It’s okay to lick the Old Bay off your fingers and put your elbows on the table covered with brown paper. At these three crab decks, manners take a back seat to sweet Maryland crabs.
Photograph by Edwin Remsburg
45 miles from the Washington Monument
Bo Brooks Restaurant & Catering
2780-A Lighthouse Point, Baltimore; 410-558-0202
This hidden urban gem is at a marina near the city’s hip Canton Square. Seats at the floating deck and tiki bar let you watch city lights sparkling on the water. For 48 years, the place has been steaming crabs with Natty Boh and pickle juice. Must-eat treats: Half n Half (tomato-based- and cream-of-crab soups swirled together), Crab Fluff (beer-battered, deep-fried crabcake), and house-made potato salad laced with sweet relish.
What’s nearby: Canton Square nightlife; Baltimore Museum of Industry; American Visionary Art Museum; Fort McHenry (see page 78).
49 miles from the Washington Monument
Fisherman’s Inn & Crab Deck
3116 Main St., Grasonville, Md.; 410-827-6666
You can pick a dining area to match your mood at this Kent Narrows landmark. The inn’s decor includes antique oyster plates, duck decoys, a huge fish tank, and a train suspended from the ceiling to entertain kids. The casual crab deck sits on the water serving just-caught seafood on brown paper. Best bet: steamer pots packed with crabs, shrimp, and clams. After eating, hit the tiki bar and sip rum drinks in a tropical-island setting.
What’s nearby: Sandy Point State Park’s beach; charter fishing boats; bikini contests at Red Eye’s Dock Bar; Wye Grist Mill’s water wheel, still grinding flour.
62 miles from the Washington Monument
Stoney’s Solomons Pier
14575 Solomons Island Rd. S., Solomons, Md.; 410-326-2424
In the heart of Solomons Island, you can dine on a pier with a 360-degree view of the Patuxent River and cruising boats. Three bars and two fantastic decks make this a perfect summer spot. The menu is a cornucopia of local catch: crabs, oysters, rockfish, and more. Eat in or take out treats from its bustling seafood market.
What’s nearby: Antiques stores; Lore Oyster House’s exhibits on the history of the bay’s seafood industry; Calvert Marine Museum’s 1883 lighthouse; mai tais at the Tiki Bar; Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center; time-traveling to Colonial days in St. Mary’s City (see page 87).
—Susan Elnicki Wade
More Online Looking for more fun crab decks for a summer road trip? Check out author Susan Elnicki Wade’s website.
Meatloaf and Moonshine
Photograph of sandwich by Andrew Propp
Foti’s ground-tenderloin meatloaf sandwich features house-made barbecue sauce and a tomato-herb roll.
70 miles from the Washington Monument
The burgeoning food scene in Culpeper makes it a great spot for lunch. Try the ground-tenderloin meatloaf sandwich at Foti’s (219 E. Davis St.; 540-825-1011), run by a couple who trained at the Inn at Little Washington, or order a wood-fired pizza at Thyme Market (128 E. Davis St.; 540-825-4264). Then drive ten miles from the center of town for a tour at Stillhouse Distillery at Belmont Farm (13490 Cedar Run Rd.; 540-825-3207), where owner Chuck Miller makes moonshine the way his granddaddy taught him.
—Andrea C. Poe
Photograph of Goodstone by Jane Rader
Goodstone Inn’s picnic
42 miles from the Washington Monument
Take in the modernistic elegance of Boxwood Estate Winery (2042 Burrland Rd., Middleburg; 540-687-8778; $10 tasting fee; open Friday through Sunday) and pick up a bottle of excellent dry rosé, then head to Goodstone Inn & Restaurant (36205 Snake Hill Rd., Middleburg; 540-687-4645) for a gourmet picnic for two beside Goose Creek. The seasonal menu changes daily but includes such fare as wild king salmon over ratatouille, country pâté, farmstead cheeses, field greens with Champagne vinaigrette, and house-made cookies. Blanket included; starts at $35 a person, by reservation.
—Nancy Bauer Collier
Rockets’ Red Glare
Photograph courtesy of the National Park Service
41 miles from the Washington Monument
The battle that inspired “The Star Spangled Banner” will light up the sky during a mock bombardment and War of 1812 encampment September 7 through 9 at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. 2400 E. Fort Ave.; 410-962-4290.
Walk in Washington’s Footsteps
52 miles from the Washington Monument
George Washington most definitely slept in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
The house he bought his mother, the Mary Washington House (1200 Charles St.; 540-373-1569), offers tours, as does sister Betty Washington Lewis’s Georgian digs, Kenmore Plantation (1201 Washington Ave.; 540-373-3381), renowned for its ornate plasterwork ceilings.
Start a day trip to Fredericksburg at the visitors’ center (706 Caroline St.; 540-373-1776), which sells money-saving passes and runs a 14-minute orientation video. For a deeper overview, you can choose a tour—by foot, carriage, or trolley.
With more than 350 original 18th- and early-19th-century buildings, the well-preserved 40-block historic district has a vibrant mix of shops selling fine antiques, kitschy vintage treasures, art, and clothing.
Whittingham (1021 Caroline St.; 540-374-0443) has terrific wares for cooking and dining, but it’s the artistic windows staged by Bob Whittingham, a former display director for Cartier, that ice the cake. For art that’s on sale, head to LibertyTown Arts Workshop (916 Liberty St.; 540-371-7255), where 45 artists create, display, and sell their work. More than 20 other galleries are sprinkled around town.
Take a detour across the Rappahannock River to Belmont (224 Washington St., Falmouth; 540-654-1015), the former home and studio of the eminent portrait artist Gari Melchers and his wife, Corinne. The 16-room home on 27 acres displays the art and antiques they collected as well as many of Melchers’s own paintings.
History buffs can take in four battlefields at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (1013 Lafayette Blvd.; 540-373-6122) and hear fascinating stories about one of the Civil War’s most fought-over territories.
The area has plenty of dining options, from traditional French to Modern American. Year-and-a-half-old Foodē (1006 Caroline St; 540-479-1370) stands out for its creative menu, casual atmosphere—you order and pay at the counter—and no-tipping policy. It even serves breakfast on weekends; get there early for the huge, flaky biscuits of the day.
Photograph of Montpelier by Kenneth M Wyner
90 miles from the Washington Monument
Montpelier has emerged more historic than ever from a $25-million restoration. The house has been renovated to appear as it did when James Madison renovated it from 1809 to 1812. Tucked amid the Blue Ridge Mountains, Montpelier is where Madison spent his childhood, his early marriage, and his post-presidency, including his dying day. Admission $18 for adults, $7 for children. 11407 Constitution Hwy., Montpelier Station, Va.; 540-672-2728; montpelier.org.
—Andrea C. Poe
Taste of Italy
41 miles from the Washington Monument
Bring your lawn chair to the corner of High and Stiles streets in Baltimore on any Friday through August after 7 pm for free concerts and al fresco cinema—from The Talented Mr. Ripley to Cinema Paradiso—at the Little Italy Open Air Festival. littleitalymd.com.
Ride Into History
Photograph of Reenactor by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Experience Gettysburg the way soldiers did—in uniform, atop a horse.
82 miles from the Washington Monument
Any visit to Gettysburg National Military Park can be a powerful experience, but it becomes even more so when you mount a horse and assume the role of a Union or Confederate solider.
Confederate Trails of Gettysburg Horseback Tours has teamed up with Victorian Photography Studio—a guide leads up to eight riders, dressed in period costumes, along paths on the battlefield. Called the Soldiers Ride, the tour lasts about an hour and gives you a sense of what it was like to be in this epic battle.
Confederate Trails offers other horseback options, including the two-hour Scenic Ride, which visits major sites on the battlefield such as where General Robert E. Lee waited for his returning troops after Pickett’s Charge—a prime perch with a panoramic view of the Peach Orchard and Little Round Top.
The guides are Civil War buffs who share everything from battle strategy to 19th-century political gossip to remedies for wartime clothing malfunctions.
Horses with names like Patriot and Freedom are well trained and patient with even inexperienced riders. (Children must be at least eight years old to ride.) Tours range from $42 to $99 a person. 717-476-7428; confederatetrailsofgettysburg.com.
—Andrea C. Poe
New Inner Harbor Fun
Photograph of Aquarium courtesy of National Aquarium
At the National Aquarium, visitors can get up-close to Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
40 miles from the Washington Monument
With dozens of waterfront attractions, the Inner Harbor in Baltimore has long been a favorite family destination.
The newest attraction? Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (Light Street Pavilion; 443-615-7878), with its disorienting mirror maze and 4D Moving Theater.
Don’t miss the USS Torsk (Pier 3; 410-539-1797), docked nearby—a chance to explore a World War II submarine. For an actual ride on the water, hop aboard the Seadog (561 Light St.; 866-845-7245), a speedboat that provides a 50-minute adrenaline rush past Baltimore’s historic sites.
Two of the harbor’s biggest draws are the National Aquarium (501 E. Pratt St.; 410-576-3800) and Port Discovery Children’s Museum (35 Market Pl.; 410-727-8120). The aquarium has replaced its timed dolphin shows with interactive experiences in which visitors can watch trainers work with the dolphins. Nearby, a three-story maze of tubes and rope bridges, science and art activities, and a kid-size 1950s diner are just a few reasons why Forbes ranked Port Discovery one of the country’s top children’s museums.
There are more than 60 restaurants at the harbor, but amid a sea of chains the Pratt Street Ale House (206 W. Pratt St.; 410-244-8900), a locally owned sports bar with tin ceilings and brick arches, stands out. The menu offers such kid favorites as wings, burgers, and mac and cheese, and adults can order flavorful gumbo and house-crafted beer.
—Andrea C. Poe
Up for a Family Hike?
Harpers Ferry by Danita Delimont/Getty Images
66 miles from the Washington Monument
Near Harpers Ferry, the Maryland Heights Trail offers a spectacular overlook of the historic town and the spot where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet. To make it a longer, more strenuous hike, when you set out, stay left past the Naval Battery and take the Stone Fort Trail loop to the summit before joining the Overlook Cliff Trail. www.hikingupward.com/omh/marylandheights.
119 miles from the Washington Monument
For families with children of varying ages, the amusement park DUTCH WONDERLAND has broad appeal. The clean, well-maintained park offers everything from rides for little ones less than three feet tall to a water park and live entertainment. Admission is $35.99 for ages three and up; kids under age two are free. 2249 Lincoln Hwy. E., Lancaster, Pa.; 866-386-2839.
Take Them Out to a Ball Game
Photograph of Harry Grove Stadium by Tim Jacobsen
A Frederick Keys game is a fun way to immerse little ones in our national pastime.
44 miles from the Washington Monument
Okay, your family-room flat-screen might be larger than the JumboTron behind left field at the Frederick Keys’ Harry Grove Stadium. This is minor-league ball after all, and the cozy home for this single-A Baltimore Orioles affiliate holds only 8,000. If the seats were any closer to the dugouts and the diamond, you’d be picking the players’ cast-off sunflower shells out of your beverage.
The Nationals are playing well (as of this writing) and there are other minor-league teams in the Washington area, including the Nats’ own single-A team in Woodbridge. But the Frederick Keys—coming off their fourth Carolina League championship season—offer the quintessential family-friendly ballpark outing.
You know this team has tykes in mind as soon you see the merry-go-round twirling alongside the right-field fence—part of a munchkin magnet called the Fun Zone, with moon bounces and carnival games, where you’ll hear more shrieks and squeals than in the front row of a Justin Bieber concert. The kind of childishness you’re not likely to encounter at Keys games is beer-besotted adults cursing a blue streak. You can enjoy the game with your hands on a hot dog, not over your little one’s ears.
The intimate ballpark is the perfect place to introduce the next generation to the nuances of our national pastime, and there are plenty of between-innings high jinks. The mascot, Keyote—it sort of looks like a coyote—tirelessly works the stands, high-fiving every cotton-candy-sticky hand he can.
It’s all cheap, too. Advance tickets range from $9 to $12 for adults and $6 to $7 for kids, with game-day walkups just a couple of bucks more. 21 Stadium Dr., Frederick; 301-662-0013.
Avast Ye, Maties!
66 miles from the Washington Monument
All hands on deck: Head to Annapolis to set sail aboard a pirate ship and spend 75 minutes searching the Chesapeake Bay for Pirate Pete and stolen treasure. Through Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake, toddlers to tweens are assigned pirate names and enjoy dressing up in costume and face painting prior to boarding. Choose among six daily departures; tickets are $19. 311 Third St., Annapolis; 410-263-0002.
By Bike and By Boat
Photograph of bikers by Andrew Propp
The Mount Vernon Trail’s southern end crosses marshes where you might spot blue herons and ducks.
7 miles from the Washington Monument
The portion of the Mount Vernon Trail between Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon is scenic and peaceful, and now you can bike it—and leave your bicycle behind. On a Mount Vernon by Bike and Boat self-guided tour offered by Bike and Roll, you get a rental bike and helmet, admission to Mount Vernon, and a return boat ride.
It’s an easy nine miles from the bike-rental spot in Old Town to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The path glides up and down through woods and along the Potomac River.
For added fun—and a longer, 17-mile ride—start around 10 am and head north four miles to Gravelly Point, where you can watch planes take off and land at Reagan National Airport, then head south.
When you arrive at the trail’s southern end, at Mount Vernon, you simply attach the bike and helmet to a designated bike rack. The atrium-style French cafe in the food court is a good place for lunch.
Plan on spending at least three hours touring the 500-acre estate. A good place to start is the orientation center, which features a scale model of the mansion. Continue on to the museum and education center, where there are 25 galleries and theaters showing short documentaries, before exploring the mansion.
The former plantation includes slave quarters and other outbuildings, beautiful gardens, and the final resting place of George and Martha. You can witness 18th-century farming and cooking techniques at the Pioneer Farm, with its 16-sided barn designed by Washington.
Make sure to be at the pier next to the lower farm by 4 for the cruise back to Alexandria. The relaxing narrated tour covers the history and sites along the river and gets you back to Old Town at 5:30.
Mount Vernon by Bike and Boat costs $58 for adults, $38 for ages 6 through 12, $20 under age 6. 202-842-2453; bikethesites.com.
37 miles from the Washington Monument
Stonewall Golf Club, in Prince William County, is a challenging course with lush fairways. Considered one of the country’s best public courses, it offers spectacular water views.15601 Turtle Point Dr., Gainesville; 703-753-5101.
Work With Your Hands
Photograph of Apprentice Program courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
81 miles from the Washington Monument
Try your hand at a time-honored tradition—boat building—at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels as part of its Apprentice for a Day program.
Whether you’re a seasoned builder or a novice, you’ll work side by side with master shipwrights at the museum’s boat yard beside the Miles River, learning techniques such as steam bending, planking, varnishing, and cutting keel.
Every week a different task is tackled—from building a new rudder and centerboard for a skiff to creating a new mast for a small sailboat to chopping and prepping logs to create a canoe. The museum focuses exclusively on traditional wooden craft. Apprentices work alongside resident shipwrights on the creation or restoration of boats that will be used on the Chesapeake Bay—some are sold, others used by the museum.
The cost to be an “apprentice for a day” is $45 for nonmembers of the museum; you can sign up for any Saturday or Sunday. You can also sign up for the Journeyman Special ($170 for nonmembers), which entitles you to participate any four days. 213 N. Talbot St., St. Michaels; 410-745-2916.
—Andrea C. Poe
Hike With a View
Photograph of view by Michael Hudson Photography
92 miles from the Washington Monument
Enjoy Skyline Drive without the autumn leaf-peepers. The easy, 3.7-mile Stony Man Mountain Hiking Loop offers amazing views from atop sheer cliffs of Shenandoah National Park’s verdant mountains, the farm fields of Page Valley below, and the densely forested Massanutten Ridge on the horizon. Pick up the trail between mile markers 41 and 42 (parking available). www.hikingupward.com/snp/stonyman.
Soar to the Clouds
96 miles from the Washington Monument
Ever wanted to learn to fly? A paraglider is a lightweight craft that’s easy to pilot. Using updrafts created by the wind and sun, paragliders can fly for hours, soaring up to the clouds without a motor. Virginia Paragliding, near Charlottesville, offers a half-day, $200 introductory clinic in which new students often solo to 200 feet high. 434-218-2359; virginiaparagliding.com.
Photograph by Andrew Propp
Clifton, with its many restored 19th-century buildings, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
29 miles from the Washington Monument
Love old houses? Clifton, Virginia, is known for its late-19th-century architecture—you rarely hear the town’s name mentioned without the word “historic” preceding it.
You can park in the town center by the old red caboose, a relic from Clifton’s heyday in the 1870s as a major rail stop. Cross the road and start with a coffee in the blue-and-white Clifton Café (7144 Main St.; 703-830-2424), which also serves terrific crepes.
Next door, peek into All That Glitters (7144 Main St.; 703-830-6995), full of sparkly jewelry and paisley purses. Cross the street again and head down Chapel Road. You’ll pass the beautiful royal-green Woodyard House (12702 Chapel Rd.), built in 1899 by Wallace Woodyard, a lumber merchant—so it has the finest materials and workmanship. At 12700 Chapel Road is the old barbershop, circa 1884, now a veterinary practice. Walk a block to the Clifton House, home to T&K Treasures (12644 Chapel Rd.; 703-266-1664), where you’ll find candles, birdhouses, fuzzy slippers, and miniature copies of the Constitution.
Return to the corner of Chapel and Main, noticing the green-and-white 1910 Baptist church on the corner. You’ll then come to the orange Quigg House, circa 1874, with its fine mansard roof. You might pause there for some soft-serve from Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot (7150 Main St.; 703-830-7898).
You can shop for interesting collectibles at High End Consignment and Antiques (571-213-9972) or a nice bottle in the Clifton Wine Shop (703-266-1607), which specializes in small wineries. Both are in the Buckley Store, built in 1900, at 7145 Main Street.
Across the railroad tracks is the 1905 Pink House—surprisingly, it’s yellow. It’s home to La Bella Luce (7137 Main St.; 703-830-8442), which sells antique European paintings and ornamental plates.
Worked up an appetite? In an old gas station—the Texaco sign is a prominent landmark—is the Clifton General Store & Main Street Pub (7140 Main St.; 703-266-6307), with burgers, wraps, and half a dozen beers on tap. There’s also a fine-dining option in this town of 282 residents, Trummer’s on Main (7134 Main St.; 703-266-1623).The delicious offerings include butter-roasted chicken and honey-glazed pork. The cocktails are excellent and—warning!—strong.
—Janet Lewis Matricciani
Photo by Flickr user RyanCrierie
54 miles from the Washington Monument
Begin an indulgent day with coffee and a breakfast pastry at Red Truck Bakery & Market in Warrenton (22 Waterloo St.; 540-347-2224) and a stroll in the old town, then drive 20 minutes to Poplar Springs, the Inn Spa (9245 Rogues Rd., Casanova; 800-490-7747), for a massage or facial and poolside relaxation.
Antiques and Ales
Photograph of Ellicott City by Losurdo Photography
32 miles from the Washington Monument
Ellicott City, Maryland, offers a bit of English-village charm. There are historic churches, a railroad museum, easy parking, eclectic shops and antiques stores, and several pubs: the Diamondback Tavern, Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, and the Judge’s Bench. The last features 17 draft beers, more than six dozen bottled beers, and 100 single-malt whiskeys.
Out With the Girls
40 miles from the Washington Monument
Gather your girlfriends for an afternoon of boutique-hopping in historic Leesburg. We like Persnickety Palm (27 S. King St.; 703-443-0948) for preppy Lilly Pulitzer, Madisonbelle (5 Loudoun St., SE; 703-443-1790) for stylish separates from Ella Moss and Julienne W., and Rouge Spa (17 S. King St.; 703-779-3700) for apothecary finds. For vintage decor, try the Cottage (105 S. King St.; 703-443-0058), Four Shabby Chicks (30 S. King St.; 703-669-0380), andOld Lucketts Store (42350 Lucketts Rd.; 703-779-0268).
Small Town, Big Charm
Photograph of Frederick Douglass statue by Tom McCall
Easton’s new tribute to Frederick Douglass
72 miles from the Washington Monument
Easton, Maryland, is a sophisticated town that embraces an indie spirit—with locally owned shops, restaurants, and art galleries, most within a ten-block area.
Start your exploration on Washington Street at the 18th-century courthouse and pause in front of the new 11-foot-tall bronze-and-granite statue of Frederick Douglass, one of the Eastern Shore’s most heroic native sons.
You could spend hours popping in and out of all the art galleries in downtown Easton, but it also has many other interesting shops.
From the courthouse, walk half a block to Silver Linings (13 S. Washington St.; 410-822-7333), which sells sterling-silver jewelry, much of it studded with unusual gemstones. Next door is Crackerjacks (7 S. Washington St.; 410-822-7716), an old-fashioned toy store that prompts waves of nostalgia in adults. For design inspiration, head to Lanham Hall Design (12 N. Washington St.; 410-822-5040). This affordable home-furnishings store stocks everything from sofas to marble coasters.
A block away, you can lunch with locals at Out of the Fire (22 Goldsborough St.; 410-770-4777), a feel-good/do-good restaurant with a focus on organic and sustainable foods.
Around the corner is Frugalicious (21 N. Harrison St.; 410-822-3355), a high-end consignment shop for vintage Pucci dresses, Chanel ballet flats, and Lilly Pulitzer pants. Steps away is the new Witte Gallery (5 N. Harrison St.; 410-490-2868). In a gallery town, it stands out for its embrace of diverse media, from mosaic to artisanal basket-weaving.
Skipped lunch? End your day by the gurgling fountain at the Bartlett Pear Inn (28 S. Harrison St.; 410-770-3300) and settle into a multi-course meal by chef Jordan Lloyd, formerly of New York City’s Per Se.
—Andrea C. Poe
A Day in the Country
Photograph by Marc Muench
Winding two-lane roads in Virginia can lead to tasty fare—and pretty picnic spots.
61 miles from the Washington Monument
While we think of Virginia’s Hunt Country for, well, horses and hunts, there’s another reason it makes for an excellent day trip: It’s one of the area’s great drives, taking you west on the John Mosby Highway (Route 50) through some charming historic towns, over mountains, across the Shenandoah River, and into the foothills of the Blue Ridge. There are excellent back roads for meandering and, perhaps, getting lost, but that’s part of the fun. Another is the pursuit of good regional foods.
On a Saturday morning, my taste buds light up at the thought of freshly made ham biscuits at the Little Apple Pastry Shop in Aldie (23217 Meetinghouse La.; 703-327-2500), bacon-maple doughnuts at Ayrshire Farm’s Home Farm Store in Middleburg (1 E. Washington St.; 540-687-8882), and, just up the way, biscuits and scrambled eggs or sweet and tangy barbecue at Market Salamander (200 W. Washington St., Middleburg; 540-687-8011). I take a cooler because I like to go home with some of my country bounty.
Next head west through Upperville and Paris, cross the river, and turn off at Millwood. A winding two-lane road takes you three miles into this charming village. Your destination is the Locke Store (2049 Millwood Rd.; 540-837-1275). Here you can get sandwiches, salads, mac and cheese, pies, cookies, and wine to enjoy on the lawn of the nearby Burwell-Morgan Mill (540-837-1799). Specialties are frozen soups and casseroles. You’ll be glad you have the cooler.
After lunch, you can tour the mill or nap by the stream. When you head back east, stop in Upperville at Trinity Episcopal Church (9108 John S. Mosby Hwy.; 540-592-3343), a gift to the town from Paul and Bunny Mellon, whose Rokeby Farm is nearby. The beautiful sandstone structure is reminiscent of 12th- and 13th-century French country churches. Out back are the simple graves of Mellon, his father and mother, and other family members. Close by, too, is the plain stone grave marker for Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Washington Redskins from 1985 until his death in 1997.
—Carol Ross Joynt
81 miles from the Washington Monument
Strasburg bills itself as Virginia’s “antiques capital,” and at the 50,000-square-foot Strasburg Emporium, you can peruse pieces from more than 100 dealers. 160 N. Massanutten St., Strasburg; 540-465-3711.
A Cut Above
Photograph by Erik Kvalsvik
A fox-hunt scene at Ladew Topiary Gardens features a fox, hounds, and a rider jumping a fence.
64 miles from the Washington Monument
Ladew Topiary Gardens, in northern Maryland, has been called the most outstanding topiary display in America. The more than 25 gardens on the 22-acre property feature incredible and often silly works of topiary, the art of training and trimming plants into sculpted shapes. Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for students and seniors, $5 for children 12 and under. 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, Md.; 410-557-9570.
Bring Your Dog
Photograph by Jennifer Davis Heffner
Sip with your pup at dog-friendly Barrel Oak Winery.
61 miles from the Washington Monument
Start the day by exploring the trails of Sky Meadows State Park near Delaplane, Virginia (11012 Edmonds La., White Post; 540-592-3556), about an hour and a half from DC. The park offers hikes of varying intensity, some with access to the Appalachian Trail. You’ll find open grassland, wooded areas, and sweeping views of the Blue Ridge. Remember to bring plenty of water for both you and your dog. Later, head to a nearby dog-friendly vineyard, such as Barrel Oak Winery (3623 Grove La., Delaplane; 540-364-6402) or Three Fox Vineyards (10100 Three Fox La., Delaplane; 540-364-6073), for a tasting.—Marisa M. Kashino
Photograph of Sotterley Plantation by Shutterstock
74 miles from the Washington Monument
The drive to Maryland’s historic southern peninsula is a straight shot down Route 5 but a winding journey through 17th- and 18th-century history along the Patuxent River.
Seafood reigns supreme here, so for lunch grab carryout crabcakes at the rustic, family-run Captain Leonard’s Seafood Restaurant in Mechanicsville (27301 Three Notch Rd.; 301-884-3701).
Your next stop is at Sotterley Plantation (44300 Sotterley La., Hollywood; 301-373-2280), built in 1703 by James Bowles, son of a wealthy tobacco merchant. The manor, older than Mount Vernon, sits on 95 waterfront acres and features a rare restored slave cabin. You can tour the manor house: Its Chinese Chippendale staircase and shell alcoves in the drawing room are among the finest examples of 18th-century American woodwork. Bring a blanket and enjoy your crabcakes in the beautiful gardens.
Then drive 20 miles south to Historic St. Mary’s City (visitors center at 18751 Hogaboom La.; 800-762-1634), Maryland’s first capital, where costumed interpreters re-create 17th-century life near a reconstructed State House and working Colonial archaeology site. It was here that the first effort to separate church and state was made, the first woman in English America petitioned to vote, and the first man of African descent in North America became a legislator.
Toes in the Sand
Photograph of beach by Andrew Propp
On a hot summer day, you can cool off at Gunpowder Falls State Park, just an hour or so from Washington.
57 miles from the Washington Monument
Looking for a sandy beach only an hour or so from Washington? There are choices along the Chesapeake Bay, but summer is jellyfish season in the bay’s warm, brackish waters.
To avoid the sting of nature and of traffic crossing the Bay Bridge, you can head north of Baltimore to the wonderful Gunpowder Falls State Park Hammerman Area. On a wide section of the Gunpowder River where it meets the bay, the park features a 1,500-foot-long sandy beach. Because of the river’s current, there rarely are jellyfish.
The swimming area includes lifeguards (Thursday through Sunday and holidays); a pavilion with changing rooms and showers; a concession stand with hot dogs, ice cream, and snacks; and a large deck overlooking the beach. A lawn next to the beach features shade trees and picnic tables and grills (first come, first served). Picnic shelters may be rented with advance reservations and include an alcohol-permit option.
The beach is also home to Ultimate Watersports (410-335-5352), which offers rentals and lessons for windsurfing and Hobie Cat sailing. On hot summer days, southerly winds funnel up the Chesapeake into the mouth of the Gunpowder to create smooth breezes perfect for learning either sport. Kayak rentals, instruction, and nature tours are also available. Or try the latest in water sports: standup paddle-boarding. The large, stable boards make it easy to surf the waves rolling toward the beach. Sandals or water shoes are required for use of all equipment.
The park entry fee for Maryland residents is $5 a person on weekends and $3 on weekdays; nonresidents $7 and $5. 7200 Graces Quarters, Chase, Md.; 410-592-2897.
87 miles from the Washington Monument
The Seafood Feast-I-Val in Cambridge, Maryland, on August 11 offers Eastern Shore favorites such as steamed crab and local corn, plus raucous live music and plenty of beer. Adults $35 before August 5, $40 after; children $10. seafoodfeastival.com.
Take a Dip
Photograph by Flickr user valeehill
67 miles from the Washington Monument
At Hunting Creek Lake, in Maryland’s Cunningham Falls State Park, there are three designated areas where you can swim. We recommend avoiding the crowds at the two beaches near the park entrance and driving around this cool Catoctin Mountains lake to the quieter northern beach. While in the park, don’t miss beautiful Cunningham Falls, the largest cascading waterfall in Maryland. The weekday entrance fee is $3 a person for state residents, $5 for others; weekends are $5 and $7. 14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd., Thurmont; 301-271-7574.
Floating Through History
River & Trail Outfitters offers guided tubing on Antietam Creek.
69 miles from the Washington Monument
Antietam Creek near Boonsboro, Maryland, is a natural oasis for escaping Washington’s muggy heat. Down in the “holler” under a canopy of trees, the spring-fed waterway cools the air to nearly 20 degrees below that of the surrounding countryside.
River & Trail Outfitters (301-695-5177; rivertrail.com) runs guided 4½-hour tubing trips on the creek. The gentle float includes a waterside picnic lunch and a few easy rapids along sections flowing through Antietam National Battlefield. The cost is $45.
Before or after the float, you can tour the battlefield. The clash at Antietam was the Civil War’s bloodiest day; more than 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or went missing on September 17, 1862.
Hiking trails traverse the battlefield’s rolling hills, including the 1.6-mile Bloody Lane Trail. An 8½-mile self-guided auto tour highlights 11 stops, including the picturesque, three-arched stone Burnside Bridge, named for Union general Ambrose Burnside.
The National Park Service is honoring the 150th anniversary of the battle September 15 through 17 with demonstrations, lectures, and memorial services. A park pass good for three days costs $4 for adults or $6 for any size family in one car; children 15 and younger are free. 301-432-5124; nps.gov/ancm.
79 miles from the Washington Monument
Aboard the Sultana, a replica of an 18th-century British Royal Navy schooner, you can help hoist the sails and steer the ship, or just enjoy the Chester River ride past historic mansions, swaths of wild coastline, and osprey gliding to their nests. Friday nights feature live music on deck. Two-hour sails are $30 and up for adults; most depart from Chestertown, Maryland. 410-778-5954; sultanaprojects.org.
—Andrea C. Poe