Washington DC and Baltimore Maryland

Few road trips offer the education, fun, and adventure of the Washington DC/Baltimore area.
After arriving at BWI, Reagan, or Dulles airport the fun begins.

Our favorite of all is George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. This magical, historical spot is unforgettable as you visit the home of the first president and tour the lovely grounds. You’ll enjoy seeing the gardens, the museum, the slaves’ quarters, the horse and tack buildings, ice house, gristmill, wharf, trails, cellars, servants areas, greenhouse and much more, all authentic and from the colonial America period.

Inside George Washington’s home you’ll tour and enjoy unspoiled and majestic views of the Potomac where original trees still stand. Inside you’ll enjoy Washington’s actual furniture and books and personal belongings that still occupy the home.

His original bedroom is still on display where he and Martha lived and slept and where Washington died. Docents also fascinate visitors with personalized tidbits and stories of Washington’s history. Docents dressed up in period costume will answer questions and have animated conversations with guests while staying in character. We enjoyed interacting with Mrs. Washington asking her what life was like 200 years ago.

The nearby town of Alexandria, Virginia just ten minutes from Mount Vernon is a must for browsing and lunch where beautiful historic buildings from centuries ago, only add to the mystique.

Get on the 495, 295, 195, 695, 395 or was it the 95, no, just get a map or a GPS for sure, as the freeways are insane and even the locals joke openly about it. But get on the right one and follow the signs to the Baltimore National Aquarium.

Located right in the Baltimore harbor, visitors get up close and personal with aquatic and coastal life including sharks, rays, dolphins, birds, frogs, snakes and other creatures from the east coast as well as far away places like Australia and Africa.

We loved feeding the rays and enjoyed getting close to poisonous dart frogs, and crocodiles. The Animal Planet Australia exhibit is great and the dolphin show is similar to what you might find at Marine World or Sea World.

If getting to see wonderful animals excites you and your significant other, another ‘must visit’ is the National Zoo in Washington DC. This free admission zoo is spectacular with all that you would expect to see at any large zoo plus lots more like Panda Bears and anteaters.

You can even get tickets ahead of time for watching the Pandas during feeding time. We didn’t get the special tickets and we still enjoyed watching them play. This zoo is huge and spread out so plan on comfortable walking shoes. You will probably walk a good 2-3 miles.

One short but exciting day excursion from DC is Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. After driving over the magnificent Chesapeake Bay Bridge and through vast agricultural farming towns, we arrived at our favorite little beach town in Delaware. With wonderful beaches, quaint stores, restaurants, lighthouses and shell shops, this little gem is worth checking out for a relaxing afternoon away from the bustle of cities.

Courtesy of discoverlancasterpa.com

Another day trip is to the beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch Country. You could spend several days experiencing the lovely Amish people, fascinating culture, and breathtaking landscape that make up this haven of beauty. But even if you just have a day, you can enjoy some of it with Baltimore/DC as your starting point.

Highlights that cannot be missed include taking a real Amish buggy ride at Aaron and Jessica’s. Next door at the Plain and Fancy Farm enjoy a real Amish meal served long-table-family-farm-style and a multi media movie depicting Amish culture and values.

Browse through the towns of Bird in Hand or Intercourse and enjoy the shops and wares. We enjoyed a tour of the Intercourse Pretzel Factory. We tried our hand at twisting pretzels. Also a ride through the countryside on the Strasburg Rail Road is a must. And you won’t want to miss authentic Amish dishes like shoe fly pie at Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown.

Back in the city, our favorite spots in the downtown mall DC area are the Lincoln Memorial and of course the one and only Smithsonian. With so many Smithsonian museums to choose from, it’s best to pick one or two for an afternoon and focus on those.

We love the National Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History but there’s no such thing as a bad Smithsonian museum, with nearly twenty to choose from. The National Air and Space Museum showcases 61 aircraft and 51 large space artifacts along with 2000 smaller artifacts.

For places to stay, the choices are equally as unlimited. However on three of our visits we’ve stayed at the Woodfin Suites Hotel in Rockville, Maryland. Fairly central to everything and next to several major freeways, a stay in one of their suites is comfortable and affordable and includes breakfast every morning and a free light dinner most evenings with complimentary cocktails and sodas. They offer lots of extras like a free grocery shopping service and a shuttle, which proves very handy if you choose to take the Metro into the city like we did most of the time.

Train buffs will love the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum within walking distance of the popular Inner Harbor area.

Another side excursion is to the Shenandoah Valley past all the amazing civil war trails to Endless Caverns in New Market,Virginia. This cavern tour is simply unforgettable where stalagmites, stalagtites, calcite, and rock formations can be enjoyed on a guided tour revealing the geology and history. It’s a great place for bat lovers!

In town by the cavern is a favorite eating place, the Johnny Appleseed Restaurant where homemade apple fritters and apple butter must be sampled.

The Washington DC area offers FREEDOM at its best with so much to visit, view, and do for free including: African American Civil War Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington House, Ford’s Theater, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Library of Congress, Lincoln Memorial, National Gallery of Art, Washington National Cathedral, Union Station, U.S. Capitol, Washington Monument and so many others.

Again, I cannot warn you enough how bad traffic and parking is in the DC area. I recommend renting a car but plan on taking the Metro into the city areas as parking is almost impossible. If you must take a car into downtown DC, try visiting the monuments on Sunday when commuter traffic is not a problem and parking is at least feasible. Excellent bus and public transportation is available and in Bethesda, The Bethesda 8 Trolley is our favorite mode of transportation. It’s free, it’s fast and it’s fun. Bethesda with it’s quaint and eclectic shops and eateries, is a must for at least one afternoon.

DC and its outlaying areas are extremely hot and humid most summers. Early fall is a favorite time to visit while avoiding the crowds.

Get a good map at any bookstore and a guide book if you really want to productively plan the most out of your stay. The choices are a bit overwhelming but nonetheless wonderful. I recommend at least a week to fully enjoy the area.