Budget-Friendly Day Trips in the D.C. Area

Here’s where to get away without breaking the bank.

Potomac Point Winery. Image courtesy of Potomac Point Winery.
Potomac Point Winery. Image courtesy of Potomac Point Winery.

Written by Kara Hunt

Uncovering hidden local treasures doesn’t have to cost a king’s ransom. These wallet-friendly locales will give you a feeling of discovery on the cheap. The best part? These destinations are only a tank of gas (or less) away.

Potomac Point Winery
275 Decatur Rd.


(540) 446-2266

Why Go? Taste a variety of seasonal wines, explore the vineyard, have a bite to eat in the bistro, play corn hole and horseshoes while sipping your favorite red, and more. Potomac Point Winery is only a short drive from D.C., and its extensive grounds provide the perfect getaway. Check out the events calendar for New Year’s Eve happenings and special Valentine’s Day tastings. 

Must Do: Take a tour of the winery. “The architecture is beautiful,” said Chelsea Sparaco, sales and marketing manager. Don’t miss the Coyote Wine Cave and the Barrel Room for an insider look. 

Insider Tip: The winery offers a “Little Buds Room” for kids to spend time playing while you enjoy tasting a variety of wines.  

The Fine Print: Tastings and tours range from $10 to $15 depending on how many wines you’d like to sample. The Winery is open Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; it’s open on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and closed on Tuesday. 

Great Falls Park
9200 Old Dominion Dr.


(703) 285-2965

Why Go? Spectacular views of the Potomac River, a museum and plenty of activities await visitors in the park’s 800 acres of walking trails and history.

Must Do: For those looking for even more adventure, try rock climbing or whitewater kayaking on the Potomac. Several organizations provide lessons and gear for beginners. The park also offers a Junior Ranger Program for kids. “This is a fun way to visit the park with family,” said Site Manager Brent O’Neill. “Everyone, not just the kids, can learn something through the program.” 

Insider Tip: To avoid long lines entering the park, plan to arrive before 10:30 a.m. on weekends. Great Falls, as a trash-free park, has removed all trash cans, so what you bring in must also be carried out. 

The Fine Print: The park is open from 7 a.m. until dark. The visitors center and bookstore are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Entry cost is $5. 

Downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia
706 Caroline St.


(800) 678-4748

Why Go? Located just south of D.C, Fredericksburg is full of battlefields, antiques, museums, boutiques, art galleries, and more. Take a trolley tour around downtown, visit Historic Kenmore or find a piece of history to make your own. 

Must Do: Downtown shopping is especially fun. Find unique gifts and participate in the storefront scavenger hunt for a cash prize in the annual Window Wonderland.

Insider Tip: “The beauty of Fredericksburg isn’t just a one must-see item,” said Julie Perry of Fredericksburg Area Tourism. “There’s truly something for everyone.” 

The Fine Print: Most downtown shops, museums and art galleries are open daily. Trolley tours are also offered daily.

Luray Caverns
101 Cave Hill Rd.


(540) 743-6551

Why Go? The tallest formation in the Caverns reaches 47 feet, some ceilings reach 10 stories high.

Must Do: Check out the Great Stalacpipe Organ, the largest musical instrument in the world. John Shaffer, a Luray spokesman, said that “children are amazed by the Stalacpipe Organ playing music of concert quality from stone formations. The mystery and sense of discovery is around every corner —often revealing huge chambers, crystal-clear pools and ancient stone formations of all sizes, shapes and variations of natural colors.”

Insider Tip: Comfortable shoes are recommended. The caverns are 54 degrees all year, so be sure to dress appropriately. 

The Fine Print: Luray Caverns is open daily, and tours depart every 20 minutes starting at 9 a.m. The last tour departs at 4 p.m. weekdays and 5 p.m. weekends. Ticket prices are $24 for adults, $12 for kids and $21 for seniors. Discounts are available for onsite ticket purchases to Giant or Martin’s BonusCard holders (50 percent off a second adult ticket), and to participating companies and military bases ($5 off adult ticket).


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