farm Winery at Hartland, and Round Hill’s William Gap Vineyard, where you can host a private wine dinner for you and your friends.

Enjoy massages, body wraps, and other spa treatments at Salamander Resort & Spa or Landsdowne Resort & Spa. Both resorts are located in quaint towns—Middleburg and Leesburg—worth exploring for their boutiques and restaurants in eye-catching historic buildings.
Distance from DC: One hour

New art exhibits, restaurants, and bakeries make Baltimore a worthwhile eating destination to revisit this season.

If you’re looking to have a whole weekend dedicated to art, start at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where sculptures, paintings, and mixed-media comprise current exhibitions such as “Martha Jackson Jarvis: What the Trees Have Seen.” Continue your art journey on the other side of the harbor with the American Visionary Art Museum, which champions self-taught artists and hosts free events, including summer outdoor movies and workshops to train budding creatives. Families headed to the city have plenty of attractions at their disposal, including The National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Maryland Science Center, and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, whose highlights include a penguin observation center and an African Journey section with giraffes, lions and elephants. In the coming weeks, the Maryland Zoo will unveil an immersive virtual reality experience that will let guests get up close to African animals in the wild.

Baltimore is home to intriguing bars and restaurants that will keep you occupied at night. One noteworthy newcomer, Ammoora, serves Levantine specialties inside a sumptuous space within the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Federal Hill. Marta Fine Food and Spirits serves house-made pastas and other Italian fare. And for Charm City’s newest watering hole, Lane Harlan and Matthew Pierce opened an ode to their childhoods, the tropical-themed Coral Wig in the Hotel Ulysses in Mount Vernon.

If you stay the night, soak up some luxury at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, which has collaborated with plant expert Hilton Carter to offer a suite lush with greenery, available through July 31. Suite guests also get a copy of Carter’s “Living Wild” book and a botanical cocktail. Other waterfront hotels include the Sagamore Pendry Hotel and the Canopy at Harbor Point. Further inland in the historic and cultural neighborhood of Mount Vernon, the amenity-rich Black-owned Ivy Hotel makes a worthy splurge.
Distance from DC: One hour

Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay | Yvonne Navalaney/Shutterstock

Eastern Shore, Maryland

The Eastern Shore’s waterways especially woo visitors in the summer, when the Chesapeake Bay shines and crabs are in season.

Architecture buffs will find a treasure trove in downtown Easton’s rehabbed historic buildings. Bluepoint Hospitality Group has turned many into upscale restaurants, lounges, and cafes filled with eye-catching details. The newest is creperie and patisserie, P. Bordier, less than a block from popular brunch spot The Wardroom, where you can pick up wine and food products. The Roman-style pizzeria, Roma Alla Pala, is also nearby.

For a full trip focused on eating and drinking, pair wine and cheese at Crow Vineyard & Winery in Kennedyville, where you can spend the night at the property’s B&B. Or book a room at St. Michael’s newest hotel, the 34-room boutique property Wildset, and dine at its onsite seafood restaurant, Ruse. For an ultra luxurious stay, head to the waterfront Inn at Perry Cabin to relax in the spa or saltwater pool.
Distance from DC: One hour and 30 minutes

Harford and Cecil Counties, Maryland

Drivers taking I-95 to Wilmington should stop in the counties just south of the city.

For some family-friendly fun, Cecil County’s newest attraction is Great Wolf Lodge, which opened its largest location this summer in Perryville, 82 miles north of DC. With 700 family-friendly suites and 22 slides catering to beginners and thrill seekers, it’s the resort chain’s first in Maryland and 20th in North America. The resort also features attractions beyond its water features, including an immersive show in the lobby, miniature golf, a ropes course, and a live-action adventure game.

Harford County offers a bounty of outdoor experiences, including four state parks and the stunning, nationally recognized Ladew Topiary Gardens. It also boasts two charming towns, Havre de Grace and Bel Air, that are recognized arts & entertainment districts, filled with walking paths, museums, breweries and other attractions.
Distance from DC: About two hours

Delaware Art Museum
Delaware Art Museum

President Joe Biden’s hometown has long been famous for—well, for being the hometown of Joe Biden. But the waterfront Northern Delaware town’s museums, riverfront, and gardens make it much more than that, and the word is slowly getting out.

Stroll along the 1.3-mile Riverfront Wilmington for its dozens of shops, attractions, and eateries. Then, head 12 miles north to visit the famous 1,000-plus acre Longwood Gardens just over the Pennsylvania line. The botanical garden is hosting a fountain show set to music, which runs through this fall. It’s one of the attractions you can visit by purchasing the Brandywine Treasure Trail Passport, which also provides admission to the Nemours Estate, Delaware Art Museum, and nine other attractions.

After sightseeing, plan to eat at the city’s newest food hall, Chancery Market, which features seven vendors offering pizza, burgers, and Indian food, an indoor-outdoor bar, and more
Distance from DC: About two hours

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Central and Southwest Virginia

With Charlottesville’s history and a countryside dotted with wineries, Central Virginia makes a great summer getaway.

The University of Virginia campus quiets down when the students head out for summer break. Take advantage and explore the grounds with a stop at the Rotunda, Academic Village, and the room that once was Edgar Allan Poe’s dorm. For more history, trek over to Monticello and explore Thomas Jefferson’s complex and contradictory life and legacy.

The countryside around Charlottesville has abundant wineries, and Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards in North Garden and King Family Vineyards in Crozet are worth visiting for both the vintages and the views. The nearby one-street town of Gordonsville has a collection of charming shops like Folkling that curates vintage clothing and quilts and Jackson & Company Market to pick up local goods, coffee, and delicious pastries.

Visitors can also indulge in a weekend stay at the recently revamped resort Keswick Hall, a great destination for golf lovers and fans of farm-to-table dining, which also debuted its spa this year. Acclaimed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is behind the resort’s restaurant, Marigold, which sources produce from the hotel’s farm.

Outdoor enthusiasts can take the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway to explore Southwest Virginia, including Roanoke, Salem and the surrounding counties. The area features 400 miles of walking and biking trails, including the paved Roanoke River Greenway, a 14.2 mile stretch from Roanoke to Salem. For a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains, drive up Mill Mountain to the Roanoke Star.
Distance from DC: Two hours and 30 minutes

Blackwater Falls State Park
Blackwater Falls State Park | Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

The postage stamp-sized town of Thomas makes for a great summer destination and a drive. At this artistic enclave within the mountainous state of West Virginia, Thomas punches above its weight with galleries, a vintage store, a ton of pottery studios, and a seriously good coffee shop called TipTop.

The town is legendary for its honky-tonk music venue, The Purple Fiddle. On the weekends, the venue opens its doors and hosts a range of acts, from those who are early in their career to members of Americana favorites like Old Crow Medicine Show, who just happen to be passing through.

Country roads will lead you to Davis and Blackwater Falls State Park, where you can explore the 57-foot cascade, enjoy scenic views, and hike on 20 miles of trails. The recently renovated Blackwater Falls Lodge allows you to stay directly in the park with rooms offering sweeping views.
Distance from DC: About three hours

This former rust-belt town has become a magnet for food, beer, and art lovers looking for an affordable weekend of restaurant and museum hopping.

Visit the four museums that comprise the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, starting with the Warhol Museum. 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 for an orchid and bonsai show or the National Aviary.

Pittsburgh’s burgeoning food scene includes something for everyone—from nationally acclaimed vegan spot Apteka, to Spanish favorite Morcilla, to the longstanding classic German pub Max’s Allegheny Tavern.
Distance from DC: Four hours

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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. She has contributed to Conde Nast Traveler, Hemispheres, Afar, Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Plate, and others. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram and check out her Contently portfolio.
Madeline Weinfield is a Thrillist contributor.