HomeTravels7 Types of Day Trip Experiences You Can Do This Summer

7 Types of Day Trip Experiences You Can Do This Summer

Choose Your Enchanted Forest: Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City offers vintage fairy tale-themed entertainment for kids. Photograph of Clark’s Elioak Farm.

Travel is at the top of many summer bucket lists, and in the Washington area, you don’t have to go far to find something new to do or learn. We asked local experts and enthusiasts to share their favorite places to explore their passion within a three-hour drive from the city. From birdwatching to biking to brewing, here are seven fun day trips.

For a day trip with toddlers | Try a fairy tale farm

Who we spoke to: Courtney Whittington, founder of DC-Area Moms and mother of four, two boys and two girls, ages 2-11.

Where she recommends: Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City.

How far: About an hour drive from DC.

What makes it great: “They have an enchanted forest. They have lots of farm animals you can interact with: goats, pigs, pony rides, rabbits,” says Whittington. “It’s fairy tale themed, so they’ll have, like, an old lady who lived in a shoe. They’ve got a slide that’s in a big shoe that’s shaped like a nursery rhyme. You can take a train ride. They have a fairy garden you can walk through that my kids are obsessed with, it’s a truly magical place for little kids.

Where to stop for a bite to eat: The Whittington kids love Busboys and Poets, and they sometimes stop at Columbia, off Route 29, on their way home from the farm.

Out for a Spin Shenandoah River State Park is a fun place to ride. Photograph by Philippe Oursel/unsplash.com

For an outdoor adventure | Try mountain biking

Who we spoke to: Ernie Rodriguez, president of Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, a mountain biking and trail building advocacy group.

Where he recommends: Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville, Virginia.

How far: About a 90 minute drive from DC.

What makes it great: The park has 24 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, horseback riding, and biking. For mountain bike beginners, the Bluebell and River trails follow the Susquehanna River and offer fairly flat gravel rides, as well as great mountain views. Says Rodriguez: “We took these beautiful easy flowing trails along the river from one end of the park to the other.”

Where to stop for a bite to eat: Field & Main in Marshall, about 35 minutes from the park just off I-66, offers upscale farm-to-table fare for lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday. Take-out is also available.

The Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel is a wildlife oasis. Photograph by Garden Beth/@gardenbeth/Flickr.com.

For a while in nature | Try bird watching

Who we talked to: Gina Ghertner, chief naturalist of the Audubon Naturalist Society’s GreenKids educational program.

Where she recommends: The South Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel.

How far: About a 30 minute drive from DC.

What makes it great: “He has such a variety of habitats,” Ghertner says. “The place has two lakes. It has a pond and wetlands, it has marshes, it has grasses, it has forest habitats. They have a very nice visitor center, because if it’s too hot or you just want to take a break. Outside of this visitor center they have a pollinator garden and bird feeders with a shade. So right away when you get there – if you get there early, which I always do when I want to go bird watching – you can see lots of birds around that feeder without much effort.

The refuge has several trails, one of which is entirely paved. There, Ghertner searches for wood thrushes, Kentucky warblers and prairie warblers, as well as other wildlife such as beavers, butterflies and frogs.

Where to stop for a bite to eat: Ghertner’s vegetarian family loves fast-casual NuVegan coffee in College Park, or grabbing a snack at the Dutch Country Farmers Market in Laurel.

For a treasure hunt | Try antiquity

Who we spoke to: Wayne Fisher, owner of Wayne Fisher’s American Design in Alexandria, which offers antique Americana home decor, which he has collected for more than 35 years.

Where he recommends: New Oxford, Pennsylvania.

How far: About an hour and 45 minute drive from DC.

What makes it great: “There are lots of boutiques and half a dozen antique malls,” says Fischer. His favorites include New Oxford Antique Center, Zelma’s Emporium and Collector’s Choice, all within walking distance of each other and with great diverse collections. “You don’t want to get there at noon or 1 o’clock; you want to get there at 10 a.m. because if you’re going to watch those three alone carefully, you want to have time to do this.”

Where to stop for a bite to eat: Fisher and her husband like to stop on the way home at the “comfortable and historic” Dobbin House Tavern in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for classic American cuisine.

Patuxent Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Patuxent Brewing Company.

For a taste of something new | Try a Brewery Tour

Who we spoke to: Eamoni Collier, founder and CEO of Urban Garden Brewing Company.

Where she recommends: Patuxent Brewery in Waldorf.

How far: About an hour drive from DC.

What makes it great: “It’s Maryland’s first black-owned brick-and-mortar brewery,” Collier says of Paxtuxent, which opened its tasting room in August 2019. “They support other local brands, so you can try their beer and also try other people’s beers. You can’t really get their beer in town, you have to go [to the brewery] to try their awesome beers. And it’s just a three-barrel brewery, not your typical large production house. Everything is very intimate. Patuxent Brewing Company, which also offers tours, has a tasting room as well as outdoor seating.

Where to stop for a bite to eat: Brewery co-owner Gene Lott recommends the salmon, wing and potato soup at Grille 13, a nearby Irish tavern that was recently featured on the Food Network reality show Restaurant Impossible.

For the vibrations of the vineyard | Try a wine tasting

Who we spoke to: Brent Kroll, owner of Maxwell Park Wine Bar and 2018 Food & Wine Sommelier of the Year.

Where he recommends: Linden Vineyards in Linden, Virginia.

How far: About a 90 minute drive from DC.

What makes it great: “When I think of going to a winery that’s not commercial, not touristy, with a great view and great wine, Linden is where it’s at for me. It’s just really relaxed. So if I take people with me and they’re not wine enthusiasts, no one will feel like it’s above them or they don’t belong. Kroll describes vineyard owner Jim Law as a “patriarch of Virginia vineyards” who has mentored many other winemakers in the area. “He’s not a big social media guy. It has no marketing team. But it produces some of the best wines in Virginia.

Where to grab a bite: Kroll is a fan of the cheese platter and baguettes served directly at the vineyard.

Explore Monticello beyond the mansion tour. Photo courtesy of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello.

For a stimulating history lesson | Try a Presidential Plantation Tour

Who we spoke to: Ana Lucia Araujo, professor of history at Howard University.

Where she recommends: Monticello in Charlottesville.

How far: About a two and a half hour drive from DC.

What makes it great: Araujo suggests exploring Jefferson’s plantation beyond visiting the mansion. “Monticello does a better job than Mount Vernon of telling the story of slavery and Jefferson’s connection to slave ownership,” she says. “It is crucial to visit Mulberry Row, to see the slave quarters for slaves who worked as blacksmiths and all sorts of professions. Then near the kitchen were the quarters where Sally Hemings lived – the slave woman who was Thomas Jefferson’s mother to six children. There is a nice exhibit on her.

Where to grab a bite: The funky, old-school Blue Moon Diner is a local favorite in Charlottesville for breakfast and lunch. It also offers take-out meals.

This article appears in the July 2022 issue of The Washingtonian.

Kayla Benjamin

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