Updated on May 9, 2023 by Julie McCool
These 10 outstanding destinations for weekend getaways near Washington DC offer spectacular nature, delicious food and drink, urban adventures, and rich history all within a 3-hour drive. Whether you crave a relaxing escape in nature or an active city experience, these getaways offer locals and visitors a weekend of fun and exploration.
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
You don't have to travel far to enjoy getaways near Washington DC. Old Town Alexandria is just across the Potomac, and it's the perfect place for a staycation near home. Happily, many of the best things to do in Alexandria are free or low-cost.
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Stroll the historic streets past colonial homes decorated with colorful doors and gardens. Be sure to visit the famous Spite House, one of the most Instagrammable spots in Northern Virginia. Stop into historic sites like the Stabler Leadbeater Apothecary to learn about Alexandria's early history.
The riverfront path is another lovely place to explore. Paved walkways link a series of parks along the Potomac River where you can relax, picnic, and enjoy water views. Take a leisurely stroll south to Jones Point Park where Washington DC's original boundary was laid. When you're ready for a meal, keep those views going at waterfront restaurants like Barca Pier and Wine Bar and Ada's on the River.
Where to Stay in Alexandria VA
Stay at The Alexandrian or the Kimpton Lorien on King Street and all of the sights, shops, and restaurants in Old Town will be steps away. You can even leave your car at home. To reach Old Town, take the Blue Line Metro to King Street – Old Town station, then walk down King Street or hop aboard the Old Town Trolley for a free ride.
Read More: Fun and Unique Things to Do in Alexandria VA
Annapolis is close enough for a summer day trip, but there is so much to do in this small capital city that we recommend a longer stay. Explore America's history at the Maryland State House and the US Naval Academy. Then, wander the streets of the compact downtown to admire the Colonial architecture. Allow time to get out on the water, on a short water taxi ride, or a longer tour of the rivers and bay.
There is a wonderful mix of great shops, restaurants, and pubs to keep you occupied. Iron Rooster and Federal House are tasty options for a meal by the waterfront. And Carol's Creek Cafe is the place to go for refined seafood with a beautiful water view.
Annapolis is not just a warm weather destination. Festive decorations and fun events make Annapolis one of the best Christmas towns to visit during the holiday season.
Where to Stay in Annapolis MD
Combine a fun pedestrian mall, delicious restaurants, world-renowned American history, with a beautiful country setting and you've got Charlottesville Virginia. Cville, as it's fondly known, is one of the best weekend getaways near Washington DC for foodies. Here you'll enjoy an excellent selection of local Charlottesville restaurants plus fantastic breweries and wineries in and near the downtown.
Allow at least a few hours to wander the downtown pedestrian mall where you can shop, dine, and enjoy live entertainment most weekends. Then tour the grounds of the University of Virginia which is, along with nearby Monticello, the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Virginia.
When you're ready to explore further, drive to Monticello for a tour of Thomas Jefferson's home. After your tour, visit Jefferson Vineyards for Virginia wine in a lovely setting. Or drive up the hill to Carter Mountain Orchard for apple picking and tasty apple cider donuts with a spectacular view.
Where to Stay in Charlottesville VA
The Residence Inn Charlottesville Downtown, a block from the pedestrian mall, is an excellent base for your visit. We also love The Draftsman Hotel, which is between the mall and UVA. Charlottesville is about 2.5 hours from Washington DC.
Chincoteague Virginia is one of the best weekend getaways near Washington DC for families. Where else will you find wild ponies made famous in a beloved children's book series? The town of Chincoteague is small and relaxed, perfect for a mini-vacation by the beach.
The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and a nice Atlantic Ocean beach sit at the eastern edge of town. Rent bikes near the refuge entrance and cycle through the refuge, watching for ponies and wildlife as you go. (The loop opens to cars in the late afternoon). Climb the Assateague Lighthouse for gorgeous views of the refuge, then head to Assateague National Seashore for some beach time on the Atlantic Ocean.
Back in town, have a meal with your toes in the sand at Ropewalk, then treat the kids to delicious homemade ice cream at Island Creamery. Be sure to get a family photo at the LOVE sign made from Adirondack chairs.
Where to Stay in Chincoteague VA
The Fairfield Inn and Suites, which has a pool and playground and is right next door to Ropewalk, is a great base for your visit. Chincoteague is just over 3 hours from Virginia by car.
A Gettysburg getaway brings Civil War history to life and offers beautiful nature and pleasant diversions away from the battlefield. The town is just 90 minutes away, and it's one of the most fascinating weekend getaways near Washington DC for history fans.
The town preserves the site of the bloodiest battle ever fought on US soil, both in Gettysburg National Military Park and in town. Tour the battlefield with a park ranger for an in-depth, customized experience that is well worth the modest fee.
You'll need a weekend (or longer) to allow time to explore all of the foodie destinations in and near the historic town. The area is beautiful in the fall, when colorful foliage, apple picking, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes fill local farms. Visit in December to see Gettysburg celebrate Christmas with decorations and festivities throughout town. The annual Gettsyburg Tuba Fest is not to be missed!
Where to Stay in Gettysburg
There are many lodging options in Gettsyburg, including modern hotels and historic inns. The Gettysburg Hotel sits right on Lincoln Square in the heart of downtown so it's a good base for walking to restaurants and shops
Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
Scenic natural beauty and iconic architectural sites combine to make Laurel Highlands Pennsylvania one of the best weekend getaways near DC for couples, outdoor enthusiasts, and Frank Lloyd Wright fans. The region's small towns, parks, and trails offer fantastic hiking, biking, scenic drives, and more.
Architecture fans can tour three incredible Frank Lloyd Wright sites—Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob, and Polymath Park. In fact, you can fully immerse yourself in Wright's work when you dine and stay at a Wright home in Polymath Park.
Laurel Highlands is perfect for an active weekend getaway with excellent hiking, biking, and paddling. At Ohiopyle State Park you can bike the Great Allegheny Passage, raft the Youghiogheny River, and hike woodland trails. Grab lunch, rent bikes, enjoy a picnic, and kick back in the quaint town of Ohiopyle. The Falls Market Restaurant and General Store is a popular spot for tasty burgers and people-watching.
Where to Stay in Laurel Highlands PA
Book your stay at Nemacolin Resort for a weekend of relaxed luxury and fun. Unique on-site experiences include top-rated golf, a wildlife park (be sure to see the rare white buffalo), ziplines, and a fun Jeep adventure course. Seven Springs Mountain Resort is a great choice for families, and they offer year-round activities from winter skiing to summer festivals on the mountain
Laurel Highlands is in southwestern Pennsylvania, just over 3 hours from Washington DC by car.
Just 20 minutes from the heart of DC, National Harbor is a fun, family-friendly spot for a break from your routine. Kids will find plenty of unique things to do. They can ride the Ferris wheel, climb the giant sculpture emerging from the sand, and shop at the Peeps store.
National Harbor makes a great couples weekend getaway from Washington DC too. Take a romantic spin on the Capital Wheel at night or book a boat ride on the Potomac. Dine and drink at one of the many restaurants and bars. Do some eclectic shopping or take the free shuttle to the nearby outlet mall. Of course you can also just relax and soak up the views.
Visit during the holidays to enjoy the annual Christmas on the Potomac and ICE! exhibit at the Gaylord which includes an elaborate holiday light show.
Where to Stay at National Harbor
AC Hotel National Harbor was our host during one visit, and we loved the relaxed European vibe and excellent breakfast buffet. The Gaylord National Resort is another good choice, especially for families and groups.
You'll find fresh seafood and wine, beautiful nature, and interesting history on a relaxing weekend getaway on Virginia's Northern Neck. It's only a 90-minute drive from DC to the northern end of the neck, but allow time for a leisurely drive to the southern tip.
There are three Virginia State Parks on the Northern Neck, and each offers easy hiking trails. American history buffs should definitely visit George Washington's Birthplace, where America's first president spent his first 3 years. Nearby Stratford Hall offers tours of the birthplace and family home of Robert E. Lee.
Oysters are a highlight of the Neck and you can sample them at restaurants and oyster farms on the Virginia Oyster Trail. Happily, local oysters pair perfectly with wines from Dog and Oyster, Ingleside, and other local vineyards.
Where to Stay on Virginia's Northern Neck
Once you reach the southern end of the peninsula, check-in for a night of two at the beautiful Tides Inn. Here you'll enjoy delicious dining, gorgeous views, and fun activities on and near the water. Check availability and book your stay at The Tides Inn or read more Tides Inn reviews on TripAdvisor. There are also several nice inns, lodges, and B&Bs sprinkled throughout the quaint towns of the Northern Neck.
A Richmond Virginia getaway is easy to enjoy because this cool, capital city has so much to offer. In fact, the city made Travel and Leisure's list of best places to travel in 2016.
Downtown Richmond sits at the edge of the James River, and the city takes full advantage of the riverfront area. Take the cool pedestrian footbridge for a hike with history on Belle Isle, or cross the T Tyler Potterfield Bridge for excellent river and city views. Richmond is packed with cool murals and interesting history, and you can see both on the Canal Walk.
National Geographic highlighted Virginia's capital as a foodie destination, and you'll find excellent restaurants in every price range. Visit some of Richmond's neighborhoods to dine at favorite spots like Kuba Kuba in The Fan, Perly's Deli in the Arts District, and Lunch or Supper in Scott's Addition. Richmond also has a lot of excellent breweries and some fun rooftop bars.
Where to Stay in Richmond VA
Stay in one of the downtown Richmond hotels and you'll have easy access to the riverfront and historic areas. The Jefferson is our top choice for a romantic weekend getaway in Richmond. For a more casual atmosphere, try the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown which is a little closer to the river.
It's especially impressive when fall foliage covers the mountains, but Shenandoah National Park is a beautiful year-round destination. Fortunately, the park is only a 2-hour drive from Washington DC.
You can enjoy spectacular vistas from the 75 overlooks, but get out on the trails if you can. Choose from short hikes to gorgeous Virginia views, enjoy one of three easy Stony Man Mountain hikes, or tackle a longer day hike on the Appalachian Trail.
Off the trail, learn about the park's geology and history at two Visitor Centers. And stop in the two park lodges—Skyland and Big Meadows—for a meal and souvenir shopping. You'll find many of the best overlooks, hikes, and stops in Shenandoah's Central District.
Where to Stay in Shenandoah National Park
It's easiest to cover all 105 miles of Skyline Drive if you stay in one of the park's campgrounds or lodges. The lodge at Skyland has a central location and beautiful views from some of the rooms. In fact, you can even hike from lodge-to-lodge in Shenandoah on the Appalachian Trail.
You'll also find inexpensive hotels in nearby towns like Luray and Front Royal. Or rent a condo at Massanutten Resort (they have a fantastic indoor-outdoor waterpark!), 20 minutes west of the park, and enjoy a day in nearby Harrisonburg.
The Shenandoah Valley is a convenient and beautiful destination for weekend getaways near Washington DC. Make Winchester Virginia your base and you are surrounded by mountains, forests, and valley farms.
Start your visit in Old Town Winchester on the pedestrian mall. The mall is lined with unique shops, historic sites, and some of the best Winchester restaurants and breweries. If this is a family getaway, take the kids for some hands-on learning fun at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. And everyone deserves a homemade ice cream treat from Red Fox Creamery.
The nearby Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is a must-visit for art and nature lovers. Stroll through the gorgeous Glen Burnie Gardens, take a hike on the museum trails, and see the permanent and rotating art galleries. Drive beyond the downtown to explore country roads, visit pumpkin patches and farm stands, and go apple picking. After all, Winchester Virginia is known as the “Apple Capital.”
Stay at The George Washington Hotel and you'll be steps from the Old Town mall. The historic hotel has been beautifully renovated and be sure to visit the indoor pool designed to resemble a Roman bath. Check availability and rates at the George Washington Hotel and nearby Winchester lodging.
These fantastic destinations make ideal weekend getaways near Washington DC, especially when you want to limit travel time. Use our list and links to plan your own outdoor adventure, romantic stay, family fun, time with friends, or solo break.
Plan more weekend escapes with these related guides:
- 23 Fantastic Weekend Getaways From Washington DC
- 22 Fabulous Romantic Getaways from Washington DC
- 17 Amazing Northern Virginia Airbnb and Vacation Rentals