About 70 miles west of Washington DC is Shenandoah National Park. The centerpiece of this park is Skyline Drive, a 105-mile (170 km) road that winds along a ridge and gives you views of the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hiking and camping possibilities inside the park are also considerable.
To enter the park, you need to pay a fee. The standard fee for 7 days of access is $15 per car, $10 for a motorcycle, and $8 per person for those biking or walking into the park. Entry fee for cars is $10 December - February. Also note that the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80) is valid.
From Washington, it's best to go to the Front Royal entrance to the park. Take Interstate 66 west to Exit 13, then follow State Route 55 into Front Royal, then turn left on US Route 340.
For more details on Shenandoah National Park, you can take a look at my travel page on the park.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is an hour west of Washington, DC (close enough to get Washington, DC TV stations). In July, 1974, my family and I took a short trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The only thing I remember about it was touring the old part of town, the horse races (which I hadn't seen before), and the vibrating bed in the motel. Obviously, at age 5, I didn't appreciate the historical significance of Harpers Ferry. As I understand it, the town was incorporated in the 1760s, but its greatest historical moment came in 1859 when John Brown seized the arsenal. During the War for Southern Independence, Harpers Ferry changed hands several times. In the 1960s, the federal government established the Harpers Ferry National Park. Tourists are drawn by the history, the natural beauty (captured by the 1974 picture taken by my mama), and the nearby Charles Town racetrack.
Visit the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, a large property with the mansion where the first president of the United States, George Washington (1732 - 1799) spent most of his fascinating life, died and was buried. Apart from very pretty location on a hill by the Potomac River the estate offers great educational value. I've got to know that George Washington was a passionate farmer and gardener. He introduced the mule to American agriculture, was one of US first dedicated composters and he was a horse lover, avid rider and fox hunter. I've seen 13 trees planted personally by Washington in the estate.
Urszula (matcrazy0), Nat (b1bob) and I got to Mount Vernon by my hired car but there are more options: metro + bus, 4-hour Gray Line Tour from Union Station, the Potomac River boat cruise, a taxi and a bicycle ride along the Mount Vernon Trail.
Details in my Mount Vernon page.
Visiting our first President George Washington's plantation estate was a very memorable experience for me. A bunch of us went on a cruise down the Potomac River to take a tour of it. It was an eye-opening experience to be reminded that America's economy was largely agricultural back then (in the late 1700's), and humbling to be reminded that our own first president owned slaves. You can tour the mansion, the slave quarters, the stables, and part of the extensive grounds. There are still farm animals here. The mansion has about 20 rooms and some are still furnished as they were at the time. I was quite struck by the wallpaper in one of the main parlors which featured plows and other agricultural instruments.
The estate is open every single day of the year, but the rides down the Potomac are only from mid-March to mid-October.
Bentonville, VA located just 12 miles from Front Royal, VA(the Canoe Capitol of the World) which is located just 60 miles from the District is an easy daytrip for anyone visiting our great city.
If you are looking to enjoy a quiet day of paddling or fishing, the DownRiver Canoe Company is the place to go. I have used this company many times for a relaxing day in the sun on the quiet Shenandoah River. Although in the summer months it can get a little raucous out there with all the tubers. This is another good option, if you like sitting in a tube all day slugging cold beverages.
I usually go there for the canoeing and fishing. DownRiver also has a great camp ground at Compton's Rapid.
The trips are of varying lengths and can be overnight if you are adventurous.
It is a great way to view the fall colors.
Not my picture but one from thier site. I will get one of mine up soon.
A place not even all the locals have been to is the Royal Mather Gorge. This is located in Great Falls, Maryland and is a national park. This is also along the canal and you can see the barges being pulled by mules. But the greatest thing is the falls themselves. They are absolutely beautiful. After a trip to Disney this reminded me how much more gorgous the real thing is.
You may want to eat dinner before you get there. There is a small snack bar if you are starving or need a drink on a hot day but not much else.
Harpers Ferry, WV is a great place to go and spend the day if you have a car or can take the train in Washington DC. It is about 1 hour to 1.5 hours away through beautiful countryside and horse farms or by train from Washington Union Station.
From National park Service Website:
Throughout its history, Harpers Ferry has been the backdrop for remarkable and unparalleled events. Here, in one setting, several themes in the American story converge: Native Americans, industry and transportation, African-Americans, John Brown, the Civil War, and the natural environment. Harpers Ferry became part of the National Park System in 1944. The park covers over 2,300 acres in the states of West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia.
You can watch Civil War re-enactments, hike to an overlook over the rivers and town, rock climb up the cliffs, and go up the old stone stairs that are part of the Appalachian trail to see the picturesque Catholic church, Jefferson rock, and graveyard all over looking the valley and town.
Have a frozen custard or a burger at the little stand / cafe near the bottom of town (look for the Frozen Custard sign).
You can also go tubing for the day at Butts Tubes http://www.buttstubes.com/ This is a great day or half day spent tubing down the white waters and looking up at a beautiful valley and mountains around you.
There is a KOA campground nearby for cheap accomodations.
Finally, nearby (15 minutes) if you have a car is Charlestown, WV where you have legal gambling (slots and video poker type games) and horse races. It makes for a fun end of the day or weekend. The casino is nothing compared to Las Vegas and is much more "white trash" than even Atlantic City but it is still worth a look when you are in the area. If you want to see the horse races be sure to check the schedule. http://www.ctownraces.com/
Just a little farther South than Arlington, Alexandria is an easy Metro rail ride from downtown. Get off at the King Street station and keep walking east through Old Town. There are many shops, restaurants, and historical sites. For more information, see my Alexandria, VA page.
I developed this role of film and realized that some of the most beautiful scenery could be found on the way there. I've travelled to Washington, D.C. via car, plane, and train. The pics here are of the Great Shenandoah Valley of W. Virginia and Virginia. Enjoy!
P.S. If you drive to D.C. from Ohio, the scenery on Rt 68 through Maryland is superb! Going RT 68 also helps you avoid the tolls on RT 70 through Pennsylvania.
George Washington's plantation. It is about 30 mins south of Washington. I always drive there so I don't know if there's any other kind of transportation. But I know that have boat trip to Georgetown through the Potomac river.