8 Weekend Getaways From Washington, D.C.

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Washington Monument, National Mall/Oyster

You've seen the iconic monuments, visited all the museums, and caught countless shows at the performance art venues in Washington, D.C. Broaden your horizons and step outside of the city's border, where plenty of brand-new attractions await. This fall, spend the weekends watching wild horses gallop on the beach at Assateague Island, spotting Amish buggies in Lancaster, or admiring the sunset over Deep Creek Lake in Maryland. To help, we rounded up eight top getaways from the nation's capital. Unlike the POTUS, who gets around on Air Force One, you'll be traveling by car, train, or bus. But luckily, all of these destinations are three hours (or less) away from the city.

1. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia


You may have seen the panoramic photo of Harpers Ferry, where the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers meet. Hike up to the overlook to get a glimpse of this beautiful view in person. If you’re not in the mood to trek, hop on one of the shuttles that run through the park. This area was a key battleground during the Civil War, so history enthusiasts will especially appreciate a visit. These days, a lot of folks also stop by to go whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking since the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is situated here.

Transportation time: Up to one-and-a-half hours by car and about one hour and 45 minutes by train.

2. Deep Creek Lake, Maryland


Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C. at Deep Creek Lake, Maryland‘s largest freshwater lake that spans 65 miles of shoreline. If you happen to be there between October 12 and 16, head to the annual Autumn Glory Festival, where you can chuck pumpkins and watch the parades. Formerly a coal mining region, the area is a popular camping and hiking spot today. And although summer is fading, it’s not too late to take advantage of boating, fishing, and water sports on the 3,900-acre lake. For little ones, the aviary and educational exhibits at The Discovery Center will surely entertain.

Transportation time: Between three and three-and-a-half hours by car. 

3. Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania


Known as the England of Pennsylvania, Brandywine Valley attracts travelers for its rolling hills, Brandywine River, and mansions. In 1777, general George Washington was defeated by the British Army’s general Sir William Howe in the Battle of Brandywine. Today, visitors can see the Benjamin Ring House where Washington strategized his troops. The beautiful and historic Longwood Gardens, Rockwood Mansion, Nemours Mansion and Gardens here have also inspired landscape artists. If you appreciate art, be sure to check out the Wyeth family’s collection at the Brandywine River Museum. 

Transportation time: A little over two hours by train or car. 

4. Shenandoah Valley, West Virginia


Welcome to Shenandoah Valley, where fall temperatures hover in the mid-70s. Get a good glimpse of Shenandoah National Park from the Skyline Drive, a 109-mile road. Through September, expect to stumble upon music and food festivals like the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival and annual Apple Butter Celebration. Wine and beer lovers come to sample homegrown grapes and craft beers while adventurers venture into the Shenandoah Caverns, which surprisingly has elevator service. To learn more about the early settlers in this area, don’t skip the Frontier Culture Museum. 

Transportation time: Between two and two and a half hours by car.

5. Charlottesville, Virginia

Charlottesville, which also goes by Hooville or C’ville, sits at the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Explore the city’s rich history at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s abode. You don’t have to be a student to appreciate the grounds at the University of Virginia either. Stop by to see architectural gems like the rotunda that was modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. Then, get schooled in American history at Highland, President James Monroe’s home. When you’ve had your fill, hit up the brick-lined Downtown Mall for some shopping.

Transportation time: Two-and-a-half hours by car and three hours by train.

6. Berkeley Springs, West Virginia


For those in need of a little recharging, head to Berkeley Springs in West Virginia. The mineral springs here have been soothing weary travelers since before the Roman Bath House opened in 1930. Rumor has it, George Washington also soaked in the outdoor springs — there’s even a plaque to commemorate it. Antique shops and streets are marked to tell visitors of the former owners in 1776, when the now family-friendly town was founded.

Driving information: Two hours by car. 

7. Assateague Island, Maryland


Assateague Island is a 37-mile barrier island where wild horses run free on the beach shores. The myth states that these horses, which were made famous in Marguerite Henry’s book “Misty of Chincoteague,” arrived on the island after surviving a shipwreck. Quick tip: the horses are feral, so don’t get too close. Pick up a few maps at the visitor’s center and learn more about the island’s history. Campsites are also available by the beach. Other activities in the area include RV and bike rentals as well as clamming. For gorgeous views, climb to the top of the 142-foot-tall Assateague Lighthouse. 

Transportation time: Just under three hours by car. 

8. Lancaster, Pennsylvania


Did you know that Lancaster was the capital of Pennsylvania until 1812? Today, the town is likely best known for its Amish community. Take a tour of the area and see the horse-drawn buggies or buy wares from the Lancaster Central Market downtown. Amusement parks like Hersheypark and Dutch Wonderland are a hit among families traveling with kids. And theater buffs will appreciate the 164-year-old Fulton Theatre. 

Transporation time: About two-and-a-half hours by car and more than four hours by train.

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