When we were stationed close to DC, it almost seemed like a given that you HAD to visit the National Mall, Smithsonian Museums, National Zoo, National Archive, and so on!
Besides all the obvious DC hot-spots, the National Capital Region is also close to some other nearby gems! I wanted to share with you some of our favs, especially because I was slacking in the last couple of years we were there. We camped more times than our trip to Westmoreland State Park. I swear there are more amazing parks local and national worth your time. Also, we’ve tried more Bed & Breakfast places after Hillbrook Inn!
So, please don’t miss out on the parks and B&Bs! And perhaps I’ll do a round-up of those in another post (there are TONS of national and local parks so worth it). This one, however, is going to focus on other destinations you might not have thought about as your planning your day trips or weekend getaways.
Washington’s Mount Vernon
This was our go-to place when friends and family visit because it’s super close to where we lived. Also, there is a discount given to the military. I HAVE to mention that my spouse actually re-enlisted on the grounds of Mount Vernon, which was incredibly awesome. So, that is something to consider if you’re up for that while stationed in the area.
Anyway, it’s really cool to be able to explore the home of George Washington and his family. The restaurant on the grounds is good too, offering food from the era. We actually spent Sunday brunch there on our first year. They have an amazing Fourth of July event and seriously, I’ve been there several times and there is always something new to learn. Awesome experience!
The LoCo Beer Trail
While researching things to do for my spouse’s birthday, I came across the LoCo Beer Trail! I picked an itinerary suggested by the Visit Loudoun County website. There are a handful of itineraries to choose from, but I picked the one that included farm breweries. I also added a couple more to our journey and we stayed at a nearby hotel so we can start on day 2 without the drive there.
Loudoun County isn’t far from Fairfax County! It was so nice to get far from the city a bit and enjoy the country. The farm breweries were great and had such beautiful layouts.
New York City!
A weekend trip is so doable. I would travel to visit friends when my spouse would be TDY. In addition, my spouse and I would travel together for a nice trip. Pro tip: you don’t need to drive to New York City. There are loads of options to get there with the bus being the one I used the most. The bus lines I’ve used are called Best Bus and Vamoose with pick-up locations in Springfield, Arlington, and Lorton. It’s so convenient and they have WiFi in them, so it makes it a productive 4ish hour trip.
If a friend’s house is unavailable, several hotel chains have military rates. My family has also stayed at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn and the Navy Lodging in Staten Island. Another option I’ve used is the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Inn in Midtown Manhattan. That option is more dormitory-style accommodations, where you are sharing a bathroom, but you’re among friends! I stayed there with my parents on a trip to NYC YEARS ago.
A friendly reminder, I lived in NYC for ten years too. So, if you have any Qs on easy affordable military-friendly ways to visit, let me know! I’ll most likely to a separate post on it at a later time too.
The drive from Washington DC to Philadelphia is about 2.5 hours and from where we were located about 3 hours. Of course, traffic will dictate the actual time, but even with that said, it’s not bad to hop over to Philly for a weekend jaunt once in a while.
We were lucky to have friends that live close to Philly, but I can’t imagine the city not having military rates at their hotels. Even if you don’t decide to stay the weekend, it can be a doable day trip. It’s not completely crazy!
It’s incredible to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, which is all part of the National Parks System. Besides that, there is the Philadelphia Museum of Art (AKA where the Rocky steps are located). Franklin Square, Betsy Ross’ House, and the USS New Jersey are other places to check out. I’m only scraping the surface of what’s available there!
If it weren’t for Broadway going down to Richmond, it may not have reached my radar! Yes, there is the Kennedy Center (which you SHOULD so go at some point), but showings could sell out fast. Or a show you want to see might not make its way to the Kennedy Center yet but hit Richmond first. Those two scenarios happened to us!
The Altria Theater helped us see two Broadway shows! First, I’ve been interested to see The Book of Mormon, which wasn’t playing in DC yet (it’s actually CURRENTLY playing in DC till Nov. 19, 2017, y’all!!). Well, I was checking out their traveling tour and noticed a location in Virginia. Why not drive the 2ish hours south to catch the show?
We decided to make it an overnight trip and sightsee the capital of Virginia. We visited the Capitol Grounds, American Civil War Museum, and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. There are also more parks in the area rich in history!
Okay, I’ve come to realize I’m going to have to split this to a two-parter because I’m not done! Hopefully, this will help as you as you’re piecing together your DC area bucket list. Be sure you venture out of the District!