Taking a road trip from New York to Washington, D.C. gives you the chance to visit some of the most impressive cities and see some of the most fascinating sights on the East Coast. Since the drive itself is relatively short, following Interstate 95 the entire way, you can choose to complete this road trip in a single day or stay overnight along the way to pack in even more adventure. Here's how to structure the ultimate road trip from New York to Washington, D.C. Make sure you are prepared before heading out with our checklist of road trip essentials.
Drive time from New York to Washington, D.C.: Approximately 5 hours
Distance from New York to Washington, D.C.: Approximately 225 miles
Best car for this road trip: Intermediate SUV
You could spend a month in the Big Apple and not do everything there is to see. Pick out a few highlights and pay them a visit before you hit the road. If you’ve never been before, tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are a must along with a trip to the top of the Empire State Building.
If you’ve been around the block to the tourist stops before, check out a comedy show at the Comedy Cellar or Upright Citizens Brigade East. Another suggestion is to walk the High Line on the West Side of Manhattan and then chow down on some grub from the various food merchants in Chelsea Market. It may be hard to do, but eventually, you’ll have to pry yourself away from the city and start the trip. Before revving up the engine and getting on the open road, stock up on plenty of water, coffee and quintessential New York snacks, like a cronut from Manhattan's Dominique Ansel Bakery, to keep you fueled along the way.
To get out of the city, hop on Interstate 78 West and enter the Holland Tunnel. When you emerge on the other side, you'll be in New Jersey. Look for signs for Interstate 95 South, which is also the New Jersey Turnpike. You'll be on the turnpike for about 95 miles, so go ahead and get comfortable. If you need to pull over to stretch your legs, keep an eye out for one of the turnpike's travel plazas, named for prominent New Jersey residents throughout history. Additionally, you’ll find unique stops along the way such as the World’s Largest Light Bulb and the Bamboo Forest.
If you drive straight through, you'll be in Philadelphia in about one and a half hours. Keep an eye out for signs for Interstate 676 West, which will take you to the center of the city. Philadelphia is packed with historical sights, but if you're short on time, you should at least make a stop at Independence National Historical Park, home to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. If you choose to stay for the rest of the day, follow in Rocky's footsteps and run to the top of the stairs in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Grab a Philly cheesesteak for lunch at a classic spot like Pat's King of Steaks or Geno's Steaks, located across the street from each other in South Philadelphia. Why not grab both, and settle the rivalry once and for all, at least in your own opinion. Another great spot to check out is the Reading Terminal Market. The market is a bevy of food merchants slinging some of the best cuisines in all the city.
Whether you stayed for only a few hours or spending the night, your next move is to hit the road and drive toward Baltimore. You'll want to get back on Interstate 676 East and follow signs for Interstate 95 South.
After 90 miles or about an hour and a half, you'll be getting close to Baltimore. Keep an eye out for signs for U.S. Highway 40 West, which will take you right to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Here, you'll find Baltimore's most prominent attractions, like Camden Yard, the USS Constellation and the National Aquarium.
If you're feeling artsy, consider a visit to one of Baltimore's fabulous museums. You'll find world-class art at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum, and you'll spot plenty of unusual finds at the American Visionary Art Museum. Get a couple of famous, Baltimore-style crab cakes from Faidley's in Lexington Market before getting back on the road again.
To reach the nation's capital, take Maryland Highway 295 South to U.S. Highway 50. Continue onto New York Avenue Northeast, and you'll be in Washington, D.C. in just over an hour. Park your car at your hotel and get ready to explore. Depending on where you park, Washington, D.C. is one of the most enjoyable cities to walk through, just be sure to have you walking shoes.
Whether it's your first time or your 10th time in Washington, D.C., you'll want to visit the National Mall. Here, you'll find the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, several Smithsonian museums, and plenty of free attractions. Even if you just want to stretch your legs and take it all in, the National Mall offers 146 acres of space to walk and sightsee at your own pace.
Swing by your senator’s office and request a pass to the Senate Gallery if they’re in session. Also, check out the Supreme Court’s schedule, you may get the opportunity to sit in on oral arguments concerning some of our country’s most important cases.
With all the walking and sightseeing you’ll be doing, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Treat yourself to a half-smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl before turning in for the evening.
There's plenty more to see in the Washington, D.C. area, so don't hesitate to extend your road trip for another day or two. Hang on to your rental and travel around to dig into DC's food scene, visit the U.S. Capitol or head to Alexandria, Virginia, for even more American history.