Capital region USA
By Lauren Jarvis | May 2017 | 7 minute read
There’s plenty to explore in the Capital Region U.S.A., with the diverse states of Maryland and Virginia stretching along the shores of Chesapeake Bay and the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., sitting elegantly at its heart. Hip cities, dazzling beaches, stunning wilderness and a whole lotta history is in store.
“The journeys are all part of the experience in the Capital Region. It’s perfect for a fly-drive, but also great for an RV holiday or motorcycle tour, with plenty of backroads, National Scenic Byways and great train connections – combine Washington and Baltimore with other east-coast cities such as Philadelphia, New York and Boston” ”
CATH PUSEY, PRODUCT DIRECTOR, AMERICA AS YOU LIKE IT
On a roll: Join a Bike And Roll Monuments @ Night Bike Tour and pedal around Washington’s most famous monuments, stunningly lit after dark
Drift away: Nothing beats a gentle canoe, kayak, raft or tube ride along Virginia’s stunning Shenandoah River. Stop for a cooling dip along the way
Stars and stripes: Travel back into U.S. history at Maryland’s Fort McHenry, the coastal garrison that inspired the immortal lines of The Star-Spangled Banner
Go deep: Explore the magical underground world of Virginia’s Luray Caverns to see towering stone columns, cathedral-sized caves, crystal pools and even a musical ‘Stalac-pipe Organ’
Eternal flame: Walk the immaculate grounds and pay your respects to the fallen, including U.S. President John F. Kennedy, at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington
Going on a bear hunt: Take the 105-mile Skyline Drive through Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and look for black bears, bobcats and deer
Stop press: D.C.’s interactive Newseum allows visitors to delve into the big news stories of the past and explore the importance of upholding press freedoms today
Hip Baltimore: Wander Baltimore’s historic-yet-hip Fell’s Point waterfront district to see 18th- and 19th-century homes and indulge in contemporary Chesapeake Bay cuisine
Hit the trail: The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests stretch along Virginia’s wildly beautiful Appalachian Mountains, offering hiking, horse-riding, biking and camping adventures
Say cheers: Explore Maryland via one of the state’s seven wine trails – from Civil War sites in the Antietam Highlands, to beautiful beaches on the Eastern Shore
Many kick off their trip in the now-hip city of Baltimore, or fly straight to Washington to discover iconic monuments like the White House, Michelin-star restaurants and the prestigious Smithsonian Institution, home to some of the best museums and galleries in the world.
Maryland and Virginia both boast miles of beautiful sandy beaches, and exciting opportunities for outdoor adventures, with national parks to hike and bike, plus the mighty Shenandoah, Po-tomac and James rivers which offer a range of pursuits, from stand-up paddle-boarding to whitewater kayaking.
Country roads, take me home, to the place I beloooooong!” There’s something about driving in the U.S. that cries out for a soundtrack, no matter how brief or distant the journey. This one is 105 miles long – and likely feels lengthier for my wingman, gallantly suffering my mangling of this country classic, as we wind our way along the Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park.
But it has to be done. Since I was a kid, the Blue Ridge Mountains have risen majestically in my imagination, above the mystical Shenandoah River, calling me to them in 1970s songs from John Denver to Dolly Parton, until – sometime in my forties – I finally arrive here.
And how perfectly blue they are. As the sun rises to spin its gold over the chestnut, maple and red-oak forests that cover the ridge, the legendary mountains emerge in a haze of indigo waves, rolling timelessly out to the horizon.
The Cherokee referred to their mountain homeland as ‘Shaconage’, or ‘Land of the Blue Smoke’, poetically capturing the scientific effect of hydrocarbons being released from the trees, cloaking them in their mazarine mist.
Driving the Skyline we stop to stomp the Appalachian Trail, climb cascading waterfalls, picnic in the fores, and gaze amazed at berry-munching black bears. At night, we sink sundowners at Skyland Lodge and head to the wide-open space of Big Meadows, where we’re awed and humbled by Shenandoah’s vast, sparkling skies.
Back in the bar, a musician softly sings a familiar song about country roads, rivers and mountains, and Shenandoah begins to feel like home.
What the experts say
“Around 275,000 UK visitors head to the Capital Region U.S.A. each year, staying for an average of eight nights. It’s too early to tell how Brexit and the so-called ‘Trump Slump’ will affect 2017 visitor numbers, but we’re hopeful that the region’s appeal will remain strong.
“From the iconic monuments and museums of Washington, D.C., to the small-town treasures, historical sites, beautiful beaches and majestic mountains of Virginia and Maryland, the region really does have something to offer every type of traveller.
“Fly drives are the most popular form of holiday here, with most choosing to start in D.C. before heading out to Shenandoah National Park, Charlottesville, Richmond, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and then up through Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Annapolis and Baltimore.
“This year we’ll continue our commitment to assisting the travel trade in developing product and conducting training, as they’re the most valuable partner in our future growth.”
LISA CHAMBERLAIN, DIRECTOR, UK & IRELAND, CAPITAL REGION U.S.A.
“The neighbouring states of Maryland and Virginia have just as much charm and heritage as the capital, Fascinating Civil War trails and historic towns like Jamestown and Williamsburg in Virginia are a must.”
TIM GREATHEAD, U.S.A. PRODUCT EXECUTIVE, PREMIER HOLIDAYS
“The food and wine are a big highlight for me. From excellent farm-to-table restaurants, to cool pop-up eateries and roadside diners, there’s certainly plenty to fuel your holiday activities!”
CATH PUSEY, PRODUCT DIRECTOR, AMERICA AS YOU LIKE IT
Washington, D.C.: Phase One of The Wharf, a $2-billion development, opens along the Southwest Waterfront in October. It includes The Wharf InterContinental, Canopy by Hilton and Hyatt House hotels; 15-plus eateries and two new music venues: the 6,000-capacity Anthem and 300-person Pearl Street Warehouse.
The 226-room Darcy Washington D.C., Curio Collection by Hilton opened in April near Dupont Circle.
Located in a converted neoclassical church in Adam’s Morgan, newly opened The Line offers 220 boutique rooms, three eclectic restaurants and two cool bars.
Fairmont Washington, D.C. in Georgetown unveiled the results of a $27-million renovation in January.
The Smithsonian Institution’s Freer and Sackler Galleries of Asian art will reopen after refurbishment in October.
May 29 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of President John F. Kennedy, and Washington’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will be commerating with a series of events.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum will also host a special exhibition, American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture opened last September.
Virginia: The Autograph Collection’s newly renovated Cavalier Hotel (cavalierhotel.com) in Virginia has 85 luxury rooms and suites.
Creative Boutique Hotels and Cornerstone Hospitality will open two new historic boutique properties in 2017: The Sessions Hotel in Bristol and the Western Front Hotel in St. Paul.
Virginia Tourism Corporation has launched a new section on its web-site for LGBT travellers.
Simon Shopping Destinations will open the new Norfolk Premium Outlets retail centre in Norfolk in June 2017.
Special events are taking place throughout 2017 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the influential Bristol Sessions recordings in the ‘Birthplace of Country Music’.
Dirty Dancing is 30 in August.Filmed on location at Mountain Lake Lodge in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the resort is offering themed weekends, including a tour of ‘Baby’s cabin’.
Maryland: Luxury boutique Sagamore hotel The Pendry opened in early 2017 on the historic Fell’s Point Recreational Pier. It has 128 guest rooms, a harbour-view pool and spa.
The 150-room Delta Hotel by Marriott recently opened in a historic 1904 building at Inner Harbor in Baltimore.
Clarksburg Premium Outlets has opened in Montgomery County, 50 miles west of Baltimore, with over 90 stores and daily retail savings.
Charm City Helicopters now offer tours of Baltimore, Fort McHenry and Oriole Park from the air, plus special celebration flights on New Year’s Eve.
Where to book it
Stay two nights at the Kimpton Mason & Rook Hotel, Washington; two nights at the Hotel RL, Baltimore; one night at the Skyland Resort, Shenandoah National Park; and two nights at the Mimslyn Inn, Luray, from £1,379pp with America As You Like It, including return flights from Heathrow to Washington with United Airlines and car hire.
North America Travel Service offers three nights at Hotel Rouge, Washington, two nights at Skyland Resort, Shenandoah National Park and two nights at Hotel Monaco, Baltimore on a fly-drive from £1,325pp, with British Airways flights and Alamo Gold car hire.