Trying to fill a few gaps in your Maryland itinerary? From your home base in the big city, it’s worthwhile to tackle some of the best day trips from Baltimore, MD. All within a short drive of Maryland’s biggest city, you’ll find luscious state parks, historical towns, and even the nation’s capital!
Starting in the heart of Charm City, you can head out in any direction and find destinations teeming with personality. For a break from the fast-paced urban lifestyle, add a trip to Gunpowder Falls State Park or Chincoteague Island and reconnect with nature. Or, if you want to check out all of the region’s best cities at once, head on over to Washington, DC, Annapolis, or Ocean City.
Want to extend your Baltimore vacation by a couple of days? Take a look at this comprehensive guide to the top-rated Baltimore side trips!
Top-rated Baltimore side trips
If you love the charm of a historic city, make time on your Maryland holiday for a day trip to Annapolis. Located just 40 minutes from Baltimore, this excursion to Maryland’s capital city is an easy roundtrip to tackle in a single day.
A historic city nestled on the edge of Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis offers a wide array of urban activities in a waterfront setting. The city’s vibe is a little more laid-back than Baltimore, but there’s certainly no shortage of things to do in Annapolis.
Peruse the Annapolis Maritime Museum, dine along the Annapolis City Dock, or take a photography tour through the colorful Historic District; the possibilities are endless!
Traveling without a rental car? No problem! You can reach Annapolis by bus for less than 20 dollars; you’ll just need to budget a little extra time.
If you can easily tack a trip to the nation’s capital onto your Baltimore itinerary, why wouldn’t you? Washington, DC is only an hour-long drive from the city and is a must-see for any traveler. Especially if this is your first time passing through the U.S., a trip to Washington will give you the ultimate crash course on American politics, history, and culture.
Touring the United States Capitol buildings and visiting the Library of Congress might seem a little too obvious. (They certainly aren’t “off the beaten path” by any stretch.) But they’re attractions you can’t pass up if you’ve only got one day in Washington, DC.
When you need a change of pace, remember that Washington, DC, is a museum-lovers haven. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the National Gallery of Art, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will all be at your fingertips.
RELATED: Best Things to Do in Washington, DC
Before heading back to Charm City, dig into one of the best restaurants in DC around Dupont Circle or Logan Circle.
Gunpowder Falls State Park, MD
For a quick and well-rounded escape to the wilderness, consider a day trip to Gunpowder Falls State Park. Especially if you’re someone who prefers to take your vacation days as they come, this state park is a great adventure to keep in your back pocket. Since the reserve is only a half-hour outside of Baltimore, it’s easy peasy to head out on a nature walk on a whim.
After you’ve arrived at Gunpowder Falls State Park, you can choose from a series of trails that lead through the forest, historic villages, and even an old railway. Most of the trails are a fairly mild difficulty level, but you can stay as long as you please since the footpaths extend nearly 20 miles.
RELATED: Best Things to Do in Baltimore, MD
Gunpowder Falls State Park also features a swimming beach, tubing river, and archery range for those seeking a more activity-centric experience.
Ocean City, MD
If you want to complement your Baltimore experience with another hip, urban destination, head to Ocean City, MD. You can get to this Maryland coastal city in a little under three hours by car; it’s totally doable in a single day if you’re willing to get up early and return as the sun sets. (We would, however, highly recommend staying overnight and extending your vacation by a day or two.)
A visit to Ocean City is one of the best day trips from Baltimore for travelers with kids, and it’s easy to see why. Exciting attractions lie around every corner, like amusement parks and dolphin-watching cruises. There’s also a happenin’ beach boardwalk featuring arcades, ice cream shops, and vintage family-sized bikes.
Feeling hungry? Ocean City is one of the best places around Maryland to eat fresh crab; be sure to stop for dinner at a waterfront seafood joint before returning to the big city.
Sandy Point State Park, MD
Aspiring naturalists and waterbugs alike will absolutely fall in love with Sandy Point State Park. Just 45 minutes from Baltimore, this day trip will provide you with sandy shores for swimming, sprawling lawns for weekend picnicking, and a small handful of trails connecting the ocean to the marshes and pine forests of Maryland.
Above all else, Sandy Point State Park is a top destination for aquatic adventures. When you’ve had enough of swimming—or the weather is just a little too chilly for it—you’ll still find plenty of water activities here.
Boat rentals are available on the shoreline if you’d like to venture out on your own. You can also try your hand at fishing and crabbing with the help of a guide.
Chesapeake Beach, MD
Welcome to the unofficial gathering place for Maryland-bound beach bums: Chesapeake Beach. Here, you can catch some rays and well-needed R&R; it’s a perfect end to a busy week in the city.
Just an hour and change from Baltimore, Chesapeake Beach is close enough for an afternoon on the sands. That said, there are plenty of coastal vacation rentals and boutique hotels—fit for the rich and famous—calling your name, just begging you to stay in the area a little longer.
While lazing around in the sand is the number one thing to do at Chesapeake Beach, there are several options for visitors who can’t sit still too. As a top sailing destination, it’s a great place to charter a sunset cruise and pop champagne bottles in style. (A truly splurge-worthy activity, no?)
A visit to the Bruce Snake Gabrielson’s Surf Art Gallery and Museum is also a must for a well-rounded beach town experience.
(Just a head’s up: The gallery is usually closed when the waves are too good for groms to ignore; be sure to call ahead—or at least check the surf forecast—before showing up.)
Antietam National Battlefield, MD
Amateur history buffs visiting Baltimore simply can’t pass up the opportunity to jump on over to the Antietam National Battlefield. Located 1.5 hours from the city center, the national park isn’t an easy addition to an already-full day’s itinerary. If you have the time to dedicate to this trip, there’s plenty to do in the area to round out your experience and space out the time spent in the car.
Browse the museum exhibits inside the visitor center and then head outside, where the real adventure begins. Take the 11-stop self-guided tour through the historical site, or ask a park ranger to accompany you when they are not giving an educational battlefield talk.
If you have time, embarking on the Antietam National Battlefield hike is absolutely worthwhile. You’ll meander past several important battle sites and monuments, plus pretty forests and farms.
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, MD
Want to feel like you’re living inside a postcard or a famous landscape painting? A trip to Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park certainly fits the bill.
After an hour and ten-minute cruise down the highway, you’ll stumble upon rocky cliff faces, rushing turquoise waters, and a series of historic bridges and tunnels. Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park has several landscapes straight out of a fairytale juxtaposed with the untamed wilderness.
You could just hike through the natural area, but we’d recommend something with a little more whimsy. For a nod to the history of the area, take a canal boat ride through the waterways or go on a magical horseback ride through the forest and village.
Don’t let the icy weather get you down! Visiting during the colder months, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park becomes a winter wonderland, offering winter activities like dog sledding, ice fishing, skating, and cross-country skiing.
Mount Vernon, VA
If you’re looking for a fun and educational day trip to take with the whole family, take a drive to Mount Vernon, VA, George Washington’s estate. After just an hour of travel time, you’ll be transported back to the 18th century. You can easily spend a whole afternoon exploring Mount Vernan, so it’s best to dedicate a whole day to this side excursion—especially if you want to make stops along the way.
Besides just roaming around the estate, there’s a shocking amount of things to do at Mount Vernon. To start, you can participate in several themed tours ranging from a “Through My Eyes” Character Tour to a photo cruise down the Potomac River.
Before you leave, don’t forget to visit the Distillery and Gristmill, where George Washington used to make his own whiskey. Though tastings are not available on-site, the distillery is still in operation today; you can actually take home a bottle of spirits as a souvenir!
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Looking for a place to recover after a hectic week in the city? Get a breath of fresh air at the Shenandoah National Park, VA.
Since the drive to Shenandoah National Park is about two hours from Baltimore across state lines, you’ll want to consider the length of your day hike when penciling it into your itinerary. If you’re an avid backpacker and want to take on a heftier trek, consider booking a backcountry camping site or checking out the nearby nature lodges.
Get ready to lace up your hiking boots: Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails to choose from! If choose to stay overnight, be sure to keep your eyes on the sky; Shenandoah offers some stellar stargazing, with the Milky Way often visible from the meadows.
Not a big hiker? Shenandoah State Park could still be a great destination, as long as you have an appreciation for the outdoors and a good view.
Skyline Drive, winding through the park, is considered one of the best scenic drives in the United States. Or grab a bite and a cocktail at The Pollock Dining Room, offering libations and good grub overlooking the forest.
Chincoteague Island, VA
Looking to tick something ultra-impressive off your bucket list? If you’ve ever dreamed of running with wild horses, then a day trip to Chincoteague Island is a must.
A journey to Chincoteague Island is the longest on this list, clocking in at just over three hours. But trust us when we say it’s worth your while! If you make the trek, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous waterways, candy-striped lighthouses, and a historic downtown core.
If your Chincoteague Island bucket list begins and ends with visiting the horses at the wildlife refuge, we won’t blame you. That said, there are a few other attractions you may want to keep on your radar.
The 21+ crew should definitely stop at Black Narrows Brewing for a pour. If there are any bookworms in your midst, a visit to the Chincoteague Island Library is a must. This coastal cutie features a dreamy spiral staircase and a selection of free books you can choose from to bring back as a souvenir!