With the season’s long days and warm nights comes ample opportunities for fun in the sun throughout the whole mid-Atlantic region. Whether you’re aching to paddle down a river, hike to a waterfall, sit on a beach, roast s’mores over a campfire, chase lightening bugs, hit up a historical hot-spot or just kick up your heels and relax… you’ll find it all within a few hours of our nation’s capital. With so many options, the challenge is just figuring out where to go.
Luckily, I’m here to help!
Here are 5 of my favorite summer getaways from D.C.
1.) For a small beach town with BIG personality, try… Lewes, Delaware
The small beach town of Lewes, Delaware (pronounced “Lewis“) sometimes gets a bit neglected, due to its close proximity to the area’s bigger beaches like Ocean City and Rehobeth. But Lewes is a worthy summer destination in itself. The big news is that this July, the nearby Dogfish Head Brewery is opening their new brewery-themed boutique hotel, the Dogfish Inn, in downtown Lewes. Um… sign me up!
If that’s not enough to pique your interest, Lewes is also home to a beach right on the ocean, Agave (the best Mexican restaurant around), as well as the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. For around $18/ round trip, you can enjoy a serene, 90-minute boat ride to picturesque Cape May, New Jersey to enjoy the day… and still be back in time for Happy Hour. (TIP: I recommend leaving your car in Lewes– it’s much cheaper and you are able to explore Cape May on foot.)
2.) For outdoor fun and natural beauty, try… Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
People often save a trip to Shenandoah National Park for the fall, when the changing leaves are at their height of glory. But don’t forget that Shenandoah’s spectacular in the summer months, too!
The mountains and high elevation mean cooler temperatures– a welcome relief once the region’s much-chagrined humidity sets in. Spend a sunny summer day driving down Skyline Drive, stopping to admire the jaw-dropping views of the Shenandoah Valley or for a hike to one of the valley’s many waterfalls. To extend your trip, spend the night camping under the stars… or with some rustic luxury at one of the lodges, like the Skyland Resort.
3.) For a family-friendly weekend, try… Williamsburg, Virginia
Old meets new at one of my favorite weekend destinations for families and adults alike: Williamsburg, Virginia. I love Williamsburg for its sheer variety of activities… there’s Colonial Williamsburg and nearby Jamestown for history buffs and more adrenaline-pumping fun that you can stand at Busch Gardens and Water Country USA (with tickets available as a package deal). The Williamsburg Winery is a hit with grown-ups, as well a fun historic downtown district with lots of shops, restaurants and free colonial demonstrations.
Visitors will also appreciate plethora of affordable, centrally-located hotels… many of which have summer’s most essential amenity: a swimming pool. Some good choices include: The Williamsburg Lodge ($$$), the Days Inn Historic Area ($$) and the Historic Powhatan Resort ($$).
4.) For some history and high-end R&R, try… Charlottesville, Virginia
The area in and around Charlottesville, Virginia was once home to 3 of our nation’s earliest presidents: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. Over 200 years later, their legacy can still be felt as you visit their meticulously maintained homes: Monticello, Montpelier and Ash Lawn-Highland. Enjoy the convergence of old and new at places like the historic 8-block Downtown Mall in the center of the city, where renovated buildings have been turned into shops and restaurants. Localvores like me would love Brookville Restaurant, where at least 90% of the menu features ingredients from within a 100-mile radius, but there’s someplace for every craving.
In Charlottesville, you can also get close to another one of Jefferson’s hobbies… wine! Evidently this founding father was also the founding father of wine in Virginia and today, the Charlottesville area’s home to a whopping 23 wineries and breweries. (The “Nelson 151” route is a must for brewery fanatics, with Blue Mountain Brewery, Wild Wolf and Devil’s Backbone all within close distance.) Take it slow and build in time for a stay at one of the area’s luxurious properties, like the stately Keswick Hall, named one of Travel and Leisure’s best hotels in the world for the past 2 years.
5. A beachy escape: Solomons Island, Maryland
If you’re yearning for a beachy day trip that’s super easy to get to, consider the nearby Solomons Island. On this 1/2 mile-long island, you’ll find mounds of traditional Old Bay-spiced Maryland crabs being dished up right on the pier, orange crushes (the oh-so-refereshing boozy blend of freshly-squeezed orange juice, vodka and triple sec) at the infamous Tiki Bar and super-stunning water views from practically all sides. The best part? It is incredibly easy to get to. From the Washington D.C. area, you should arrive in about an hour and a half, even during the weekend rush hour… and you won’t even have to cross the Bay Bridge to get there.
**NOTE: While there aren’t any actual beaches in Solomons, a beachy vibe is present all throughout town, and some nearby beaches provide ample sand for those wanting to lay out, search for fossilized shark’s teeth or splash around in the Chesapeake’s calm waters.
Read all about my visit to Solomons Island: A Taste of the Beach on Maryland’s Western Shore.
Did I leave any of your favorite summer destinations off this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!