Day trips from Washington DC by train are incredibly fun because the U.S. capital city is close to many great destinations.
It’s very easy and economical to hop on a train and watch the beautiful countryside go by as you travel. In a couple of hours, you can be in another city or town with wonderful restaurants and sightseeing.
Spend the day or a night and be back in Washington DC before you know it. Traveling by train from DC is more relaxing than by car or plane too.
You’ll feel like you’ve been on a real vacation when you’ve only been gone a few hours. To make your train trips even more relaxing, protect yourself and your plans with World Nomads travel insurance.
With trip insurance, you won’t have to worry about getting derailed if something goes wrong on your trip. All kidding aside, any overnight travel will require the appropriate overnight case.
For those of you who like a little vintage style with your train travel, we suggest the adorable Urecity Portable Makeup Train Case in red with a combination lock.
It comes with a top tray you can use as a vanity when the case is open and the mirror is visible. Be glamorous and organized at the same time!
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1. Philadelphia, PA
A day touring Philadelphia is by far one of the most popular day trips by train from Washington DC and one that’s easy to do and easily tailored to your preferences.
You’ll leave for the City of Brotherly Love on an early train departing the Washington DC Amtrak Union Station. In less than a couple of hours, you’ll pull up at Philly’s 30th Street train station centrally located among many of America’s important historical sites.
Then you can tour the city via a hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour. See the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and many more iconic history markers.
There are also the ever-captivating museums of Philadelphia including the new ones of the National Museum of American Jewish History and the National Constitution Center.
If time permits, visit the Simeone Foundation Automobile Museum or the Eastern State Penitentiary.
Lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe is included as well as the return ticket to Washington DC. Yet Philadelphia is such an exciting city that it’s worth looking into an overnight stay.
Book your own roundtrip Amtrak tickets and then add a Double-Decker Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Tour for the day for the most flexible way to see Philly.
If you loved the hit musical Hamilton, then you’ll want to take the Small-Group Hamilton Walking Tour. On this guided tour, you’ll see the places where America’s most famous (and hip) founding father lived and worked, especially the ones sung about in the show.
The Club Quarters Hotel is great for couples and has an excellent location close to Liberty Place and the Suburban Subway station. It has an on-site restaurant and workout facilities too.
See Related: Best Things to do in Washington, DC
2. Baltimore, MD
Baltimore, Maryland, easily qualifies as one of our single day trips from Washington DC. This seaport city has a long, storied history. Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” here. Scott was moved by Fort McHenry’s role as defender of the harbor from British forces.
The British assaulted from the Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Baltimore, September 13-14, 1814, but the soldiers of Fort McHenry held them off.
At dawn and the end of the siege, the broad striped and brightly starred banner gallantly streamed having survived a fraught night of bombardment. The fort is now a national monument and shrine to America’s birth – and is only one of many historical sites in Baltimore.
The trip by Amtrak from Union Station to Penn Station in Baltimore is less than an hour. The city’s Fells Point is a historical neighborhood with great restaurants.
Take a walking tour of this charming district and learn about Baltimore’s role in the War of 1812 while making stops at local restaurants to sample the diverse cuisine before you return to Washington DC.
Or not. Baltimore has a tendency to come alive at night. For a spooky experience, book the Baltimore Ghosts Haunted Walking Tour to learn about Baltimore’s darker history and its persistent spirits.
A room at the new hotel conveniently located in Fell’s Point is the perfect way to end the day. The Canopy By Hilton Baltimore Harbor Point is highly rated by couples and offers onsite dining and a fitness center.
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3. New York City, NY
One of the most famous Amtrak day trips from Washington DC is to go to New York City. The trip can easily become an overnighter too in the City That Never Sleeps. A train trip can take about three-and-a-half hours on average and there are more than 20 daily departures.
It may seem touristy (because it is) but it’s so exciting to see the city from the 86th floor that you’ll find yourself wowed just like all the other tourists! If your budget allows it, I highly recommend the Express ticket which allows you to jump the line and zoom to the observation platform in the super-speedy elevators.
Because who wants to waste time standing in line in this fast-paced city? You’ve got places to be! New York City is also home to world-famous museums like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and to the moving 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
If you choose to make it an overnight (which you really should), check out Riu Plaza Manhattan Times Square. Its Times Square location makes it convenient to see Broadway shows, investigate the Hell’s Kitchen foodie scene, and be lively downtown.
See Related: Where to Stay Outside of New York City
4. Richmond, VA
There are many fantastic trips from Washington DC on train tracks taking you to the historical landmarks and sites of Virginia. A train ride to the capital city of Richmond is one of them. Richmond is filled with history, especially Revolutionary War history.
Founding Father, Patrick Henry was standing in the city’s St. John’s Church when he said, “Give me liberty or give me death,” in 1775, just months before the Revolutionary War broke out.
Besides a rich historical past as one of America’s oldest cities, Richmond is also home to a vibrant foodie and art scene. Get a close-up look at the city’s cuisine with a Church Hill Food Tour.
Learn about Richmond’s oldest neighborhood, Church Hill with a walking tour that also includes stops at several restaurants. And because, clearly, a city as old as Richmond is haunted, a Walking Ghost Tour will give you insight into the spirits and souls that can’t find rest.
If you think you can sleep after learning about the spooky history of Richmond, try the Virginia Crossings Hotel, Tapestry Collection by Hilton. This highly rated hotel is about 12 miles from downtown Richmond and situated on the site of the Civil War’s Battle of the Yellow Tavern, where guests enjoy an outdoor swimming pool and golf.
5. Lancaster County, PA
Amtrak trips from Washington DC can take you to some of the most interesting destinations in America. Picturesque Lancaster County, outside of Philadelphia, is known as Pennsylvania Amish Country.
A train trip here from bustling DC means stepping back in time when life was slower and arguably simpler. You can learn more about the Amish people and their unique lifestyle with a guided tour. Enjoy a peaceful day exploring the farms, schools, and shops of the Amish folks led by a knowledgeable and sensitive guide.
You’ll have time for a visit to a 15-acre farm on your own and for shopping too. Another interesting Amish tour is this one that includes a screening of the film Jacob’s Choice in the Amish Experience Theater.
The movie follows an Amish boy as he struggles to choose between living in the Amish way or the modern world. If you’d like to extend your stay in the tranquil quiet of Lancaster County, stay at the excellently rated Home2 Suites by Hilton in Ephrata.
Guests rated it so highly due to the cleanliness, friendly service, and scenic location. The property has an indoor pool, in-room coffee makers, and Wi-Fi. You can visit the haunted Eastern State Penitentiary if you are feeling like you are up for something adventurous.
6. Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Train trips from DC to Colonial Williamsburg mean another big step back in time. Colonial Williamsburg is a museum with a living history.
Visitors are immersed in the 18th Century exhibits and demonstrations as they learn what life was like in Colonial America and the events that lead to the Revolutionary War.
You don’t need a guide to take you through this living museum, but you can purchase a self-guided walking tour with narration. A map is also included.
You’ll need to learn about the ghosts of colonial days too. Find out more about the restless souls that haunt these grounds with the Ultimate and Bone-Chilling Ghost Tour.
This ghost tour is a lot of fun because you’re following your guide through the town’s streets well after dark when no one else is around to add to the spook factor.
Our guide stopped at different buildings and told us about their ghostly inhabitants and (speculated) why they were still prowling old Williamsburg. We would crane our necks, cameras in hand, staring at lacy curtains in the upper windows willing a specter to show so we could take a photo as evidence.
After a day of learning about tending sheep and making candles – which I loved – I had a great time hearing about the stranger and more mysterious events of Colonial Williamsburg. Our Colonial Williamsburg vacation was the only one my family wanted to extend while we were still there. There was that much to do and see!
So I highly recommend making this day trip an overnighter. The Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel is an excellent choice. It’s just 350 feet from the Visitor Center and has an outdoor pool. It’s in a great location and is very comfortable.
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7. Virginia Beach, VA
Great day trips from DC also include beaches like this one to gorgeous Virginia Beach! Three trains run daily between the two cities. A one-way trip can be five hours and twenty minutes.
Take the early train and you can be sunning and surfing all afternoon. Virginia Beach also has a boardwalk that’s three miles long. Find entertainment, charming restaurants, shopping, and plenty of bike rentals. Don’t miss the sculptures, including King Neptune. At 24 feet of bronze, he’s hard to miss. Take a photo for your Instagram!
After your photo op with the sea god, find a beach-side restaurant for dinner and rum cocktails–like the pirates of yore. Virginia Beach is famous for the pirates that used to sail the surrounding seas looking for ships to plunder. Many of them are supposedly still there, haunting homes and taverns in town.
Find out more about their past (and current) reigns of terror with an after-dark Haunted Walking Ghost Tour. Hear stories about pirates, witches, and other ne’er-do-wells that have spooked Virginia Beach for centuries.
Maybe you’ll get photo evidence of the ghosts of Blackbeard and his murderous band! This is a fun ghost tour for all ages. If you decide you need a weekend at the beach – and it’s my professional opinion that you do – you need a fabulous beach-side hotel.
The Coastal Hotel & Suites Virginia Beach is adjacent to the famous boardwalk and offers huge suites with daily continental breakfast included.
It’s highly rated due to its excellent location and private balconies overlooking the ocean.
8. Gettysburg National Park, PA
One of the most important day trips from Washington DC by train is this one to see the site of the Battle of Gettysburg waged in 1863 during the American Civil War.
The battlefield is now a national park in Gettysburg, PA, and it provides a fascinating and sobering view of the war’s bloodiest clash, which famously inspired President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”
To get here by train, take one of the two trains departing from Union Station Marc Washington station. You’ll arrive at Frederick Marc station in Maryland after an hour and forty-minute trip. Then you’ll need to take a taxi from Frederick to the battlefield.
Once at the park, you’ll have a choice between exploring on your own or taking one of the many incredible tours available. These tours are designed to give you a deeper and clearer understanding of the park and the events that make up the Battle of Gettysburg.
One of them is a 2-Hour Licensed Battlefield Guided Carriage Tour. With a maximum of 10 people allowed, you’ll appreciate the small group format.
You’ll explore the park with a licensed guide by horse-drawn carriage. You’ll get a unique perspective and lesser-known facts at the same time.
Away from the battlefields is Downtown Gettysburg where many of the town’s residents lived and worked. The 1863 Historic Downtown Walking Tour takes you back to the middle of the Civil War.
Gain the perspective of the townspeople who bore witness to this terrible time in American history on this highly interesting walk. The Hampton Inn Gettysburg is an excellent hotel close to the park and the American Civil War Museum.
A daily buffet breakfast is available as well as an indoor pool and fitness center. Guests also loved the comfortable beds.
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9. The Old Town and Waterfront of Alexandria, VA
Day trips by train from Washington DC don’t have to take you far. Alexandria, VA, is minutes away but has the feel of another world.
This river-front city is filled with history and charm, particularly its 18th and 19th-century preserved homes.
It also has amazing restaurants. Explore both the rich history and delicious cuisine with an Old Town Boutique Food Tour.
This is a three-hour walking tour of the city’s beautiful Old Town where you’ll get a deeper insight into its part in the Revolutionary War and the Civil Rights Movement.
You’ll also have stops at several of the neighborhood’s best restaurants to sample their varied and interesting menus.
If you’re really into Alexandria’s American Revolution and Civil War history, you can’t miss the American Revolution and Civil War Guided Tour.
This fascinating tour allows you to follow founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and the Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s steps throughout Old Town and learn more about their perspectives and philosophies.
Your guide is a former TV writer and presidential speechwriter who will share lesser-known facts about these complex men and more.
You can easily make this day trip into a weekend with a stay at the Courtyard Alexandria Old Town/Southwest.
It’s just a 10-minute Uber to Old Town and there’s a free shuttle to and from the Metro. Guests love the location, the onsite dining, and how quiet the property is.
10. Charles City, VA
The quaint cities and towns of Virginia are perfect as day trips from Washington DC by train and Charles City is no exception.
This historic town is located between Williamsburg and Richmond on the scenic Virginia Capital Trail.
Depart Union Station to Petersburg, VA, via Amtrak. From Petersburg, you’ll need to take a taxi or Uber to Charles City.
The entire trip shouldn’t cost more than $200 and takes less than four hours. Their most interesting and picturesque attraction is the James River.
It’s known as The River Where America Began and you can see it along the Virginia Capital Bike Trail.
The best way to visit this historically relevant and beautiful area is on a Scenic James River Bike Tour.
Get a guided tour through 400 years of history along a 14-mile leisurely-paced bike ride.
On the ride, you’ll learn about the Algonquin people, who lived in the area before the Europeans arrived, and the African slaves who were forced to work in the cotton and tobacco fields.
You will also get a lesson on river conservation before concluding your tour with a wine tasting at Upper Shirley Vineyard.
The tour includes a stop at historic Westover Parish Church, which was founded in 1613. The area is dotted with historic homes and plantations offering tours and lectures on Virginia’s complicated past.
With so much history and natural beauty, Charles City would make a good getaway.
In nearby Hopewell, the Stay-Over Suites offers spacious guest rooms with air-conditioning, WiFi, and free parking. Guests love the service and location and many become repeat visitors.