Great day trips with a dose of education

By Kristy MacKaben

Taking family day trips can foster a love of learning while being tons of fun at the same time. Luckily there are plenty of destinations within a couple of hours of Annapolis that are the perfect combination of history and fun.

HarpersFerryHarpers Ferry, W.VAKelly Green of Ellicott City refers to day trips with her two daughters, Kate, 9, and Meghan, 7 as adventures. In the summer, the trio frequently sets off for farms, museums, hiking trails and other fun destinations — usually no more than two hours away.

"What makes for an awesome day trip is probably why I keep planning day trips — the rave reviews I receive from my family," Green says. "I ... often try to find day trips that complement an area my children have been studying in school or a fun new activity I think they should try."

Spending time as a family away from home can help lay a solid foundation and a feeling of stability in children, says Grace David, an Annapolis-area counselor, who enjoys venturing on day trips with her three children. Kids are less likely to bicker with one another and are more likely to bond when they are away from home, David says.

"There's something to say about getting out and doing something out-of-the-ordinary," she says. "It makes it special and it builds memories which make a family unit stronger."

Taking family day trips with young children can also foster curiosity as they grow. Mimie Helm, of Ellicott City, fondly remembers the day trips she and her daughters took when they were young. Mount Vernon was their favorite, but they ventured anywhere that was interesting and educational. The girls, now in their 20s, take off on their own day trips, she says.

"Some of our daughters' best memories are the day trips we took," Helm says. "It's great family time together and it gives them a curiosity about things that they carry with them when they get older."

Here is a list of great trips within two hours of Annapolis. Pick one for your family to take this summer or hit them all!

Click next below for great day trips.

DayTripsHarpersFerryWHarpers Ferry, W.Va

In Harpers Ferry, history and outdoor fun create a memorable day trip for families.

The historic town has cobblestone streets and 19th century buildings and architecture. It is also home to the John Brown Fort, a landmark made famous by John Brown's infamous raid on the town in his attempt to stop slavery, and the location of three Civil War battles.

Tour the town on foot and learn about the historic churches, homes and armories. Take in a view of three states, as well as one of the three Civil War battlefields at different spots around Harpers Ferry.

"You don't study history here. You engage it," says Dennis Frye, chief historian and chief of interpretation, education and partnerships at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. "Here kids learn about America's past without even knowing they are learning. Here we have remarkable history overlaying one of the most beautiful spots in all of America."

The historic sites in Harpers Ferry are enough to fill an entire weekend, but if you want to vary your trip, there is also plenty of outdoor recreation — from biking and hiking to whitewater rafting on the Shenandoah River. Stop for pictures at The Point, where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers join. A walking bridge along the railroad tracks across the Potomac River leads to the C&O Canal Tow Path. Just up the path you will find a trail that leads to Maryland Heights, a rigorous hike that ends with a spectacular view of the town below.

Details on Harpers Ferry

Distance from Annapolis: 1 ½ hours

Harpers Ferry website

John Brown Fort; search for John Brown Fort

Harpers Ferry Adventure Center
10985 Harpers Ferry Rd.

Click next below for a day trip to Lancaster, PA

DaytripsLancaterLancaster, PA

Amish culture is truly intriguing, even to kids, and there are plenty of opportunities in Lancaster to get a feel for Amish life.

The Amish Farm and House, dating to the 1700s, offers tours of the farmhouse, one-room schoolhouse and farm with goats, chickens, sheep and cows. The Amish Village offers a similar experience with tours of the 12-acre property, farmhouse, one-room schoolhouse and barn with animals.

Central Market claims to be the world's oldest working farmers market and is located in downtown Lancaster. Sample regional foods like chow chow (pickled vegetables in spicy mustard sauce) and scrapple, along with baked goods and souvenirs.

For more Pennsylvania Dutch eats, try a traditional pass-the-platter family style restaurant. Plain and Fancy or Good 'N Plenty are good bets, as well as Bird in Hand Family Restaurant with sweet rolls and pies.

Before you leave Amish country, don't forget the horse-and-buggy ride. Aaron and Jessica's Buggy Rides is a good option.

"In Lancaster County — the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country—families can explore the nation's original Amish community and so much more," says Joel Cliff, director of communications and advocacy for Discover Lancaster. "You can stay here for three or four hours or three or four days."

It's important to note that Lancaster pretty much shuts down on Sundays, so restaurants and shopping will be slim pickings that day.

Details on Lancaster

Distance from Annapolis: 2 hours

Discover Lancaster website

Aaron and Jessica's Buggy Rides
3121 Old Philadelphia Pike, Ronks, Pa.

The Amish Farm and House
2395 Lincoln Hwy., East

Lancaster Central Market
23 North Market St.

Plain and Fancy Farm
3121 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bird in Hand

Good 'N Plenty Restaurant & Bakery
150 Eastbrook Rd., Smoketown

Bird in Hand Family Restaurant
2760 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bird-in-Hand

Click next below for a day trip to Gettysburg, PA





daytripsGettysburgGettysburg, PA

History buffs will love Gettysburg, where stories of battles and life during the Civil War abound.

From spring to fall, Gettysburg comes alive with Civil War encampments and re-enactments at Gettysburg National Military Park. Battlefield guides explain history and engage children. Make sure to stop at Devil's Den and Little Round Top — sites of the major battles at Gettysburg. Take the Historic Gettysburg Walking Tour or explore the Gettysburg Museum of History, the Union Mills Homestead, the John Brown House and the Rupp House to learn more about the Civil War days in Gettysburg.

"War, of course, is hard for many children to understand in its entirety, but Gettysburg is also a place for reverence, patriotism and reflection," says Carl Whitehall, public relations specialist for Destination Gettysburg.

Whitehall suggests talking to kids about the Civil War before the trip. "It's not a destination that's hooked on facts. Gettysburg is more about telling the stories — both heroic and tragic — of the war and the citizens who lived here."

Though the history of Gettysburg is intriguing, there's much more to the Pennsylvania town. Downtown is full of cafes, restaurants, ice cream parlors and museums. Eat at Tommy's Pizza, a local favorite, according to Whitehall. Not too far from downtown you'll find Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve with 10 miles of trails and a mineral quarry; Land of Little Horses Farm Park, home to miniature horses and other animals; and Fields of Adventure, a farm with corn mazes and games.

Details on Gettysburg

Distance from Annapolis: 1 ½ hours

Desitnation Gettysburg website

Gettysburg National Military Park
1195 Baltimore Pike

Gettysburg Museum of History
219 Baltimore St.

Rupp House History Center
451 Baltimore St.

Tommy's Pizza
105 Steinwehr Ave.

Click next below for a day trip to St. Mary's City, MD

Daytrips st. marys cityWSt. Mary's City, MD

Home of Maryland's first capital, historic St. Mary's City is a reconstructed Colonial settlement featuring living history exhibits. Step onboard the Maryland Dove, a 17th century tall ship, tend the gardens, play Colonial games or make mats to hang on the Native American longhouses.

"The beautiful thing about our site and the people who work here is we can accommodate all ages," says Laurel Potyen, Historic St. Mary's City visitor services coordinator. "There are hands-on and engaging activities for all our visitors no matter what age."

Visit merchants at the town center and discover what colonists would have used and needed. Tour the Godiah Spray Tobacco Plantation and learn about what colonists planted for food and medicinal needs.

Though historic St. Mary's City can monopolize an entire day, there are plenty of attractions in the greater St. Mary's City area — from lighthouses and beaches to museums and restaurants. Check out the Patuxent Naval Air Museum, Sotterley Plantation or Piney Point Lighthouse.

For lunch, head to the campus of St. Mary's College or, for a good sandwich; stop by St. James Deli or St. Inigoes Store. Courtney's is a popular seafood restaurant.

Details on St. Mary's City

Distance from Annapolis: 1 ½ hours

St. Mary's City
Historic St. Mary's Visitor's Center, 18751 Hogaboom Lane

Patuxent River Naval Air Museum
22156 Three Notch Road
Lexington Park

Sotterley Plantation
44300 Sotterley Lane, Hollywood

Piney Point Lighthouse
44720 Lighthouse Road, Piney Point

St. James Deli
19343 Three Notch Rd, Lexington Park

St. Inigoes General Store
15094 Point Lookout Rd, St. Inigoes

Courtney's Seafood Restaurant
48290 State Hwy 252, Ridge

Click next below for a day trip to Mount Vernon, VA

day trips mount vernon2WMount Vernon, VA

History comes alive at Mount Vernon, home of the nation's first president. The 50-acre estate includes a working farm with animals, 12 outbuildings, a museum and education center with a hands-on history room where children can try on Colonial costumes and create crafts.

"Children age 4 and above would get the most out of this trip, although I did watch a group of 3-year-olds roll down the hill on the estate the other day," says Melissa Wood, public relations specialist for Mount Vernon. "Our biggest complaint is that people do not realize how much there is to see and do here. A little advanced planning will help parents get the most out of their visit."

Wood advises parents use the website or the Mount Vernon app (available on iTunes) to plan a visit. Grab lunch on the property at Mount Vernon Inn.

Details on Mount Vernon

Distance from Annapolis: 1 hour

Mount Vernon website
3200 Mount Vernon Hwy.

Click next below for a day trip to Havre de Grace, MD

day tripsHavredegraceWHavre de Grace, MD

Head north on Interstate 95 and you'll find Havre de Grace, a quaint town situated at the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River. This tinier, humbler version of Annapolis has plenty of history, from the story of Captain John Smith discovering the town and General Lafayette naming it Havre de Grace (harbor of Grace) to the storming of Havre de Grace by British troops during the War of 1812.

"There are so many layers of history, and Havre de Grace has gone from a commerce town to a tourist destination," says Brigitte Peters, tourism director for Havre de Grace.

Visit the Lockhouse Museum, Concord Point Lighthouse and the Decoy Museum to learn more about the history and culture of Havre de Grace. Walk along the promenade, built (and rebuilt after Hurricane Floyd) at the edge of the bay; burn off steam at the playground; and picnic at the nearby park.

In the past decade Havre de Grace's downtown has been rejuvenated with plenty of shops, restaurants and special events. For great seafood and an excellent view, head to Tidewater Grille and MacGregor's Restaurant, or hang with the locals at Coakley's Pub.

Details on Havre de Grace

Distance from Annapolis: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Explore Havre de Grade website
Susquehanna Museum at the Lockhouse
817 Conesteo St.

Concord Point Lighthouse
700 Concord St.

Havre de Grace Decoy Museum
215 Giles St.

Coakley's Pub
406 St. John St.

MacGregor's Restaurant
331 St. John St.

Tidewater Grille
300 Franklin St.

Click next below for a day trip in Annapolis, MD

DayTripsAnnapolisAnnapolis. MD

You don't have to look far to find a great day trip. Annapolis offers Naval Academy and State House tours as well as adorable shops and cafes downtown. Stop by Chick and Ruth's Delly around 8:30 a.m. on a weekday to recite the Pledge of Allegiance with the owner and share a 6-pound colossal milk shake.

Hop aboard the "Sea Gypsy" for a pirate adventure on the Chesapeake; explore the William Paca House gardens or go canoeing at Quiet Waters Park. Tour the city by Segway with a Colonial guide or on the circular trolley. Enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Dry Dock Restaurant at the Naval Academy or gobble a few scoops from the Annapolis Ice Cream Company, which makes its own ice cream.

"Often times when people live in the area, they don't always explore it like they would if they lived in another town," says Susan Steckman, vice president of communications for the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference Center and Visitors Bureau.

"There's such a spectrum of family-friendly things to do in Annapolis. It's such a walkable town. They can drive into town and park the car and spend the day on foot exploring."

Details on Annapolis

Distance from Annapolis: It's right here!


Chick & Ruth's Delly
165 Main St.

Quiet Waters Park
600 Quiet Waters Park Rd.

Sea Gypsy
311 3rd St.

William Paca House
186 Prince George St.