A Year of Memory Making Mid-Atlantic Daytrips You Shouldn’t Miss in 2018

This year, like every year, I gave my family gifts that I thought reflected both me and them. And like every other year, I struggled to find that “perfect gift” — a thing of myth and legend — that will make my loved ones happy. Then it hit me — I actually write a blog about the perfect solution! Experiences. Daytrips, but experiences!

The answer is to look for perfect experiences! Here are my suggestions for a year of memory-making day-tripping experiences in the mid-Atlantic region!

Follow the links for more information about great things to do in 2018!

Take a hike!

Whether you seek a place to forest bathe (and Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is the ideal place for that) or hike offering a payoff view (you can’t go wrong with either Weverton Cliffs or Annapolis Rocks) or a challenging hike to see multiple waterfalls in Ricketts Glen State Park in northern Pennsylvania, there’s bound to be a fun hike waiting for you! Sometimes hikes bring you to mysterious places, such as the hike in Patapsco River State Park to Maryland’s very own ghost town, Daniels, or the remains of old mines at Soldier’s Delight National Environmental Area.

Save the wolves!

Since its founding 30 plus years ago, the Wolf Sanctuary of PA has provided wolves and wolf hybrids a way out of institutionalized lives and deaths. The Sanctuary offers public tours on weekends as both fundraising and public relations for the wolves, and can accommodate about 200 visitors/day.

I definitely recommend signing up for one of the Howl with the Wolves bonfires, usually on the weekend closest to the full moon. Hearing the wolves spontaneously howl is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever enjoyed.

Go for a paddle!

Even if you don’t own a canoe or kayak, there are plenty of places to rent them! Not to miss is the incredibly lovely Trap Pond and its amazing bald cypress trees. Many lakes and parks, such as Columbia, MD’s Centennial Lake, and Butler County’s Moraine State Park’s Lake Arthur, rent kayaks as well.

In additional, several outfitters will either rent kayaks or provide guided kayak tours, such as that along the Potomac River  in Frederick County as well as at Dyke Marsh in Virginia, and the intriguing guided kayak tour at Mallows Bay to see Maryland’s ghost fleet. For a slightly more challenging kayaking adventure, go see the wild ponies on Chincoteague Island via kayak!

Explore history!

Explore America’s industrial history by touring the blast furnaces of the former Bethlehem Steel Mill along the Hoover – Mason Trestle (and then make sure you leave some time for the adjacent National Museum of Industry History)! There’s also tours of coal mines and communities, such as the No. 9 Coal Mine and nearby Eckleys Miners Village.

The mid-Atlantic region is chock-a-block with Revolutionary and Civil War history. From Washington’s Crossing State Park to the Revolutionary War Museum (which the Blog has not visited yet but which is definitely on our list!) to Richmond’s plethora of Civil War museums, including the Confederate White House, and battlefields (Cold Harbor among them).

The National Battlefield Park in Gettysburg is one of the most well known civil war battlefields, (and probably offers the most different ways to learn about it — so far the Blog has toured via bicycle, via segway, and with the aid of modern technology) with Manassas and Antietam coming in a close second and third, but don’t discount lesser known battle sites such as Monocacy to learn how a lost battle probably saved the Union capital, the Field of Lost Shoes (and its sad, sad stories) in New Market, VA, and Cedar Grove National Battlefield and how that battle helped end the Civil War.

Bike the C&O Canal!

Truly a Maryland treasure, the C&O Canal offers shaded walking (in the summer) with sweeping views of the Potomac River and nearly flat biking along mostly a groomed trail that stretches 184 miles from western Maryland to DC. It’s hard to decide which is my favorite stretch, but definitely check out the PawPaw Tunnel in Garrett County, Great Falls and the stretch between Swain’s Lock and Seneca Aqueduct in Montgomery County, and the stretch between Monocacy and Catoctin Aqueducts in Frederick County. For a better understanding of life on the canal and a ride on a short stretch, then check out the canal in Williamsport in Washington County, MD. There’s another 120 miles to explore, so don’t limit yourself!

Visit an art museum!

There are so many art museums throughout the region, and the Blog has only covered a few. One of my favorites is the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, where the man and the artist were demystified. But I also recommend the Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Solomon, MD for its outdoor sculpture displays set amongst the trees and lawns, and the Museum of the Fine Arts in Hagerstown, MD, which offers a surprising range of pieces despite its relatively small size. For sheer joy of art, stop by Randyland (also in Pittsburgh) for Randy Gilson’s joyous expressions and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

Go smell the roses! (and daisies and petunias and … )

When the weather turns warmer, I start thinking about visiting botanical gardens and seeing the pretty flowers. Whether the formally designed Longwood Gardens and the Lewis Gintner Botanical Gardens or the more organic beauty of Winterthur, there’s sure to be a garden near you. Each has a different personality, it seems.

Don’t miss the U.S. National Arboretum in D.C. or the incredible topiaries at Ladew Gardens. Several of the gardens, such as Longwood Gardens and Lewis Gintner, offer fabulous indoor gardens as well, but if you enjoy indoor gardens, Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory is a must see!

Explore a fort!

Everyone’s probably heard of famous Fort McHenry in Baltimore — well worth a visit! This is the fort that was being shelled by the British during the War of 1812, immortalized in Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner.

But there are five other fabulous forts worth exploring: three in Maryland, and one each in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and together span American history, from the French and Indian War all the way up to World War II. Be sure to check out forts Washington and Foote, and further afield to Fort Frederick, along the C&O Canal, amazing Fort Delaware on the Delaware River, and Fort Necessity near Farmingham, PA, and learn about George Washington’s only defeat. Each of these forts have very different personalities, making each worthy of being a daytrip destination!

Go ghost-hunting!

Whether you enjoy the stories or are seeking paranormal experiences of your own, there are ghost walks and ghost hunts throughout the year, although the “season” really becomes active in September and October!

One of my favorite ghost walks is in historic Harpers Ferry, but Pittsburgh’s will offer you a different perspective on the city! No city offers more ghost tours than Gettysburg! If exploring a haunted cemetery is your thing, then consider Frederick’s Mount Olivet Cemetery Ghost Tour, where I had one of my first paranormal experiences! Pick one or more and get ready for history and fun stories!

Many historic places offer tours during the day and ghost hunts at night, such as the really frightening Moundsville Penitentiary in West Virginia. If you prefer a more guided ghost hunt, then check out one of the hunts offered by Ghosts N’at’s — I recommend the Carrie Furnace ghost hunt!

Love those festivals!

Many towns offer fall festivals, including Front Royal at the foot of the Shenandoah Mountains, Zelienople/Harmony’s Fall Festival north of Pittsburgh in Butler County, PA, and the Apple Harvest Festival. But throughout the year there’re are fun festivals to check out, such as Howard County’s Hot Air Balloon Festival and if you’re into the arts, Frederick’s Arts Festival.

See holiday light displays!

Going to holiday lights displays has become an annual tradition for me and my family. Several holiday lights displays, such as the National Zoo’s ZooLights which will delight animal lovers, Brookside Gardens Garden Lights, and Longwood Garden’s Christmas, allow you to walk through the displays (although several of the drive through holiday lights displays have 5k runs and dog-walking nights through the displays).

One of my favorite light displays is Winter Lights at Seneca Creek State Park because of its water feature, but Bay Lights at Sandy Point State Park also makes fine use of the Bay for its set up!

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Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I’d love to hear what you’re doing! Email [email protected] if you’re interested in being a guest-blogger!