It’s the middle of August. If you’re living or working in Washington DC it may seem like most of your friends, colleagues and half of the city is out-of-town. They are. They’re on beaches near and far. They’ve taken trains, planes and automobiles to arrive at their destination. You did not. That is OK. With little work and little cash, there are multiple adventures within a few hours of this town. So leave. Really. Go. Consider one of these fine locales.
If you’re looking for the picturesque equestrian town that mirrors Pride and Prejudice-era England, take the hour-long trip out to Middleburg. After taking I-66 W out of the city, hop on Hwy. 50 W and don’t stop until you see horses. Start your morning early enough to hit up the Cuppa Giddy Up coffee house with a brew better than the name would lead you to believe. Latté-in-hand, peruse the variety of consignment, jewelry, and clothing stores on the main drag, Washington St. The nearby Market Salamander offers sandwiches and picnic baskets (yeah, legitimate baskets with fried chicken, crab cakes, or flank steak) to-go. Bring it all over to Boxwood Estates Winery for a tasting flight, and pick up a bottle to add the one thing your picnic basket is missing. -Brandon Weight
(Photo by William Toti)
Let it never be said you’ve got nowhere to go when DC gets too stuffy. Give or take some light or excruciating I-95 traffic, one of the south’s finest cities sits roughly a two-hour drive away. Full of history, gorgeous architecture and lazy summer days in the James River, the former capital of the Confederacy hosts a number of sights and events to kick start your creativity and get you out of that beltway funk. Stroll through Carytown for some mini Dixie Doughnuts or Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream, then catch a second-run movie at the Byrd Theatre–one of the most gorgeous renovated movie houses you can set your eyes on, complete with a live Wurlitzer performance on the weekends. If you feel like catching a live show, look up any one of their excellent venues, be it The National for larger acts and grand productions or a spot like Strange Matter, part restaurant, part venue (this one also happens to host a slew of classic arcade games). When it comes to art, Richmond is home to an incredible community that ranges from street art (check out RVA Mag’s current mural project) to performance art, to sculpture, to, well, you name it; it’s even home to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. If you feel like shopping be sure to check out Need Supply Co. for boutique finds or Bygones for vintage clothing, jewelry and reproductions–in short, there’s something there for everyone. You’ve got no excuses. -Stephanie Breijo
What people might know about Annapolis: Main Street, the Naval Academy, waterfront activities. But the best part of Annapolis is Maryland Avenue. It’s still considered part of Downtown Annapolis, so you can easily walk there, but it’s out of the way of all the bars and ridiculous amounts of tourists who don’t seem to know how to walk down a sidewalk. Maryland Avenue is a tiny cobblestone street that’s peppered with small stores and coffee shops that give you a feel for Annapolis without all of the people. Ka-Chunk Records, the only record store in Annapolis, boasts a collection of both new and old albums with the friendliest set of Annapolis hipsters you’ll ever meet. Across the way is Annebeth’s Specialty Store where Annebeth sells everything from craft beers to weird trinkets. A little further down is The Annapolis Bookstore, a.k.a. my favorite place in Annapolis. It’s basically an old house that has been converted to a cluttered bookstore/coffee shop. It’s fantastic because there is almost no organized system for their books; it’s just two floors of books laid on any and every surface. If you’re hungry/thirsty, Galway Bay is a fantastic Irish pub that is never too crowded (try the Reuben) during the day. -Mary Beth McAndrews
(via KA-CHUNK!! Records)
Water parks are one of the best summer activities for everyone, whether it be a family, a group of friends, or a date. But lord are they expensive and way too crowded. However, there is a small one in Chesapeake Beach (not too far from Six Flags) that is smaller and more affordable than those dumb amusement parks. Granted, it only has two big slides, but who cares? The lines aren’t long and you can either go down on a floatie or your back. They don’t have heart-stopping thrill rides, but I don’t need that when I’m wearing a bikini. There’s also a lazy river that you can ride on for as long as you want. Compare that to Six Flags where you can only go around twice. The best part: I have never had any problems finding a chair or a floatie at this water park. Even better, admission is half-off after 4 p.m. – Mary Beth McAndrews
The Eastern Shore is not just cows and corn. That’s a lot of the Eastern Shore, but there is more to it that’s hidden just off of the highway. Stevensville, which from Rt. 50 looks like a Wal-Mart and some fast food joints, is actually a beautiful town on the water, full of boutique and antique shops. A little further down Rt. 50 is Kent Narrows, which is essentially a giant marina full of bars and bay view restaurants. The best bar/restaurant there is The Jetty. It’s a collection of colorful plastic palm trees, some sand, and a bunch of picnic tables. It’s simple, it’s relaxed, it’s outside, it’s great. Also, the Queenstown outlet mall. Tons of outlet malls with cheap clothing are waiting for you across the Bridge. The Eastern Shore is more than a way to get the beach. - Mary Beth McAndrews
Howard County is a pretty boring part of Maryland, trust me, I grew up there. Most of it is filled with schools and McMansions and our only real draw is Merriweather Post Pavillion. But, if you ever find yourself in Howard County and need to get away from the crushing suburbia head to Main Street in Ellicott City. Filled with great bars, antique shops, and restaurants, Historic Ellicott City looks like a town that time forgot. It has its own brewery, Ellicott Mills, but if you’re not feeling their beers, The Phoenix Emporium and The Judge’s Bench are both known for their great beer lists. If you want something a little classier and more intimate, Cacao Lane is a great candle lit restaurant with good food and cocktails. Besides great food and drinks, Historic Ellicott City also has some cool museums like B&O Railroad Museum and the Firehouse Museum. If you like the weirder things in life, Historic Ellicott City is supposedly really haunted. During October multiple ghost tours traverse the town stopping at popular bars (like the aforementioned Judge’s Bench) and creepy spots like the Patapsco Female Institute, a crumbling victorian building that was once a girls boarding school as well as a hospital. Last, but not least, if you ever find yourself on Main Street you have to visit The Forget-Me-Not-Factory, a three story row home stuffed to the brim with the weirdest, most random, things money can buy. – Kaylee Dugan
Did you know West Virginia is home to the country’s first spa? Berkeley Springs, located in the states eastern panhandle, is named after the hot mineral springs that flow from Hot Spring Ridge. The town surrounding the springs have developed into a spa town and artist colony. About 2 hours from DC (take Route 7 or 270), this drive is seriously worth it. I even recommend making a weekend out of this trip instead of trying to do everything in one day. First, get muddy and tire yourself out hiking in Capacon State Park. Then visit any of the numerous spas to clean yourself up. Afterwards, dinner and some window shopping for art is about perfect before you head back to your bed and breakfast or inn. The next day take a historical tour before heading home.