Baltimore is known as Charm City, but even though you could spend a lot of your free time touring Baltimore, there are tons of great places to visit outside of Baltimore as well! These are our pick for the best day and weekend trips from Baltimore. They are all under 4 hours, with many of these ideas under 2 hours. Also, all of these ideas would be great for families or an adults only mini vacation!
Eastern Shore- Ocean City and More!
Ocean City is about 3 hours from Baltimore- depending on traffic. That is an obvious choice for a great weekend trip! It’s a barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean and one of the top destinations for families. You could drive out on a Friday afternoon and have the better part of 2 days to enjoy the beach, boardwalk, and other fun things to do in Ocean City.
Of course, Ocean City is not the only Eastern Shore destination worth visiting. Both Assateague Island National Seashore and its Virginia cousin, Chincoteague, are known for their wild horses.
Also about 3 hours from Baltimore are all the Delaware beaches on the Eastern Shore. If Ocean City crowds are not your thing, rent a house in Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, Lewes Beach, or Rehoboth Beach.
They are all sitting on the ocean, have pristine sandy shores, and great amenities like fantastic restaurants and shopping. While there, pay a visit to the gorgeous Cape Henlopen State Park for a wilder version of the sandy beaches and oceanfront ecosystem.
Eastern Shore- Between the Bay Bridge and the Coast
If you are looking for a weekend adventure a little closer to home, the Eastern Shore communities between Baltimore and the ocean have so much to offer! The fingers of the Chesapeake Bay form many gorgeous, out of the way, crevices on Maryland’s coastline. In some of these places you really feel like you have stepped into a secret world. Yes, they are that remote.
There are tons of hidden beaches in this area that are great for a secluded day on the water. Or enjoy endless miles of kayaking and canoeing on the many Maryland waterways.
While visiting the Eastern Shore make sure to indulge in blue crabs or gourmet crab cakes. These crabs are fresh and taste delicious!
The Eastern Shore is home to a number of quaint towns that are thriving arts communities. St. Michaels is a small town that has a rich maritime history, Chestertown holds an annual tea party reenactment that is a ton of fun. And both Easton and Berlin are full of cute cafes and shops.
Another draw for the Eastern Shore is its rich civil rights history. Visit the Harriet Tubman National Visitors Center and trace her steps on the Underground Railroad.
Deep Creek Region
Deep Creek Lake and Garrett County is about 3.5 hours from Baltimore. Like the Eastern Shore, the Western Region of Maryland is far enough away to make you feel like you have traveled somewhere, but close enough for a weekend trip.
McHenry and Deep Creek are the obvious draws in this area. Between all the boating opportunities on the lake itself and the family friendly entertainment options. There are arcades, mini golf, go-karts, and tons of great places to eat! In the winter, Wisp Resort is one of the best places in the region for skiing and snow tubing.
During warmer months, Wisp offers their famous mountain coaster, adventure courses, and other fun recreation options.
Swallow Falls State Park and Oakland, MD
Just a little outside of McHenry though are some of the real gems of the area. Swallow Falls State Park is home to Muddy Creek Falls- the highest waterfall in Maryland, as well as 3 other waterfalls. One of the best kid friendly hikes is the 1.7 mile loop which hits all 4 waterfalls. This entire area has miles of trails to explore!
Within a few miles of Swallow Falls State Park is Herrington Manor State Park with great hiking and water activities, as well as the super fun Rock Maze trail. This area of Garrett County is closer to Oakland, which is a smaller but super cute town. Oakland has a few of the best restaurants in the area (including our go to breakfast spot- Englanders), a few smaller museums, and a seasonal farmers market.
If you don’t want to drive 3.5 hours to Deep Creek, there are many fun options closer to Baltimore. Allegany County- or Mountain Maryland- is home to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Hop aboard the Frostburg Flier or get tickets for one of their many seasonal special events.
Cumberland and Frostburg are home to a number of outdoor adventure companies as well. We love Traks and Yaks– which offer both bike riding adventures and rail biking. The rail biking adventures are actually perfect for kids- even younger kids.
Rocky Gap State Park is also a great place for family camping (with private beach access for campers), and in Allegany County you have easy access to the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail and the Paw Paw Tunnel.
One of the most beautiful and unique regions of Maryland is Southern Maryland. Sandwiched between the shores of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, there are tons of family friendly ways to spend a weekend in this area. And it’s between 1.5 t0 2.5 hours away (depending on how far south you go!).
The obvious choice is to plan a Shark Tooth hunting adventure. Rent a cabin at Mataoka Beach Cabins and get up early to beat the crowds. Popular shark tooth beaches include Mataoka, Calvert Cliffs, Flag Ponds, and Purses Park (part of Namjemoy WMA).
Southern Maryland has a number of family friendly historical adventures as well. Spend the day at Historic St. Mary’s City or visit the Drum Point Lighthouse at the Calvert Maritime Museum. The Piney Point Lighthouse and St. Clements Island State Park are both unique and fun places to visit as well.
Kids and adults alike would love spending time at Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Lusby and a visit to Leonardtown would please kids between the fabulous Wieck Playground and ice cream at the Salted Scoop!
Catoctin Mountain Region
A little over an hour from Baltimore is the peaceful beauty of the Catoctin Mountain Region. You can either stay in Frederick or book a camping spot at Cunningham Falls State Park.
There are tons of great hiking opportunities in this area from the overlooks at Catoctin Mountain Park to the beach and short waterfall hike at Cunningham Falls State Park.
A little outside of the Catoctin Mountains, there are a number of historic places like Antietam National Battlefield you can tour.
In addition to the Delaware beaches on the Eastern Shore, northern Delaware has a lot to offer families, and it’s just over an hour from Baltimore!
Winterthur Enchanted Woods in Wilmington is like a fairytale come alive. This is a 1000-acre garden with treehouses, fairy cottages, and more!
The Delaware Children’s Museum is also a ton of fun for kids with over 10 major exhibit areas. Your kids could spend a good chunk of the day playing and learning here!
You can round out your weekend with an educational stop at Fort Delaware, a living history museum with re-enactors from the Civil War period.
Another easy weekend trip from Baltimore (at just over an hour) is Lancaster County. There are so many family friendly attractions in Lancaster County you could spend an entire week in this region and not do everything!
Family favorites include:
- Dutch Wonderland
- Turkey Hill Experience
- Strasburg Railroad
- Cherry Crest Adventure Farm
- Sight and Sound
- The Amish Experience
- The Wolf Sanctuary of PA
- All of the food factory tours (Utz, pretzels, etc…)
- Eating at an Amish restaurant (we love Miller’s!)
Apart from Washington DC, Philadelphia is the closest major city to Baltimore. Philadelphia and the area surrounding it are just about 2 hours from Baltimore and mirror many of Baltimore’s offerings, but with a different twist.
Younger kids would absolutely love the Please Touch Museum. Kids of all ages (including adults) could spend the better part of a day at The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Zoo, or Adventure Aquarium (technically in Camden, NJ but just over the river from Philadelphia).
Older kids would really get into the American history attractions in the historic district like Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Constitution Center. And adults or teens would really get into a ghost tour at the Eastern State Penitentiary, as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Just outside of Philadelphia, don’t skip the world famous Longwood Gardens— quite possibly the best gardens in the world (certainly in the U.S.).
Gettysburg is probably the most famous (or infamous) Civil War battle. This is widely considered the turning point of the war and has the distinction of the largest number of casualties suffered during the Civil War.
This is an important piece of American history and a great place to visit with kids, especially if they are old enough to understand the implications and historical significance. You can go on a driving tour of the battlefield and even hire a guide to ride along with you. There are also a number of historic buildings you can visit.
But Civil War history is not the only thing to do in Gettysburg. Kids would love a visit to The Land of Little Horses or one of a number of living history museums and experiences.
There are also a number of parks and recreational attractions like go-karting.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Hershey, PA would be a huge hit with kids and families! Hersheypark is one of the best amusement parks in the U.S. It boasts 14 rollercoasters, family rides, thrill rides, a ginormous waterpark, and super fun seasonal events. And this is a short drive from Baltimore at just under 1.5 hours away.
At its heart though, Hershey is about chocolate. Make your own candy bar at Hershey’s Chocolate World or learn about Milton Hershey at the Hershey Story Museum (and indulge in the hot cocoa from around the world tasting flight!).
Hershey is home to ZooAmerica, a zoo for North American animals. And the Hershey Gardens has a whimsical children’s garden.
There are a ton of places to stay in Hershey, PA. Our top two recommendations are Tru by Hilton and Hershey Lodge!
North of Philadelphia is an under-the-radar part of Pennsylvania that is very day and weekend trip worthy! Lehigh Valley encompasses Allentown, Easton, and Bethlehem, PA and there are so many family friendly things to do there!
You could easily spend most of the day at The Crayola Experience in Easton. Then, when you are ready for some great food, walk to the Easton Public Market for a wide variety of food stalls and shops.
Steelstacks in Bethlehem is a fantastic place to check out and they have an impressive schedule of events and concerts. Lehigh Valley is also home to a number of covered bridges.
During the summer, another full day can be filled up with a trip to Dorney Park– a fantastic amusement park with thrill rides, family rides, and a great waterpark!
In addition to all of these fun ideas, the DaVinci Science Center is a great, hands-on, STEM museum for kids.
Just north of Lehigh Valley is the amazingly awesome Poconos region. There are three major waterpark/recreation complexes here. Camelback Resort, Kalahari Resort, and Great Wolf Lodge. All three resort areas are some of the biggest and best in the U.S., with huge indoor and outdoor waterparks, seasonal snow tubing, adventure courses, arcades, and more!
To supplement your resort stay, check out Bushkill Falls, Lehigh Gorge State Park, or the boulder fields at Hickory Run State Park.
No weekend trip from Baltimore list would be complete without mentioning our nation’s capital! Washington D.C. is just under an hour from Baltimore and is the perfect place for a day trip, weekend trip, or week-long vacation.
The National Mall is the center of all the action, with free admission to all the Smithsonian Museums like the Air and Space Museum, U.S. History Museum, Natural History Museum, and African-American Culture and History Museum.
You can visit all the famous monuments and memorials, pay your respects at Arlington National Cemetery, and see the seat of all three branches of the federal government. Many people love visiting the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building. Some of the most famous monuments and memorials are:
- Washington Monument
- Lincoln Memorial
- Jefferson Memorial
- MLK Memorial
- Vietnam Memorial
- Korea War Memorial
The paid attractions are also impressive. If you are willing to spend a little money, all of these museums are fantastic for families!
West Virginia is surprisingly close to Baltimore (closer than Deep Creek actually) and full of fun weekend options!
Harper’s Ferry is not only a pivotal stop in any Civil War history tour, but it’s a gorgeous area with tons of hiking and outdoor recreation opportunities. As a historic town, Harper’s Ferry has the John Brown Fort, as well as the Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park.
Blackwater Falls State Park is absolutely stunning year round. In the winter you can take a turn on the longest sled run on the East Coast!
And of course, New River Gorge is the newest National Park to be added to the parks system!
Speaking of national parks, Shenandoah National Park and the Shenandoah area of Virginia are a mere 2 hours from Baltimore. Perfect for a weekend trip!
Most people think of Shenandoah National Park for fall foliage trips. The Skyline Drive is very popular with visitors. However, kids and families will also love the amazing outdoor activities available at this national park. There are plenty of waterfall hikes and and sweeping overlooks. There are also a number of super fun rock scrambling hikes that are great for older kids too!
The Shenandoah area has loads of other family friendly spots in addition to the park. Seasonally Burnside Farms is one of the best places for tulip and sunflower picking. Great Country Farms is not only a great spot for ‘pick your own’ fruit, but they have a ginormous play area.
And, just like the Poconos, Massanutten Resort is a super family friendly destination year round with snow sports in the winter, an outdoor water park, mountain biking, and adventure sports in warmer months, and an indoor waterpark year round!
Williamsburg and the Historic Triangle might be a bit far for a regular weekend trip from Baltimore (3.5 hours away). However, this is one of the best places to go for a long weekend!
The most obvious attraction is Colonial Williamsburg. And I have to tell you, it’s awesome. This living history museum sets the standard for immersive edutainment. And they have great programs year round!
While you are in the area, also check out the Yorktown National Battlefield and the really fantastic American Revolution Museum. This is a very hands-on museum with tons of interactive exhibits, including a Colonial Village.
Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestown take visitors back to the 17th century and are also very immersive experiences that kids and adults would love.
Non-historical attractions in Williamsburg
However, history is not the only thing going for Williamsburg. Have you ever heard of Busch Gardens? Yeah, it’s one of the best amusement parks on the East Coast and a definite must-do for families in the area.
Additionally, there are literally dozens of other fun attractions. Go Ape Treetop Course is a huge hit with older kids. Outdoor adventurers will love the numerous hiking, biking, and paddling opportunities.
Kids will love all the arcades, entertainment centers, go karting, mini golf, and more.
And where will you stay? Ummm, Great Wolf Lodge is the perfect choice for families. This indoor waterpark resort is amazingly fun and close to everything!
Just a little further down the Virginia Coast is another super popular family friendly destination. Virginia Beach has a very similar vibe to Ocean City with a pristine beach, fun boardwalk, super seasonal events and all the family attractions you could want.
While there, don’t miss the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, a great aquarium in the area with loads of fun activities for kids!
In Norfolk, kids and adults will love the huge Nauticus museum and the Battleship Wisconsin. The Norfolk Botanical Gardens are stunningly beautiful
A little closer to Baltimore than the Virginia coast, Richmond is full of family friendly activities. Kings Dominion is a super fun amusement park (similar to Dorney Park in Pennsylvania) with Planet Snoopy for younger kids, plenty of thrill rides, and a great waterpark.
Richmond boasts numerous kid-friendly museums like the Science Museum of Virginia, the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.
Outdoor adventures are plentiful too! The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is utterly breathtaking (not unlike Longwood Gardens). And the Maymont Estate is the perfect place for an outdoor family afternoon with gardens, an arboretum, a working farm, and a Wildlife Habitat!
Finally, no weekend trip list would be complete without mentioning The Big Apple. New York City is less than 3 hours away from Baltimore. And you don’t even have to drive. Actually, forget your car and hop on the Amtrak for a quick (and very relaxing) train ride into the heart of Manhattan.
The train makes NYC very accessible for a quick day trip, weekend trip, or longer! Once there there are really so many kid friendly options!
These are our top picks!
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building
- Children’s Museum of the Arts
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- American Museum of Natural History
- Times Square (the Hershey Store, M&M Store alone would be fun!)
- Children’s Museum of Manhattan
- Broadway– our top pick for a kid friendly show is The Lion King–hands down!
- The Gazillion Bubble Show is also super fun and popular with kids and parents alike!
Clearly this is more than you could hope to do in one weekend, but that’s a great reason to plan a second (or third) trip!