By Carla Olivo, Marine Spouse

Within an hour or two of the largest office building in the world, you can have your toes in the sand or immerse yourself in a civil war battlefield!  Here are some great day trips from Northern Virginia/NOVA.


Richmond, Virginia

The 108 mile, two-hour drive to the Virginia State Capital is a nice day-trip. In the mood for a thriving restaurant scene and craft beer breweries along with your history?  Top on the list of things to see is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts well known as home to five gorgeous Fabergé eggs and works by Degas, Cézanne, and Renoir, and a large collection of African, Indian and Tibetan art. The State Capitol Building, partially designed by Thomas Jefferson, is also a must see.

Shenandoah National Park & Luray Caverns, Virginia

A three-hour drive at about 120 miles away, the park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, west of Washington, D.C. Skyline Drive is the only public road running through the Shenandoah National Park. Nearby Luray Caverns is the largest series of caverns in the east. Furthermore, this eerie underground world of stalactites and stalagmites is worth a day trip from NOVA.

Chincoteague Island, Virginia

At 170 miles away, this is the longest day-trip on this list, but still a reasonable 3.5-hour drive. Do not miss watching the ponies at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the quieter side of the Eastern Shore!

Hit the Beach

Lewes/Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

The Delaware Beaches are 121 miles and just 2.5 hours away by car. Bring your sunscreen, flip flops, and your bathing suit and enjoy! Visit historic Lewes, downtown Rehoboth, the bar scene in Dewey or the family friendly beaches of Bethany.

Ocean City, Maryland

Miles of coastline and a wooden boardwalk highlight Ocean City, Maryland, an easy day trip only 170- miles from NOVA. There are several golf courses to choose from and the best watersports and fishing on the eastern seaboard can be found in the OC.

Visiting The Keystone State  

Gettysburg (84 miles), Hershey (130 miles), Lancaster (120 Miles)

There are three unique Pennsylvania cities within a three-hour drive of the metro area. Relive the civil war in Gettysburg, learn the unique story of Milton Hersey and visit the famous amusement park in Hershey, or immerse yourself in the life of the Amish in Lancaster, PA.

Philadelphia, PA

A little further away at about 138 miles, it will take you three hours to make this drive, but is well worth the trip! Make like Rocky and take a run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. History comes alive on Independence Mall and at the Liberty Bell. Local Philly cuisine is available at the historic Reading Terminal Market.

Day Trips to Maryland

Annapolis, Maryland

Just 32 miles away, it will take you about an hour to drive here where you can enjoy this gorgeous town with quaint restaurants and the Naval Academy!  The Maryland State House, built in 1772, is older than the country itself! And it is the oldest state house still in use.

St. Michael’s, Maryland

Only 79 miles away, you can make this trip in about 1.5 hours. Maryland’s Eastern Shore features crabs and scenic water views like no other! The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, the Hooper Strait Lighthouse, and Church Creek Park are must see attractions.

The Great Outdoors Nearby NOVA

Newcomers to the area are often pleasantly surprised that there are many outdoor areas to enjoy in NOVA and the Washington D.C. area including:

Great Falls National Park

With 800 acres along the banks of the Potomac River in northern Fairfax County, this park offers whitewater kayaking and canoeing, fifteen miles of scenic hiking trails, (five of which are multi-use for horseback riding, hiking, and biking.) You can also experience rock climbing on the cliffs in Mather Gorge above the Potomac where the falls total 76 feet over a series of major cascades.

Mason Neck State Park

Located in southern Fairfax County, about 20 miles from Washington, D.C., visitors to this park can enjoy hiking trails, a large picnic area, a playground, a car-top canoe launch, visitor center, canoe, kayak, bicycle rentals and bird watching.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

This park dates back to the 18th century. The canal and towpath trail extends from Georgetown, Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland – a distance of 184.5 miles. You will also find outdoor recreation, picnicking, bicycling, fishing, boating, and hiking at this great location.

Georgetown Waterfront Park

This park sits along the Potomac River and visitors can enjoy picnicking, bicycling and skating.

Rock Creek Park

Extending 12 miles from the Potomac River to the border of Maryland, the National Zoo is located within Rock Creek Park. There is a lot to do including: picnicking, hiking, biking, rollerblading, tennis, fishing, horseback riding, concerts, planetarium shows, animal talks, exploratory hikes, crafts and junior ranger programs.

This list could go on and on as NOVA is centrally located on the Atlantic Coast. Between all the history in downtown D.C. and the great day trips offered by the five states that are easily accessible within a day’s drive, you will never be bored in here!

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Author: Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Strategic Communications Director, previously served as the Director of Communications for Operation Hug-A-Hero and as the Media/Community Relations Officer for the Delaware Department of Transportation. She has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, News Writing, Enterprise Reporting, and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, their two children. You can follow her on Twitter @olivowriter.