5 fall getaways in the DC area

September 19, 2019

With its tolerable temperatures and fabulous foliage, fall is the perfect time of year for a weekend getaway. D.C.-based travel writer Jess Moss has a few ideas that will keep you close to home, but take you worlds away.

Sand and surf in the offseason

Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean the Delmarva beaches should be forgotten. Moss said fall is the perfect time to experience a little sand and surf, without wading through a wave of tourists.

“For example, Bethany Beach — where it can be hard to find a house on a weekend in the summer — now you have a lot more options, especially for last-minute weekend getaways,” said Moss, author of “Easy Weekend Getaways from Washington, D.C.”

Rehoboth is also a great option for offseason travel. Moss said it’s “becoming more and more of a year-round town,” so plenty of restaurants and shops stay open in fall and winter.

For those chasing the party scene, Moss recommends Dewey Beach for The Starboard’s famous “closing weekend” bash Nov. 1-3.

Rehoboth Beach is noted for its iconic boardwalk, historic hotels and boutiques without sales tax. (Linda Lombardi via AP)

Wind down just west of D.C.

There are endless options for day and weekend jaunts just west of the Beltway.

Oenophiles can get their fill with activities and events organized around Virginia Wine Month (October), including harvest dinners, concerts, festivals and educational events. Moss suggests heading to either Leesburg or Middleburg, where there are a number of vineyards to visit.

Fall is also a great time to visit Shenandoah National Park for a foliage-filled hike or a colorful cruise along the scenic Skyline Drive.

“It’s a wonderful drive. Roll the windows down and just go slow, check it out,” Moss said.

Saturday, Sept. 28 is National Public Lands Day, which means entrance fees are free at all National Parks.

Barboursville Vineyards in Barboursville, Va., is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2007. Wines from vintners in Virginia are drawing favorable attention and holding their own against products from more established regions, which has led the state to focus on growing wine tourism. (AP Photo/Michael Felberbaum)

Check out a small town

Need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city? Switch to a slower pace in a nearby small town.

“There are so many small towns, and one of the fun things is just to get in your car and sort of explore and pop into a local diner or restaurant,” Moss said.

She recommends Berlin, Maryland, which is “charming” with a “quirky vibe,” and just a short drive from Ocean City and Assateague State Park.

In Virginia, Moss suggests Staunton, whose downtown has a bustling arts and dining scene. Plus, Potterheads will love when the town transforms into a Harry Potter-themed wizarding world for the annual Queen City Mischief and Magic. This year’s festival takes place Sept. 27-29.

Berlin, Maryland, took the top spot on the list of the 10 best small towns for shopping. The Worchester County town is about a 15-minute drive from Ocean City. (Courtesy Squelle/Wikimedia Commons)

History by bike

The D.C. region and its surrounding areas are filled with history, so why not learn something new and get some fresh, fall air?

Moss said the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, has a number of bike trails, and so does the Harriet Tubman Byway, which runs 125 miles through Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“It’s just incredible. It kind of touches on the lands that she lived in and just tells all the stories of her life and the people that she worked with … and there are some great storytelling resources along the way, so you can really get a sense of that,” Moss said.

This photo shows the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, Md. The Harriet Tubman Byway on Maryland’s Eastern Shore was designed to help bring to life the famed abolitionist. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A local taste

In the summer, Washingtonians are passionate about their crabs. But in the fall, the attention shifts to oyster season, and the Eastern Shore is a great place to get a taste.

“St. Michaels has a whole watermen history and there are so many charming places to eat. And again, fewer crowds than the summer, so it’s a great place to check out,” Moss said.

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland, hosts the town’s annual OysterFest on Saturday, Oct. 26. Urbanna, Virginia, also has a big oyster festival Nov. 1 and 2.

Oysterman Chris Ludford opens one of his oysters after harvesting on some of his leased oyster beds on the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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