Escape from DC (but I have to be back by 7)
September 5, 2019 4:34 PM   Subscribe

I find myself unexpectedly with an almost totally free day in DC tomorrow and am looking for something interesting to do w/in an hour or so of the city - something that would be relaxing and new-ish to someone who has lived here for a long time.

I'll be free after about 8am, but need to be in Takoma Park around 7pm. I have access to a car.

I've lived in the area most of my life, and have been in DC itself for ~20 years, but have done very little exploration of either the VA exurbs, the far north or west of Montgomery Co., the eastern half of PG Co., or Charles Co. outside of Accokeek and the immediate vicinity. Looking for a quick day trip that will broaden my regional horizons - and if that gets me outside or near / on the water, even better.
posted by ryanshepard to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if you have National Park Pass (or want to buy one) you could drive up to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, work your way down the Potomac, cross over at White's Ferry, then head to Great Falls Park.

If you're willing to trust DC Friday traffic, I did the day trip to Luray Caverns a couple weeks ago (tourist trap, but fun!), but it's a two-hour drive each way. Plus I had time so I took the leisurely Skyline Drive in one of the directions.
posted by Fortran at 5:03 PM on September 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

Maybe go to Spa World?
posted by shadygrove at 5:44 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are you interested in modern art or landscapes or cool new buildings? Glenstone is a spectacular, spanking new modern art museum that blends landscapes and modern art. It's in Montgomery County, and Google Maps says it's about 35 minutes now to Takoma Park. Tickets are free, and I see ones available at 2:30 onwards tomorrow.
posted by joyceanmachine at 5:56 PM on September 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

Fahrney's Pens maybe ( They specialize in fountain pens, but they also carry rollerballs and fancy stationery, if you like that sort of thing.
posted by yhlee at 5:59 PM on September 5, 2019

Seconding Glenstone.

If you're up for a walk in the woods you could go looking for Daniels, MD, a little north of Ellicot City.
posted by jameaterblues at 6:22 PM on September 5, 2019

You could go to Brownie's Beach and look for fossils. It's a little over an hour from Takoma Park, and the beach is free after Labor Day.
posted by Akhu at 6:24 PM on September 5, 2019

If you want to go a little farther afield, there's the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center down in Charles County, Maryland. It's a little jewel back in the woods with a neat collection of huge outdoor works.

Bonus Round: When you're done looking at sculpture, go a little further south to the tiki bar in Solomons!
posted by mccxxiii at 6:29 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

you could hop on over to the virginia side of things, drive down to mt. vernon if you've never been, then drive back up the gw parkway, stopping at dyke marsh, belle haven, the contrabands and freedmen cemetery, jones point park, potter around old town alexandria's various shops and restaurants and quaint architecture, then up to gravelly point to chill out and watch the planes take off and land. get a little history, a little nature, a little exercise. could do the trip on bike if you didn't want to drive.
posted by the thought-fox at 6:35 PM on September 5, 2019

You could mosey south to Calvert Cliffs State Park. It’s a relaxing, short hike to a nice beach where you can read, dip your toes in the water, and look for shells or teeth fossils.

Then on your drive back north, stop by Running Hare Vineyard/Calvert Brewing.
posted by inevitability at 6:50 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I heartily third going to sit on the beach and pick fossils either in the Potomac River or in the Chesapeake Bay. Brownie Beach and Calvert Cliffs are both good, as is Flag Ponds Nature Park. I prefer the older deposits in the Potomac around Purse State Park (10 minute hike, long narrow beach, small fossils) and a bit north of that at Douglas Point (about 30 minutes easy hike to a tiny, narrow beach, with larger fossils ).

I might also suggest going kayaking at Riverbend Park. It's slightly upriver from Great Falls, and offers fun kayaking (and fishing). They also have a nice trail along the river. (For future excursions, you can rent kayaks both at the Belle Haven Marina in Alexandria and at Pohick Bay Regional Park in Lorton, but after Labor Day they are only open on weekends.)

Have fun. Hope it doesn't rain!
posted by gemmy at 8:11 PM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not enough for a whole day trip, but stop by Eden Center for great Vietnamese food if you haven’t been. Or even if you have — yum.
posted by eyeball at 8:21 PM on September 5, 2019

You could go see “Happy Accidents: An Exhibit of Original Bob Ross Paintings” at the Franklin Park Performing and Visual Arts Center in Purcellville, VA. You can't get much more relaxing than Bob Ross. Purcellville, VA is about an hour away from the District and Takoma Park without traffic.
posted by Rob Rockets at 8:58 PM on September 5, 2019

Whoops. The Bob Ross exhibit doesn't open until September 10th so you can't go tomorrow. I runs until October 15th if you have another free day.
posted by Rob Rockets at 9:05 PM on September 5, 2019

I went to school in St. Mary's County, and if you've never been down that-away, you should do that. It's gotten much more built up down there since I lived there (when it was literally a backwater), but it is home to a unique culture and heritage. The Solomon's Island Maritime Museum, Historic St. Mary's City living history museum, Calvert Cliffs and Flag Pond parks, take your pick. There's also a significant Amish and Mennonite population in the area.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:48 AM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So many good suggestions already, but I'll toss out the suggestion of Jug Bay/Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary complex, which has several different sub-activities: a nature center, a driving tour, kayak rentals, hiking trails, and the Rural Life museum.
posted by drlith at 10:26 AM on September 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Seconding Jug Bay. Just a really cool place, not that far away, but a totally different world.

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is in the same general area and is really cool, too. They have a tour for the public on Wed, not tomorrow, unfortunately, but put them on your list as a cool place to visit another time.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:36 PM on September 8, 2019

« Older Is it the master cylinder?   |   First time in Hudson River Valley. Just 2 days.... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.