Ok, so you are an adult and you live in the DC area. Maybe your mom is coming in from out of town to check out your new apartment, or she lives just a couple of miles away and you never see her, or, of course, it’s Mothers Day and you need a capital-P Plan. Here are some of our top recommendations on ways to spend a weekend day, or half day, hanging out and catching up with your #1 fan.
Clifton just oozes Main Street America, with it’s picture perfect General Store next to the only railroad crossing in Fairfax County, with a bright red caboose to boot. This is Fairfaix County estate country (well, after Great Falls), with stately homes on windy roads leading you to the quaint town. Check out the General Store and stop by All That Glitters for some unique jewelry and gifts, then grab a bite to eat at higher-end Trummers on Main. There is some great hiking nearby via Hemlock or the Bull Run Trail, both of which are also conveniently near the ever-popular Paradise Springs Winery, where you can end your afternoon with a glass of rose while listening to a local jazz quartet.
It would be hard to spend a whole day touring Occoquan, but it’s the perfect pit stop for a lunch on the water and some browsing or shopping at quirky shops. After lunch at The Secret Garden Cafe, walk off your warm goat cheese and spiced pecan salad and check out The Polka Dot Divas, Spiral Creations, and Puzzle Palooza to find unique gifts and special treasures.
Proclaimed the nations premier horse and hunt country, you can spend a day feeling like you’ve traveled to a different era. There are no shortage of historic sites and wineries to visit, like the old Aldie Mill where tours are available on weekends April through November, or the fantastic views from Three Fox Vineyards. Or, keep your focus on shopping, with the main shopping strip of Middleburg full of high end boutiques and saddleries and other horse and hound related shops. Before you head home, enjoy the full Middleburg experience with a meal at The Red Fox Inn & Tavern, where you get historic ambiance with modern hospitality.
View of Old Town Alexandria with National Cathedral in background
Old Town Alexandria
Just a few miles south of Washington DC, Old Town is a designated historic district on the Potomac with cobblestone streets and adorably small rowhouses adjacent to busy thoroughfares and important historic buildings. Take the free King Street Trolley to the riverfront, where you can take a water taxi across the Potomac to Georgetown, the National Mall, National Stadium, or National Harbor. Or, just hang out on the waterfront, checking out all interesting artist studios in the Torpedo Factory Art Center or enjoy the fantastic waterfront views dining at the Chart House Restaurant or Blackwall Hitch. Oh, and maybe hit up some of the 200+ shops while you are there, or go on a ghost tour.
With a similar historic vibe as other small towns in Virginia and Maryland that are about an hour from DC, Leesburg’s has two big differentiating factors—first, it’s a great home base for more than 30 wineries nearby, and second, it’s has the draw of the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets—home to some of the discounted outlets of top retail brands like Nordstrom, Saks 5th Avenue, Banana Republic, and more. Some of the biggest and best wineries include Tarara Winery, which has a great summer concert series, or if you’re more into beer, there’s the Vanish Brewery, located on a picturesque 53-acre farm. There is plenty more to do in Leesburg, but with all the drinking and shopping options, you may not have time to cover much else.
Nearly every “quaint” town in the DC area is steeped in history, and Fredrick is no exception. Just an hour northwest of DC you can feel transported back to a different century. Historic downtown Frederick is chock full of trendy restaurants, high-end antique stores, and interesting boutiques and shops. If you’re into the Civil War and/or medicine, then you are in luck, as the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is a cool niche, museum to check out. If you’re less into the gnarly history, brunch might be more your speed, and Café Nola with its patio and peach Bellini’s and Firestone’s Culinary Tavern don’t disappoint.
Between the U.S. Naval Academy, more 18th century historic buildings than anywhere else in the country, and an unrivaled sailing culture, Annapolis is a fantastic place to stay busy all day. Start with a girl’s day mani pedi at Varuna Salon and Spa and then get your dose of history with tours of the William Paca House and Gardens or the Maryland State House—the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use. Then, mosey your way down Main Street, stopping at as may art galleries, antiques, and souvenir shops your heart desires, and grab lunch within view of Ego Alley, where you can watch the biggest and most outlandish boats parade through the harbor to see and see seen.
There’s nothing like catching a breeze off the water! While Solomons Island is a little further afield than everything else on the list, clocking in at around an hour and a half from the western parts of the DMV, it’s worth it for the low key vibe and killer sunsets. If you’re looking for something quintessential Chesapeake and don’t mind paying for it, take Chesapeake Charters up on a half-day sailing adventure, and finish your day with a stop at the Kingfishers Seafood Bar and Grill.
If you haven’t been to Ellicott City, it’s like stepping back to a quaint, haunted town you never knew you loved. With the main drag only a few blocks long, it’s a great side trip to hit up for lunch or brunch and some unique antique and small boutique shopping. Check out the bubble man stationed outside of lower Main Street on your way to Tea on the Tiber a Victorian tea room, for—what else—afternoon tea. Or grab a pint (they have over 180 beers in stock) and a burger at the Phoenix Emporium before heading back home, or if you are interested in more modern shopping, the Mall in Columbia is just 10 minutes away.
Let’s be fair, DC deserves its own post. That said, a handful of go-to options when your within the district proper can really vary depending on the season. For cold months, how about lunch at XXXX and find a great matinee show at XXX or XXX, followed with perhaps a quick stroll through the National Portrait Gallery or Hirshorn? If the weather is better, check out Hillwood Museum and Gardens or Dumbarton Oaks, or the more glitzy United States Botanical Gardens, with it’s flashy corpse flowers and whatnot.