5 one-tank road trips from Washington, D.C.

Use this guide for inspiration for your next locally-based road trip from the District—without needing to stop for gas

The "nickel view" of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

Between high gas prices, limited vacation days, and chaotic air travel, taking a local road trip is more appealing than ever this summer. These five destinations are all within 300 miles (round-trip) of Washington, D.C., making them ideal for quick getaways. Spend less time at the pump and more time enjoying the road. 

If you’re in an electric vehicle, we’ve noted whether you can expect to find chargers along each route as well. 

1. Baltimore, Maryland

Total mileage: 120 miles

Located about an hour northeast of Washington, D.C., Maryland’s most-populous city offers much more than what visitors might expect from watching The Wire or John Waters’ offbeat oeuvre. The historic seaport is also home to Fort McHenry, the inspiration behind Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and a sprawling wax museum dedicated to Black history. More than 50 years after Waters shot iconic early films including Pink Flamingos in or near his beloved hometown, fans of all things freaky will find there is still plenty of weird left to experience in Charm City, hon. 

Don’t miss: See the work of self-taught “outsider” artists at The American Visionary Art Museum, eat a Faidley’s crab cake at Lexington Market (the oldest market in the U.S.), and pay your respects at the final resting place of Edgar Allan Poe, who died here in 1849 wearing someone else’s clothes. 

Stay: Overnight in style at the historic Wilson House Bed & Breakfast, or camp at the Hollofield Area Campground located within Patapsco Valley State Park.

Charge: There are plenty of places to charge your EV in D.C., Baltimore, and along the way, including hotels, parking garages, and grocery store chains Safeway and Giant.

Related At the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, knowledge is power

2. Ocean City, Maryland

Total mileage: 290 miles

Ocean City, Maryland, has been a summer resort destination since at least the late 1860s. A hundred years later, the Chesapeake Bay bridge and tunnel made the beach town, located 3 hours south of the Jersey Shore, more accessible to visitors from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Routinely included in top-10 lists, Ocean City’s 3-mile wooden boardwalk is home to several souvenir and t-shirt shops, and studded with snack staples, including Thrasher’s French Fries, Dolle’s Candyland, and Fisher’s Popcorn (a local favorite is seasoned with Old Bay).

Don’t miss: Baltimore Avenue is home to dozens of mid-century motels featuring towering neon signs and time-capsule accommodations. A funnel cake and lemonade from Love’s totally counts as a meal when you’re on vacation, and you can get an arm workout by throwing wooden skee-balls at one of several classic arcades: Marty’s Playland and Trimper’s are at the southern tip of the boardwalk, and the Jolly Roger Amusement Park has two outposts, one on The Pier and the other on 30th Street. 

Stay: Overnight at the Flamingo Motel or camp alongside wild ponies at the Assateague State Park Campground.

Charge: There are several places to charge along Route 50 and along the boardwalk, including municipal parking lots and the convention center.

Related Ocean City, Maryland, weathers the pandemic with vintage charm intact

3. Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

Total mileage: 20 miles

Less than 10 miles south of Washington, D.C., via the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Old Town Alexandria is also accessible on the blue and yellow Metro lines, making this a potential no-tank trip. With all the colonial charm of Boston or Capitol Hill, this historic riverfront neighborhood is rich in Black history and has plenty of boutique shops, bars, and restaurants to fill up a day, or more. 

Don’t miss: Learn about Alexandria’s history as a former hub of the domestic slave trade with the help of the Manumission Tour Company or on your own at the Alexandria Black History Museum. Old Town is full of colorful row houses, but none more memorable than the Hollensbury Spite House at 523 Queen Street. Built in 1830, the 7-foot-wide, 25-foot-deep house is the narrowest home in the U.S. Take in views of the picturesque Potamac along the waterfront, and sample several award-winning chilis at Hard Times Cafe, located on King Street since 1980. 

Stay: Overnight in luxury at the city’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel, Morrison House, or camp at the Fort Belvoir Military Travel Camp.

Charge: Old Town has several charging stations, mainly at hotels (including Morrison House) or in parking garages.

Related How Alexandria’s Black history helped shape the city

4. Charlottesville, Virginia

Total mileage: 230 miles

Home to two U.S. presidents, it’s hard to escape the influence of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Virginia. Madison’s Montpelier is located 25 miles northeast of the city, but almost 200 years after his death, Jefferson still looms large over C’ville proper. Monticello, the third president’s primary plantation, sits on a hill just 3 miles from the town’s center, offering sweeping views, extensive vegetable gardens, and educational exhibits. Late afternoon is the best time to capture the classic “nickel view.”   

Don’t miss: Fuel up with breakfast in a vinyl booth at the Blue Moon Diner, tour the Rotunda and Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia (founded by Jefferson in 1819), and attend an event, including summer camp, film screenings, and a farmers market, among the outdoor sculptures at IX Art Park.

Stay: Overnight in one of four unique rooms offered at The Townsman or camp at the Charlottesville KOA.

Charge: The Montpelier visitor center offers EV charging, and so do several shopping centers and car dealerships along the route.

5. Richmond, Virginia

Total mileage: 220 miles

One of the oldest cities in the U.S., Richmond, Virginia, is home to several world-class museums, churches, cemeteries, Civil War battlefields, 45 designated historic districts, and one of the oldest municipal park systems in the country. Hollywood Cemetery, located along the banks of the James River, is the final resting place of two U.S. presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler. But Richmond’s Southern roots are best experienced through dozens of award-winning restaurants serving unique takes on BBQ, soul food, and mouthwatering biscuits.

Don’t miss: Edgar Allan Poe may have died in Baltimore, but he lived in Richmond; learn more about his life at the Poe Museum. Shop for spooky souvenirs at the curiosity shop Rest in Pieces and grab lunch (served on a fluffy biscuit, of course) at Early Bird Biscuit Co.

Stay: Overnight at the opulent Jefferson Hotel or camp at Pocahontas State Park Campground.

Charge: Richmond has several EV chargers, mostly located at gas stations and shopping centers.

Related The Poe Museum celebrates the life of Richmond’s favorite spooky scribe