Summer escapes look a lot different this year. Given my deep-seated, lifelong reluctance to actually own a vehicle, I have to rely on my friends with cars to get out of town – but I’m willing to wear a face mask and huddle in the trunk. Here’s my dream list of socially distanced day trips this summer, assuming I can hitch a ride. Note: All distances below are approximate and start from Metro Center.
Civil War Tails + Gettysburg
90 miles from D.C.
Is it strange that each soldier figurine here is a cat rather than a human? Perhaps. But Civil War historians praise the meticulous detail and extensive research reflected in these sweeping dioramas of the war’s key battles. Twin sisters Ruth and Rebecca Brown began making these as teenagers, and today have 8,000 figurines posed at war at the Homestead Diorama Museum. Stroll the battlefields on your day trip to Gettysburg, but please make this museum your main destination.
785 Baltimore St. Gettysburg, PA; www.civilwartails.com
Congressional Polo Club
30 miles from D.C.
It seems everyone has been to Great Meadow for Gold Cup or Twilight Polo – but we recommend spending time at the quaint Congressional Polo Club. Wear a hat and pastels, pack a cooler, and join the DC Polo Society for tailgating the last Sunday of every month through October. Gates open at 2 p.m. and matches start at 3 p.m.
14660 Hughes Rd. Poolesville, MD; www.dcpolo.com
Dinosaur Land + Hiking
80 miles from D.C.
Time travel is an excellent alternative to your usual summer vacation. Dinosaur Land whisks you to prehistoric eras and the 1960s in all its glorious kitsch. This long-standing roadside attraction is open 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily with more than 50 life-size creatures – mostly dinosaurs, but also King Kong and a giant cobra. When you’re ready to return to 2020, Sky Meadows is 20 minutes away with 22 miles of hiking trails and nine miles of bike trails, so pack your hiking shoes and a picnic
Dinosaur Land: 3848 Stonewall Jackson Hwy. White Post, VA; www.dinosaurland.com
Sky Meadows State Park: 11012 Edmonds Ln. Delaplane, VA; www.dcr.virginia.gov
Havre de Grace
75 miles from D.C.
Havre de Grace is a delightful destination to sample small-town life in the era of social distancing. The farmers market is open Saturdays (bring your mask!), Bomboy’s scoops homemade ice cream from a walk-up window, and the marina provides kayak and paddleboard rentals.
Bomboy’s: 322 Market St. Havre de Grace, MD; www.bomboyscandy.com
Havre de Grace: www.explorehavredegrace.com
Charles Town Races
70 miles from D.C.
After a brief Covid shutdown, the ponies began racing in May – with no one in the stands. As one of the only thoroughbred tracks in the U.S. open for off-track wagering, Charles Town garnered national attention for its competitive races and high payouts. But by the end of June, the track re-opened the first floor of its grandstand and track-side apron to guests. Go and give the ponies an audience. Visit the website for race schedules.
750 Hollywood Dr. Charles Town, WV; www.hollywoodcasinocharlestown.com
Ladew Topiary Gardens
70 miles from D.C.
It’s like walking onto a grand English estate, and Architectural Digest has called Ladew one of the most incredible topiary gardens in the world. That’s enough to make it my “pretend overseas vacation” destination. The Manor House unfortunately remains closed, but the award-winning gardens and nature walk are open, and visitors can purchase picnic totes. Open Thursday to Monday, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD; www.ladewgardens.com
Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet
43 miles from D.C.
Mallows Bay is a ship graveyard for hundreds of wrecks, some going back to the Revolutionary War – this is probably the largest collection of wrecks in the Western Hemisphere. Nature is turning them into a reef, and kayaking lets you get up close. Head to the Atlantic Kayak Company for both rentals and tours. They’re open daily but require phone reservations at least 48 hours in advance.
108-A Mattingly Ave. Indian Head, MD; www.atlantickayak.com
McKee-Beshers Sunflower Fields + Wine
30 miles from D.C.
Jealous of all those sunflower fields in your Insta feed? The good folks at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources have you covered. They plant sunflowers for the bees and the mourning doves, but you can enjoy them too. Bring sensible shoes and please do a tick check – otherwise you could bloom bullseyes on your calves (as I did one year). After photos, Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard is about 30 minutes away and open daily from noon to 5:30 p.m. Visit their website for a schedule of live music and food trucks.
McKee-Beshers Sunflower Fields: 18600 River Rd. Poolesville, MD; www.dnr.maryland.gov
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard: 18125 Comus Rd. Dickerson, MD; www.smvwinery.com
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