11 Day Trips in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland

Courtesy of Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center

Courtesy of Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center

Looking for something fun to do with your loved ones? You’d be surprised at the opportunities presented very close to your neighborhood. Northern Virginia Magazine compiled a list of day trips to take with the family. Here we have made a list of some favorites.

DC Metro Food Tour

DC Metro Food Tours features a variety of three-hour, small-group tours of D.C.’s diverse culinary neighborhoods—Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, Georgetown, U Street and Alexandria. Tour guides describe the culture, architecture and history of the neighborhood, while stopping four to five times at local restaurants. At each, you’re treated to behind-the-scenes experience, and tastes of the restaurant’s most notable dishes. Tour guides explain how restaurants reflect the neighborhood culture. Distance is approximately one mile; perfect for all ages and tastes. /dcmetrofoodtour.com

Dinosaur Park

Dinosaurs once roamed the Mid-Atlantic, and deposits of sediment and clay in Laurel, Md. have been the site of significant discoveries of prehistoric bones and plant life from the Early Cretaceous Period. This led to preservation of the area, and the creation of The Dinosaur Park—a place where families can see, touch and hunt for fossils. The park opens twice a month, providing interactive tours, education programs, along with the opportunity to sift through the dirt for treasures. / pgparks.com

National Children’s Museum

December 2012, the National Children’s Museum opened the doors to its new home base at National Harbor. Designed for kids ages 8 and under, its mission is to inspire children to learn about the world through play. Start with the two main exhibit areas and theatre, the latter featuring year-round interactive shows. Then follow up with a visit to the Center for Learning and Innovation, which carries the cultural themes in the exhibits and productions into the activity room. The museum includes a 3-and-under Sesame Street-themed section, with Cookie Monster and Big Bird there to interact with visitors at special times. /ccm.org

Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center

Let’s say you’re looking at 40 and seeking a knockout celebration, or your second-grader wants a unique show-and-tell. “Soar the Shore” is for you. Think hang gliding means jumping off a mountain? Think again! Safely harnessed behind your instructor, you’ll be Aerotowed aloft by a special aircraft (“aerotug”). Then the wonder begins: fly and float silently as a bird, over some breathtaking Eastern Shore scenery. Farms, vineyards and the rugged coastline dazzle. /soartheshore.com

Ladew Topiary Gardens

About an hour and a half to the north you will find the whimsical Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Md. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the grounds are a feast for the eyes and imagination. In addition to the botanically-themed “garden rooms,” more than 100 topiaries fill the landscape, including those dog- and fox-shaped in the “Hunt Scene“ garden. The estate is a tribute to the vision of the man who created them, the deep-pocketed, well-traveled socialite, foxhunter and gardener extraordinaire, the late Harvey S. Ladew. / ladewgardens.com

Spy City Tours on Gray Line Bus

This 2.5-hour bus tour departs from Union Station weekly to view 25 notorious espionage sites in DC. Visitors see a different side of the city, as a tour guide points out restaurants, hotels and office buildings linked to intelligence activities. It’s an interactive experience, since guests are asked to crack the codes of secret messages and learn trade secrets from former spies via video (including CIA’s Tony Mendez who inspired the movie ARGO). The tour concludes with a visit to the Spy Museum. / spymuseum.org

Brookside Garden

Nothing signals the arrival of spring more than flowers, and Brookside Garden, naturally, has them in abundance. The 50-acre public display garden at Wheaton Regional Park is a veritable horticultural haven for plant enthusiasts, featuring several niche-gardens, including an Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Children’s Garden, and many more. In May, make a point of strolling through the Trail Garden, where more than 10,000 flowering bulbs spring forth. You could spend all day tip-toeing through the tulips. Best of all, admission is free. / montgomeryparks.org

National Museum of Health and Medicine

Founded in 1862, this new 20,000-foot facility re-opened last year showcasing one of the world’s largest collections of microscopes, medical instruments, anatomical specimens and medical artifacts. Because some exhibits are graphic (wax surgical models, amputated body parts—like Union General Dan Sickles’ leg—and preserved organs) the museum is best for teenagers and the non-squeamish. The presidential display has the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln, pieces of his skull and plaster molds of his head and hands. / medicalmuseum.mil

Lillypons Water Gardens

Lilypons boasts more than 50 ponds filled with colorful water plants, lilies and bogs. This gardening and landscape center attracts an abundance of wildlife including seabirds, water snakes, frogs and snapping turtles. Birders and photographers, as well as families enjoy touring the gardens and feeding the insatiable koi fish. Thursday morning visitors may join guided walks with a bird expert. Wear boots for walking in mud and marshes. / lilypons.com

BBQ Jamboree

No worries about buying a pig in a poke—the 3rd annual jamboree (May 11) promises BBQ heaven. Serious teams compete in the KCBS-sanctioned cook-off, with $10,000 in prizes at stake. Best part: You taste a sample from each People’s Choice contestant—and then vote! Sample the grape at the wine tasting, with a jamboree souvenir wineglass. Game for the rib-eating contest? Home Depot Kids’ Workshop and other events fill the kid-cool zone. /bbqjamboree.com

Virginia Safari Park

Natural Bridge considers this two zoos in one: Virginia’s only drive-through zoo, and a walk-through petting zoo, with an “interactive habitat” for more aggressive beasts. Feed llamas, camels, zebras, deer. Gentle giraffes eat out of your hand. Meet yaks, kangaroos, even tigers. Animals may be friendly, but they ARE wild. They get frisky around food and may climb on your car. Warning: The camels are crafty—they seem to prefer the buckets to the feed in them. /virginiasafaripark.com

 Compliments of Northern Virginia Magazine