Land-focused day trips

Don’t enjoy traveling by air or boat? Not to worry. There are plenty of area treasures that are only a short drive away.

Brookside Gardens
Taking the afternoon to explore the 50 acres of this award-winning garden is a practice in simple pleasures that are often forgotten about in our day-to-day lives. Tucked in as part of Wheaton Regional Park, the offerings of the garden area are plentiful with distinct gardens full of azaleas, butterflies and roses plus specific areas for aquatic plants, Japanese-style flora and fauna, rain gardens, a space specifically landscaped with children in mind, trails and a woodland walk. The formal gardens include spaces for perennials, yew, maples and a fragrance garden. Also on the property are two conservatories and a visitors center with a horticultural library. It’s a plant enthusiast’s oasis. // Wheaton, MD; brooksidegardens.org
Travel time: 45 minutes

Maryland Science Center
Located in the Baltimore Harbor, the Maryland Science Center is 170,000 square feet of science and technology exploration that has been serving the community for 30 years. What started in 1797 as an amateur scientific society where astronomers, botanists, zoologists and more would discuss their findings is now an interactive center with programs and exhibits that are both static and rotating focusing on cells, dinosaurs, aquatic life, outer space and Sir Isaac Newton’s discoveries. Be engaged in the SciLab and use lab tools to investigate chemical and biological specimens. The Shed allows patrons to get into the DIY game in a hybrid workshop and laboratory space for any and all things creative. There is also a 5,000-square-foot room dedicated to children, from newborns to 8-year-olds, where they can play with boats and submarines, dress up like turtles and play in either a large water play area or on waterbeds. // Baltimore, MD; mdsci.org
Travel time: 60 minutes

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American Visionary Art Museum
Outsider art, raw art, art brut: this is what you will find at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum. What is this art? It is art by self-taught artists. And the museum stands as a testament to the work they do as the site, which was a former copper paint factory and whiskey warehouse, was given to the museum under the condition that museum organizers clean up the space. What they made is a 1-acre campus with permanent collections from artists like Ho Baron, Vanessa German, Ted Gordon, Mary Proctor and more along with pieces from the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre of London and an outdoor sculpture barn and wildflower garden. The museum hosts a rotation of exhibits to continue its mission of showcasing these intuitive artists. The adjacent Jim Rouse Visionary Center houses more art through performances and interactive exhibits. // Baltimore, MD; avam.org
Travel time: 60 minutes

Ladew Topiary Gardens
Meander 22 acres of creatively-shaped vegetation, named by Architectural Digest as one of the world’s 10 most incredible topiary gardens. This beautiful oasis of horticultural sculptures was created by self-taught gardener Harvey Ladew in the early 1900s. There are more than 100 plants that engage the imagination like running dogs, a hunter on his horse, swans floating atop hedges and also traditional showings. But there is more than just the topiaries. Ladew is home to multiple gardens of roses, irises and color-schemed gardens with white and yellow florals, plus more than 20 additional themed gardens. You can also explore the butterfly house, take a walk in nature or tour the manor house. // Monkton, MD; ladewgardens.com
Travel time: 90 minutes

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Harpers Ferry Ghost Tour
What is considered the oldest ghost tour in the nation is just an hour away. Take two hours to tour the historic lower town of Harpers Ferry as you flow in and out of sites and buildings learning about spiritual legends. The violent past of this town, which is considered a national historic park, is best known for John Brown’s Raid and its significance during the Civil War. Not only will you learn about ghostly stories, some with unexplained phenomenon, you’ll also get a bit of a history lesson on the town’s importance in our nation’s past. Tours are family- and dog-friendly and are appropriate for most children. // Harpers Ferry, WV; harpersferryghost.20m.com
Travel time: 65 minutes

Civil War Tails at the Homestead Diorama Museum // Courtesy of the Civil War tails Diorama Museum

Homestead Diorama Museum
The Mid-Atlantic region was the front for the Civil War, and at this museum, you can get a bird’s-eye vantage point of all the major battles that were fought. Miniature soldiers, all made by hand, are throughout this museum where you can see a 3-D rendition of what our nation went through. Complete with horses, cannons and buildings, the battlegrounds are made with a one-to-one ratio displaying the full scale of the actual battles. Before you go, note that once you take a closer look at each diorama the soldiers are actually cats. This is not to make light of the contents but is the nod to the maker’s roots of when they started at 11 years old. Their mission is to pay tribute to these soldiers, not make light of any fight for freedom and unity. // Gettysburg, PA; civilwartails.com
Travel time: 90 minutes

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National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum
Tucked away in the Madison Building in Alexandria, home to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, where patrons can experience the entrepreneurial spirit through displays and interactive kiosks showcasing more than 500 inventors and installations that include contributions from Ford Motor Company (the 1965 Ford Mustang merged with a 2015 series), the development of the camera and Qualcomm’s smart technology. Eavesdrop on a panel discussion with Edison, Madison, Jefferson and more as they discuss their take on inventions today. Running through October is “Visionary Veterans: Honoring Inductees Who Served in World War I” which shines the spotlight on five veterans and inventors whose genius ideas impacted the world then and continues to today. The exhibits rotate on a yearly basis. // Alexandria; uspto.gov

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Clark’s Elioak Farm Enchanted Forest
A trip to Clark’s Elioak Farm is more than the petting farm, hay rides, cow trains, pony rides and shopping at the store, which stocks the 100 percent grass-fed beef and pasture-raised, non-GMO pork along with fresh produce. Take a ride on the Enchanted Express Train and explore the Enchanted Forest. In 1955 there was a storybook park filled with magical creatures living in a fairy-tale land. Slowly pieces of the park that closed in the early ‘90s started to make their way to Clark’s farm in 2004. All of the pieces completed the move in 2015. Take in the delight of Mother Goose, Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, The Old Woman’s Show, Cinderella’s Pumpkin Coach and more on the train ride. // Ellicott City, MD; clarklandfarm.com
Travel time: 55 minutes

Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum
Along the Patuxent River in Maryland there are 560 acres of land that has more than 65 identified archaeological sites to be explored. The Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum hosts interactive exhibits, educational programs and events and also houses the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, which holds over 8 million artifacts. There is also an Indian Village constructed on the property using all-natural materials so you can experience what it would have looked like 400 years ago. After taking in history firsthand, stretch your legs with a hike along the miles of trails—you can do an audio walking tour—or take a run in the water with a canoe or kayak. // St. Leonard, MD; jefpat.org
Travel time: 95 minutes

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The Wharf // Courtesy of The Wharf

The Wharf
The revamp of the waterfront in Washington, D.C., has brought new life and new entertainment options that are ripe for both daytime and nighttime activities. This mile-long stretch of the Potomac River offers the area’s latest restaurants by big names (Requin by Mike Isabella, Kith and Kin by Kwame Onwuachi and Hank’s Oyster Bar by Jamie Leeds, to name a few); musical venues in The Anthem, Pearl Street Warehouse, Union Stage and even floating acts on the Floating Barge; shopping at dozens of stores and kid-friendly activities like oversized games, swings, a splash fountain, a park, ice skating, mini golf and more. The piers bring opportunities for launching into the water for sporting activities, and then there are also 10 acres of parks. Even transportation to The Wharf is entertaining. Instead of driving in, hop on a jitney or water taxi. // Washington, D.C.; wharfdc.com

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Embassy Tours
Throughout the month of May, you can explore more than 70 embassies and experience the food, art, fashion, music and culture of other countries. Lead by Cultural Tourism DC, the Passport DC program is a month-long exhibit of the international world that resides right here. On May 5, more than 40 embassies will open their doors, with the European Union Embassies holding open houses on May 12. Also scheduled throughout the month are street festivals and an embassy chef challenge gala. // Washington, D.C.; culturaltourismdc.org

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center
For 10 years, Harriet Tubman made over a dozen trips into the South leading almost one hundred slaves to freedom. At the recently opened Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, located in her hometown of Dorchester County, learn about her journey and sacrifices in this center with multimedia exhibits, a theater and a gift shop. After taking in the thought-provoking exhibits, stroll the 17 acres of the state park on which the center sits. This new center is part of 36 sites along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a 125-mile self-guided driving tour, and is separate from the nearby Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in downtown Cambridge, which is just a 17-minute drive north. // Church Creek, MD; harriettubmanbyway.org
Travel time: 175 minutes

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Seminary Ridge Museum
The hallowed grounds of Gettysburg bring visitors from all over. And while the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center and main battleground are the highlight of the town, there is another museum that should make it on your docket. On a hill overlooking the town of Gettysburg is the Seminary Ridge Museum, the spot where the first shots rang out at the Battle of Gettysburg. What was once the Lutheran Theological Seminary is now a 16,000-square-foot, four-floor museum that gives patrons a close look at the first days of the battle from the perspectives of the residents. Each floor focuses on detailed descriptions and lifelike displays of what took place: wounded soldiers, artifacts of the residents and interactive displays of how life was in the days of war. For an extra fee, visitors can tour the cupola where Union General John Buford stood overlooking the battle. // Gettysburg, PA; seminaryridgemuseum.org
Travel time: 95 minutes

Massanutten Family Adventure Park
Adventure seekers only need to take a trip to Massanutten Family Adventure Park to fulfill their adrenaline needs. Here you can take a trip down the 800-foot Mega-Zip at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Or join in on a 90-minute canopy tour through a forest and over a bridge on four different zip lines that range from 90 to 470 feet. Younger ones can enjoy their own adventure course with a 100-foot zip line, swinging bridge, log crossing, ropes course and more. There is also a climbing wall with 16- to 30-foot climbs, a quick jump with a 30-foot “free fall,” summer tubing down 600 feet of hill and a playland. // Massanutten; massresort.com
Travel time: 120 minutes

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C&O Canal, View from the Mercer // Photo by Rhonda Fink-Whitman

The C&O Canal
The main thoroughfare in the days of yore still harvests vast amounts of entertainment today. There are 184.5 miles to explore through boat rides down the canals that used to transport coal, lumber and agricultural products but now ferry people upon a replica, mule-pulled canal boat on the Great Falls route, and also through the Williamsport vessel, an electric launch boat. Events are scheduled throughout the year to make a trip to the C&O Canal a learning experience, or simply utilize its path and spaces for biking, hiking and camping. Along the hundred-plus mile stretch there are also seven visitor centers to pop into to get a glimpse of this major historic pathway like the early 1800s Great Falls Tavern, the launch point for the Great Falls boat ride loop; the Brunswick Visitor Center that is attached to the Brunswick Railroad Museum; the more modern Cumberland Visitor Center with interactive and educational exhibits; the Hancock Visitor Center inside the early 18th-century Bowles House; and the Williamsport Visitor Center from which you can catch boat rides. And soon the Georgetown Visitor Center will be a must-stop once the restoration is wrapped. Once finished, the rebuilt locks will house a new historic replica canal boat, along with plans to reimagine the area as an urban park. // nps.gov/choh

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