It'd be wrong to say the best thing about Baltimore is how easy it is to get somewhere else, but ultimately, that's part of the attraction. It may be a great city in its own right, but its easy traveling distance from a bunch of national parks, historic battlegrounds, gorgeous Chesapeake Bay towns, and, of course, the nation's capital all add to its quintessential charm. If you're looking to leave the city behind for a morning, an afternoon, or a whole day, check out these 20 best day trips from Baltimore.
20. Gunpowder Falls State Park
If you don't want to venture too far out of Baltimore, the Gunpowder Falls State Park is perfect. Located just 16 miles outside of the city, you can have a full day of outdoor adventure and still be back in time for "Jeopardy!" Despite its proximity to the city, the peaceful grounds and stunning views feel a word away from the hustle and bustle. The range of outdoor pursuits on offer, meanwhile, is endless, with everything from fly fishing and horseback riding to bird watching and cross country skiing available to enjoy.
19. Sandy Point State Park
Another state park within easy reach of Baltimore is Sandy Point. A popular destination in summer thanks to its swimming, fishing, crabbing, and hiking opportunities, it makes a great day out for the whole family. Thanks to its location on the Chesapeake Bay, there's plenty of sandy beaches to explore and relax on - if you plan on swimming, lifeguards patrol the area from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
18. Hershey Park
Who doesn't love chocolate? Whether you prefer the white stuff, the milk kind, or the dark variety, you're not going to want to miss a trip to Hershey Park. Located around 90 miles from Baltimore, the site was once a playground for workers in Milton Hershey's factory. Today, it's one of the best theme parks for miles around, boasting a huge assortment of rides and attractions for the whole family to enjoy. Kids in particular will love getting up close and personal with the animals at ZOOAMERICA. Before you're done, pop on over to Hershey's Chocolate World to check out the chocolate-making process and grab some free samples for the trip home.
17. Utz Potato Chip Factory Tour
Take the one-hour journey out to Hanover, Pennsylvania to enjoy the fascinating Utz Potato Chip Factory Tour. The guided tour will give you an inside peek into how your favorite crunchy snacks get made, from the very first peel of the potato to the final bagging of the chip. Informative, fun, and with plenty of opportunities to test out some new flavors, it's the kind of place that everyone, regardless of age, will get a kick from. Even better, it's completely free.
16. Great Falls Park
Anyone looking for some outdoor adventure would be well advised to make the 52-mile trip to Great Falls Park. The 800-acre state park offers a ton of outdoor adventure, from hiking and kayaking to rock climbing. Once you're done exploring the grounds, relax with a picnic as you enjoy the stunning views over the Potomac River. It's not free, but at just $5 per car, it's not going to break the bank either.
15. Mount Vernon
If you've ever wanted to learn more about the life and legacy of George Washington, head on over to Mount Vernon. Located 13 miles south of Washington, DC and around 53 miles from Baltimore, the site offers visitors the chance to explore the stables, stately rooms, and outbuildings of George and Martha Washington's beautifully preserved 14 room mansion. There's also a chance to wander through the beautiful gardens and grounds, as well as take a deep dive into history at the attached museum. Educational, intriguing, and a heap of fun to boot, it's a must-visit.
14. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Recommended by vacationidea.com as one of the best day trips from Baltimore, the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Established in 1933, the tranquil waterfowl sanctuary boasts three different types of habitat (marsh, shallow water, and forest) and scores of birds, including the largest population of bald eagles north of Florida. With the chance to hike, fish, hunt for crabs, and birdwatch, there's enough to keep you busy from dawn to dusk. While you're there, be sure to check out the visitors center, which offers exhibits, a butterfly garden, an upper deck observation area, and TV monitors that give you an exclusive peek into the osprey and eagles nests.
Located just 57 miles from Baltimore is Gettysburg, a historic town in Adams County, Pennsylvania that's a must-visit for history buffs. As cbslocal.com says, the town was once the center of the costliest battle of the American Civil War. During three dramatic days in July 1863, over 7,800 Union and Confederate soldiers lost their lives. Thousands more were wounded. Today, the town remembers the events with a 6,000-acre Civil War military park that includes over 1400 monuments, marks and memorials. If you haven't visited before, it's worth booking a place on the orientation program to get familiar with the battlefield.
12. Smith Island
Recommended as one of the best day trips from Baltimore by Trip101, Smith Island is situated just a few hours from Baltimore at the heart of Chesapeake Bay. The island's world-famous crab cakes are reason enough to make the drive, but if you needed any more incentive, the opportunity to indulge in everything from kayaking and fishing to bird watching should do the job. There's also the chance to learn more about the traditional fishing methods and unique dialect of the community and island, which bears the distinction of being one of the very first chartered islands to be declared by the newly formed US.
11. Six Flags America
41 miles from Baltimore is Six Flags America. It's not for the fainthearted or the lily-livered, but if you're in the mood for some high octane adventures, this is the place to head. As the theculturetrip.com says, this adrenaline-pumping theme park is no less than a national institution of thrills, featuring just the right combination of classic fairground attractions (check out the 100-year-old wooden rollercoaster and the pink hot dogs) and modern-day rides (including the scream-worthy 200-foot Superman: Ride of Steel and the Hurricane Harbour's dramatic slides) to push all the right buttons.
10. Blackwater Falls State Park
Looking for adventure? Then jump in the car and head straight for Blackwater Falls State Park. Located just 3.5 hours away from Baltimore, the site boasts an incredible network of mountain trails that can be used for skiing, mountain biking, or hiking. There's enough variety to suit all ages and fitness levels, so don't be intimated if you've been spending more time on the sofa than in the gym lately. Other than the trails, there's also plenty of scope for fishing, swimming, or even sledding. If you end up having too much fun to make it back to Baltimore in time, you'll find some very plush accommodation on offer at the park's lodge.
9. Solomons Island
If you're looking for a family-friendly destination that will appeal to all age groups, Solomons Island is it. Kids will have a ton of fun learning about the natural world at the Calvert Marine Museum’s ‘please touch’ section, while the entire family will enjoy whizzing around the water aboard the Skipjack Dee of St. Mary, which offers a beautiful water tour of all the island's main points of interest. Round off the day with a live music show at the PNC Waterside Pavilion.
8. Cape May
If pristine beaches, first-rate restaurants, and amazing architecture float your boat, don't miss a day trip to Cape May. Small yet big on attractions, this gorgeous little resort town offers the perfect escape. Check out the seaside spas, the lighthouse, the small but exquisite collection of museums, and, of course, the lovely beaches. Whether you're into swimming, sunbathing, shopping, or dining, the town offers enough to please everyone.
7. Washington, DC
Washington DC offers a ton of attractions, all within an easy 45-minute drive from Baltimore. With so much to see, it's hard to know where to start, but regardless of what else is on your itinerary, be sure to make room for a visit to the landmarks, museums, and monuments along the National Mall, a show at the Kennedy Center, and a quick stop at the National Zoo to say hello to the animals.
6. Appalachian Trail Museum
Located in a 200-year-old former grist mill in Pine Grove Furnace State Park on the northern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Appalachian Trail Museum offers an inside look into the history of The Appalachian Trail. The exhibits range from a trail shelter built by the world-famous trail hiker Earl Shaffer to over 12,000 photographs of hikers that have tackled the trail over the years. There's also a research museum and a fun-packed Children’s Discovery Area for kids. Before you leave the park, make time to step back into the past with a visit to the historic Pine Grove General Store and Ironmasters Mansion.
5. Assateague State Park
Fancy leaving the noise and the crowds of the city behind and getting back to nature? If you do, Assateague State Park has your name written all over it. Located on Assateague Island at the National Seashore, it's a pleasure ground for outdoor lovers, with a gorgeous bay, maritime forests, deserted beaches, and a ton of outdoor activities to enjoy. Hiking, kayaking, fishing, and biking are all popular pastimes - you can even indulge in a spot of clamming if you're in the mood for a seafood supper. While you're there, keep your eyes peeled for the herd of wild horses who call the park home... just resist the urge to saddle them up for a ride. They don't like it and the park wardens like it even less.
With half an hour's drive from Baltimore is the historic city of Annapolis. Maryland's capital is a treasure trove of quaint bars, tempting restaurants, museums, and gorgeous parks. Bright, colorful, and seeped in history, it's the ideal place to grab a seafood dinner, browse the museums, or enjoy the superb outdoor recreation on offer at the Quiet Waters Park.
3. St. Michael’s
Annapolis is charming enough, but as The Crazy Tourist notes, St Michael’s is even more so. Despite its location just an hour from Baltimore, its quiet streets and peaceful vibes feel a world away from the city's hustle and bustle. Crammed with art galleries, antique stores, cute cafes, and quirky boutiques, its downtown doesn't disappoint. Before you leave, be sure to pop by the St Michael’s winery for a glass of something special.
2. Chesapeake Beach
Drive just an hour from Baltimore and you'll find the supremely attractive resort town of Chesapeake Beach. Its location on the Chesapeake Bay is unbeatable, as is the fine collection of seafood restaurants and cozy bars hidden away on its famous boardwalk. If you're looking for some high-octane thrills, be sure to check out the water park, which offers hours of watery fun on its water slides, activity pools, rides, and lazy river.
1. Antietam National Battlefield
History buffs are guaranteed to get a kick out of Antietam National Battlefield, the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War. Over the course of just 12 hours, over 23000 soldiers died as forces loyal to the Union battled to stop Robert E. Lee's troops from entering Northern Virginia. The Unionists prevailed, and the event led to Abraham Lincoln declaring the first Emancipation Proclamation. Today, the site is a wonderfully preserved landmark that gives visitors the chance to visit such historical sites as Bloody Lane, the National Cemetery, and Burnside Bridge. There's also a visitors center to stop by to learn more about the battle and its significance in American history.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn