Things to Do

You Can Buy a Vacation House Near DC for Less Than $500K

Three vacation-home locales for the not-so-super-rich.

Beach-blanket bargain: Chesapeake Beach has marinas, a boardwalk, a water park, and—compared with other seaside towns—affordable property. Photograph by Angel Beil.

If you have a spare million or two to spend on a second home, you have your pick of destinations. But what if your budget is a bit more modest? Here are three up-and-coming vacation spots where you can buy a weekend retreat for less than $500,000.

Chesapeake Beach, Maryland

Travel time from DC: About 45 minutes.

Good for: Young families.

What your money buys: A one-bedroom waterfront condo for $309,995; a recently updated two-bedroom cottage along the water for $449,900; a townhouse with views and a private community beach for $369,900.

This resort town developed at the turn of the last century, fell out of favor, and is now experiencing a revitalization. One reason: It’s on western side of the Chesapeake, meaning weekenders don’t need to fight traffic on the Bay Bridge. The town offers the various amenities of a seaside getaway—a beach, a boardwalk, marinas, and fresh-seafood joints—though visitors wary of the bay’s jellyfish may prefer the eight slides at the local water park. Other attractions include a spa and a farmers market. Close to Joint Base Andrews, Chesapeake Beach is particularly popular with military families.

Lost River, West Virginia

Mountain air: The view from Cranny Crow overlook at Lost River State Park. Photograph by William S. Kuta/Alamy.

Travel time from DC: About two hours.

Good for: Urban professionals.

What your money buys: A two-bedroom log cabin with a hot tub and eight acres for $239,000; a three-bedroom cabin with wrap-around decks, mountain views, and five acres for $425,000; a luxury Craftsman with two master-bedroom suites and nine wooded acres for $499,000.

Tucked into the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Mountains, the 2,000-person destination has become a favored getaway for many in Washington’s gay community. “You can pedal, hike, bike, fish; you can go to the general store and shop,” says Bob Dillard, an entrepreneur and developer who moved to the area in 1978. The hiking, biking, and fishing happen at Lost River State Park or nearby Rock Cliff Lake. The shopping takes place at the Lost River Artisans Cooperative in a renovated 150-year-old barn where vendors sell handmade arts and crafts on weekends. Nearby are a yoga studio, a craft brewery, and (wait for it) a farmers market. While the area was once dotted with small, rustic cabins, these days houses on the market are often larger and outfitted with high-end amenities like Bosch appliances and quartz countertops. The valley’s fiber-optic wiring—a rare asset in rural West Virginia—allows for telecommuting, too.

Berlin, Maryland

Charm offensive: “Runaway Bride” and “Tuck Everlasting” were filmed in historic Berlin. Photograph by JG Photography/Alamy.

Travel time from DC: About 2½ hours.

Good for: History buffs and art lovers.

What your money buys: A four-bedroom home less than a half mile from the water for $434,900; a three-bedroom condo overlooking a golf course for $183,500; a historic Federal-style house within walking distance of downtown for $372,500.

This 4,500-person village beat out 14 other locales to win Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Town last year. It might snag our title for most surprising town on the Eastern Shore, too. Though it’s less than ten miles from the motels, T-shirt emporiums, and mini-golf courses of Ocean City, Berlin’s 19th-century downtown is a National Historic District with nearly 50 designated historic structures. (Tuck Everlasting and Runaway Bride were both filmed against the backdrop of Berlin’s Victoriana.) These days, the outdoor concerts, farmers and antiques markets, and artists’ galleries still lend the place a more cultured vibe than its oceanfront neighbor—but new biking trails make it even easier to actually reach the coast.

This article appears in our June 2015 issue of Washingtonian.