With just a few solid weeks of summer left here in the DC area, if you’re anything like me, the itch to get out of town and make some more memories—and try to escape some of the brutal humidity we’ve been dealing with!—is real. Luckily for us, there are a ton of great places within a two to three-hour drive from home that make for the perfect weekend escape. Here are five of my favorite places that make for a great getaway during these dog days of summer:
A short two hours from downtown DC, Charlottesville is located in the heart of Virginia’s wine country and home to the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
STAY: While there are a number of charming bed and breakfasts and lots of hotels to choose from in Charlottesville, I am partial to The Draftsman. It’s a charming Marriott Autograph Collection hotel that just opened within the past couple of years. It’s in an unbeatable location, walkable to both UVA’s ‘The Corner’ and Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, a pedestrian shopping and dining corridor.
EAT: Plan on coming hungry to Charlottesville because there are so many amazing restaurants. For breakfast, you have to check out Bodo’s Bagels, which is a Charlottesville institution. Don’t be discouraged if there’s a long line—there always is and it moves quickly. For lunch, I love Take It Away for sandwiches or The Virginian if you’re looking for great American food in a classic UVA college bar. For dinner, The Whiskey Jar has great southern food, Continental Divide serves up some of the best Mexican I’ve ever had, Mas is where you should go if you want Spanish tapas, and The Local offers a variety of amazing American food made with locally-sourced ingredients.
DO: My favorite thing to do when visiting Charlottesville is to go wine tasting! Some of my favorite vineyards to spend a day at are Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard, King Family Vineyards, and Merrie Mill Farm & Vineyard. And, if you’re into history like I am, I highly recommend trips to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, to tour the historic house and grounds, and The University of Virginia, where you can walk around their historic grounds and tour The Rotunda.
Ocean City, Maryland:
August is the perfect month to head towards the beach. Ocean City, Maryland is a great beach town about three hours from the DC area that offers something for everyone—whether you’re looking for a family-friendly escape or a night out on the town with your girlfriends.
STAY: There are many hotel and vacation rentals by owner you can pick from in Ocean City, but whenever I am in town, I stay at an amazing oceanfront Holiday Inn. It’s been recently renovated and the rooms are so cute—they have a mid-century modern, yet beachy feel. They’re also super practical for a beach trip as they have a small kitchenette with a fridge, stove, oven, and dishwasher. It’s also super Instagrammable because it’s a beautiful pink color!
EAT: Hands down, my favorite restaurant in Ocean City is Fish Tales. It’s the kind of restaurant where the wait is half the fun—and if you have kids, they have a large playground to help with this! Fish Tales is located on the Bay, which means it’s the perfect spot to catch a sunset. Our favorite thing to do is put my name on the waitlist, grab an orange crush, and then go enjoy the sunset on the docks right outside the restaurant while we wait for our table. The food is also great—they offer standard beach town fare, everything from seafood to a cheeseburger.
DO: There’s nothing better than a day spent by the ocean or at the pool on a beach trip, and that’s exactly what I recommend doing while you’re in town! But, if you want to mix it up, Tipsy Tiki is a fun Tiki Bar Boat Cruise that is always a good time.
Home of the Virginia State Capitol, Richmond is a great destination if you’re looking to explore a vibrant city with a great food and drink scene.
STAY: In my mind, there’s one place to stay in Richmond if you want to do it right, and that’s The Jefferson Hotel. The hotel was originally built in 1895, and thus has a lot of historical and architectural significance. It underwent a major renovation that wrapped up in 2017, ensuring its beautiful spaces are preserved so they can be enjoyed for years to come. My favorite factoid about The Jefferson is that there used to be alligators in a fountain in the middle of the Palm Court Lobby. The last alligator died in 1948—and to be honest, I’m glad the reptile residents are a thing of the past, but it certainly is a fun piece of history that the hotel pays homage to with hidden alligators throughout the hotel—like the pull knobs on the nightstands!
EAT: For dinner in Richmond, I can’t recommend Stella’s enough. (If you collect matchbooks like me, be sure to grab some off the hostess stand!) Serving up modern Greek food, it offers a range of small plates and entrees. My favorite thing is the kreatopita, which is a spin on spanakopita that includes ground beef. Be sure to grab a reservation before you go, this place is on the smaller side and is usually bustling. Another cool thing about Richmond is that it has a vibrant craft brewery scene—a few of my favorites are Starr Hill, Buskey Hard Cider, and Blue Bee Cider.
DO: While in town, I’d recommend walking around Carytown—it’s a cute neighborhood in Richmond with lots of shops and restaurants. You also must head over to the Potterfield Memorial Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that offers amazing views of the city skyline.
St. Michaels, Maryland
Located just 90 minutes from the heart of DC, St. Michaels, Maryland is a picturesque town located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Known for their beautiful views of the water, delicious restaurants, and fun gift shops, St. Michaels is a great spot for a weekend getaway.
STAY: In terms of where to stay, it’s hard to beat the Inn at Perry Cabin, a resort located right on the water, just a few minutes from downtown St. Michaels. They have a beautiful front lawn with adirondack chairs where you can enjoy a golden hour sunset, an amazing spa, and more than 26 acres of gardens to explore. Even if you opt to stay elsewhere while in town, make sure you stop by for a drink. And, fun fact, the Wedding Crashers reception scene was filmed here!
EAT: One of my favorite spots in St. Michaels for lunch or dinner is Awful Arthur’s—located right on Talbot Street, the main commercial district in town, they have an amazing oyster bar and all types of seafood dishes—the clam chowder, crab dip, and lobster mac & cheese are some of my favorites. Other great places to eat while in St. Michaels include Theo’s Steakhouse, Ava’s Pizza, Limoncello Italian, and Bistro St. Michaels.
DO: While in St. Michaels, you have to take an afternoon to stroll down Talbot Street and enjoy all the cute gift shops. My favorite thing is to start at one end of the street and make my way down, but a few of my favorites include The Christmas Shop, Pemberton Pharmacy, Antiques on Talbot, and Olde Towne Candy Company.
North Bethesda, Maryland
STAY: The rooms at Canopy are so nice that it might be hard to leave—in addition to a comfortable bed and large television that’s perfect for binge watching, there are thoughtful touches throughout that take the experience to the next level—things like USB ports built into the outlets for easy charging, a Nespresso machine, and refillable water bottle stations near the elevators at the end of each hall. The room service menu is also fabulous—make sure you order the cheese board and the brussels sprouts!
EAT: If you do decide to leave your room, my favorite spot in the neighborhood for a meal is Summer House Santa Monica. Their food is so fresh and there’s something for everyone on the menu, whether you’re craving a large salad, hot flatbread, delicious sandwich, or house-made pasta, you won’t leave this place hungry. I particularly love their patio this time of year—it really puts you in that vacation state of mind.
DO: Located in the heart of Pike & Rose, you can just park your car and walk to anything your heart desires: amazing retailers like LL Bean, Blue Mercury, Sephora, West Elm, fast casual and sit down restaurants, and even a dog park with a bar.
And, if you don’t have the time to get away this August, you’re still in luck—you can enter for a chance to win a $150 giftcard to treat yourself to a delicious meal at Planta! Located in Bethesda Row, Planta is an innovative plant-based restaurant inspired by all parts of the world. To enter the contest, use the link below to sign-up for the sonder/sway monthly newsletter.
*Winner will be chosen Friday, August 5th 2022*
Katie Urban is a lifestyle blogger and hosts A Touch of Teal. Read her blog to find the perfect desk-to-drink or weekend outfits, travel guide for your next adventure, home decor ideas—and cocktail recipes for when you have people over, a new book to read, or just reflections on life as a millennial living in DC.