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These 15 fantastic Virginia day trips near Washington DC offer fun and interesting places to visit, whether you’ve got a few hours or a full day to explore. From parks and hikes; to towns, historic sites, and museums; to local wineries and breweries; you’ll find day trips for every interest on our list.
Parks, Hikes, and Nature Near Washington DC
The Potomac River separates Virginia and DC, providing many opportunities for exploration along it’s banks. The George Washington Memorial Parkway, a national parkway linking historic and natural sites, also follows the river. These parks and natural areas are ideal for sunny Virginia day trips near Washington DC.
Great Falls Park and the Potomac Heritage Trail, Great Falls
Chase waterfalls, hike along beautiful Mather Gorge, and play on land once surveyed by George Washington at Great Falls Park, part of the US National Park system. The Potomac Heritage Trail follows the banks of the river, linking several parks with nice hiking, including Scotts Run, Difficult Run, Riverbend Park, and Seneca Park.
Theodore Roosevelt Island, Arlington
Just across the river from the Kennedy Center, Theodore Roosevelt Island is actually in DC, but the access bridge and parking are in Virginia. Combine your visit with a bike ride on the Mount Vernon trail, or extend your hike on the Potomac Heritage Trail to Windy Run.
The GW Parkway begins at Great Falls Park and ends at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The scenic road ties together natural and historic sites along the way, including the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.
Mason Neck State Park and Gunston Hall, Lorton
For a closer look at the estuaries and marshes that feed into the Chesapeake Bay, head to Mason Neck, a peninsula south of DC. Mason Neck State Park has family-friendly trails and seasonal boating, and the adjacent wildlife area protects an important bald eagle habitat. Take a tour of Gunston Hall for a dose of colonial American history. Here, George Mason developed many of the core principles of the United States Bill of Rights.
Shenandoah National Park Day Trip
You’ll need a full day to visit Shenandoah National Park, and even then you won’t have time to cover everything in the park. Focus on the Central District for access to some of the best views, hikes, and stops within the National Park.
Town and Cities Perfect for a Day Trip Near Washington DC
Home to three US Presidents, Thomas Jefforson’s Monticello, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville is the only UBESCO World Heritage site in the state. This college town is not all about history though. You’ll find a great foodie scene, several craft breweries, beautiful wineries, and a vibrant downtown pedestrian area in C’ville.
Foodies, brew lovers, and urban hikers love Richmond, Virginia’s vibrant capital city. Raft in the James River or take the cool pedestrian bridge to Belle Isle and lounge along the riverbank. Stroll the Canal Walk and explore the downtown core, which mixes modern bars and restaurants with historic architecture and a cool collection of murals.
The small, quaint town of Clifton is a true contrast to DC. Check out the historic buildings and grab a bite downtown, take a hike on the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail, and relax at the closest winery to the city. It’s a relaxing stop without many distractions, and sometimes that’s the point of choosing Virginia day trips near Washington DC.
The streets of downtown Leesburg are lined with historic buildings, now occupied by tasty restaurants, fun bars, antique stores, and local shops. Stop in town while exploring the farms, wineries, breweries, and dirt roads of Loudoun County, a premier Virginia wine region (see more stops below).
Further west, Purcellville is a good base for exploring more breweries, a fantastic distillery, and some great eats. Outdoor lovers can jump on the Washington and Old Dominion bike trail (which travels 45 miles back to DC) or hike the Appalachian Trail to Raven Rocks.
Drink Local at Virginia Wineries and Breweries
Hike and Beer or LoCo Ale Trail, Loudoun County
Day trippers who want to combine a little effort with a local craft beer should peruse our Hike and Beer outings. They all link a beautiful Virginia hike with one of the state’s growing craft breweries. If you’d rather skip the hike and focus on the brews, grab your designated driver and select a few stops on the LoCo Ale Trail, which winds through Loudoun County.
Hike and Wine or Wineries with a View, Northern Virginia
If wine is your preference, we’ve got a selection of short and lovely hike and wine options that make fit and happy Virginia day trips near Washington DC. If you’d rather skip the hike and get right to the wine, point your designated driver to these six Virginia wineries with beautiful views.
Explore History Near Washington DC
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington
Walk or bus across the river from the Lincoln Memorial to visit Arlington National Cemetery, the closest in our list of Virginia day trips near Washington DC. While you can cover the basic bus tour in a couple of hours, we highly recommend a slower walk through this hallowed ground.
Manassas National Battlefield, Manassas
Manassas National Battlefield was the site of two important U.S. Civil War battles. The first, gave locals hope that the war would be over quickly. The second, a year into the conflict, underscored the unpredictable and devastating impact of the ongoing war. Driving and hiking trails help visitors understand both battles and their role in the war.
Smithsonian Air and Space Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly
For aviation lovers, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is a highlight of a DC visit. Continue to explore the history of air and space travel at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. The museum houses highlights of the Smithsonian collection too large for the DC space, including a Space Shuttle, Concorde, Blackhawk, and other stars of aviation.
These Virginia day trips near Washington DC offer fun all year long. Parks and hikes are particularly beautiful in spring when wildflowers line the trails and green fills the forest, and when fall foliage emerges. Wherever you go, avoid driving during rush hour if at all possible.
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