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recommendations for a weekend trip outside DC?

My apologies if this has been covered recently, but I didn't see a thread on it.

My girlfriend and I are looking to take a weekend away -- likely two nights -- within a 2 hour (maybe, at most, 3?) drive of DC. We like good, interesting food. And small towns to explore by day. Similar prior weekend trips have included Charlottesville, Philadelphia, Annapolis, Leonardtown, and Mercersburg. We're looking to do something different this time.

Any genre of food is of interest to us, we just like stuff that is good. Price is totally open, so we don't mind spending $35 or $350 for dinner. (Though, probably not Inn at Little Washington prices, as we'll save that for some time more special.)

Where would you recommend we go, and what restaurants would you suggest along the way? I would love B&B or hotel recs too, but any advice is welcome. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Shepherdstown, WV! I went to college there and enjoy going back for the day or weekend. I like The Bavarian Inn (hotel and restaurant), The Yellow Brick Bank, and The Blue Moon Cafe. The Blue Moon is a casual, low cost, quirky cafe YBB is more mid range (my husband loves the salmon) and The Bavarian Inn is mid to high end- the French onion soup is fantastic.

    1. -St. Michael's is a nice weekend. Lots of nice seafood there and nice to walk around.

      -friends of mine often go to Nemacolin Woods for the weekend and love it. I have not been, but I listen to them go on and on about how wonderful it was, so it must be pretty good. They stay at the resort and go to the various restaurants there

      -the Greenbrier has a loyal following too- nice to relax and can get any food custom made for you.

      1 Reply
      1. re: laraffinee

        It's funny... I was thinking of nemacolin too but not staying there. There is the cutest little mom and pop lodge nearby in Chalk Hill PA called the Chalk Hill Lodge (go figure!) you can get a room w/ a little deck overlooking the lake, the rooms are clean as a pin and it's right next door to a winery! You can go to Nemacolin for a nice dinner and/or golf/spa; laurel caverns is nearby as is Ohiopyle state park which has hiking, canoeing, whitewater rafting and some funky little places to eat. Last time we went there was a festival in nearby Confluence and there was a table with Amish people selling the most AWESOME baked goods! It was a fun, active, different INEXPENSIVE (well except a meal at nemacolin if you do that) but you don't need to...there are taverns & a little place in the next town of hopwood called sun porch; it's a diner type place with a buffet of wonderful homemade foods & a great salad bar. for anyone who wants a fairly close getaway that won't break the bank and gives you a peak at 'real america' I highly recommend this trip! you can easily do all this in a 2 night stay.

      2. Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Go to Lot 12 for a great dinner.


        1. If you haven't explored Baltimore, there's plenty to eat up there. Woodberry Kitchen, Salt, and Charleston on the high end, corned beef row and pit beef on the lower end. I like the Walters Art Gallery and the Visionary Arts Museum has stuff you can't find anywhere else.


          2 Replies
          1. re: monkeyrotica

            Now that you remind me of AVAM, the perfect time for us to visit Baltimore would be next May for the kinetic sculpture race weekend. That was a wild event.

            1. re: monkeyrotica

              The Baltimore Museum of Art (basically on the campus of Johns Hopkins University) combines art, food, and interesting shopping in one package. The restaurant is named Gertrude's and its brunches are particularly delicious.

              Here's the link to Gertrude's:

            2. Thanks to everyone for suggestions so far. Lots of good ones for us to explore. And please send any more. We try to do a weekend away every 3 to 4 months, so having a list of places for the future is quite welcome.

              Re Bmore, I actually lived there for a year (right in the Sotta Sopra building), so I hadn't put that on the list. But you are right, the city is quite fascinating, and my gf has spent little time there. That is certainly something we should do soon.

              1. Front Royal is only an hour west on 66, and is great this time of year. Entrance to Skyline Drive, cute little town, and a couple solid restaurants. Apartment 2G/Element, Vino 124, Wine and Duck. Lots of B&Bs around.

                St. Michael's is nice now as well. Very quaint feel when the summer crowds are gone.

                  1. re: tcamp

                    To pique your interest in this area, check out Edible Blue Ridge:


                    In Staunton itself, Zynodoa is great. I also enjoyed Byers Street Bistro. Culturally speaking, there is Blackfriers Shakespeare theater in Staunton and also the fascinating Museum of Frontier Culture (outdoor living history).

                    Harrisonburg is an easy drive and there are lots of other attractions (many food-related) in the area. This is top of my list for my next visit:


                  2. Shepherdstown WV is fun. We like The Press Room best for dinner. it's a college town so fun shopping and lots of good lunch places. For tourist things there's Harper's Ferry or the Antietam battlefield. Or in warm weather you can go tubing on the river. We stay at the Clarion, but Bavarian Inn is the scenic place to stay.

                    Also we like Middleburg VA. Julians Bistro there is good casual French for lunch or dinner. Lots of fun walkable shopping. Nearby is The Rail Stop (in The Plains) for dinner, which used to be owned by Robert Duvall. For lunch in The Plains we like Forlano's. Or go a bit further out to Upperville for the Hunter's Head pub. To stay, there is the Red Fox Inn or the Middleburg Country Inn.

                    Or Frederick, MD. Where you could eat at two restaurants each owned by chef of TV fame Brian Voltaggio: Volt and the more casual Family Meal. And there are of course several other places to eat that are very good, and a fun antique/design district. Don't know any particular place to stay as it is a day trip for us.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Elder Berry

                      Second Shepherdstown. The Bavarian Inn is a good place to stay, and the food there (primarily German) is quite good, as is the (again primarily German) wine list. You are right off the C&O Canal/Appalachian Trail as well as Harpers Ferry.

                      I like Frederick, but there's no downtown hoitel that I know of, and not familiar with B&Bs.

                      1. re: lawhound

                        There's a Comfort Inn and a Motel 6 on 40 just west of 15 and a couple of mom and pops at the foot of Braddock Mountain. There's a Hampton Inn on Motter Avenue just west of 15. There's a Holiday Inn, another Hampton, a Days Inn and a brand-new Marriott on Buckeystown Pike, plus the beautiful and very haunted antebellum Buckeystown Inn. There are a few nice B&Bs tucked away in downtown Frederick, but no hotels. The bigger hotels have vans that will take you downtown and there are cabs. Several very decent restaurants and fun bars with live music, tons of history and great 18th and 19th century architecture--all accessible on foot.

                    2. One more suggestion, which can be fun in both summer and the off-season in different ways: Rehoboth, DE. On the beach, great restaurants, we always stay at the Bellmoor Inn, it is so nice (a few rooms are small, but all are adorable). Of course the town is livelier in the summer, some places are closed in winter, but your concierge can advise you. We like Nage, Espuma, Henlopen City Oyster House, and you can't miss the Dogfish Head brewpub. And a walk on the beach can be romantic at any time.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Elder Berry

                        I would second the suggestion of Rehoboth. My wife and I spent a long Memorial Day weekend there a couple of years ago and enjoyed it a lot. Ate as several great restaurants (Back Porch, Espuma, Nage) and thought about some others. It is a very different experience than being there in the summer. We also stayed at the Bellmoor, but there are lots of places to stay that are somewhat cheaper.

                        Another thing to think about is going to Cape May. It is more than a two hour trip, especially with the ferry ride, but a lovely town and again, very different when it isn't a huge summer crowd. We stayed at the Virginia Hotel because we love old historic places, but again, there are lots of places to stay and the B and Bs that are open are much less expensive off season.

                        1. re: Elder Berry

                          I like the idea of the beach in winter.

                          1. re: hill food

                            It's great. We've checked in to the Hilton on points in Ocean City between Christmas and New Year's a few times. Most of the city is closed up, but there are a few places open that cater to the locals. One is Bull's On The Beach, which has 50 cent Chincoteague oysters and generous cocktails. You have the entire shore from OC to Assateague all to yourself. It's almost magical.

                        2. Warm Springs, VA. Absolutely beautiful.

                          1. somebody recently asked me: if I had a choice would I live in SF or DC? and I came to realize the answer would be DC as the food is (almost) as good and there are just so very many extremely varied 2 hour drive weekend trips to be easily made.

                            and the weirdos are much more serious.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: hill food

                              Really? Ugh. In DC, even the earthquakes are second tier.

                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                Five-shmive. I don't get out of bed for less than a 6 ;-)

                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                  That earthquake in 2012 did more damage to my neighborhood than any of the quakes I experienced in CA, including 1972 Northridge and 1989 Loma Prieta.

                              2. I'd cast my vote for Richmond, around 90 miles south of DC. It's much smaller than Philly, and do-able in a weekend.

                                Sietsema profiled three restaurants a while back in the WaPo Sunday magazine: Rappahanock, Dutch and Co., and The Roosevelt. None of them will break the bank. I can highly vouch for the first two. There's a real foodie thing going on in Richmond, with plenty of new Southern cuisine restaurants. Plus loads of craft beer establishments, too numerous to mention here.

                                Beyond restaurants, this is an historic, gorgeous, walkable city: check out Monument Avenue and The Fan. (Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill pale in comparison.) There's also Church Hill, another magnificent old neighborhood, home to St. John's Church, site of Patrick Henry's famous speech.
                                The city is real easy to drive around, and you'll never get stuck in a traffic jam.

                                The Virginia Museum of Fine Art is featuring a major Hollywood costume exhibit. General admission to this world-class museum is free, but you'll pay for the costume exhibit. A block away is the Virginia Historical Society, a very interesting, free history museum. And of course, this is Civil War/slavery history central. There's so much to see and do, you'll never get to everything.

                                We've stayed at the Grace Manor Inn, right in The Fan. And the One Bed and Breakfast on the border of The Fan and the Museum District. The first is more expensive, and features a long, formal, sit-down breakfast with the other guests, if you like that sort of thing. The second B and B is smaller, more casual, less expensive, with a fine continental breakfast set out. We liked it a lot.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: kolomya

                                  Richmond is a good weekend trip. For outdoor activities, explore Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and visit the Civil War historic site along the James. Also, weather permiting, kayaking or tubing on the James - they claim only class III and IV rapids in an American urban setting.

                                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                                    To tag on, Peddler's Village and Doylestown. Nice trio for a weekend or long weekend.

                                  2. Just to add to this, the Omni at Bedford Springs is closer than Nemacolin and Greenbrier and is similar (last year they had a fantastic cyber Monday deal). Bedford Springs has a few restaurants, but not Philly or Charlottesville quality. But the hotel and surrounding area is very cute.

                                    Lots of good recs suggested by others, though. Oh and the Kilmarnock area of Virginia would also be a good place to check out, better in nice weather though.

                                    Middleburg/the Plains was written about in the Kliman chat today, may be another idea.

                                    1. I just wanted to deeply thank everyone for the great recommendations on this thread. We've marked several wonderful ideas, and we will spend the next year or so checking them out. I'll make sure to update this post as we do so. Thanks again.

                                      1. I love Frederick, MD and you can explore that, Gettysburg, or head up further north--lots of tiny little towns/farms. Eat at Volt if you can get reservations. It's worth going just for that. If not, also by Bryan Voltaggio, there's Family Meal. If you like tapas, Isabellas. Go in winter and you can ski at Liberty!

                                        1. Shepherdstown, Frederick, and Berkeley Springs are doable as one weekend. Press Room is good. Lot 12 is good. Avoid The Yellow Brick. I wouldn't waste my time at the Bavarian. I think people like the view more than the food. The mecklenburg is worth a visit for a drink and soak in the hippie/transplanted DC/college student crowd. It defies description it made the top 100 bars in the America in esquire a few years back. In Frederick I really haven't had a bad meal at the Tasting Room. I like volt but I've been there 3 or 4 times and I'm unemotional come to think about it I can't even remember what I had. I actually enjoy the Bar-side more for cocktails and such. It reminds of my trip to Inn at Little Washington I think the thing I was most impressed with was the $700 check for two people. It was good but not $700 good. If you like beer In Boonsboro MD Dans Tap house has a awesome selection. The food was decent. I know I'm jumping around shepherstown has a Newish small plates restaurant in shepherdstown called domestic. it's very creative the execution is questionable. In a related note I worked in the Nemacolin area for a bit. I can't think of one place in that area I would send you for anything close to aforementioned suggestions. That includes Nemacolin Resort. I have been all of the Fine dining restaurants. Not good.

                                          1. Odd that no one has mentioned Easton, MD. Lots of good shops, art galleries, nice town. We happen to love Out of the Fire so that's where we always eat and I can't comment on other restaurants. The Bartlett Pear Inn gets good reviews.

                                            If you go, consider the weekend of the wildlife art festival. It is probably the second best (to Charleston) on the East Coast. It is called the "waterfowl festival" for historical reasons but the artwork, which is mostly superb, is actually all wildlife. Generally held the first weekend in November. Book early - it is an extremely popular event and I'm sure the area hotels fill up fast with the hundreds of artists and the many festival-goers.

                                            Speaking of Charleston - it is of course quite outside your desired driving distance but think about flying down on the Friday night of a three-day weekend. Charleston is beautiful and the eating is fine!

                                            1. Philly is a great weekend spot too with the Maritime Museum and the Mutter museum, great dining & nice hotels along the river. You can take the train if you like, but I haven't tried that so I am not sure if the lack of a car is a problem once you arrive. Anyone know?

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: CecileB

                                                I took the train up and I've been up with a vehicle. Definitely easier with a car. As a tourist, it's hard to know what neighborhoods are ok to walk through both from a crime aspect and the availability if sidewalks. If I was in Philly for a couple days, I'd definitely drive. Great suggestion, though! Reading Terminal Market is a must.

                                                1. re: CecileB

                                                  I've been taking the train to Philly from DC for years. Really walkable city with a broad range of dining options at the core. To get to the outskirts, I've never had a problem getting a cab, unlike in DC where the cab system is an insult to third world heckholes. Also, since Uber opened in Philly, getting around without a car should be no issue.


                                                    1. re: law_doc89

                                                      one of the reasons I liked DC over CA, if you have the $$$ then a 3-day weekend in Europe is entirely doable, from the West Coast it's really not.

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          true, and Baja, I was thinking that within a 2 hour drive from SF you have Napa or Santa Cruz. or the Delta. (and I like all of these for various reasons) but in DC you get Philly, Balto, Richmond, C'ville, WV, Maryland Shore (almost) I just like the history of towns over their settings. been backpacking enough in my life in those hopelessly lost SW terrains to satisfy my dreams.