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8 Perfect Day Trips from Washington, D.C.

1 Hour Away

Often overshadowed by high-profile D.C., Baltimore (which locals call “Charm City”) has a revitalized waterfront, proudly diverse neighborhoods, and stellar museums, including the wonderfully loopy American Visionary Art Museum (800 Key Hwy.; 410/244-1900; avam.org). Also worth a visit: the laughing kookaburras and frilled lizards of the popular “Australia: Wild Extremes” exhibit at the National Aquarium (501 E. Pratt St.; 410/576-3800; aqua.org).

90 Minutes Away

Tiny Harpers Ferry sprang up in the mid–18th century at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Today it’s in the middle of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (304/535-6029; nps.gov), and is popular with hikers and white-water rafters. The 6.5-mile Maryland Heights trail climbs to a stunning view of the valley.

45 Minutes Away

Elegant centuries-old mansions and government buildings speak to the long-standing regional prominence of Annapolis; the United States Naval Academy (52 King George St.; 410/293-8687; usna.edu) sits alongside the Severn River.

1 Hour 10 Minutes Away

Beautiful, well-heeled Middleburg—all rolling pastures, tree-shaded lanes, and grand manor houses—is the heart of Virginia’s horse and fox-hunt country. Visit the sprawling Middleburg Tack Exchange (103 W. Federal St.; 540/687-6608) to find row after row of jodhpurs and shiny saddles.

1 Hour Away

Fredericksburg’s 40-square-block historic district is full of antiques shops and meticulously restored Colonial buildings. Explore the surrounding Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park (540/373-6122; nps.gov), where a network of self-guided tours takes in four key Civil War battlefields.

20 Minutes Away

Much more than a commuter satellite of D.C., Alexandria (also easily reached by Metro) was once a thriving port; the 18th- and 19th-century edifices of the vibrant Old Town district are now occupied by shops, restaurants, and pubs. On the waterfront, the Torpedo Factory Art Center (703/838-4565; torpedofactory.org) houses artists’ studios and cooperative galleries.

1 Hour 40 Minutes Away

Just across Chesapeake Bay, St. Michaels is one of several Eastern Shore towns known for boating, blue crabs, and a genteel way of life. Down the road, the Inn at Easton (28 S. Harrison St.; 410/822-4910; dinner for two $150) gets raves for its inventive, Asian-accented Australian food.

30 Minutes Away

At Mount Vernon (703/780-2000; mountvernon.org), George Washington’s extraordinary Potomac River estate, a new visitors’ center and state-of-the-art interactive exhibits bring the 18th-century plantation to life.

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