Yes, spring has finally sprung and wanderlust has likely set in, but that doesn't mean you need to fly from Balto to Bora Bora to tame your travel bug. The beauty of living in the Mid-Atlantic is that when you get the urge for a road trip, nothing beats our own environs for exploration. Whether you want to go spelunking at Luray Caverns, peer into Einstein's brain, or take a pub crawl through Annapolis, consider an excursion to one of these locales—all less than 135 miles or so from Charm City.
Billy Goat Trail (Potomac, 48 miles).
Why Go: Just beyond all the Hill-top hubbub of Washington, D.C., this regional retreat brims with natural beauty. Here, the Potomac River snakes between Maryland and Virginia, serving as a billowing borderline between the states. On the Maryland side, weave your way through Montgomery County's great outdoors with a web of trails in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park. From hard hikes to mild meanders, take it easy on the C&O Canal towpath or test yourself on the rugged Billy Goat Trail, a 4.7-mile loop divided into scenic sections of varying difficulty. Life's short, so we recommend the latter. Don't Miss: The protected paths boast incredible views of the Potomac River and Mather Gorge and access to the Great Falls Overlook. Trip Tip: Find Billy Goat trailheads along the Clara Barton Parkway, including Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. 11710 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, 301-767-3714
Dover International Speedway (Dover, DE, 94 miles).
Why Go: If you love things that go vroom, you don't have to drive all the way to Daytona. Simply ride over to the Dover International Speedway, where, on spring and fall race weekends, the 95,500-seat stadium fills with roaring fans and riveting racecars. Don't Miss: The big NASCAR races—the XFINITY and Sprint Cup Series—fire up their engines May 29 through 31, but beyond the main motorsport events, there's plenty to do, including test-driving a racecar of your own. You can also head to The Woodlands, 150-plus acres of forested grounds for mega-music festivals, including Firefly, whose talent this year includes Paul McCartney and the Kings of Leon, and the inaugural Big Barrel Country Music Festival, with country superstars like Carrie Underwood. Trip Tip: Plan ahead for heavy traffic on race weekends. 1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, DE, 302-883-6500
Luray Caverns (Luray, VA, 131 miles).
Why Go: At the turn of the 20th century, the town tinsmith and a few country cronies were looking for a cave in the Shenandoah Valley when they stumbled upon a geological gem beyond their wildest dreams. It was a milky, melting underworld, with 10-story ceilings dripping in tapering stalactites and a Martian desert floor studded with towering stalagmites. Their discovery, now a U.S. Natural Landmark, was more than 400 million years in the making, and is the largest conglomeration of caverns in the American East, still growing one cubic inch every 120 years. Don't Miss: The main event is Giant's Hall, cathedral-sized chambers of stone castles that look like Indiana Jones booby traps, but there are other must-do wonders, like the optical illusion of Dream Lake and the haunting, symphonic sounds of the Stalacpipe Organ. Trip Tip: There's just as much above-ground beauty in this lush valley as there is below. Located along the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling hills are dotted with cozy towns, serpentine byways, and breathtaking overlooks. 101 Cave Hill Rd., Luray, VA, 540-743-6551
If you love things that go vroom, you don't have to drive all the way to Daytona.
Skydive Delmarva (Laurel, DE, 105 miles).
Why Go: Skydive Delmarva instructors are complete pros. They've logged thousands of jumps and provide the proper encouragement needed for you to take a leap. If you focus on that and the sweeping scenery of farms, forests, and the Chesapeake Bay, you'll forget all about that pit in the middle of your stomach. Plus, everything always looks better—even the Indian River PowerPlant—from 13,500 feet up. Best endorsement? Delaware state Senator Brian Pettyjohn flew with them last summer. Don't Miss: Keep your eyes open: The aerial view of Maryland's coastline is breathtaking. Trip Tip: Splurge on the $110 video, since we're guessing this will be a one-and-done on the old bucket list. And if the videographer happens to miss your initial jump, the video is free. (Just trust us on this one.) 32524 Aero Dr., Laurel, DE, 888-875-3540
Theodore Roosevelt Island (Washington, D.C., 44 miles).
Why Go: Take a walk on the wild side at this 89-acre wilderness preserve that serves as a living tribute to the nation's nature-loving 26th President. Miles of trails through swamps, marshes, and upland forests rife with rabbits and raccoons will make you marvel that you're in the middle of the Potomac River. Don't Miss: Pay homage at the 17-foot statue of Roosevelt in the northern center of the island, where four 21-foot tablets are inscribed with his conservation philosophy. Another way to show your respect: There's an annual family-friendly birthday celebration for Teddy (Oct. 24 this year), including physical tests of strength. (Roosevelt was fitness-obsessed and kept records on how fast he could run and how high he could jump.) Trip Tip: To add to the fun, rent a canoe and paddle over from Thompson Boat Center on Virginia Ave. Word to the wise: Parking spots for cars go fast. Washington, D.C., 703-289-2500.
Chesapeake City (Chesapeake City, 63 miles).
Why Go: Escape the bright lights and big city and go revel in the simple pleasures of a small town. Chesapeake City feels like a world away—a quintessential, Eastern Shore whistle stop with historic houses, antique shops, and brackish tides that lap up and lick at the tiny town's edge. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the city sits beside the C&D Canal, tucked beneath a suspension bridge. It's not much bigger today than it was back then (current population: 688), and many of the old buildings still stand, albeit with a fresh coat of paint. Don't Miss: Learn about the waterway and its coastal community at the C&D Canal Museum or watch the sunset with Miss Clare Cruises. On land, partake in waterfront fine dining at the historic Bayard House, raw bar beauties at Chesapeake Inn, or crab feasts and cheap beers at Tap Room Crabhouse. Trip Tip: Tour nearby Mount Harmon Plantation, an early 17th-century waterfront manor set on 200 acres of former tobacco farmland. Route 213, Cecil County.
Georgetown (Washington, D.C., 40 miles).
Why Go: Sometimes in the bubble of Baltimore, we forget about our next-door neighbor, D.C. Beat the throngs of Capitol Hill tourists and make your way to Georgetown for 18th-century architecture, historic homes, red brick sidewalks, and a scenic waterfront. But don't let the Colonial charm fool you: Georgetown is a hip and happening 'hood, with great shopping, incredible eats, and a nightlife scene that includes lots of live music. Don't Miss: After you've perused the Georgetown Flea Market, the string of stores along M Street, and various vintage and antique shops, treat yourself to a taste of the district's world-class culinary scene. Restaurants for every palate and paycheck abound—date-night fine dining (Bourbon Steak, Chez Billy Sud); above-average pub grub (Martin's Tavern, The Tombs); playful comfort food (Luke's Lobster, Thunder Burger); and, of course, cupcakes. Trip Tip: For Instagram-worthy tourist attractions, climb the iconic Exorcist steps from the 1970s horror film at 36th and M Streets, or stroll between the landmark homes and haunts of Jackie O and JFK. Washington, D.C., 202-298-9222.