Northern Virginia rests along the southern border of the capital city of Washington, D.C., located within easy driving distance of some of the nation's most historic attractions, including the preserved historic buildings of Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestowne. Visitors can step back in time to the city's colonial-era days and take part in living history demonstrations depicting typical 18th- and 19th-century life throughout the region at a number of living history sites throughout the area. D.C. Wine Country, which is anchored around the city of Purcellville, is home to dozens of wineries, along with the region's first post-Prohibition craft distillery. Lovely harbor city Baltimore is also home to a plethora of family-friendly attractions, including the American Visionary Art Museum and the Maryland Science Center.
Charlottesville is a lovely city in central Virginia, known as one of the Blue Ridge Mountains' most popular tourist destinations. The city was the birthplace of two of America's first presidents, James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson, the latter of whom played a large part in designing its gorgeous University of Virginia campus. Living history attractions abound for history buffs, including Highland and Monticello, the preserved estates of both presidents. Despite its comparatively small size to other area metropolises, the city is known as one of the top cultural centers in the southern United States, home to a renowned independent music scene and many lovely wineries and breweries. Nearby, Shenandoah National Park offers a plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the year.
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Richmond is Virginia's lovely capital city, known as one of the oldest of the United States' major cities, originally founded in 1747. The city is home to famed sites such as the St. John's Church, known as the site of Founding Father Patrick Henry's famed "give me liberty or give me death" speech in 1775, which spurred the Revolutionary War. Visitors can learn about American history at the preserved White House of the Confederacy, which once served as the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and is now preserved as a museum within the city's Court End neighborhood. The city's revitalized downtown district is home to the picturesque Canal Walk, along with the gorgeous Richmond CenterStage performing arts center. Arts institutions include the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, while trendy food destinations include Metzger Bar and Butchery, named as one of Departures Magazine's best new American restaurants in 2014.
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Williamsburg was originally established in 1699 as the capital of Virginia Colony and is known today for its significant role throughout the American Revolution. The city, which is part of northern Virginia's famed "Historic Triangle" along with Yorktown and Jamestown, is anchored around the Colonial Williamsburg restored Historic Area, which attracts more than four million annual visitors. Period-costumed actors depict daily life within the region during its colonial era as part of living history demonstrations and workshops throughout the year. The city is also home to the Busch Gardens Williamsburg theme park, which showcases major thrill rides and roller coasters like the Golden Ticket Award-winning hypercoaster Apollo's Chariot. Water Country USA is home to seasonal water thrill rides, while the Williamsburg Winery is renowned as Virginia's largest winery facility.
4.The American Visionary Art Museum
© The American Visionary Art Museum
The American Visionary Art Museum is an eclectic art museum located within Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood, known for its unique displays of outsider art, intuitive art, and art brut works. The 1.1-acre museum campus is home to 67,000 square feet of exhibition space, which showcases a permanent collection of more than 4,000 unique works of art. Artists on display include luminaries and visionaries such as Vanessa German, Howard Finster, Mr. Imagination, Nek Chand, and Ho Baron, along with artists from the Cabaret Mechanical Theater of London. As the Congress-declared national museum of self-taught art, the museum also emphasizes unique works by ordinary citizen artists, with an emphasis on those with marginalized positions in society. Annual special events include the acclaimed Flicks From the Hill outdoor film series, which has been named as one of the world's best free events by Travel + Leisure.
800 Key Hwy, Baltimore, MD 21230, Phone: 410-244-1900
Brookside Gardens is an award-winning 50-acre public display garden in Montgomery County's Wheaton Regional Park, opened to the public in 1969 and designed by Carl Schoening and Hans Hanses. The lovely gardens are intricately designed to showcase combinations of texture, scent, color, and scale that are all meant to work together to delight and overwhelm the senses from its peaceful walking trails. Gardens showcased throughout the facility include the facility's Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Azalea Garden, Children's Garden, and Woodland Walk. Formal gardens also showcase perennials, maples, yews, and fragrant flowers. Two conservatories are open to the public for free year-round, along with an extensive horticultural reference library.
1800, Visitors Center, Glenallan Ave, Wheaton, MD 20902, Phone: 301-962-1400
6.Chincoteague and Assateague Islands
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Chincoteague and Assateague Islands are two of Virginia's most serene getaway island destinations, located along the state's eastern shores within easy driving distance of all major mid-Atlantic cities. Chincoteague Island, which gained national fame following the 1961 feature film Misty of Chincoteague, is home to a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and bed and breakfast facilities along its historic downtown Main Street district. Visitors can drive over to Assateague Island via Maddox Boulevard and explore the lovely Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore, which was developed in 1965 to protect significant populations of feral horses. More than 41,000 acres of coastline are protected within the seashore, making it one of the mid-Atlantic's most popular spots for swimming, surfing, and kayaking.
Clifton is a charming small town in Northern Virginia, located in southwestern Fairfax County. The city is known for its classic all-American Main Street, which is lined with quaint shops, restaurants, and the historic attractions of the Clifton VA National Historic District, which protected the city's Victorian-era buildings after its influx by suburban Virginia homebuyers in the 1970s. Historic homes include the lovely Buckley House, where the screenplay for the 1980s film Sleepless in Seattle was written by author Jeff Arch. Fairfax County's first production winery, Paradise Springs, is located just outside the city's downtown district, offering tastings and tours throughout the week. Outside the city, the scenic Bull Run-Occoquan Trail spans the banks of the picturesque Occoquan River. Annual special events include the city's Labor Day Car Show and Clifton Candlelight Homes Tour.
Fort Washington preserves the historic military fortress of the same name, abutting Washington, D.C.'s downtown district on its southern border in Prince George's County, Maryland. The unincorporated community is named in honor of its fortress of the same name, which was Washington, D.C's primary defensive fort upon its completion in 1809 and served as a major defense during the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. Today, the site of the fortress has been transformed into a beautiful public park, which showcases stunning views of the Potomac River and offers a variety of hiking paths for visitors. Though it is overseen by the National Park Service as a national park facility, it offers free park admission before sunset and after daily business hours.
Gaithersburg is one of Montgomery County's most charming cities, home to major companies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Lockheed Martin Information Systems, and IBM. Its unique eastern central business district, known as Olde Towne, is home to lovely historic buildings, while its western sections are home to wealthy neighborhoods designed according to New Urbanism principles. Visitors can splash and play at the Water Park at Bohrer Park throughout the summer months, sample gourmet chocolates at SPAGnVOLA Chocolate Factory, or taste delicious farm brews at the Elder Pine Brewing and Blending Company's public taphouse. The Washingtonian Center, commonly known as Rio, is one of Maryland's top shopping districts, known as a popular Black Friday shopping destination. Nearby in Germantown, visitors can pick their own strawberries at Butler's Orchard, shop at the Lancaster County Dutch Market, or enjoy indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities at the Maryland SoccerPlex and Discovery Sports Center.
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Georgetown is one of Washington, D.C.'s most historic neighborhoods, brimming with Federal-style architecture, cobblestone streets, and some of the city's top upscale shopping destinations. Hip M Street and Wisconsin Avenue are home to internationally-renowned retailers like Kate Spade, Tiffany, Burberry, Modcloth, and Anthropologie, along with exclusive high-end designers like Rag and Bone and Billy Reid. Visitors can view the former homes of John F. Kennedy and Julia Child or peruse the buildings of the historic Georgetown University campus. Foodies will love sites such as the popular Georgetown Cupcakes or the acclaimed Fiola Mare, consistently ranked as one of D.C.'s top restaurants. Georgetown Waterfront Park is home to a riverside promenade and gardens, while the historic C&O Canal is traversed by a bike path.
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Harpers Ferry is a lovely town in West Virginia, located within Harpers Ferry National Historical Park which is home to historic sites such as John Brown's Fort, known as a key site during an abolitionist raid in 1859. Visitors can enjoy historic demonstrations throughout the year on 19th-century life and practices such as cheesemaking, blacksmithing, and gardening or explore the park's Civil War Museum. Views of Maryland and Virginia are offered from the city's Point, located at the intersection of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. The historic C&O Canal, which once transported goods along the path of the Potomac River, stretches between Cumberland and Georgetown, crossing through the city with a bike path. Just outside the city, visitors can enjoy scenic drives along the Washington Heritage Trail National Scenic Byway or explore the famed Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
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Jamestowne is one of eastern Virginia's most historic sites, best known as the located of the 1607 James Fort, which led to the founding of the 17th-century city of Jamestown. Today, the historic Jamestown Island site is designated as a National Historic Site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, preserving the remains of North America's first permanent English settlement. Nearby Jamestown Settlement operates as a living history museum, overseen by the Commonwealth of Virginia to detail the everyday life of the colony. Historic structures on display include the ruins of the 18th-century Amber Mansion, along with the Tercentenary Monument, which commemorates the 300th anniversary of the settlement. More artifacts from the region's colonial era are showcased at the Archaearium Museum of archaeology.
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Laurel is a lovely Maryland city located halfway between Washington D.C. and Baltimore along the banks of the scenic Patuxent River. The city is home to the state's first designated main Street, showcasing lovely historic attractions and a plethora of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Laurel Mill Playhouse presents amateur musical, comedy, and drama theatrical performances throughout the year, while the Laurel Museum displays exhibits related to the region's social and cultural history. Walking tours of the city's historic sites are offered by the Laurel Historical Society. Outdoor attractions include Fairland Regional Park, which is home to a sports complex featuring a tennis bubble and skating rink, and Dinosaur Park, which preserves fossils from the Cretaceous Period.
Leesburg is an historic town in Loudoun County, located approximately half an hour northwest of Washington, D.C. along the banks of the Potomac River. The charming town, which is situated at the base of Catoctin Mountain, was originally constructed in 1740 and has been home to some of Virginia's most famed families over the years. In 1970, the city's historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, protecting one of Virginia's most picturesque downtown districts. Visitors can tour the beautiful Dodona Manor, which was once the home of General George C. Marshall, or explore the Civil War-era Ball's Bluff Battlefield, which presents guided tours between May and October.
Loudoun Valley is known as Washington, D.C.'s premiere wine country destination, home to more than 40 award-winning wineries and tasting rooms. The district, which is located approximately half an hour outside of D.C.'s city center, is also home to more than 20 craft microbreweries and the lovely Catoctin Creek Distillery, which became the county's first legal modern distillery in 2009. Vibrant shopping destinations include the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets, which showcase locations for more than 100 name-brand and designer outlet stores. Picturesque Movern Park is home to the Westmoreland Davis Mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Winmill Carriage Museum. Farm-to-table restaurants populate the region, along with country inns and the region's only AAA Four-Diamond resort.
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Luray Caverns are one of the Eastern United States' most popular show caves, located in the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley in the shadow of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. The caverns were originally discovered in 1878 and first used to provide natural air conditioning for the Limair Sanatorium, which is believed to have been the first air-conditioned residence in the United States. Since 1974, the caverns have been protected as a National Natural Landmark. Today, visitors can embark on guided tours at the caverns and view attractions such as their Great Stalacpipe Organ, a unique natural lithophone formation that can produce musical sounds that mimic the sound of a xylophone. Other attractions include the mirror-like Dream Lake, along with an outdoor ropes obstacle course and several museums showcasing regional artifacts.
101 Cave Hill Rd, Luray, VA 22835, Phone: 540-743-6551
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Manassas is best known as the site of the Manassas National Battlefield Park, which was home to two seminal Civil War battles in 1861 and 1862. Visitors can explore the park's lovely visitor center, which showcases exhibits such as a fiber-optic battle map and showings of the 45-minute documentary Manassas: End of Innocence. Guided tours of the battlefield are offered by park rangers, or visitors can explore the battlefield themselves via the 1.1-mile Henry Hill Loop Trail. The park's Brawner Farm Interpretive Center and historic Stone House are open seasonally, showcasing additional exhibits on 18th-century life. In the city's Old Town district, visitors can attend performances at the Hylton Performing Arts Center or dine at delicious restaurants such as the Creole-style Okra's Louisiana Bistro.
18.The Maryland Science Center
© The Maryland Science Center
The Maryland Science Center is Baltimore's premiere hands-on STEM museum, originally opened to the public in 1976. The museum is credited with the revitalization of the city's Inner Harbor district, showcasing three floors of interactive exhibits that highlight concepts such as science, technology, nature, and human biology. The center has been named as one of the nation's top family-friendly science centers by Parents Magazine and has been awarded a Best of Baltimore Award as the city's top place to visit with families. A full-scale replica of state dinosaur Astrodon is on display at the museum, along with an exhibit detailing the lifespan of the Maryland blue crab and other native Chesapeake Bay wildlife. Other exhibits include a Bernoulli blower, a demonstration stage, and the NOAA-designed Science on a Sphere exhibit.
601 Light St, Baltimore, MD 21230, Phone: 410-685-2370
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McLean is a lovely unincorporated community in Fairfax County, known as a popular bedroom community for high-ranking Washington, D.C. government officials. The region, which is named in honor of former Washington Post publisher John Roll McLean, is known as one of the greater Washington, D.C. region's most affluent communities, home to gorgeous luxury homes and upscale amenities. Tysons Corner is commonly ranked as one of the top five shopping centers in the country, home to more than 300 specialty and department stores, including popular brands such as American Girl, Bloomingdale's, L.L. Bean, Louis Vuitton, and Kiehl's. The complex also showcases a 16-screen stadium-style movie theater and IMAX 3D cineplex, making it a great destination to check out the latest blockbuster film releases. Charming outdoor areas in the region include family-friendly Clemyjontri Park, home to a two-acre playground, and outdoor history destination Claude Moore Colonial Farm.
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Purcellville is a charming D.C. Wine Country destination in Loudoun County, home to Catoctin Creek Distillery, the county's first distillery since the Prohibition era. Visitors can sample excellent organic and kosher liquors at the distillery, including varieties of rye whiskey, brandy, and gin produced with local fruits and grains. Craft breweries throughout the city include Corcoran Brewing, Old 690 Brewing Company, and Jack's Run Brewing, which all offer tasting rooms or tour experiences. Many wineries are also located within easy driving distance, including Sunset Hills Vineyard, Doukenie Winery, and Otium Cellars. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound at the 4.5-mile W&OD Trail, which ends in the city, and the Chapman DeMary Trail, which traverses a lovely old grown forest area. The city's old-time historic downtown district is home to delicious restaurants like Monk's BBQ, Market Burger, and Magnolia's at the Mill.
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21.Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is one of the Eastern United States' most beautiful national parks, stretching along the length of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains throughout Virginia. The park, which is located a little over an hour outside of Washington, D.C., is best known for its scenic 105-mile Skyline Drive, which spans the length of the mountain ridge and offers unparalleled views for drivers. 101 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail are also located within the park, which is home to over 500 miles of hiking, biking, and driving trails throughout. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for horseback riding, camping, fishing, bicycling, and nature hiking, including hikes to scenic waterfall sites. A plethora of hookup and backcountry camping experiences are showcased throughout the park, along with several lodge and cabin areas.
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East , Luray, VA 22835, Phone: 540-999-3500
Staunton is a delightful city in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, named as one of the United States' Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The charming city was the first community in Virginia to receive a Great American Main Street Award, renowned for its unparalleled historic architecture. More than 200 buildings within the city were designed by acclaimed 19th-century architect Thomas Jasper Collins, who was known for its gorgeous Victorian-era architecture. Dozens of unique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants line the city's downtown district, including the Blackfriars Playhouse, which presents live theatrical performances throughout the year. The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum commemorates the birthplace of the American president. Other attractions include the Frontier Culture Museum living history facility and the recently-restored Stonewall Jackson Inn.
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Stafford is an affluent community in Stafford County, named as one of the United States' highest-income communities in 2006 and 2009 by Forbes Magazine. The lovely city, which is located across the banks fo the Rappahannock River from the City of Fredericksburg, is located within the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan region and is named in honor of its counterpart, Staffordshire, England. Today, it is best known as the home of George Washington's boyhood home, the Washington Family Farm, which can be explored as a living history museum facility throughout the year. Other historical attractions include several Civil War-era sites, such as Chatham, White Oak Museum, and Aquia Landing. Visitors can enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities along the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers, which are prime spots for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing throughout the year.
Washington, D.C. is the capital city of the United States, located along the banks of the splendid Potomac River between the states of Maryland and Virginia. The city is home to the nation's largest government bodies, including the iconic presidential residence White House, the Capitol Building's legislative chambers, and the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court. Visitors can tour these buildings or explore the lovely monuments of the National Mall, which is home to the landmark Washington Monument, Jefferson Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. The museums of the Smithsonian Institution are free and open to the public, including the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American History, and the National Zoo. Hip neighborhoods such as Adams-Morgan and U Street are home to some of the nation's most renowned restaurants, showcasing excellent global fusion fare reflecting the city's diversity.
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24 Best Northern Virginia Day Trips
- Charlottesville, Photo: spiritofamerica/stock.adobe.com
- Richmond, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Williamsburg, Photo: Paul Hakimata/stock.adobe.com
- The American Visionary Art Museum, Photo: The American Visionary Art Museum
- Brookside Gardens, Photo: fotoVISION360/stock.adobe.com
- Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, Photo: Melinda Fawver/stock.adobe.com
- Clifton, Photo: jackienix/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Washington, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Gaithersburg, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Georgetown, Photo: dwight9592/stock.adobe.com
- Harpers Ferry, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Jamestowne, Photo: Jenny Thompson/stock.adobe.com
- Laurel, Photo: Tobias Arhelger/stock.adobe.com
- Leesburg, Photo: cindygoff/stock.adobe.com
- Loudoun County, Photo: stock.adobe.com
- Luray Caverns, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Manassas, Photo: refrina/stock.adobe.com
- The Maryland Science Center, Photo: The Maryland Science Center
- McLean, Photo: Joe Benning/stock.adobe.com
- Purcellville, Photo: Zsolt Biczó/stock.adobe.com
- Shenandoah National Park, Photo: sborisov/stock.adobe.com
- Staunton, Photo: Richard/stock.adobe.com
- Stafford, Photo: demerzel21/stock.adobe.com
- Washington, D.C., Photo: avmedved/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: TimeHacker/stock.adobe.com