From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Perhaps the most famous city within America, Washington DC (formally the District of Columbia) is the capital of the USA, and it borders the states of Maryland and Virginia. It’s also famous for its neoclassical monuments and buildings, with the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court all immediately coming to mind.
It was named for George Washington, the first president of the United States and a Founding Father, and is also one of the most visited cities in the country, attracting more than 20 million visitors each year.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Washington has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Washington, DC? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
DC offers plenty of peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle. There are plenty of state parks and national parks both within and surrounding the area, all of which provide a tranquil escape for those looking to surround themselves by nature.
Just over a half-hour drive from Washington is Rosaryville State Park, a 982-acre day-use park with miles of trails for hiking, biking and equestrians. The park is also the location of the historic Mount Airy Mansion, a historic home with an intriguing past. Additionally, archery-only hunting for deer is permitted in a 460-acre designated hunting area.
Just over a 40-minute drive from the city is the scenic Seneca Creek State Park, which is a perfect location for a quiet picnic admiring the surroundings. It’s home to Seneca Creek, as it winds its way to the Potomac River, as well as the 90-acre Clopper Lake, making it a great region for boating. Other activities on offer here include hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling.
Leesylvania State Park is nestled along the tidal shores of the historic Potomac River, where Native Americans lived for thousands of years. It’s just a 45-minute drive from Washington, but allows for plenty of outdoor recreation, including hiking, picnicking, fishing and boating. There are also family-friendly facilities on-site, including a playground, snack bar and store, visitor center, and gift shop.
The popular and stunning Patapsco Valley State Park is just less than an hour’s drive from Washington, and trust us, it’s a must-visit! It encompasses 16,043 acres and eight developed recreational areas, and is home to its namesake, the Patapsco River. From hiking, fishing, camping, and canoeing, to horseback and mountain bike trails, as well as picnicking – there’s plenty to do here!
If you’re craving seeing even more of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Washington, then there are also plenty of hiking and walking trails for you and your family to enjoy.
Located within Rock Creek Park is the Western Ridge Trail, Rock Creek, Valley Trail, which is an 8.4 kilometer loop trail rated as moderate. It’s accessible year-round and provides plenty of scenery, as well as the chance to see wildlife up close. It can get crowded, and dogs are allowed too – just make sure they’re on a leash!
Also located within Rock Creek Park is the Boulder Bridge Loop, which is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips. It’s 4.8 kilometers in length and passes by a river, giving you tranquillity and beautiful scenery. Be sure to use a hiking trail app or map, however, as sometimes the path isn’t quite so clearly marked.
Within Theodore Roosevelt Island is perhaps the most popular hike of the region – a 4.8 kilometer heavily trafficked loop trail located right near Washington. There are water views basically the entire way and it’s accessible year-round, providing the perfect walking or running trail for nature lovers. The wooded trail also features a boardwalk over swamp, so there’s plenty of variety to keep hikers of all levels entertained.
There are endless opportunities to explore right within DC. Between the historic neighborhoods or parks like the National Mall, you can bet on beautiful scenery anywhere you end up.
Washington is home to a bustling and trendy dining scene, so there’s sure to be a restaurant, café, or diner to satisfy your cravings. If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long hike, or simply feel like treating yourself to a delicacy, then you’re in luck. Here are our top restaurant recommendations!
Who doesn’t love a 7-day oyster happy hour between the hours of 3 and 5? At Old Ebbitt Grill, you can enjoy this and so much more, including menu item favorites such as Reuben sandwich, Buffalo chicken burger, shrimp linguine, and more. The Old Ebbitt Grill is also Washington's oldest saloon, as it was founded in 1856.
Under the direction of celebrated Chef José Andrés, Zaytinya offers an innovative mezze menu inspired by Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisines - all served up in a contemporary and stylish setting. It ranks consistently as a top DC dining destination, and was awarded a Bib Gourmand in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Michelin Guide to Washington, DC, making it a must-visit restaurant within the region.
Looking for some French cafe culture in the heart of Washington DC? Look no further than Le Diplomate, that features a menu offering a variety of Gallic classics, including onion soup gratinée, steak frites and escargots, as well as daily plates such as bouillabaisse and cassoulet. Then there’s the thoughtfully curated wine list, which is any French wine lover’s dream.
You’ll find the Founding Farmers DC just three blocks west of the White House. It’s an award-winning restaurant that has been serving the local community since 2008. It’s open every day, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, making it a perfect go-to for any time of the day. We hear the Impossible™ Burger is a crowd-pleaser. It’s made entirely from plants for people who love meat!
Joe’s is an all-encompassing restaurant specializing in everything from seafood, steak, and crab. It’s a great, family-friendly destination that’s ideal for casual nights out or special occasions. Locals recommend the oysters, lobster, grilled Mahi tacos, and burgers.
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Washington’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
If you or any members of your family are lovers of all things relating to air and space, then you’ve got to plan a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. It’s got thousands of objects on display, including the 1903 Wright Flyer and Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit. Enjoy demonstrations, simulators, story times, an observatory, IMAX Theatre, and so much more.
Perhaps you’re into natural history instead, or you and your family just love the wealth of knowledge that museums house? The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is another recommended, family-friendly attraction, which features a collection of 145 million specimens and artifacts. Their mission is to promote understanding of the natural world and our place in it.
What should you do in Washington once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
Affectionately referred to as America's Front Yard, the National Mall is a landscaped park within the National Mall and Memorial Parks, which is located near the downtown area of the city. Here, you can see world-famous attractions such as the Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial, and more. To see the area lit-up at night is spectacular, and not something anyone visiting or residing in Washington should miss.
Another attraction worth stopping-by at night includes the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, which is open 24 hours a day. It celebrates Franklin Delano Roosevelt, The United States’ 32nd president, who guided country through the Great Depression and World War II. The memorial even includes a sculpture of the president's beloved dog, Fala, which is the only such representation in a presidential memorial.
What can you do in or around Washington that won’t cost anything more than a few dollars? The answer: plenty! Here are just two of our favorite attractions within the area that can be enjoyed on the cheap.
There’s also a museum dedicated to all things relating to spies, and it’s sure to fascinate visitors of all ages. The International Spy Museum celebrates the ingenuity and imagination of real-life spies with the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display. Test your spy skills on a mission as you travel the Museum's permanent exhibitions!
What’s time spent in Washington DC without a trip to the famous Madame Tussauds? It’s the world’s greatest wax museum and will get you up-close and personal with some of the planet’s most famous celebrities – or at least, their wax counterparts! Tickets start at just $19.99.
Looking to get the most out of your time spent within the city of Washington DC? Whether you want a fun way to waste away a Sunday afternoon or a date idea that won’t break the budget – here are our most recommended things to do in Washington that won’t cost you a cent.
The US Capitol is right here in Washington, so come along for a visit and make an entire afternoon, or day, of it! There’s the popular 45-minute U.S. Capitol Tour, which takes visitors to the historic areas of the Capitol, including the Crypt, the Rotunda, and Statuary Hall. You can also stop by the Visitor Galleries of the chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate and see if Congress is in session.
The Lincoln Memorial has no fees or reservations associated with a visit, but the experience here is priceless. This iconic monument and memorial is protected by National Mall and Memorial Parks, and there are plenty of things to do here – including activities ranging from paddle boats and bike tours to night-time walks with a park ranger.
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Washington without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
Less than an hour’s drive from Washington is the city of Baltimore, which provides the perfect attraction-filled region, right on your very doorstep. Its Inner Harbor is home to National Aquarium, and the historic Fort McHenry, while other must-visit places include the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Maryland Zoo, Port Discovery Children’s Museum, and more.
Around a 3 hour’s drive from Washington DC is Hampton, a coastal Virginia vacation destination with fascinating sites to see and interesting things to do. Situated in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic, Hampton is a popular region for both vacationers and those looking for a quieter, more tranquil seaside life. Recommended attractions include Sandy Bottom Nature Park, Buckroe Beach and Park, the Hampton History Museum, and more.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Washington that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Washington? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.