Northeast

7 Weekend Getaways from Washington DC Rich in History, Seafood, and Relaxation

Christabel Lobo helps Beltway urbanites take a break with these seven weekend getaways from Washington D.C.

It’s another sunny summer’s day as I’m cruising along Skyline Drive. Each turn along this scenic route presents a pleasing visual as far as the eye can see of a flourishing green-canopied landscape. As I make my way towards my final destination, the constant hustle of the city feels like it’s light years away. Taking one last look at the bright blue sky, I head down to discover underground caves filled with crystal-clear waters, and magnificent stalagmite and stalactite formations towering overhead. While it truly feels like I’ve entered another realm, I have to remind myself that I’m inside Luray Caverns, just a mere two hours from Washington, D.C.

While the district may be the home of politics and government, the areas surrounding it are worlds apart, steeped in history, natural beauty, and calming waters. For me, one of the main draws of calling the district home is just how accessible it is to the rolling Virginia countryside or any one of the charming Maryland coastal towns located along the Chesapeake Bay. I can hop in the car, or better yet take a train, and in a short time I’m guaranteed a morning spent reconnecting with nature followed by an afternoon of well-deserved spa therapy and an evening spent dining on the day’s fresh catch.

From the lush Virginia countryside to relaxing vibes along the Chesapeake Bay, these seven weekend getaways from Washington D.C. are no more than a few hours away by train or car.

Annapolis, Maryland

Photo courtesy of Austin Distel on Unsplash

Home to the Maryland State House—the oldest U.S. capitol in legislative use till date—and the state capital of Maryland, Annapolis is located at the point where the Severn River meets the Chesapeake Bay. Commonly referred to as America’s Sailing Capital, the city is host to world-famous sailing championships, including the country’s largest sailboat show held every October.

From your historic hotel right down to where you choose to dine—I recommend Reynold’s Tavern, which dates back to 1747, or Cantler’s Riverside Inn, one of the city’s best crab houses—the streets of Annapolis are steeped in history. The Banneker-Douglass Museum offers a comprehensive look into the state’s rich African-American heritage from the 1600s right up until today.

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Immerse in Annapolis’ rich history during your stay at the Historic Inns of Annapolis, a collection of three historic buildings— the Maryland Inn, the Robert Johnson House, and the Governor Calvert House—all dating back to the 18th Century. The property has welcomed everyone from governors and statesmen to revolutionary war heroes and more recently, the Maryland state legislators who annually meet at the Maryland State House located across the street.

Dine on fresh Chesapeake Bay seafood at Treaty of Paris, the inn’s restaurant that dates back to the 1700s. For drinks, head to the cozy Drummer’s Lot Pub, a historic English-style tavern, popular with Annapolis residents and visitors alike.

Historic Inns Of Annapolis

8.3 Very good (2516 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.3 / 10
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Historic Inns Of Annapolis

8.3 Very good (2516 reviews)

Baltimore, Marlyand

Photo courtesy of Visit Baltimore

A short, 30-minute Amtrak train ride from Washington D.C. takes you to Penn Station, a prominent Beaux-Arts building, and one of many historic sites in Baltimore. Founded in the early 17th-century by Lord Baltimore, the city—Maryland’s largest—is known for its Inner Harbor neighborhood along the Patapsco River, as well as a burgeoning arts and culinary scene.

With over 200 distinct neighborhoods, Baltimore has something to offer everyone. From the free contemporary exhibits at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the summer concert series at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater to the fresh seafood festivals and street art murals scattered across the city, it’ll be a while before you run out of things to do.

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You can’t go wrong with a stay at the Lord Baltimore Hotel, one of the city’s oldest and most historic hotels. Part of the National Register of Historic Places, this stately property was built in 1928 and named after the state of Maryland’s founder, George Calvert, Lord Baltimore.

After an extensive renovation in 2013 by designer Scott Sanders, the 440-room hotel features modern accents interwoven with its original decor, complete with crystal chandeliers and murals depicting periods of Baltimore’s history. In the spring the hotel’s rooftop bar, LB Skybar, offers craft cocktails and sweeping views of downtown Baltimore from the 19th floor.

Lord Baltimore Hotel

Baltimore, 0.8 miles to Hard Rock Cafe Baltimore
8.1 Very good (8284 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.7 / 10
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Lord Baltimore Hotel

Baltimore
8.1 Very good (8284 reviews)

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Photo courtesy of West Virginia Tourism

On the border of Maryland and West Virginia lies the quaint town of Harpers Ferry, a 90-minute drive from Washington and a haven for both outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs. Founded in the 18th-century, the town played an important role in the Civil War, serving as a site to the United States Armory and Arsenal. Today, Harpers Ferry is known for its impressive views of the Blue Ridge Mountains—the Appalachian Trail passes right through town—and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Part of the National Park Service, the park is where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet. It is best viewed from either Harpers Cemetery, a historic burial ground for the townspeople, or from Jefferson Rock, a landmark of slabs made of Harpers shale named after Thomas Jefferson who once stood atop it.

If history is what you’re after, check out one of the park’s most famous sites: John Brown’s Fort, where in 1859 an abolitionist revolt was held to end slavery in the United States. Interested in learning a new skill? Their year-round trade workshops offer a variety of skills you never knew you needed, from learning how to make cherry pie the 19th-century way or knowing how to forge your own metal like a blacksmith.

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Located in Shepherdstown, West Virginia’s oldest town, is Thomas Shepherd Inn, a quaint six-room inn just 11 miles from Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Originally built in 1868, the Federal-style building was used both as a clergy house and doctor’s office before being converted into a bed-and-breakfast.

Country-style rooms feature antique furnishings and sitting areas; some even have electric fireplaces and four-poster beds. During the warmer months, the lush garden serves as a relaxing space for guests after a day spent exploring Harpers Ferry. Complimentary breakfast is served in the inn’s two cozy dining rooms.

Thomas Shepherd Inn

Top rated
9.2 Excellent (69 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.5 / 10
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Thomas Shepherd Inn

Top rated
9.2 Excellent (69 reviews)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of Visit Philadelphia

While D.C. is the country’s capital, Philadelphia is considered to be its birthplace, where the Founding Fathers met and formed a new country. From the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 at Independence Hall to the Liberty Bell, a popular symbol of the abolitionist movement, the city is dotted with historical elements.

But not everything is in the past; today the city boasts a restaurant scene that represents Philadelphia’s diverse population. If you’re struggling on deciding where to dine, head to one of the city’s many food halls—Chinatown Square, the Bourse Building or even Franklin’s Table food court at the University of Pennsylvania—for your own personal around-the-world food tour.

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Overlooking the popular Rittenhouse Square after which it’s named, the Rittenhouse Hotel is one of Philadelphia’s most luxurious properties. Spacious rooms and suites feature plush furnishings, marble bathrooms, and enviable city views.

There are plenty of drinking and dining options at the Rittenhouse, including Lacroix, an award-winning fine dining restaurant by Executive Chef Jonathan Cichon, and Library Bar, a moody space complete with craft cocktails and a fireplace. Guests that want to experience the city can make use of the hotel’s complimentary luxury Jaguar driver service.

The Rittenhouse Hotel

Top rated
Philadelphia, 0.6 miles to 30th Street Station
9.5 Excellent (1765 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.6 / 10
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The Rittenhouse Hotel

Top rated
Philadelphia
9.5 Excellent (1765 reviews)

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Photo courtesy of Visit Delaware

While the waterfront areas of Georgetown, Capitol Riverfront, and The Wharf provide an escape from the summer heat, what the district does lack is a good ole white sand beach. Thankfully, it’s only a few hours drive from Rehoboth, a bustling Delaware beach town known for its laid-back atmosphere and mile-long boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean.

Start the day early with one of my favorite things to do: watching the sunrise over the water at Cape Henlopen State Park followed by breakfast, a New York-style bagel from local favorite, Surf Bagel. Spend the afternoon soaking up the summer rays before casually strolling along the beach boardwalk. Don’t forget to try some famous Dolle saltwater taffy and Thrasher’s French Fries with a side of vinegar, of course.

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Situated a block from the popular Rehoboth Beach and boardwalk, The Avenue Inn & Spa provides a relaxed atmosphere to out-of-town guests looking to get away. It’s also a convenient six-minute walk from the Anna Hazzard Museum, the town’s local history museum.

Some of the laid-back rooms and suites offer private balconies and in-room whirlpool tubs. The hotel’s heated indoor pool provides an adequate respite from rainy days. Pamper yourself with an afternoon at the Avenue Apothecary and Spa, the in-house day spa that makes use of organic, all-natural products for all its massages and beauty services.

The Avenue Inn Spa Lounge

Top rated
9.1 Excellent (482 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.5 / 10
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The Avenue Inn Spa Lounge

Top rated
9.1 Excellent (482 reviews)

Shenandoah National Park: Luray, Virginia

Photo courtesy of the Virginia Tourism Corporation

Less than 80 miles from the district you will find the closest non-city national park, Shenandoah National Park, with over 500 miles of lush trails, serene forests, and infinite landscape views. Spend the day cruising along Skyline Drive, a 105-mile long scenic byway or hiking its numerous trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail which passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Your getaway isn’t complete without a stop to see the impressive underground limestone formations at Luray Caverns located just outside the park. First discovered in 1878, the caverns are home to an underground lake and the Great Stalacpipe Organ, which uses stalactites to produce music that can be heard all throughout the cavern.

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Part of the Historic Hotels of America, The Mimslyn Inn is a charming Southern property conveniently located between the not-to-be-missed Luray Caverns and Shenandoah National Park. Originally owned by the Mims family, the hotel is best known for its Georgian Revival architectural style, in particular, the lobby’s dramatic winding staircase.

The Mimslyn Inn

Top rated
Luray, 1.3 miles to Luray Caverns
8.6 Excellent (613 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.9 / 10
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The Mimslyn Inn

Top rated
Luray
8.6 Excellent (613 reviews)

St. Michaels, Maryland

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

The quiet town of St. Michaels along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay makes for the perfect getaway for anyone looking to escape the hectic city life and indulge in some much needed R&R. Named after Michael the Archangel, the town was founded in the mid-1600s with shipbuilding as its primary industry before the switch to oyster and crab harvesting.

Today, most visitors come to bask on its tranquil shores or sail calmly along the Miles River. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which covers an impressive 18-acre waterfront location, is dedicated to preserving the Bay’s history and culture, and provides visitors with a chance to experience the town’s boat building and seafood harvesting ways.

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Set along the Miles River is the Inn at Perry Cabin, an upscale resort on 26-acres of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Originally built as a farm after the War of 1812, the expansive property now offers everything from boating and an 18-hole golf course, to seafood dining and indulgent spa therapies.

Many of its airy rooms offer relaxing views of the river, some from the private balconies. Suites feature separate living rooms and spacious bathrooms with whirlpool tubs. The restaurants at the resort all focus on fresh produce and seafood, with many fruits and vegetables sourced from its own garden, while oysters come from a neighboring oyster farm.

Inn at Perry Cabin

Top rated
9.2 Excellent (490 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.4 / 10
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Inn at Perry Cabin

Top rated
9.2 Excellent (490 reviews)

Feature photo courtesy of Aaron Burden on Unsplash