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10 D.C. area towns worth visiting for fun day trips

Itching to get out of the city? Visit these charming towns

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Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all: the city, the nightlife, even the people. But where to go? We’ve identified 10 quaint towns—all within driving distance of the District—for when you want to take a breather.

Seeking a shopping spot? Head over to Old Town Alexandria or Downtown Fredericksburg. Hoping to chow down at some unfamiliar restaurants? Check out Shirlington. These towns and others are just some of the D.C. area’s geographic gems.

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Harpers Ferry

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Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, this historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, features a National Historic Park and stunning natural beauty. Among its charms are scenic overlooks, picnic spots, and historic reenactments. An "Adventure Center" offers river tubing.

A historic town with red and orange buildings. It is located along a river and hills. Shutterstock

Shirlington

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Just a stone's throw away from D.C., this upscale urban area offers tons of options for shopping, eating, and entertainment. It’s home to the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre as well as an AMC theater for the film-inclined. Don’t miss the seasonal events and concerts in its public spaces.

A modern theater building surrounded by trees and benches. The Washington Post via Getty Im

Del Ray

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This neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia, is known for its holistic health businesses, eclectic shops, and artsy events. During the summer, the neighborhood hosts a recurring outdoor street festival with live music and activities for children. Del Ray also has the legendary Birchmere Music Hall, which hosts acts ranging from jazz and country to R&B and bluegrass.

A pink house along a main road in a historic town. The Washington Post via Getty Im

Old Town Alexandria

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Old Town Alexandria has it all: exceptional restaurants, quirky shops, a cool ambiance, and an artsy museum. A walkable neighborhood, it also hosts annual evens like the Sidewalk Sale and Restaurant Week. You can even get here by Metro.

A historic town along a river. It features Colonial homes and a church spire. Getty Images

Historic Occoquan

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Roughly 45 minutes from the District, this little-known gem dates to 1804. Occoquan hosts a variety of restaurants, shops, art galleries, and events, including an arts-and-crafts show in the fall, a Christmas tree lighting in the winter, and a boat parade in the spring.

A boat dock, with buildings in the background, under blue skies. Getty Images/iStockphoto

St. Michaels

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Along the Chesapeake Bay, St. Michaels offers kayaking, golfing, sailing, and bicycling. This picturesque coastal town dates to the mid-1600s and has boutique shops and events like Skipjack races and musical concerts.

A boardwalk near a boat dock. Shutterstock

Solomons Island

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In southern Maryland, this major boating center is home to the Calvert Marine Museum and Annmarie Garden Sculpture Park. Throughout the year, there are events like Fourth of July fireworks and a food festival. Expect lots of fresh seafood and waterfront views.

A lighthouse on a bay. Shutterstock

Downtown Fredericksburg

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This Virginia town is perfect for shopping and enjoying historic architecture from the 18th century. There are more than 100 boutique shops, art galleries, and studios. A few historic activities include visiting the 80-acre grounds where George Washington's home once was and Civil War sites like the Chancellorsville Battlefield.

A Colonial-era town along a river lined with trees. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Annapolis

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Did somebody say crabs? Head up to Annapolis to enjoy a day on the waterfront. Check out the boats and cute boutiques. You may even see some sailors from the Naval Academy.

A waterfront town with boutique shops. Shutterstock

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Known as the northern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah National Park, this town is the perfect retreat for those wishing to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Visitors can camp in the national park and, for those who like to wet their whistles, patronize a variety of wineries nearby.

A town in a valley seen from above. There are plains and hills surrounding the town. Shutterstock

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Harpers Ferry

A historic town with red and orange buildings. It is located along a river and hills. Shutterstock

Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, this historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, features a National Historic Park and stunning natural beauty. Among its charms are scenic overlooks, picnic spots, and historic reenactments. An "Adventure Center" offers river tubing.

A historic town with red and orange buildings. It is located along a river and hills. Shutterstock

Shirlington

A modern theater building surrounded by trees and benches. The Washington Post via Getty Im

Just a stone's throw away from D.C., this upscale urban area offers tons of options for shopping, eating, and entertainment. It’s home to the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre as well as an AMC theater for the film-inclined. Don’t miss the seasonal events and concerts in its public spaces.

A modern theater building surrounded by trees and benches. The Washington Post via Getty Im

Del Ray

A pink house along a main road in a historic town. The Washington Post via Getty Im

This neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia, is known for its holistic health businesses, eclectic shops, and artsy events. During the summer, the neighborhood hosts a recurring outdoor street festival with live music and activities for children. Del Ray also has the legendary Birchmere Music Hall, which hosts acts ranging from jazz and country to R&B and bluegrass.

A pink house along a main road in a historic town. The Washington Post via Getty Im

Old Town Alexandria

A historic town along a river. It features Colonial homes and a church spire. Getty Images

Old Town Alexandria has it all: exceptional restaurants, quirky shops, a cool ambiance, and an artsy museum. A walkable neighborhood, it also hosts annual evens like the Sidewalk Sale and Restaurant Week. You can even get here by Metro.

A historic town along a river. It features Colonial homes and a church spire. Getty Images

Historic Occoquan

A boat dock, with buildings in the background, under blue skies. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Roughly 45 minutes from the District, this little-known gem dates to 1804. Occoquan hosts a variety of restaurants, shops, art galleries, and events, including an arts-and-crafts show in the fall, a Christmas tree lighting in the winter, and a boat parade in the spring.

A boat dock, with buildings in the background, under blue skies. Getty Images/iStockphoto

St. Michaels

A boardwalk near a boat dock. Shutterstock

Along the Chesapeake Bay, St. Michaels offers kayaking, golfing, sailing, and bicycling. This picturesque coastal town dates to the mid-1600s and has boutique shops and events like Skipjack races and musical concerts.

A boardwalk near a boat dock. Shutterstock

Solomons Island

A lighthouse on a bay. Shutterstock

In southern Maryland, this major boating center is home to the Calvert Marine Museum and Annmarie Garden Sculpture Park. Throughout the year, there are events like Fourth of July fireworks and a food festival. Expect lots of fresh seafood and waterfront views.

A lighthouse on a bay. Shutterstock

Downtown Fredericksburg

A Colonial-era town along a river lined with trees. Getty Images/iStockphoto

This Virginia town is perfect for shopping and enjoying historic architecture from the 18th century. There are more than 100 boutique shops, art galleries, and studios. A few historic activities include visiting the 80-acre grounds where George Washington's home once was and Civil War sites like the Chancellorsville Battlefield.

A Colonial-era town along a river lined with trees. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Annapolis

A waterfront town with boutique shops. Shutterstock

Did somebody say crabs? Head up to Annapolis to enjoy a day on the waterfront. Check out the boats and cute boutiques. You may even see some sailors from the Naval Academy.

A waterfront town with boutique shops. Shutterstock

Front Royal

A town in a valley seen from above. There are plains and hills surrounding the town. Shutterstock

Known as the northern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah National Park, this town is the perfect retreat for those wishing to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Visitors can camp in the national park and, for those who like to wet their whistles, patronize a variety of wineries nearby.

A town in a valley seen from above. There are plains and hills surrounding the town. Shutterstock