STAYCATION • BY JAMIE LEE
Vacations are out, and staycations are in. There are plenty of places to go in the area—many only a quick car ride away. Stay close to home with this list of destinations:
The Inner Harbor (Baltimore)
- Located less than an hour away, this area packs a ton of gems for the perfect daytrip. Stay cool and visit the National Aquarium, Port Discovery Museum or Maryland Science Center. If you’re sick of the indoors, then take a 50-minute Seadog speedboat and sightseeing tour or head aboard the historic ships still afloat and learn about their impressive and dramatic stories. For do-it-yourselfers, rent a paddleboat and enjoy the breeze. With the money you’ll save on hotels, you could also buy tickets for a buffet-style lunch aboard a Spirit cruise ship (and generous outdoor areas mean space to go outside, too). If you’re looking for free things to do, swing by the Cylburn Arboretum (about 7 miles away from the harbor), or visit the Baltimore Tattoo Museum (about two miles away; best for older children and adults, as some nudity is present in exhibits). For transportation beyond the harbor area, the Charm City Circulator is also free!
- Another waterfront locale, Annapolis has some of the freshest seafood around—making it a great place for foodies (and those without shellfish allergies). If eating comes secondary to activities for you, then check out Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake, where children can read treasure maps, haul loot aboard, and watch pirates defend their ship with cannons. For those looking for a less rowdy activity, there’s Quiet Waters Park, which features 340 acres of outdoor space (and plenty of room for hiking, biking and picnicking–they also offer boat rentals). If you have a historic flare, stop by the Maryland State House—the oldest state house still in legislative use. An added bonus for single folks: the eye candy of handsome men and women in uniform at the United States Naval Academy.
- Tired of the beaten track of Smithsonian museums and the Washington Monument? (The monument is also closed for repair). Then check out another sort of track—the one of the DC Rollergirls, the all-female, amateur flat track roller derby league. Or head over to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to see how money is made. If you’re feeling classy after seeing all that currency, dress up with your best feather boa and check out a performance at the Kennedy Center. If you’re feeling edgy, dress up with your best black shirt and see something at the Arena Stage. (You can go to a hookah bar afterward to discuss your thoughts on the play, and continue feeling cool and cultured). There’s also Georgetown, which is rife with great shopping and great food (if you’re blessed with patience, you can wait in line at Georgetown Cupcake—and if you’re not, call ahead).
- Old Town Alexandria has wonderful cobblestone streets steeped rich in American history. Adults will enjoy the plentiful taverns (like Gadsby’s Tavern Museum), and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum will catch every visitor’s eye. Civil War reenactments are sure to startle and delight—and after, meander over to the waterfront to soak in the calming breezes.
- For the adventurous, Harpers Ferry is a great place to picnic and hike. Only 90 minutes away from D.C., it features a national historic park (and plenty of beautiful scenery on the drive up). There are also quaint shops to satiate your penchant for homemade jams. Kids will love this hub of vibrant, buzzing hub while adults burn calories and savor the non-office surroundings.
- Mount Vernon, the magnificent estate of George Washington, boasts the best of all worlds for even the most diverse families or groups. Located on the grounds are a museum, acres of gardens and open land, animals, blacksmiths, sightseeing cruises, and even a gift shop and restaurant. There is also George Washington’s reconstructed distillery and gristmill only a couple miles away. It’s not a boring historic site—it’s a multifaceted gem that brings the grandeur of the past to life.
- Luray Caverns, a popular site for elementary school field trips, is also great for adults. Naturally cool and free of sunlight, it’s perfect for those tired by the heat and humidity (and also vampires). Learn the difference between stalactites and stalagmites, and peer into pools of water so pristine they could be mirrors. Feel tiny in the massive chambers and revisit the wonder of your elementary-school self. Located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, it’s close to Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello—so after you emerge from underground, frolick above ground and take in other beautiful sights.
- Thrill seekers should head down to Williamsburg, Va. Not only are there reenactments and battles (certain to get adrenaline pumping), but there are also cool coasters at Busch Gardens and Water Country USA. Alternate water and land rides to stay cool, and even children can enjoy rides here. For other great parks, check out Six Flags in Mitchellville, Md., or Kings Dominion in Doswell, Va.
Featured photo: Harper’s Ferry.