Road Trip from Washington DC to NYC
Washington, D.C. is the perfect city to start a road trip from. Not only does the nation's capital provide plenty of entertainment and adventure from the get-go, but its central location along the East Coast also opens up many cities as potential road trip destinations. What better city is there to travel to than New York City. There are so many East Coast highlights along the way that you can craft nearly any type of getaway as you make your way toward the Big Apple. Try this intriguing itinerary for some added fun on the way to NYC. Be prepared for the open road by visiting our checklist of road trip essentials.
Drive Time from Washington DC to New York City: approximately 4 hours
Distance from Washington DC to New York City: approximately 225 miles
Best car for this trip: Full-Size Car Rental
1. Washington, DC
Incredible history, spectacular restaurants and photo opportunities around every corner, Washington, D.C. is a beautiful place to spend a couple of days exploring before venturing on your journey.
The National Mall is a must-see for any first-time visitors. Take in the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, The Washington Monument, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and many Smithsonian museums, all walkable from each other for a day full of enlightenment.
All that walking will undoubtedly get your appetite going. World-class chef Jose Andres’ restaurant, Jaleo, is a small-plates, Spanish tapas establishment that serves playful fair and never takes itself too seriously. Don't let that attitude mislead you though; the food is impeccable.
Looking for something a little more low-key and relaxing? Head over to Georgetown and do a little shopping and relaxing on the riverfront.
Day 1: The drive from Washington, DC to Baltimore covers 38.5 miles in about an hour via the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and MD-295. It’s tough to get going on a road trip without a little grub, so swing by a District Taco location and pick up a few breakfast tacos for the road before making the short trek to Baltimore.
In Baltimore, you can take in top highlights like The National Aquarium, B&O Railroad Museum, and Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. The city is also filled with historical significance and sites to see. Step back to the 19th century with a visit to the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House.
Did you get your fill of history in DC? Children will love the Port Discovery Children's Museum, which offers a terrific opportunity for them to get out of the car and stretch their legs as they explore hands-on exhibits. For something a little out of the ordinary, check out the American Visionary Art Museum, featuring works by self-taught artists. Many of Baltimore's attractions are found in the Inner Harbor but don't be afraid to venture out to other areas of the city.
After a morning filled with exploring the city’s best attractions, you’d be doing yourself and your family a favor if you grabbed some crab cakes for lunch. Others may come close, but you probably won’t find better crab cakes than the ones at Pappas.
3. Wilmington, DE
From Baltimore, take the quick trip to Wilmington via I-95. You'll cover over 75 miles in an hour and 15 minutes on the way to this picturesque city in the Brandywine Valley.
This city is a prime destination for art enthusiasts, with attractions like the Brandywine River Museum of Art, The Delaware Art Museum, and The Delaware Contemporary, Delaware’s only museum dedicated to Contemporary Arts. Make sure you visit the Brandywine Zoo, home to burrowing owls, golden lion tamarins, and capybara.
Wilmington will be your stop for the night, so make your way to your hotel, recharge and head out for dinner. Swing by 8th and Union Kitchen for gastropub fare that excels at a little bit of everything. You can get a bowl of pho, Peruvian shrimp tacos, or even Moroccan chicken. Whatever you’re craving, 8th and Union Kitchen can likely accommodate.
Day 2: Just 33 miles from Wilmington on I-95, you'll find Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. This city is a must-see for history buffs. If you're fascinated by America's past, plan plenty of time to explore highlights like the Liberty Bell Center, National Constitution Center, and Independence National Historical Park. Independence Hall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can see the inkstand used to sign the Declaration of Independence and the Assembly Room set up just as it was for the Constitutional Convention.
Other essential "must do's" include walking and eating around the Reading Terminal Market, South 9th Street Italian Market, Capitolo Playground and eating Philly cheesesteaks from Geno’s or Pats…Enjoy a hearty lunch and see some of the city’s best offerings on foot before finishing the last leg of the drive to New York City.
5. New York City
The last stretch of highway is the longest but still comes in under two hours, covering 94 miles via I-95. If you’ve been to New York before, you’ll know what to expect, but if this is your first time, get ready for a sensory overload. It’s best to take a minute to adjust to the hustle and bustle of the city and the constant bombardment of stimuli your system will receive.
You can follow up on your history lesson from Philadelphia with a visit to the Statue of Liberty and New York Historical Society on arrival, or extend your art-themed road trip with visits to the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Art Museum. Central Park is a crowd favorite, and if astronomy is your thing, the Hayden Planetarium at the Natural History Museum is a neat stop to explore. For a grand view of the Manhattan skyline during the day or at night, take the free commuter Staten Island Ferry which runs 24 hours a day.
These attractions are just a small sample of New York's many adventures. Professional sports, Broadway, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, 5th Avenue shopping, Empire State Building, Times Square, and so much more fill the city with something to do around every turn.
And don’t forget about the pizza. New York Style pizza is the best in the world and Joe’s Pizza, a few blocks from Washington Square, is top notch. Order fast, eat it hot and perfect the art of the fold.
Whatever you're looking for, New York City is a final destination that's sure to deliver something for everyone.
Washington DC to NYC FAQs
What are some "must-sees" in Baltimore?
You can't visit Baltimore without walking through the Inner Harbor, which offers great views of the city and is home to several must-see attractions. Take the kids to the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, or Port Discovery. Enjoy a tour of the 19th-century USS Constellation, Located in the Inner Harbor.
History buffs won't want to miss touring the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, which is said to be Francis Scott Key’s inspiration to write the national anthem. Baseball fans should book a 90-minute stadium tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, while literature enthusiasts can visit the spooky Edgar Allen Poe House and Museum.
Where can I find the best crab cakes in Baltimore?
You can find this local specialty at countless restaurants and waterfront shacks, but make sure you sample the best.
For a quick bite near the Inner Harbor, head to Faidley Seafood, which has topped the crab cake charts in Baltimore for over a century. For a little local flavor, head to Ocean Pride Seafood, a Charm City Favorite that's been in the seafood business for over 40 years. For an upscale experience with a side of culture, dig into the signature crab cakes at Gertrude's in the Baltimore Museum of Art.
What should I see in Wilmington?
From museums to state parks, you'll find so much to do in Wilmington. To learn about the city's history, visit the Hagley Museum and Library, a National Historic Landmark with plenty to explore inside and out. For the city's best cultural experiences, visit the Nemours Mansion and Gardens, a stunning historic home with gorgeous formal French gardens, or the Delaware Art Museum, which focuses on American art from the 19th century to the present.
Get outside and stretch your legs along the Wilmington Riverwalk, where you'll find countless restaurants and cafés. For more hiking and adventuring, spend an hour or two exploring Bellevue State Park, located on the north side of the city.
Are there local dishes I should try in Wilmington?
You’ll find plenty of delicious local dishes to try in Wilmington. First on your list should be Capriotti's, home of The Bobbie, a sandwich that features turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing.
If you're looking for something with more Southern flair, head to Walt's Flavor Crisp Chicken to sample the fried chicken with a waffle or sides like macaroni and cheese and collard greens. Wash your meal down with an Italian water ice from Fusco's in Wilmington's Little Italy.
Are there routes I should avoid in Pennsylvania?
To avoid paying tolls in Pennsylvania, don't drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Also known as Interstate 76, this route crosses the state from west to east, where it ends in the Philadelphia area. Make a point of taking Interstate 95 as you travel through Pennsylvania.
Where is the Liberty Bell?
You'll find this historic attraction in the Liberty Bell Center, which is in Independence National Historical Park. The center is conveniently located at the corner of 6th and Market Streets, and you'll find the entrance on the north side of the building.
While you do need tickets to visit Independence Hall, you don't need a ticket or a reservation to visit the Liberty Bell Center. Admission is free, and the center is usually open until 5 p.m. every day of the week.
What parks in Philadelphia should I explore with my kids?
From green spaces to amusement areas, Philadelphia has plenty of parks your kids will love. Start your tour in Franklin Square, a historic spot that has two play areas, a mini golf course, and even a vintage carousel in the middle of Center City. For more downtown fun, check out Fairmount Park, which spans over 2,000 acres and includes ample green space, the Philadelphia Zoo, a top-rated playground, and 50 miles of trails to explore.
If your kids are eager to take an outdoor adventure, head to the Morris Arboretum, a 92-acre space packed with gardens, walking trails, interactive exhibitions, and fun extras like a canopy walk. The Schuylkill River Trail also offers activities like kayaking, hiking, and outdoor movies.
Where is the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia?
Ask five Philadelphia locals to point you to the best cheesesteak in town, and you're likely to receive five different answers. For the original cheesesteak, go to Pat's King of Steaks, where the signature sandwich originated in 1930. Across the street, Geno's Steaks is another classic spot that prides itself on its fresh, homemade bread.
For a more contemporary take on this Philly classic, try Steve's Prince of Steaks in Center City or Cleavers in Rittenhouse Square. If you want to treat yourself to a cheesesteak in the center of town, head to Campo's near the Liberty Bell.
Where should I park in New York City?
When you're searching for a parking spot in New York City, always assume that you'll have to pay to park, whether you're on the street, in a lot, or in a garage. Most parking spots have time limits, so make a note of when your time is up to avoid a ticket. If you know exactly where you want to park, save yourself the hassle of looking for a spot and book in advance. Apps like Spot Hero let you reserve and pay for a spot before you even arrive in the city.
Is spring a good time to visit New York City?
Spring is a fantastic time to visit New York City. You'll typically enjoy temperatures in the 50s or 60s, and you'll see flowers and trees bloom throughout town. In the spring, you can also check out annual events like the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Easter Parade, and the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival. Pack an umbrella, as you may experience a rain shower or two.