Driving from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.
Take a road trip from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., and you'll be driving from the nation's first capital to the current one. The drive is relatively short, stretching for approximately 140 miles and lasting about two and a half hours. However, the trip is packed with plenty of exciting attractions and lots of historically significant stops. Discover all of the entertaining things you can see and do if you take a road trip between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Before you head out, prepare for the open road with our checklist of road trip essentials.
Drive Time from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.: approximately 2 hours and 30 mins
Distance from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.: approximately 140 miles
Best Car for this Trip: Compact SUV
As the largest city in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia offers plenty to see and do. If you're interested in American history, the city is vibrant with early-America attractions. Head to Independence Hall and see where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both debated and signed. You can even see an original draft of the Constitution and the original inkstand where the men signed the Declaration of Independence. You'll find the Liberty Bell directly across the street from Independence Hall. You can view this iconic bell, learn more about its crack and discover all the interesting facts about its history.
If you want to get some shopping done before you head out on the road, stop by Reading Terminal Market. This indoor farmers' market is one of the largest and oldest in the country. You can find housewares, gifts, books and flowers. If you want some food for the road, you can get snacks, baked goods, exotic produce, confections and the famous Philly cheesesteak sandwich.
Once you’ve finished exploring Philadelphia, it's time to head out on your road trip. The first part of your adventure will take you about 32 miles or approximately 38 minutes down Interstate 95 South to Wilmington, Delaware. Wilmington is a historic city full of old-American charm. To see some of the beauty of the area, consider taking a tour of the Nemours Mansion and Gardens. Alfred I. du Pont built this 300-acre country estate in 1909. During the tour, you'll see rare antiques, artwork, furniture and the landscaped gardens.
To enjoy more of downtown Wilmington, take a stroll along the lovely 1.3-mile Wilmington Riverfront. This scenic walking trail follows the Christina River through the heart of Wilmington and offers something for everyone. When you're hungry, you'll find everything from local brewpubs to farm-to-table restaurants. For a unique treat, stop by Philippine Smoked BBQ & Grill. This joint is making mouth-watering BBQ, but with Philippine influences throughout each dish.
There's also an excellent variety of shopping, museums and theaters, perfect for eating up the late morning and early afternoon. Or, you can just kick back and relax at one of the several open green spaces.
After exploring Wilmington, continue your journey down Interstate 95 for just over an hour and about 70 miles to reach Baltimore, Maryland. One of the most visited attractions in Baltimore is the Inner Harbor. Head to the National Aquarium to see sharks, turtles, amphibians, invertebrates and more. There are nearly 20,000 animals to see throughout the aquarium, so give yourself some time. For an incredible view of the area, go to the Top of the World Observation Level. You can also check out the great selection of entertainment venues, restaurants and shopping destinations throughout Baltimore.
If you start to get some hunger pains, you should look for a restaurant featuring one of Baltimore’s iconic dishes. From their famous Old Bay Seasoning and crab cakes to snowballs and pit beef, Baltimore is a food haven for those looking to try regional specialties.
For history lovers, Baltimore also offers some excellent spots worth seeing. Venture out to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine and learn about the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner." After that, head to the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House to see where Mary Pickersgill sewed the flag that inspired Key to write.
4. Washington, D.C.
The final stretch of your road trip takes you down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway for 38 miles and about 50 minutes into Washington, D.C. With so many historic buildings and monuments, you'll never run out of things to do and see here. The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial, and Thomas Jefferson Memorial are some of the most famous and picturesque spots in the city. Another popular destination is the Smithsonian Institution, which offers museums that focus on history, art, culture, and more, and nearly all are completely free to enter.
Not far from the National Mall is the Newseum. This unique museum focuses on the contributions from journalists and news agencies. Exhibits explore journalisms impact on our lives and politics throughout the history of our country.
If you’re looking to explore some other areas, trek on over to Georgetown. You’ll find streets lined with restaurants and shops worth exploring. Furthermore, you can jaunt through Georgetown University.
Depending on the time of year you visit our nation’s capital, you may get a chance to see its famous Cherry Blossoms dotting the landscape. Peak bloom date adjusts year to year, so check with the city website to find the best times to view the blossoms.
At some point throughout your stay in D.C., you’ll want to grab some grub. G by Mike Isabella is an Italian spot from the Top Chef alum with the same namesake. The Sunday gravy dinner is a lesson in Italian-American culture. Sticking true to its cultural roots, G’s Sunday gravy dinner is more food than should ever be presented to a human, and it’s all delicious.
No matter what your interests are, you'll find something special to do during your road trip between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. And, when you’ve finished your journey, you can easily return your one-way car rental by following the return instructions found in your rental agreement.
Philadelphia to Washington DC FAQs
What's Philadelphia famous for?
Philadelphia is a very historical city. Important events such as the writing of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence have taken place here. The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are located in Philadelphia as well. This city is also known for things like Philly Cheesesteak, the famous scene from the film Rocky, and several sports teams.
What can kids do in Baltimore?
Baltimore is full of fun attractions that kids and adults alike will enjoy, such as:
- - Plumpton Park Zoo, full of mammals, birds, and reptiles, many of which have been rescued.
- - National Aquarium, with neatly 20,000 animals including sharks, dolphins, and puffins.
- - Port Discovery Children's Museum, which includes a studio workshop, a water play area, and a sensory wall.
What is free in DC?
One great thing about visiting Washington DC is that they have a plethora of free things to do, including:
- - U.S. Capitol Building
- - Library of Congress
- - National Mall
- - Smithsonian Museum
- - National Archives Building
- - National Gallery of Art
Check out Washington.org for more free attractions.