Dear PoPville – Looking for Fun Day Trip Ideas over Memorial Day Weekend

Photo by PoPville flickr user p.bjork

“Dear PoPville,

My boyfriend and I waited last minute to plan something for Memorial Day weekend (as we’re prone to do) and now pretty much all the hotels we were looking at are booked or way too expensive because: holiday rates.

Wondering – have you heard of any fun, easy day trips around D.C. – ideally within a 4-hour drive, preferably with water access and hiking possibilities.”

52 Comment

  • jim_ed

    Chesapeake Beach, MD. Its on the basically forgotten Western Shore of the bay. its like an hour, maybe 1.5 hours from DC at most. Nice little beach, very small little downtown, some good seafood restaurants. Its perfect if you’re looking for a quick beach trip without the hassles of driving to the actual beach.

    • Not the OP, but that’s a nice tip. My wife is 38 weeks pregnant, and we were looking for a short trip that wouldn’t take us too far. We already settled on a little road trip through small-town Virginia on Sunday, but this would have worked great as well. Will keep it in mind. Thanks.

    • North Beach, right next door, is also a good spot – it feels a bit less built up than Chesapeake Beach and getting parking can be a bit easier. Note that both beaches charge admission for non-residents – well worth it to avoid the extra hours in the car to get to crowded DE beaches.

  • Lost River, WV. Two hours west. Great hiking, canoeing.

  • 4 hours one way or round trip?

    You can get to the Delaware beaches in about 2.5 hours if you hit traffic right.

    • But on Memorial Day weekend?

      • Sure, if you hit the traffic right. For a day trip on Sunday, you could leave by 8am and still have brunch on the beach, spend all day, have an early dinner, and be back in DC by 10:30pm. Certainly won’t be lots of traffic Sunday morning or Sunday night on a long weekend.

  • Berkeley Springs, WV.

  • Is tent camping an option? Also, instead of hotels, check for rental houses on or VRBO is much easier as all the listings are full-time. Airbnb tends to be a little cheaper, but can be difficult to sort through (and a total mess for big cities like DC.)

  • on the same token, i am gay and as such will be traveling to Rehoboth this weekend. any idea how bad the traffic will be on Friday? Unfortunately, we have to leave after work. are there any secret alternative routes?

    • It’s totally just a straight shot, unfortunately (I’m from there, so, trust me I know). I wouldn’t plan on getting there in less than 3.5 hours, so bring snacks. There could be a miracle, though – you never know.

      • That’s funny how you act like getting hungry is the worst part about being stuck in traffic. 😉

        • I once got stuck in some of the worst beach traffic I can remember and it wasn’t a holiday weekend. Because of limited visibility, the Bay Bridge had severe backups. It took something like 3 hours to get there from 97, outside of Baltimore. Trying to stay sane and not want to hit things was the hardest part.

        • Friends don’t let friends drive/sit in traffic hangry.

      • wmm

        They not be as interested anymore if it’s a “straight shot”.

    • Nope. You only have the bridge in Annapolis, no other options. It’s going to be a mess on Friday starting in the early afternoon. Sorry :-/
      Once you cross the bridge, most people take 404 to the 16, which can be obscenely crowded on Friday night. Last time I went on a Friday after work, we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a 2 lane road surrounded by cornfields, lol. I try to do 301 to the 309 right after crossing the bridge to skip the traffic that accumulates at Wye. You can take a lot of the backroads just north of the 404/16 route to skip a bunch of the traffic. It just lots of turning and you’ll definitely need a good navigator.

    • Haha, I’m gay and have lived here 9 years and still haven’t been to Rehoboth. The thought of all that traffic terrifies me!

      • I live on Rehoboth and will be sheltering in place for the weekend. Nesting and Netflix for me.

      • Ha, I’m a straight male and even I’ve been to Rehoboth twice with groups of mixed gay/straight friends.
        Get thee to Poodle Beach.

        • Ha! I’ve lived here forever and never realized Rehoboth was the popular gay destination. The crowd there is pretty diverse and also very family-friendly, as in not a 24/7 meat market for gay men.

    • Leave later at night if you can. I’ve driven to Ocean City on holiday weekends and avoided traffic by leaving at 8 or 9 PM. It helped that I had friends to stay with (instead of a hotel with a certain check-in time). Leaving really early in the morning helps too. My last trip to OC, I left around 6 AM and got there around 8:15.

    • Honestly, if you’re leaving after work then I’d just wait a few more hours and make the trip at like 10 pm. You’ll get there at about the same time anyway.

    • I went last Memorial Day weekend (to Dewey, down the road). I think we may have left Friday mid-day. It took us, no joke, around 7 hours. It was… awful. Strap in, make sure you have good tunes and company, and think of the booze and fun on the other end. I also agree- try and leave later if you can.

      • how late should one leave, if you still wanted to salvage the evening?

        • If you’re leaving after work on Friday, there won’t be any evening to salvage. Bars close at 1am, so you would need to leave by 7pm to even catch last call. There’s probably some after parties at other peoples’ rentals, but I’d suggest saving your energy for Saturday day drinking and activities.
          One reason to try to get there as early as possible is bed selection. If you’re the last person arriving, you’ll be sleeping on the floor or the least comfortable couch. If you’re high rollers, maybe your situation is better.

  • National Harbor. 🙂

  • Westmoreland State Park in Virginia. It’s located on the Potomac. You can hike along the shore and find shark’s teeth. Also, some nice woodland hikes. Even closer, Patuxant River Park off 301 near Upper Marlborough. Nice hiking trails. Probably no swimming area, but you can rent canoes and kayaks.

  • No idea how Memorial Day crowds will be, but Harper’s Ferry is always a good time. Tube on the river, camp, hike the Appalachian trail, the town is pretty cute with antique shops and cafes.

    • Agreed, and nearby Shepherdstown is great for restaurants. Depending on where in the city you live, you can be there in less than 90 minutes.

    • jim_ed

      River Tubing in Harper’s Ferry + a trip to the Charlestown casino and race track is one of my favorite weekend trips.

      • This is my favorite getaway from the city.

      • +1 on the tubing, although the tubing runs I’ve done down on the Shenandoah further down near Luray were longer and more fun than Harper’s Ferry. Though the colonial-era houses you can rent at Harper’s Ferry are super cool.

  • Go on VRBO, Homeaway, and AirBnB. Start contacting people who still have availability for their vacation home. They’re likely to cut you a deal, since it’s not already filled. Even if they say they are demanding a 1 week rental, they will relent on this condition if it’s not filled yet. Negotiate hard.
    I really like Broadkill Beach and Lewes Beach in Delaware. They’re a bit northwest of Rehoboth and quite cute and relaxing. I’ve rented at Broadkill the last 3 summers.

    • I have a gig in Lewes next month. Never been before, but I’m looking forward to checking out another local beach town.

  • These are maybe the usual suspects -all of these options have high to medium popularity for brief trips in the area – so they might be pretty full for Memorial day, but if you search you might find…:

    – Annapolis – less than an hour, very cute, lots of BB and hotels, pretty good restaurants, lots of things to do: you could go and see if you find a room and if not drive back and do something else the next day…

    – St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore – about 2-3h again plenty of BB, restaurants, cute little towns, options to go on boats, kakay etc.; there are also other great locations on the Eastern Shore that might work just google map them

    – Shenandoah – rent a cabin with a hot tub(water), kayak the river(water) otherwise hike – google or use VRBO or check with this very nice person that I used in the past if they still have cabins for this weekend (not cheap but very very nice and private): [email protected]

    I agree with jim_ed, Chesapeake Beach is also a great location nearby, but very small and likely difficult to find a room

  • Charlottesville is lovely – lots of nice wandering and wineries!

    • Seconded. 2-2.5 hours – and it’s only 20 minutes or so from Skyline Drive in Shenendoah for hiking. You could hike on your way down, then lunch in Charlottesville, then visit a winery or Devil’s Backbone brewery (or some combination thereof). It was pretty painless to get there. You could also visit Civil War batterfields like Chancellorsville on your way, depending on your route.

  • FtLincolnLove

    I’d recommend West Virginia in a heartbeat- Morgantown is about 3.5 hours away and has access to wonderful hiking (Coopers Rock), wineries (Forks of Cheat Winery), there’s a rail trail following the Monongahela River, and a small brewpub downtown. Harpers Ferry, WV is also a nice option. You could also head down to the New River Gorge (again, in WV- Fayetteville is the town) for some awesome whitewater rafting and hiking, however that is about 5 hours away. If you don’t want to go as far as WV, try Deep Creek Lake or Rocky Gap State Park in Western Maryland.

    • FtLincolnLove

      To add on to this- there’s a Groupon deal for the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown, WV. $89 a night and it appears they have availability this weekend. Definitely worth checking out, although I am a little biased towards Morgantown as I am a former Mountaineer 🙂

  • Colonial Beach, VA is a nice little town. The trip takes you through southern MD. There are some good crabhouses (ie, Captain Billy’s) on the way there or back.

  • I’d recommend the wineries out in Fauquier County in VA. It’s about 90 minutes west of DC and there’s hiking for all experience levels at Sky Meadows.

  • I’m headed to Chincoteague Saturday night. It’s about a 3-4 hour drive depending on traffic. A nice small island town with some cute B&Bs and PONIES! 😀 I went to high school there and hated it when I was 15-18, but now it’s nice to go back and visit.

  • I would definitely add Frederick to the list. It’s about 1-1.5hrs away.

    Note: I would not head out on a Friday night, but Saturday AM would be a straight shot.

    There’s great hiking by Sugarloaf and Cantonin Park. Also, Flying Dog Brewery is up there.

    Plus, there are a ton of cute shops and great restaurants up there. In terms of lodging, there are a ton of hotels and cabins in the vicinity. It would make a great launching point to Harpers Ferry too.

  • Bike to Harpers Ferry and back. It’s a two day bike trip. Camp or hotel in Harpers Ferry.

    • Or take the Amtrak train out to Harpers Ferry at 4pm Friday, have dinner, spend Saturday on the hike, spend the night again, have breakfast sunday and catch the 11am Sunday train back to DC. $38 train fare RT per person.

  • Calvert Cliffs. Great 3 hike to the shore and cliffs. Super fun looking for fossils and Shark teeth. Hit up Solomons Island when you’re done. Straight out RT. 4 less than two hours from DC.

  • Solomons, MD used to be a regular Memorial Day day trip for me and a few friends. About a 90-minute drive, hit the winery on the way in (or there’s a brewpub that I heard was good), get some crabs, wander around the tiny town shops to work off lunch, sit on the dock to watch the sailboats, and then drive home. A big benefit is that you don’t have to deal with the Bay Bridge traffic (traffic was always pretty light, actually). I don’t think there’s much in the way of hiking, though I did go to Calvert Cliffs (nearby) on a field trip back in high school that I remember being fun.
    Annapolis and St. Michael’s are also fun, but for Annapolis you need to check that there isn’t an event going on at the Naval Academy (or it’ll be nuts) and for St. Michael’s you have to deal with the bridge. Haven’t gone on Memorial Day, but I can also vouch for Harpers Ferry/Shepherdstown. I spent a week out there for a training and was pleasantly surprised.

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