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DC is a great place where you can enjoy different types of geography all within a few hours of the district. Just venture out a couple of hours and you're in different scenery from mountains to beaches and everything in between. We’re going to start from right inside the city and then work our way out to places within a short drive that make you feel a world away. `
Washington, DC (The Wharf)
Wow, has this place changed. If you didn’t know, DC has undergone and is still undergoing a massive revitalization. Neighborhood by neighborhood is drastically changing lined with plenty of flipped properties, new apartment high rises, condos and, mixed development to accommodate the influx of new Washingtonians. All of them flocking to the area for new opportunities and plenty to do from learning about culture to history to hundreds of dining choices to the vibrant night life.
The New Wharf on the Southwest Waterfront is unrecognizable from my old club days where we would travel to DC when the Baltimore scene was tired. Back in the day they still had the Fish Market with a couple of night life spots and waterfront condos but now is currently going through a big do over.
Now the area is fashioned with an arsenal of gourmet and casual dining choices, concert venue, hotels and a few places to shop unique artisans.
We recently spent a New Year’s staycation at the Wharf to take in all the new sites. It’s funny, we only live about 45 minutes away but it was amazing to see how much there is to do and that we have this new destination minutes away.
So we stayed at the newly built Intercontinental Hotel right on the water and made sure to ask for a room with a view. The floor to ceiling windows did not disappoint. The hotel features spacious rooms with all the usual amenities but we really enjoyed the African inspired cuisine at the Kith and Kin restaurant. Their spin on brussel sprouts is absolutely delicious!
Other things to do include taking in the industrial chic scene at La Vie complete with a glass bottom pool view. Taking a stroll along the boardwalk, grabbing lobster rolls, hanging out in the beer garden and grabbing home-made ice cream to end the evening.
La Vie Restaurant, Washington DC
This is definitely one of our favorites for a short and romantic weekend getaway!
Alexandria is another close by favorite on the water ideal for a long weekend excursion. We stayed at the new Hotel Indigo which has a very intriguing history. Apparently, the construction crews found remnants of an old ship on the site. It was excavated, and I believe at some point will be on display.
It also has a pretty cool restaurant called the Hummingbird Bar and Kitchen which is a favorite among the locals. However, you must check out the Chart House restaurant right on the water. It’s a staple for locals and tourists. Check it out for the food, wine and ambiance featuring a very romantic fireplace for cold nights.
Once we tired of the Old Town shopping scene which consists of a couple of miles of store and restaurant lined city streets, we decided to hit the countryside.
Just a short drive from Alexandria we spent a day in Marriottsville, VA to go horseback riding and take in the lush green mountain scene. Once we soothed out our sore saddle bottoms we took in an old Western style lunch on the ranch porch.
Next, it was time to hit the Desert Rose winery for some more downtime. Virginia is known for several wine trails and Desert Rose is part of the Vintage Piedmont Collection. The wineries are pretty popular to taste award winning selections with an assortment of snacks. Then you hangout taking in the countryside and unique architecture of the winery whether it’s farmhouse, industrial or a close imitation of a scene from Tuscany.
Source: Desert Rose Winery
After a long and serene day, we headed back to Alexandria to pack up and get ready to head back home in the morning.
The biggest thing going on here is how to pronounce the name. We apparently ran into a debate as people have two different ways to pronounce it.
Well whichever way you say it, it’s worth a trip to take in this small town vibe. It’s just a couple of hours from DC too. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Staunton twice. The first time was during a ladies non-profit retreat and I really loved the quaint feel.
We stayed at a beautiful Victorian style bed and breakfast where we were greeted with a home cooked breakfast daily and not just the basic continental stuff. The days were also filled with antiquing, boutique shopping and gourmet specialty shops.
The second time I made the Staunton road trip was during a couple’s getaway for a birthday surprise. We had been working hard and just needed a change of scenery as they say. It’s nice to be able to switch it up and not have to suffer through long, delayed flights, jet-lag and the other not so nice things that come with flying.
We stayed at the Blackburn Inn which has a very rich history. It used to be a mental institution and then a prison. The workers and locals had a good time scaring us (but not on purpose) sharing their ghost stories and saying that they would never stay on the grounds.
It’s now going through a multi-phase renovation into condos and a hotel. They even kept some of the old prison doors. It was a cool mix of the old and new with very contemporary styled rooms. We definitely plan on returning when the future phases are completed.
Of course, we checked out a winery. If you haven’t noticed by now it’s a pattern. This time we visited Cross Keys winery where I absolutely adored the owners' very friendly pets!
Our trip was complete with a walk through on main street to an old bookstore and other boutique finds.
So Staunton is perfect for a ladies get away or low key romantic trip!
A little bit further south but well worth the venture lies Williamsburg. Well known for its colonial inspired living and Busch Gardens theme park, it was time to make a stop here instead of just driving through.
Our accommodations were at the Wyndham Governor’s Green. A popular timeshare that we managed to escape the sales presentation! It’s a beautiful location complete with ponds, bonfires and plenty of green scenery.
Source: Wyndham Governor’s Green
Our first day in we set out for breakfast and we’ve never seen so many breakfast and waffle restaurants in one place! Needless to say, there was plenty to choose from.
Now unfortunately for some of this trip it was a workcation so we spent plenty of time in our generous upgraded 3-bedroom suite. It was like home away from home.
Once we did make it out of the room for a much needed break it was time to see some sights but it was late and a short trip. We did check out a little shopping and ate at a couple of nice seafood restaurants.
Photo pitstop in Williamsburg
Since we were there in winter, there was plenty of winterland festivities to enjoy like ice-skating, more bonfires and warm fireplace chats with hot cocoa.
We’re definitely going back to enjoy more of the old Williamsburg and maybe next time I can get to the outlets too.
Cape May, NJ
Now it’s time to switch it up for a beach trip. This was another couple’s trip because hey, who doesn’t love waking up to the sound of crashing waves.
I’ve always heard good things about Cape May and the drive wasn’t bad at all. We stayed at the cute and pink Periwinkle Inn just across from the beach. Our room had a partial beach view but we made the most of it.
Amazing view of the beach in Cape May
This was really an ultra relaxing, nothing planned type of trip. We just winged it each day with no set itinerary. I was surprised to say that I had a couple of firsts during our stay. The first time I played shuffleboard which I used to think was extremely boring and actually found it quite interesting. We played twice and I lost twice but that’s OK.
Another first was riding a bike. OK, don’t laugh. I never learned to ride a bike as a child and when I was older I didn’t see a need as I knew how to drive. So after effectively convincing everyone that there was no way I was ready for a real bike I managed to get an adult tricycle. It was the ultimate win!
It was so much fun strolling around town that I pleaded for a tricycle for a Christmas gift, but I was denied. If someone could let my friend know that there are no age limits on riding a tricycle that would be great.
We checked out a few more historic points of interest including Congress Hall, boardwalk shopping, eating and oh yeah, a winery. Then wrapped it all up with a sunset chat on rocking chairs on the beach.
Geese just hanging out in the middle of the street at the winery!
So there you have it! My top 5 staycation places in and around Washington, DC. As a busy entrepreneur it’s important to balance work and play. Too often we get sucked into working day and night especially if you have a side hustle. Just changing up your environment for 2 or 3 days if you don’t have time to do a two-week mega trip could be just the thing to recharge, reflect and get back to business anew!
Tarsha McCrae is a creative entrepreneur and consultant who wants everyone to take in the joy of working in and making money from their creative outlet. Whether it’s art, design, photography or something else, let’s work together to transform your creative hobby into a profitable business. Visit me on Instagram at @creativepursuitschool or .
PaperFinch Travel TIP: Planning your escape to D.C.? Start by planning your home away from home here.