New to DC? Explore 16 Unique Places Near Washington, DC Worth the Visit

Updated on June 16th, 2023

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Washington, DC is a vibrant city filled with history, culture, and countless attractions. But if you’ve just moved to DC and are looking to escape the hustle and bustle and explore the surrounding areas, there are plenty of unique destinations to visit that are steeped in history and packed with interesting tourist attractions. 

Whether you’re in the process of buying a home or looking to rent an apartment in one of the many neighborhoods in DC, the District and its surrounding region has something for everyone. Redfin has 10 places to visit while living in Washington DC that are sure to delight you.

A picture of Key Bridge that links Virginia with the District of Columbia.

1. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Estimated travel time: 1.5 hours

Harpers Ferry is a hidden gem located just an hour and a half drive from DC. The town’s rich history can be seen and felt in every corner, with preserved buildings and historic sites that transport visitors back in time to the Civil War era.

In addition to its historic significance, Harpers Ferry is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The town is situated at the joining of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, providing ample opportunities for water activities such as kayaking, rafting, and fishing. Hiking trails abound in the area, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and river valleys.

The town also boasts charming shops, galleries, and restaurants that are sure to delight visitors. Take a stroll down the cobblestone streets and you’ll find yourself transported back in time.

Harpers Ferry is a historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States, in the lower Shenandoah Valley.

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2. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Estimated travel time: 1.5 hours

As you make your way through the winding roads of Shenandoah National Park, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another world. The Blue Ridge Mountains tower above you, their peaks shrouded in mist, while the trees rustle gently in the breeze. It’s hard not to feel humbled by the natural beauty that surrounds you.

While exploring the park, you’ll discover a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy. Hiking trails wind their way through the forests, leading you to hidden waterfalls and panoramic viewpoints. You might even spot some of the park’s resident wildlife, such as black bears, deer, and foxes.

One of the highlights of Shenandoah National Park is the famous Skyline Drive. This scenic road stretches for 105 miles, offering unparalleled views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the surrounding countryside. With numerous pull-off points along the way, you can stop to take in the vistas, snap some photos, or enjoy a picnic.

Winding road in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

3. Annapolis, Maryland

Estimated travel time: 1 hour

Nestled on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, the picturesque town of Annapolis is a true gem of the mid-Atlantic. With its quaint cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and maritime traditions, it’s the perfect destination for a day trip from DC.

As the capital of Maryland, Annapolis is steeped in colonial history, and visitors can explore its rich past through its many museums and historic sites. The charming historic district boasts over 1,000 buildings that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, including the Maryland State House, which served as the nation’s capital from 1783 to 1784.

Annapolis is also a vibrant coastal town that’s full of life. The city’s harbor is home to a thriving sailing community, and visitors can take a sailboat ride or enjoy a sunset cruise on the bay. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you’re in luck – Annapolis is known for its delicious crab cakes, which can be found at many of the town’s restaurants and seafood shacks.

A visit to the US Naval Academy is a must. Founded in 1845, the academy is a top-tier institution that prepares future officers for service in the US Navy and Marine Corps. Visitors can take a guided tour of the campus and learn about the academy’s storied history and traditions.

Annapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Maryland, as well as the county seat of Anne Arundel County.

4. Great Falls Park, Virginia

Estimated travel time: 35 minutes

Great Falls Park is a hidden gem just 15 miles from Washington DC. This breathtaking natural area is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, offering hiking trails, picnic areas, and stunning views of the Potomac River as it rushes through the Mather Gorge.

As you make your way along the trails that wind through the park, you’ll find yourself surrounded by lush greenery and towering trees. The sound of the rushing river will be your constant companion, providing a soothing soundtrack to your hike. Take a moment to pause and soak in the beauty of the rugged rocks that line the river’s edge, or venture down to the riverbank for an up-close view of the rushing waters.

For those seeking a bit of adventure, there are plenty of opportunities for kayaking, rock climbing, and fishing. And if you’re visiting during the summer months, be sure to pack a swimsuit so you can cool off in the refreshing waters of the Potomac.

Kayaking Down Great falls National Park Waterfall

5. Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

Estimated travel time: 2 hours

Gettysburg National Military Park is an incredibly captivating destination for history enthusiasts and anyone interested in learning more about the Civil War. The park offers visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and learn about the events that took place during the Civil War.

You will be transported to a different era as you explore the park, walking in the footsteps of soldiers who fought bravely for their beliefs. The park features a wide variety of exhibits and guided tours that offer visitors an in-depth look at the battle and its significance in shaping our nation’s history.

Beyond the history, the park is also a stunning natural area, with beautiful rolling hills and fields that are perfect for picnics or a peaceful stroll. Gettysburg National Military Park is a truly captivating destination that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who fought for our country.

General Warren statue standing on Little Round Top overlooking Devil's Den below, American Civil War, Gettysburg National Military Park, PA, USA.

6. Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland

Estimated travel time: 3 hours

Assateague Island National Seashore, located just three hours from DC, is a true gem of the East Coast. This unique destination offers visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature.

One of the main attractions of Assateague Island is its famous wild horses. These majestic creatures roam freely on the island and are certainly a sight to behold. Visitors can observe them from a safe distance, or take a guided tour to learn more about their history and behavior.

In addition to the horses, the island is also home to miles of pristine beaches. Whether you’re looking to swim, surf, or simply relax and soak up the sun, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The clear blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean provide the perfect backdrop for a day of fun and relaxation.

For those looking for more active pursuits, there are ple

nty of opportunities for hiking and biking on the island’s trails. With stunning views of the beach and the surrounding marshes, these trails are a must-see for nature enthusiasts.

Horses running along the beach

7. St. Michaels, Maryland

Estimated travel time: 2 hours

On the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, St. Michaels is another hidden gem just waiting to be explored. This charming town is steeped in maritime history and boasts breathtaking views that are sure to capture your heart. From the moment you arrive, you’ll be swept away by the town’s quaint charm and welcoming atmosphere.

As you wander through the historic district, you’ll be transported back in time. The streets are lined with beautiful colonial architecture, and there are plenty of unique shops and galleries to explore. You’ll also find an abundance of local restaurants serving up delicious seafood and other regional specialties.

For a truly unique experience, consider taking a boat tour of the bay. You’ll get an up-close lo

ok at the town’s beautiful coastline and learn about its rich history from knowledgeable guides. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, rent a kayak and explore the bay at your own pace.

Hooper Strait Lighthouse

8. Luray Caverns, Virginia

Estimated travel time: 2 hours

Nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley lies an underground wonderland that will take your breath away. Luray Caverns, located just two hours from DC, is a mesmerizing natural attraction that offers a glimpse into the ancient geological history of Virginia.

As you descend into the depths of the caverns, you will be greeted with a dazzling display of stalactites and stalagmites, towering columns of rock, and crystal-clear pools of water that reflect the stunning formations above. The caverns are home to one of the world’s largest musical instruments, the Great Stalacpipe Organ, which uses the natural acoustics of the cave to create hauntingly beautiful music.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the caverns, where knowledgeable guides will share the history and geology of the underground wonderland. The tour takes you through several chambers, each with their unique features and formations, and ends with a dramatic finale at the Cathedral Room, a massive underground chamber with soaring ceilings and awe-inspiring rock formations.

After exploring the caverns, visitors can also enjoy other attractions on the property, such as the Luray Valley Museum, the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, and the Garden Maze. For those looking for an adventure, there are also hiking trails and a ropes course nearby.

Long exposure shot taken in Luray Caverns in Virginia. The beautiful stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone makes this under ground geological cave a marvelous spectacle. The limestone geological formations are great in this subterranean marvel in the in the Shenandoah Valley.This underground pool has made the stones turn green as the acidic water has affected all the coins that people have thrown into the cavern water. - A great Background Texture Pattern, or Graphic Element Wallpaper for poster design.

9. Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland

Estimated travel time: 1.5 hours

Located about an hour and a half from DC, Antietam National Battlefield is the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Visitors can take guided tours to explore the battlefield and learn about the history of the war through exhibits and guided tours. Walking the fields where the battle was fought, you’ll see cannons and monuments dotting the landscape, each one telling a unique story of bravery, sacrifice, and loss. You can also explore the Antietam National Cemetery, where over 4,000 soldiers are buried, and pay your respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Beyond the battlefield, the surrounding area offers a wealth of natural beauty, including hiking trails, scenic drives, and charming small towns. Take a stroll through nearby Sharpsburg, a quaint village that played a significant role 

in the battle, or venture out to the C&O Canal National Historical Park, which features miles of scenic hiking and biking trails along the Potomac River.

Antietam National Military Park, Sunken Road and Bloody Lane fence line and Union soldier monument, Sharpsburg, MD, USA.

10. Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland

Estimated travel time: 1 hour

Just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C., the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park offers a peaceful retreat that boasts a wealth of natural beauty and historical significance. This hidden gem is an ideal destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike, as visitors can explore the park’s stunning scenery, hike or bike along the canal towpath, and discover the park’s rich history.

Spanning over 180 miles, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park follows the path of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which was used in the 19th century to transport goods between Washington D.C. and the Ohio River Valley. Visitors can learn about the canal’s history and importance through various exhibits and interpretive programs throughout the park.

In addition to its historical significance, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park also offers a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities. Visitors can explore the park’s scenic trails, which offer stunning views of the Potomac River and its surrounding forests. The canal towpath provides an ideal setting for a leisurely bike ride or a peaceful hike, with plenty of opportunities to observe the park’s abundant wildlife.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

11. The Eastern Shore, Maryland and Virginia

Estimated travel time: 3.5 hours

The Eastern Shore, located on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay, is a picturesque region that offers a relaxing escape from Washington DC. Visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the area, including pristine beaches, scenic waterways, and wildlife preserves. The small towns and villages of the Eastern Shore are known for their charm, hospitality, and local flavor. 

The region is renowned for its fresh seafood, including blue crabs, oysters, and rockfish, which can be enjoyed at waterfront restaurants and seafood shacks. The Eastern Shore is also home to numerous historic sites and museums that offer insights into the area’s rich history, including the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and the historic town of St. Michaels. 

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you will appreciate the many opportunities for hiking, kayaking, fishing, and birdwatching, as well as the miles of scenic byways that wind through the countryside.

Fishing pier at sunset, Ocean City, Maryland, USA

12. Baltimore, Maryland

Estimated travel time: 1 hour

Baltimore, located just an hour’s drive from Washington DC, is a vibrant city with a rich history, cultural attractions, and a thriving culinary scene. Visitors to Baltimore can explore the city’s historic harbor, which has been transformed into a popular destination for dining, shopping, and entertainment. The harbor is home to the National Aquarium, where visitors can see over 20,000 animals from around the world, including sharks, dolphins, and sea turtles. 

Baltimore is home to must-visit museums, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, which features an extensive collection of contemporary and modern art, and the Walters Art Museum, which showcases art from around the world. 

Baltimore is also a food lover’s paradise, with a diverse culinary scene that includes everything from crab cakes and oysters to artisanal coffee shops and craft breweries. Visitors can sample local delicacies at the city’s many restaurants and food markets, including Lexington Market and Faidley’s Seafood. With its lively atmosphere, cultural attractions, and delicious food, Baltimore is an excellent destination for a weekend getaway from Washington DC.

Baltimore is a great place to visit near Washington DC

13. Richmond, Virginia

Estimated travel time: 2.5 hours

Richmond, Virginia’s capital city, is a historic and cultural hub that is an ideal weekend getaway from Washington DC. The city offers visitors a diverse range of attractions, including museums, galleries, restaurants, and outdoor recreational opportunities. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is one of the country’s most comprehensive art museums, with a vast collection of works from around the world. The city is also home to the American Civil War Museum, which tells the story of the Civil War through the eyes of soldiers, civilians, and enslaved people. 

Richmond is also known for its food scene, with a thriving restaurant culture that features everything from Southern comfort food to international cuisine. The city’s location on the James River also makes it a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as kayaking, fishing, and river rafting opportunities. 

Downtown Richmond, Virginia On A Sunny Summer Day

14. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Estimated travel time: 3 hours

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, is a charming coastal town that offers visitors a relaxing beach getaway just a few hours’ drive from Washington DC. The town features a beautiful stretch of white sandy beaches that are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing. Visitors can also stroll along the boardwalk, which features amusement park rides, restaurants, and shops. 

Rehoboth Beach is also known for its vibrant arts and culture scene, with a range of galleries, theaters, and live music venues that showcase local and national talent. The town is also home to the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, which offers a glimpse into the town’s rich history and heritage. 

Rehoboth Beach is also a food lover’s paradise, with a diverse culinary scene that features everything from fresh seafood to farm-to-table cuisine. Visitors can sample local delicacies at the town’s many restaurants and food markets, including the famous Dogfish Head Brewery, which offers craft beer and pub-style fare. With its beautiful beaches, lively atmosphere, and delicious food, Rehoboth Beach is an excellent destination for a weekend beach getaway from Washington DC.

Lookout tower on the beach next to the sea

15. Williamsburg, Virginia

Estimated travel time: 3 hours

Williamsburg, Virginia, is a living history museum that recreates life in colonial Virginia during the 18th century. The town features restored buildings, costumed interpreters, and historic reenactments that bring the past to life for visitors. Colonial Williamsburg is the centerpiece of the town, with more than 300 acres of restored buildings, homes, and gardens that showcase life in Virginia during the Revolutionary War era. Visitors can take guided tours, interact with historical interpreters, and attend live performances and reenactments. 

The town is also home to other historic sites, including Jamestown Settlement, where visitors can learn about the first permanent English settlement in North America, and Yorktown Battlefield, where the American Revolution was won. Beyond the history, Williamsburg is also known for its charming streetscapes, boutique shops, and dining experiences that range from fine dining to casual eateries. 

Garden view of Governor's Palace, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA

16. Charlottesville, Virginia

Estimated travel time: 2.5 hours

Charlottesville, Virginia, is a charming college town that is home to the University of Virginia, one of the country’s most prestigious universities. The town is also known for its beautiful countryside, rich history, and vibrant arts and culture scene. Explore the University of Virginia’s historic campus, designed by Thomas Jefferson, which features stunning architecture, lush gardens, and world-class museums. The town is also home to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home and plantation, which offers guided tours and a glimpse into the life of one of America’s founding fathers. 

Charlottesville is also known for its thriving arts and culture scene, with a range of galleries, theaters, and music venues that showcase local and national talent. Visitors can also explore the town’s many shops, boutiques, and restaurants, which offer everything from local crafts and artisanal products to farm-to-table cuisine. Charlottesville is located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering visitors ample opportunities for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, biking, and skiing. With its beautiful natural surroundings, rich history, and lively arts scene, Charlottesville is an excellent weekend getaway destination for anyone seeking a break from the city life of Washington DC.

Aerial shot of Charlottesville, Virginia on a cloudy afternoon in early Fall.

If you are represented by an agent, this is not a solicitation of your business. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice from a medical provider, licensed attorney, financial advisor, or tax professional. Consumers should independently verify any agency or service mentioned will meet their needs. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines here.

Julia Weaver

Julia is a part of the content marketing team and enjoys writing about real estate and design trends. Her dream home be a charming beachside home with lots of light.

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