Amazing Mid-Atlantic Drives and Day Trips

Looking for a Mid-Atlantic getaway destination? Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania will quench any type of travel appetite. Check them out on Alamo's Travel Guides.

The mid-Atlantic region of the United States encompasses beautiful drives along the coast and through hills that will connect you to the nation’s history in many memorable ways. No matter the season, the mid-Atlantic, specifically in and around Washington, D.C., has much more than museums to offer visitors. Venture outside the capital city, rent a car and discover amazing destinations within a three-hour drive.

Ocean City, Maryland

You can hit the beach year-round in Ocean City, Maryland. The island town is dotted with quaint, turn-of-the-century homes, many of which have been converted into bed-and-breakfasts. The colorful 3-mile-long boardwalk is lined with shops, snacks and, of course, plenty of Maryland’s lively paper-tablecloth crab shacks like Crab Alley that will leave you with Old Bay spice under your fingernails and a buttery smile on your face.

A winter visit to Ocean City offers another advantage for drivers: free parking. Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate as you walk around during the Winterfest of Lights, which takes November through January. In the summer, participate in the Family Beach Olympics on Tuesdays, enjoy free concerts on the beach on Wednesdays and don’t forget about Sundaes in the Park on, you guessed it, Sundays at Northside Park.

Ocean City

Apple Orchards of Northern Virginia

Virginia’s hills are scattered with vineyards as well as farms and orchards heavy with ripe apples and plump pumpkins during the fall. A favorite spot is Marker-Miller Orchards near Winchester, a winding 90-minute drive from the capital. Marker-Miller offers a sprawling hillside apple orchard, a market, bakery, ice cream shop, country ham sandwiches and burgers, live music and fresh, hot cider donuts. The market is open through December.

If you prefer grapes to apples, head to Valerie Hill Vineyard and Winery. The brick tasting house was built in 1807 by Revolutionary War Capt. Peter Rust. The winery offers tastings every day and live music on weekends.

Once you’ve filled your baskets with farm-fresh treats or picked up a bottle of local wine, head south toward Front Royal for a scenic drive through the Shenandoah Valley. You will find plenty of scenic overlooks for picnics and family photos.

Northern Virginia

Great Falls Park, Maryland and Virginia

Great Falls Park, which is a National Park that spans parts of Maryland and Virginia, is deceptively close to the Washington, D.C., metro area. The most direct route winds along the Potomac River on George Washington Memorial Parkway. Along the tree-lined drive, you’ll see the widest parts of the Potomac River shrink to rocky rapids, creating anticipation for a view of Great Falls. Once in the park, three scenic overlooks are within a 10-minute walk from the visitor center. Other park activities include horseback riding, fishing, ranger-led tours, boating and seeing the area’s history, which you can learn about at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center on the Maryland side of the park.

Great Falls

Fallingwater National Historic Landmark, Pennsylvania

American architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the celebrated Kaufmann residence, more commonly known as Fallingwater. Designated a National Historic Landmark, Fallingwater was built in the 1930s as a private residence, and, as its name suggests, it seemingly floats over a 30-foot waterfall on Bear Run in the Allegheny Mountains near where Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia meet. The home is stunning and luxurious, but stays true to Wright’s love of nature, integrating the gorgeous surroundings with expansive windows and lots of wood and stone. Whether you are interested in architecture, nature, history or even fine foods (some tours include meals), a tour of Fallingwater will impress. The grounds are also open through the fall and winter for self-guided hikes and sightseeing. Though this is the most ambitious drive on this list, it will certainly be a scenic one as you and your family twist through small, charming mountain towns along the way.

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About the Author

Katie Gach was born and raised in the Midwest, and now lives in Washington, D.C. She is a technologist, writer and expert stick-shift driver of her Mazda 3. She is happy to recommend the mid-Atlantic’s best ice cream shops. Find her on Twitter @kzgach.