RelayRides blogger–and former D.C. resident–Nicholas Pell shares some of his favorite historical destinations near the Washington, D.C. area as well as affordable rides to get you there
The nation’s capital has much to offer in the way of historical attractions; Monuments, galleries and museums, many of which are available at no charge. Still, it’s always nice to get outside of the city. There’s more to history in the beltway region than Washington, DC. If you’re looking for a road trip, renting a car from RelayRides peer-to-peer car sharing service can make perfect sense for you.
Distance: 15 Miles
Open every day of the year, Mount Vernon is famously George Washington’s old plantation. No one knows who designed the buildings on Mount Vernon, but that mystery holds a great deal of the allure for historians. Our nation’s first president actually inherited the property from his half brother Lawrence, though he was probably already running the plantation at the time of his brother’s death. Get yourself a bottle of limited edition whiskey sold only on the plantation, located immediately adjacent to the site of Washington’s old distillery.
What To Drive: Sporty 270 HP Coupe gets you there and back in luxury and thrift, two things that George Washington certainly could have appreciated.
Distance: 70 Miles
Harpers Ferry is either the site of a justifiable uprising or a tragic slaughter depending on your point of view. There wasn’t a whole lot to say about Harpers Ferry (no apostrophe, thank you very much) until the radical abolitionist John Brown led a slave uprising there in 1859. Along with Bleeding Kansas, it is considered one of the opening salvos of the American Civil War. Even if you’re not into antebellum Southern history, you’ll appreciate the natural beauty that has existed since time immemorial.
What To Drive: Prius! will save you money on gas there and back.
Distance: 50 Miles
Fredericksburg, Virginia was home to two Civil War battles, though the first is the more famous, with nearly 200,000 men involved and nearly 20,000 casualties on both sides. To this day an enterprising treasure hunter can get a musketball at the very least. Fredericksburg was typical of early battles in the Civil War, with General Burnside making a lackluster effort and heavy Union casualties. It is the battle featured in the film Gods and Generals, so give that a watch before you head out.
What To Drive: Emiliano’s BMW is stylish and comfortable, but with a classic and austere style that will get you to this former battleground with due respect.
Distance: 35 Miles
Maryland is more known for HBO’s crime drama The Wire these days than for its rich history. And Maryland’s unassuming state capital has a lot to offer history buffs. For example, the Maryland State House has been in continuous use longer than any other in the United States. The U.S. Naval Academy is in Annapolis, the former home of famous alums such as Jimmy Carter (one of two Nobel Laureates to attend), Ross Perot, John McCain, Robert A. Heinlein, Oliver North and Montel Williams. The Banneker-Douglas Museum presents the history of Maryland from the African-American perspective. Annapolis was the first American capital after the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
What To Drive: While not a very big one, Annapolis is definitely a city. Farah’s Smart will make parking a cinch.
Distance: 150 Miles
Colonial Williamsburg offers a peek into daily life in the days of the American colonies. It’s a living history museum that has historical reenactors doing what the people of Colonial Williamsburg would have done on any given day. It’s a great place to bring kids to learn about history. Colonial Williamsburg has sought to be more inclusive in recent years, portraying free blacks as well as slaves, basing such men on actual historical figures.
What To Drive: Since we don’t have any DeLoreans, Byron’s Jaguar is a classic, clean look for visiting this peek into yesteryear.
So, there you have it. Our favorite historical spots near Washington, D.C. If you’re in a place with as much history as D.C. don’t let not having a car, or the steep prices of traditional rental car companies stop you from a great day trip, join RelayRides today!