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    Baltimore, Maryland: Hanging by the Harbor

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    Annapolis, Maryland: Maritime Moments

  • Lincoln Memorial and Reflection Pool
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    Washington, D.C.: Monumental Sights

  • Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
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    Shenandoah Valley & Charlottesville, Virginia: A Toast to Thomas Jefferson

  • horses at Chincoteague & Assateague Islands
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    Chincoteague and Assateague, Virginia: Wild About Horses

Annapolis City Dock
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The Mid-Atlantic Road Trip

  • Route distance:
    0
  • Suggested Time:
    2 weeks +

A Capital Experience from the Bay to the Blue Ridge Mountains

Washington, D.C., boasts big-deal museums, monuments and political edge, but the surrounding Mid-Atlantic region also lures with fun, human-scaled pleasures, like sunset schooner sails, prize-winning cabernets and arguably the world’s best crab cakes. From horse-country balloon rides to kayaking off pristine beaches, this two-week tour samples the region’s under-the-radar treasures and capital excitements.

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Baltimore, Maryland: Hanging by the Harbor

Fly into the Baltimore/Washington International Marshall Airport (BWI) and steer toward Baltimore’s waterfront. Here in Charm City, all roads lead to the Inner Harbor, where a 11-kilometer promenade connects a hive of shops, marinas and bistros. You can easily spend a day exploring the area, home to a couple of major attractions. At the National Aquarium, the moray eels and black-headed python will bring out the kid in you, and you’ll be mesmerized by the aptly named sloths. Next, amble over to Pier 1 to prowl the USS Constellation, a fine sailing vessel where you can explore the four decks and get a feel for the life of a 19th century seaman.

If it’s baseball season (April through September), an Orioles’ game at Camden Yards is a classic American evening, and the crab-cake sandwiches are well above standard stadium fare. And don’t leave town without touring Fort McHenry National Monument. The British bombarded the fort in 1814, but the U.S. flag continued to wave over its ramparts — inspiring Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the country’s notoriously hard-to-sing anthem.

52 km
0.75 hours by car
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Annapolis, Maryland: Maritime Moments

It’s all about the water in Maryland’s capital, Annapolis. For proof, climb aboard a wooden schooner for a two-hour sail. You’ll take in the historic waterfront and the U.S. Naval Academy as you cruise Chesapeake Bay, where ospreys soar on the thermals and regattas compete on the waves. For lunch, follow in the footsteps of presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Middleton Tavern for oyster shooters and crab cakes, and then ready yourself for a host of historical highlights: the Maryland State House, William Paca House and the Naval Academy.

52 km
1 hour by car
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Lincoln Memorial and Reflection Pool
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Washington, D.C.: Monumental Sights

Less than an hour’s drive south from Annapolis, the nation’s capital calls with the kind of sightseeing that requires sturdy walking shoes. Many of the most captivating attractions line the National Mall, where fine weather brings out Frisbee throwers, softball teams and picnickers. West of the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial sit the major monuments, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a black granite wall engraved with the names of over 58,000 U.S. Armed Forces lost during the Vietnam War. East of the Washington Monument to the Capitol you’ll find the majority of the Smithsonian museums. You’d literally need weeks to see everything, but highlights include the National Gallery of Art, housing the Americas’ only Leonardo da Vinci painting; the Museum of Natural History, home to the Hope Diamond; and the National Air and Space Museum, where you can touch a moon rock and inspect the living quarters of Skylab. Admission to all is free.

You can easily spend an afternoon exploring the cafes and bars on a walk around Georgetown and its namesake university. Cobblestone streets, upmarket shops and Federal-style homes make it one of the city’s most enviable places to live. There’s a bike path along the old C&O Canal where you can stop for coffee, tacos or a beer. From there, jump a water taxi across the Potomac River to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, a gorgeous historic neighborhood worth a weekend of its own. King Street is considered one of the country’s most shoppable strips, where you can pick up anything from a mid-century martini shaker to a Mexican wedding dress. Back in Washington,  D.C., spend an evening in Dupont Circle, an embassy-dotted neighborhood where you’ll share the glossy restaurant scene with foreign dignitaries.

186 km
2.5 hours by car
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Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
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Shenandoah Valley & Charlottesville, Virginia: A Toast to Thomas Jefferson

Head out beyond the Capital Beltway (the highway that encircles D.C. and its suburbs) into the vast green state of Virginia. Less than two hours from town you’ll reach the Shenandoah Valley, where a wine trail links dozens of family-owned vineyards. America’s wine-making tradition started here with Thomas Jefferson’s effort to introduce Old World vines to the colonies. Though he was interrupted by the Revolutionary War, his plan was ultimately a success, and today’s wineries produce both crisp chardonnays and robust Bordeaux-style reds. Linger for a few days and sample the hillside’s antique inns, farm-to-table restaurants and hot-air balloon rides.

The serpentine Skyline Drive runs 160 kilometers through Shenandoah National Park. Along the way, stretch your legs by taking in a bit of the Appalachian Trail or simply basking in the Blue Ridge Mountain vistas. Velvety horse pastures and country estates line the road to Charlottesville, a Blue Ridge mountain town with a proud history. Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and designed much of what you see today, including the famous Rotunda and Lawn. Set aside half a day to visit Monticello, Jefferson’s hilltop home; it’s full of his uncanny inventions, and the gardens alone could easily fill an hour. For sustenance, the Historic Downtown Mall is a prime location for fun with its eight pedestrian blocks lined with shops, cafes, galleries and gelato spots.

420 km
5 hours by car
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horses at Chincoteague & Assateague Islands
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Chincoteague and Assateague, Virginia: Wild About Horses

Driving southeast, steer toward the naval city of Norfolk, Virginia, then get set to traverse one of America’s most mind-boggling engineering feats: the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a 37-kilometer highway that skims over and dives under the bay. On the other side you’ll find salt marshes, channels and a charming string of low-country islands that lead to Chincoteague Island, where fishermen have been making a living since the mid-17th century. There’s a small town where you can unpack and enjoy the seafood restaurants, but the main appeal lies nearby on the island of Assateague, home to hundreds of wild ponies that wander the beaches and pine forests. You can see them by kayak, bike or organized wildlife tour. Back in your car, head toward one last crab cake in the pretty shipbuilding town of St. Michaels, Maryland. Then it’s on to Baltimore and the flight home.