Convenient Winter Break Getaways in the DC Area

Published on December 26, 2019 - Updated on December 26, 2019

Convenient Winter Break Getaways in the DC Area

Leading up to the holiday season, most of us barely have time to recall what life was like when free time was a thing before kids. Especially in a year with one less week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it feels particularly crunched.

To be honest, at our house, we don’t like to commit to any vacations over Christmas break beyond a trip to visit our family, because we don’t want to spend what little precious free-time that we have, just to plan it.

For that reason - after the tree is decorated, the shopping is done, holiday traditions are complete, we’ve all fallen asleep in front of the obligatory holiday movies, and have sufficiently oohed and ahead at the festive lights - we invariably find ourselves wondering “Now, what are we going to do for the rest of the break?”

If this sounds all too familiar, we have you covered! Here are some team-approved suggestions for a one or two day skip-out-of-town road trip with your family:

Road Tripping to Philly

Book a night at the AKA University City and get to Philadelphia early to explore Please Touch Museum and grab lunch before checking into the hotel and take the kids for a swim in the pool.

A little before nightfall make your way over to The Philadelphia Zoo for LumiNature, which is in the spirit of our familiar ZooLights. Grab dinner at Distrito which is less than a mile from the hotel.

The next morning head to Schuylkill River Trail (about half a mile from the hotel, on the other side of the Schuylkill River) for some fresh air and exercise before checking out at the hotel and exploring Christmas Village in LOVE Park. Admission is free and there is much to see and do, including the Rothman Orthopaedics Rink for ice skating out the energy so the kids will be ready to relax for the drive home.

Check out a map depicting your agenda.

Book an Adventure for the Kids in Dutch Country

Book a hotel room at Hershey Park (The Hotel Hershey or Hershey Lodge are included in the package below).

Start your journey with a visit to Indian Echo Caverns, which are open seven days a week. The caves are always 52 degrees, and they are also a sensible rainy day activity, so no need to check the weather.

After you’ve experienced the natural beauty at Echo Dell, make your way to your hotel and prepare to head back out the Hershey Park’s Sweet Lights, where beginning at 5 pm you can drive through two wooded miles illuminated with over 600 light displays.

Grab a bite to eat and get to bed so you can get some time at Hershey Park and possibly also check out Zoo America in the afternoon before heading home.

If you are willing to commit to a package, Hershey Park’s Sweet Lights, park entry and a hotel room at one of Hershey’s two options are included in the Christmas Candylane Package available on their website.

Access to a curated local map.

Echo Caverns: 368 Middletown Road, Hummelstown, PA (717) 566-8131

Hershey Park: 100 Hershey Park Drive, Hershey, PA (800) 437-7439

Zoo America: 201 Park Avenue, Hershey, PA (717) 534-3391

The Hotel Hershey: 100 Hotel Road, Hershey, PA (717) 533-2171

Hotel Lodge: 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA (717) 533-3311

Explore Annapolis and Enjoy the Holiday Lights

Annapolis is only 40 miles away from Washington, DC but it always feels like a world away.

Pack a picnic and head to the Naval Academy to immerse yourself in the beauty of the grounds and enjoy the views of the Severn River.

Elevate the experience by teaching the kiddos an appreciation for all those who serve our country. In the season of giving and gratitude, maybe encourage them to personally thank a sailor for his/her service.

Next, wander through historic downtown Annapolis for a little ice cream and shopping and then burn some energy at the playground at Turner Park.

Next, drive to Sandy Point State Park and catch the sunset from the beach. Once darkness sinks in, bring the car through Lights on the Bay ($20/car), a 2 mile long scenic drive along the Chesapeake Bay featuring a light display.

Follow this festive show up with dinner at the well-known Cantlers Riverside Inn for your Maryland Crab fix, before heading back home.

Map of Annapolis

United States Naval Academy: 121 Blake Road, Annapolis, MD (410) 293-1000

Downtown Annapolis, MD: Main Street, Annapolis, MD

Turner Park: 299 Chester Avenue, Annapolis, MD

Sandy Point State Park: 1100 East College Parkway, Annapolis, MD (410) 974-2149

Cantler’s Riverside Inn: 458 Forest Beach Road, Annapolis, MD (410) 757-1311

Treat Yourself at The Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg, VA

While this is a pricier option -in our opinion- it’s worth every penny. This incredible getaway feels like you're in another world. Calm sets in near the end of the 46 mile drive, as you encounter the sweet towns and farms of Middleburg, Virginia.

At The Salamander all amenities are top-notch and well kept - including the beds, linens, and spa-like shower - for families, the option for both indoor and outdoor pools is ideal. We also love the assortment of lawn games (large chess boards, fire pits, frisbee golf, and basketball court) they made available to guests.

Many of the extra activities are at an extra cost, so it's worth planning ahead and set a budget so you don't experience sticker shock after signing up with horseback riding, golf, archery, and so many other wonderful activities that are -not included- with the price of the room.

Salamander Resort: 500 North Pendleton St., Middleburg, VA (844) 303-2723

Meander Down to Charlottesville, VA, a 2 and a Half Hour Drive Away

The Omni Hotel Charlottesville is an ideal basecamp for a couple of days in this lovely city town. There are endless ways to spend your time in the area, but we have narrowed our selections to create a convenient, relaxing getaway from DC.

Upon arrival into town, grab some lunch at Bodo’s Bagels for inexpensive sandwiches, bagels, coffee for mom/dad and a potty stop for the kids. Get the food to go and then take the kids to McGuffey Park for some fresh air and some playtime after the 2 and a half hour car ride. Following your picnic lunch, head over to the nearby Virginia Discovery Museum located about a half mile from the park.

This museum is designed with kids from newborn to age 8 in mind, so it’s the perfect option if you have younger kids in tow. Plan for a couple of hours at the museum, then wander over to Splendora’s Gelato for a delicious sweet treat.

Head back to the hotel for a swim, and a little relaxation, before going to El Puerto for dinner - just a mile and a half from the Omni Hotel - El Puerto has delicious Mexican cuisine with a memorable kid’s menu offering both authentic Mexican fare and pub food classics like chicken fingers and hot dogs for your less adventurous eaters.

The next morning, after some much-earned rest, grab a bite on the Mall and head to James Madison’s Montpelier, well located as you head back to the DC area.

By the way, kids are free at Montpelier from December 26th-January 1st so the timing of this Christmas break trip is the perfect time to check out this must-see, famous presidential estate during a relatively low-season price before it closes for it’s annual restoration for more than two weeks, starting on the 2nd of January, 2020.

The Omni Charlottesville Hotel: 212 Ridge McIntire Road, Charlottesville, VA (434) 971-5500

Bodo’s Bagels: 505 Preston Avenue, Charlottesville, VA (434) 293-5224

McGuffey Park: 201 2nd Street NW Charlottesville, VA

Virginia Discovery Museum: 524 E. Main Street, Charlottesville, VA (434) 977-1025

Splendora’s Gelato: 317 E. Main Street, Charlottesville, VA (434) 296-8555

El Puerto: 2045 Barracks Row, Charlottesville, VA (434) 872-9488

Montpelier: 11350 Constitution Highway, Montpelier Station, VA (540) 672-2728

‘Staycation’ with a Day Trip to Baltimore, MD, A Quick Hour Drive Away

According to our Baltimore Ambassador, Katie Raspa, Port Discovery Children’s Museum should be number one on your list if you haven’t been there yet. The museum is huge and we recommend that you check out the Studio Exhibit, The Oasis and the Wonders of Water - in that order - and your kids will likely get wet (despite the raincoats and water shoes) so it’s smart to have an extra set of clothes on hand.

After exploring Port Discovery, head to Alexander’s Tavern is nearby for a late lunch. Keep in mind that the museum validates parking at the Harbor Garage, so take advantage of that convenience.

A short walk from Alexander’s is the Thames Street Park, where your whole family can burn some energy before heading back into the heart of Fell’s Point for a sweet treat to polish off a perfect day for your little ones, give yourself a sugar boost for the ride home. Don’t forget a bathroom stop before getting back on the road.

Port Discovery Children’s Museum: 35 Market Place, Baltimore, MD (410) 727-8120

Alexander’s Tavern: 710 S. Broadway, Baltimore, MD (410) 522-0000

Thames Street Park: 1300 Thames Street, Baltimore, MD (Corner of Wolfe & Thames)

Seek Out Holiday Lights in Brooklyn, NY , 4 and a Half Hours By Car

Life, locals, and tourists move fast in Brooklyn, so check out what is available, consider your price range, and when you do decide to book, move fast.

In terms of location for this game plan, The Brooklyn Way Hotel is a closer trek back from your evening activity, but the wellness spot EVEN Hotel or The Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge are more accessible for the rest of your agenda. However, there are many options to choose from.

Assuming you arrive in the early afternoon, check out the play areas at Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, or take a look at the app for something closer to your chosen hotel. If you have time after some fresh air, stop at The New York Transit Museum and then head to two8two Burger and Bar for a casual dinner close by.

Once the sun begins to set, head south to the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights for a spectacular display that has become a popular New York attraction over the holidays. From 11th-13th Avenues and 83rd to 86th Streets, the lights are breathtaking.

You can search Brooklyn Christmas Light guides online or there are guided tours that run about $50-55 for adults and $40-45 for children under 12, but they last about three and a half hours, so depending on how you look at it, it’s either more time than you’re willing to commit - or a decent deal considering it’s a fun jaunt to NYC!

When you wake up, fully satiated by seasonal lights for perhaps the next 11 months, grab a bite at Le Pain Quotidien on Montague and take a run on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Make your way back to the hotel to shower and check out, and then move on to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for a few hours before heading out of the city until next time.

Pier Six at Brooklyn Bridge Park: 334 Furman Street, Brooklyn, NY

The New York Transit Museum: 99 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY (718) 694-1600

Two8two Bar and Burger: 282 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY (718) 596-2282

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights: 8515 12th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Le Pain Quotidien: 121 Montague Street, Brooklyn, NY (718) 858-3078

Brooklyn Heights Promenade: Montague Street & Pierrepont Place, Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn Children’s Museum: 145 Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn, NY (718) 735-4400

There are so many exciting possibilities this weekend and on, so in addition to our Weekend Roundup, check out our list of creative places to see Santa this weekend, our Holiday Season Bucket List, our Favorite Warm Weather Getaways and as always, please share your family’s highlights by tagging us on Instagram @gethappyly

The app is constantly growing, so download for fast access to our weekend roundups, frequent blog content and all of our favorite activities, both locally and in many of our favorite communities and travel destinations across the country. Allow us to help you spend less time planning and more time playing, and always remember to create a great day!

Thoughtfully captured by:
Randi Banks
Randi (Betts) Banks grew up in New York and graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. She moved to Washington, D.C. more than thirteen years ago with her husband, Eaghmon, and they love to explore the area and seek out adventure, now with their two young children along for the ride. Growing up right near the beach, they are happiest when on or near the water, so exploring the rivers, lakes, and streams in the greater DC area is a favorite pastime for their family. In addition to serving as one of the Washington, DC area ambassadors, Randi is also the Editor in Chief and Co-founder of happyly.
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