19There’s always something to do in the District — except when there’s not. Facing a free weekend this summer? Feel like you’ve done it all before? Consider getting out of the city for a night, and explore all that the region has to offer. Hiking, shopping, history, culture and spas are all within a few hours’ drive of the District. If you just can’t get excited about walking to the monuments anymore, take an adventure with your friends to one of these spots this summer and try something new.


Berkeley Springs, W. Va.

Looking to unwind? Advertised as “The Country’s First Spa,” Berkeley Springs, W. Va. offers natural spa treatments from its hot springs as well as a number of outdoor recreation spots.

Getting There: The town is northwest of D.C., about a two-hour drive away.

What to Do: If you want to treat yourself, head to the Bath House, where facial and massage treatments run around $80. A more frugal option would be the spa in the Berkeley Springs State Park, where you can visit their Old Roman Bath House for a sauna and shower in the spring mineral waters, starting at $22. After your soak, you can head to the park’s lake or swimming pool or drive to nearby Cacapon State Park for tubing, paddle boating and kayaking. At dinnertime, try Temptations Cafe (174 N. Washington St.) for simple, inexpensive food or Panorama at the Peak (3299 Cacapon Rd.) for a fancier outing.

Where To Stay: Berkeley Springs has plenty of B&Bs to choose from if you want a cozy weekend — the Manor Inn (234 Fairfax St.) is very highly rated at $95/night with breakfast. For a cheaper option, try the Cacapon Resort (818 Cacapon Lodge Dr.) in the state park.


Baltimore, Md.

Baltimore is only an hour away, but many Hoyas never make it up there. The city gets a bad rap sometimes (if you haven’t seen “The Wire,” you’re missing out) but it’s a great culture center and a breath of fresh air from D.C.

Getting There: Try leaving on Friday — that way, you’ll be able to take the MARC train from Union Station to Baltimore’s Penn Station for only $7 each way. MARC doesn’t run on weekends, so you’ll probably need to take Amtrak back, and fares start at $15.

What to Do: If you’re missing the American history you left behind in D.C., try climbing the Washington Monument — the Baltimore one, that is. It predates its more famous cousin by more than 50 years. For shopping, head to the Fells Point neighborhood and the famous Broadway Market. Check out baltimore.org for its list of “50 Free Things to Do in Baltimore.” At dinnertime, crabs are a must. Captain James Crabhouse (2127 Boston St.) is on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and is one of the Baltimore Sun’s top 10 crab houses in the region.

Where to Stay: Baltimore is great for a day trip, but if you plan to stay the night, there are a number of inexpensive hotels in the city — just be sure to get a sense of the area before you book. The Sleep Inn Downtown Inner Harbor (301 Fallsway) has a low price for a good location. In the morning, don’t miss Fells Point’s Blue Moon  Cafe (1621 Aliceanna St.) for breakfast.


Historical Virginia (Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown)

Confession: This writer visited Colonial Williamsburg at age 9, and Thomas Jefferson asked her to dance at the ball. Probably the best day of her life. Unfortunately, Williamsburg is a pricey endeavor, but luckily, Jamestown and Yorktown are nearby, less expensive and have just as many hot historical impersonators to chat with.

Getting There: The historical sites are just outside Richmond, about a 3-hour drive from Georgetown.

What to Do: Start your day at Jamestown — a combination ticket with the Yorktown Victory Center is $20. Tickets are available online at historyisfun.org. (Seriously.) At lunchtime, drive through Williamsburg and stop at the Cheese Shop to pick up a sandwich. Have a picnic on the beach in Yorktown before visiting the Victory Center. At night, head to one of Williamsburg’s many “delis” (pubs) like the Green Leafe Cafe: Have a burger and a beer and make some new friends from the College of William and Mary.

Where to Stay: The Travelodge Williamsburg (120 Bypass Road) is a good deal with a free breakfast, while a number of B&B’s in the area offer a homey feel for a moderate price. Alternatively, you could head back to Richmond for the night and explore the city the next day.


Shenandoah National Park, Va.

If you’re the camping type, Shenandoah National Park, located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, is a great place to escape from the D.C. grind without breaking your budget.

Getting There: Driving from D.C. takes about an hour and a half, depending on where you enter the park. The entry fee for a car (and its passengers) is $15, valid for a week after you purchase it. On your way, you’ll be able to take a trip down Skyline Drive, a scenic route that gives you some of the best views in the park. Speed demons, be warned: The limit is 35 mph throughout the drive.

What to Do: Explore! Visiting nps.gov/shen is crucial for this trip — there, you’ll find route suggestions for a hike, exhibit and ranger talk schedules and guides to the park’s natural attractions. Old Rag Mountain is one of the park’s most popular routes, but it is also its most dangerous. Try it if you’re up for an adventure, or, if you’re new to hiking, stick to a beginner trip like the Rose River Loop, which brings you through a few of the park’s impressive waterfalls, if you’re new to hiking.

Where to Stay: If you’re looking to tackle a two- or three-day hike but don’t want to fend for yourself entirely, campground reservations are available online, or on a first-come, first-serve basis once you’re at the park. For a bit more comfort, stay at one of the nearby lodges — cabin rooms are the least expensive.


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