Historic Day Trips in Maryland and D.C.

Revisit the past with these great day trip destinations.

18th Century Chocolate Making at Mount Vernon. Photo courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.
18th Century Chocolate Making at Mount Vernon. Photo courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.

Written by Kara Hunt

From the Revolutionary War, to the legacy of George Washington, to the Civil War, history was made throughout the D.C. area. Check out the listings below to learn more about historic places you can visit locally. The best part? You can get to all these destinations on one tank of gas (or less).

George Washington’s Boyhood Home at Ferry Farm

268 Kings Hwy.

Fredericksburg, VA

(540) 370-0732 

Why Go? Discover the boyhood home of our first president on the banks of the Rappahannock River. For kids, group workshops are available, as well as Family History Adventure Tours. 

Insider Tip:
If you plan on visiting during the summer months, plan to come on a weekday to see archaeologists working on site.

Must Do:
Don’t miss the Gingerbread House Contest and Exhibit displayed at Ferry Farm from Dec. 8 to 30. See these magnificent creations as they depict “Moments in U.S. History.” “The creativity of the entrants is always amazing and the smell is particularly tantalizing,” said Paula Raudenbush, director of marketing and communications of the George Washington Foundation.

The Fine Print:
Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for students, and is free for those ages 6 and under. Discounts are available for Seniors, AAA, active military, trolley passengers, and DAR members. Ferry Farm is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout November and December. 

Antietam National Battlefield

5831 Dunker Church Rd.

Sharpsburg, MD

(301) 432-5124 

Why Go: Visit the site of the Battle of Antietam, a bloody combat during the heart of the Civil War in 1862. A film narrated by James Earl Jones will introduce you to the battlefield and its history. See the entire battlefield on a self-directed driving tour with 11 stops, and don’t forget to pick up a battlefield scavenger hunt to learn even more. Personalized tours with expert guides are available, and ranger programs are held three times a day. 

Insider Tip:
The self-directed driving tour is 8 ½ miles long and will take about an hour and half to two hours.

Must Do: 
“Don’t miss Sunken Road or Burnside Bridge,” said Mannie Gentile, a park ranger at Antietam. “Burnside Bridge is especially iconic in the valley.” 

The Fine Print:
A three-day pass to the battlefield costs $4 per person, or $6 per family. Ages 15 and under are free. The park is open during daylight hours, and the Visitor Center is open from 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy.

Mount Vernon, Virginia

(703) 780-2000

Why Go? An 18th century mansion, museum galleries, live interpreters, exhibits, programs, expansive gardens and grounds—all this makes up the home of the first President of the United States, George Washington. Tour the mansion, take a cruise on the Potomac River, delve deeper into the 18th century in a living history program, and bring your dog for a special walking tour over the grounds. 

Insider Tip:
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is especially busy, as well as Thanksgiving weekend. 

Must Do:
Experience Christmas at Mount Vernon from November 29, 2013 – January 6, 2014. Tour the rarely-open third floor of the mansion, meet the National Thanksgiving Turkey and Aladdin the camel, enjoy weekend story hour, and discover how chocolate was made in the 18th century. “The best part about Christmas at Mount Vernon is experiencing a traditional 18th-century Christmas that Washington himself enjoyed over 200 years ago,” said spokesperson Emily Hartwood.

The Fine Print:
Mount Vernon is open from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. from November through February, and is open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. The ticket price is $17 for adults (ages 12-61), $8 for youth (ages 6-11), $16 for seniors (ages 62 and over), and free for children 5 and under. There is a $2 transaction fee for daytime admission tours, and a $5 transaction fee for special events. 

Manassas National Battlefield Park

6511 Sudley Rd.

Manassas, VA 

Why Go: Two historic battles were fought on the fields in Manassas during the Civil War overlooking Bull Run. Walk where soldiers once fought, see historic weapons demonstrations, explore walking trails, participate interpretive programs, experience the fiber optic battle map and more. For first time visitors, Ray Brown, chief of interpretations and cultural resources management at Manassas National Battlefield Park, highly recommends the Henry Hill Walking Tour. “It’s the best orientation to the First Battle of Manassas and covers the whole story,” he said.

Insider Tip: Pack a lunch and eat on the battlefield at one of the picnic grounds open to the public. 

Must Do: Don’t miss out on the Stone Bridge Loop Trail, which is now a part of TRACK Trails. TRACK Trails is a project from Kids in Parks that works to get kids reconnected with nature. Using the downloadable brochure-led guide, each trail becomes an adventure full of history and new things to discover.

The Fine Print: The park is open daily from dawn until dusk. The Henry Hill Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., and the Brawner Farm Interpretive Center is open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. The park itself is free and open to the public. For admission to the Henry Hill Visitor Center and Brawner Farm, a three-day pass costs $3 per person, and those aged 16 and get in for free. 


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