Popular Drives around Washington DC

Posted on 17 October 2011

You’re on a motorhome rental or campervan hire in Washington D.C, which probably means you don’t want to stay in one place for too long. The city is magnificent, with lots of things to keep you busy and entertained, but you long for the open road and a chance to explore just that little bit further, so here are a few short trips that you might like to try.

From Washington to Washington via the Virginia countryside.

You’ve spent time in the city, and now its time to head out to your first destination, Leesburg. Take Route 7 to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains; with optional singing from the Laurel and Hardy film. Leesburg hasn’t changed that much since the Civil War, apart from the guns and the factory outlets that is. The town has some excellent restaurants, so stop here for lunch, and then head off to Harpers Ferry, where the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers meet. The town is in the National Park of the same name, with views over Maryland and Virginia, and if you enjoy outdoor activities there are hiking and biking trails, kayaking and other water sports.

Day two is spent driving through the picturesque Shenandoah Valley. Your first stop should be Luray Caverns, where you can explore one of the largest cave systems in the eastern US. The next part of your journey takes you along the Skyline Drive, no prizes for guessing why it’s called that! This twisty, turny road has some stunning views, and the National Park has some excellent places to stop along the way for a picnic. Once you reach the end of the Skyline Drive you’ll be in Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson. This place is famous for its bookshops, and you could easily spend all afternoon exploring this charming town.

The Shenandoah Valley in Autumn
Photo by Karen Nutini, Wikimedia Commons

Day three follows on the Thomas Jefferson theme with a visit to his home at Monticello. The Italian style villa and grounds are beautiful and full of history, take a tour to get the very best out of the day; a tour will also provide an insight into the man who loved gadgets. Who do you know who has a revolving bookstand which allows you to read four books at once? Jefferson did! There are lots of other exciting inventions and gadgets on display at the villa, but when you’re done its time to head back to Washington via Route 29. The route has some excellent restaurants to try if you’re hungry; there are also major civil war sites to explore, which tell the story of how the capital was won.

DC to Baltimore Day trip

Commuting between Washington and Baltimore is now something experienced daily by busy executives, and at just over an hours drive, it’s not too far for a day trip if you’re on a motorhome rental or campervan hire holiday in D.C.

There are three options, but the I-95 has a couple of places where you might like to stop off. At West Laurel there’s a chance to stretch your legs at the Rocky Gorge Reservoir, where there are chances for hiking, fishing, boating, and even horse riding. The fishing here is popular with locals in search of Pike and Bass.

If mountain biking, rather than fishing, is your thing drive on a little further to Elkridge and the Rockburn Branch Park with its 4-mile bike trail. The trail is suitable for beginners with some steep hills and a few challenging parts.

Your final destination is Baltimore, the largest city in Maryland. The port city has 72 historic neighbourhoods to explore, but the inner harbour; Fells Point (made famous by Sleepless in Seattle) and Little Italy are probably the three districts are where you’ll end up exploring on a day trip.

DC to Charlottesville

If you haven’t got time to complete the Washington to Washington via the Virginia countryside trip, why not just complete part of it on a day trip to Charlottesville. The whole journey should last around two and a half hours, which will take you past the Prince William Forest Park and the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial‎, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The Prince William Forest Park is where you will find more walking and biking trials, and as the name suggests, there are plenty of trees as well as evidence of human habitation dating back to 8,000BC.



The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial is the site where 85,000 soldiers were wounded, and 15,000 killed; the location where one of the battles for freedom was fought during the American Civil War in 1862. Stop at the visitor centre with its suggestions of activities and walks, as well as a short film about the battle.

At Monticello, get to know about the life of Thomas Jefferson, and find out about the declaration if Independence. Visit the presidents villa and gardens, and find out about what the family’s private life was like on a behind the scenes on a tour. Tours are an excellent way to learn facts about the life of America’s third President, and there are a number to choose from, which also includes the estate. The estate was not just a home to Jefferson; it was also home to plantation workers, both slaves and free people.

Next stop, the University of Virginia. Founded by Thomas Jefferson, you can visit the museum and experience all kinds of events from marching band rehearsals to art and drama, and from athletics to major pop concerts.

This last trip is ideally covered in two days, but if you’re tight on time, it can all be covered in a day out from Washington on a motorhome rental or campervan hire day trip from the capital.

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