Things to Do  |  Travel

4 Great Weekend Train Trips From DC

You don’t need a car for these getaways.

1. Frederick, Maryland

Learn how different spirits are made at McClintock Distilling Company in Frederick. Photograph by Tyler Hegamyer.
Photograph by Tyler Hegamyer.

Travel time from Union Station: One hour and 45 minutes.

Near the station: Peruse vintage furniture, jewelry, and art at the massive Emporium Antiques. For a scenic stroll through the center of town, walk along the brook at Carroll Creek Park, where water lilies bloom in warm seasons. Follow the park’s pathway to McClintock Distilling Company to learn how different spirits are made. Pair a 30-minute tour of the production facility with a tasting of gin, vodka, and whiskey. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a table at Thacher & Rye (previously Volt), Bryan Voltaggio’s Mid-Atlantic dining room.

Where to stay: The bed-and-breakfast 10 Clarke offers five rooms with eclectic decor. Lodging at the Victorian property includes a three-course breakfast, plus the option to add a session with the in-house massage therapist.

Call an Uber: South of the city, Monocacy National Battlefield is the site of a Civil War clash that delayed the Confederacy on its march to Washington, allowing time for reinforcements to arrive. Walk any of seven trails winding through the riverside field to learn about the conflict.


2. Staunton, Virginia

Staunton is easy to enjoy without a car. Photograph by Warren.
American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse is designed to look like the Bard’s indoor theater. Photograph by Marek J Photography.

Travel time from Union Station: Four hours.

Near the station: The compact town is easy to explore on foot. Head to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum to learn about the former President’s Shenandoah Valley childhood and his tenure in the Oval Office. If you’re in town Monday through Thursday, stop by to see the colorful Tiffany windows at Trinity Episcopal Church. In the evening, dine on seasonal Southern dishes at Zynodoa before catching a production at American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse.

Where to stay: Originally built in 1924, Hotel 24 South is in the center of Staunton. Choose among rooms with either a king bed, a queen, or double queens.

Take the trolley: Shop for goods from local producers at the Saturday Farmer’s Market. Once you’re stocked with provisions, hop the 25-cent trolley to Gypsy Hill Park for a picnic.


3. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Explore the trails around Harpers Ferry by foot or rent a bike. Photograph courtesy of Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Photograph courtesy of Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Travel time from Union Station: One hour and ten minutes.

Near the station: Walk to the Point for a stunning view of the spot where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet. History buffs can explore John Brown’s Fort, where abolitionist Brown and his fellow raiders barricaded themselves after their 1859 incursion. The Appalachian Trail moves through town, and you can walk a two-mile portion beginning at the Harpers Ferry information center. Time-travel through sweets at True Treats candy shop, where retro candies range from saffron rock sugar to 16th-century “stain glass” candy.

Where to stay: The Stonehouse Bed & Breakfast is a short walk from the station. Breakfast is included, and a suite features a private entrance, deck, and kitchenette.

Grab a bike: Reserve an electric-bike rental in advance from Harpers Ferry Bikes for two to eight hours and pedal along the C&O Canal towpath. If you have your own wheels, you can bring them onto Amtrak for $20 each way or on MARC trains for free with two bungee cords.


4. Richmond, Virginia

Take the train to Richmond for a weekend in Virginia’s capital.

Travel time from Union Station: Two hours and 40 minutes.

Near the station: Engage with the macabre at the Poe Museum, which features collections and a shrine dedicated to writer Edgar Allan Poe. Then walk to the Valentine, a museum offering insight into Richmond’s past. The National, a historic vaudeville stage turned concert venue, is a great place to catch touring artists, whether you’re sitting in the balcony or dancing down below.

Where to stay: Book a room at the stately Jefferson Hotel for luxurious amenities such as feather beds and spacious marble bathrooms. The Jefferson also gives guests access to Dutch bicycles for a cruise around town.

Explore by car: In addition, the hotel has a car service that can shuttle you to downtown districts. Get a ride to explore an array of art styles at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Robins Sculpture Garden. The Carytown shopping district is home to boutiques like Bygones Vintage Clothing and the record store Plan 9 Music. Check out the all-day cafe/restaurant Birdie’s for morning pastries as well as wine and seafood towers at night.

This article appears in the April 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

Daniella Byck
Lifestyle Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in 2022. She was previously with Outside Magazine and lives in Northeast DC.