The 6 Best Lakes Near Washington, DC

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If you and the kids are itching to dig your toes into the sand, there are plenty of beaches to visit in the DMV. But if you’re looking for a different kind of escape—one that includes hiking in search of critters and waterfalls by day and eating gooey s’mores around a campfire by night—a lake destination is the perfect place to spend your next family vacation. Scroll down for the best lake vacations within an easy drive of DC.

photo: Virginia Tourism Corporation

Lake Anna, VA

The third largest lake in Virginia, Lake Anna encompasses some 13,000 surface acres of water and over 200 miles of shoreline. Sailing, water skiing, jet skiing, and of course, swimming, are among the many ways families can enjoy the lake. When you’re not out on the water, take a hike, go fishing, enjoy a picnic or retreat to your cabin.

Online: dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/lake-anna

photo: Garrett County Chamber of Commerce

Deep Creek Lake, MD

Deep Creek Lake is a favorite for many families thanks to its mile-long shoreline with two swimming beaches, a campground, picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, and a nature center. Accommodations range from state park campsites to lakeside vacation rentals, and there’s an abundance of restaurants and attractions nearby—the latter of which includes a mountain coaster and Maryland's first barn quilt driving trail.

Online: visitdeepcreek.com

South Holston Lake

If you thought Nashville was the birthplace of country music, you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually Bristol, VA, which was recognized as such by the US Congress in 1998. Country music lovers and outdoor enthusiasts convene in this still-hidden gem that’s home to South Holston Lake, where you can go swimming, boating, and more. You can also hike parts of the Appalachian Trail and fish the Holston River, often touted as the “Other Montana.” If you prefer a hotel over camping, book a stay at The Bristol Hotel, the region’s first boutique property.

Online: visitabingdonvirginia.com

photo: MdMountainside

Lake Habeeb, MD

If you’re planning to bring Fido along, Lake Habeeb in Rocky Gap State Park is a must. Pets are encouraged to visit the state park, one of the five largest in Maryland. Lake Habeeb—which is known to have “the bluest water in the state”—is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and fishing. The 243-acre lake is especially pretty in the fall.

Online: dnr.maryland.gov

Lake Wallenpaupack, PA

Head to the Poconos, where swimming, fishing, boating, paddle boarding, and more water adventures await on Lake Wallenpaupack. The lake's 52 acres of shoreline and surrounding area also afford plenty of opportunities for hiking and biking. Stay in a cozy cabin or go camping near the water. Or, if you're looking for a hotel, check out the luxurious Ledges Hotel, situated next to cascading waterfalls. 

Online: poconomountains.com/lake-wallenpaupack

photo: The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Otsego Lake, NY

It’s a drive—just over six hours from DC—but hear us out: Otsego Lake and Cooperstown are worth it. After all, Cooperstown is home to The Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as some other great museums and kid-friendly breweries (Brewery Ommegang being the most well-known). The Otesaga Resort Hotel is the ultimate place to stay and enjoy the lake, with waterfront views from many of the guestrooms and canoes and row boats to rent.

Online: visitingcooperstown.com

—Amanda Norcross

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A Shore Thing: 6 Beaches within 6 Hours of DC

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You don’t have to go far for some time at the beach! Pack up the swimsuitssunscreen and sunglasses, and get ready to spend more time digging in the sand and less time on the road. We rounded up six of our favorite beaches under a six hour drive from the DMV to max out your fun in the sun. From the Outer Banks to the Jersey Shore, these are the best family beaches near Washington, DC.

photo: Mary Carter

Colonial Beach, VA

Colonial Beach is the closest beach to the DC metro area, just 1.5 hours away. It’s also the second-longest stretch of sand and surf in VA, with three distinct beaches including Downtown, with a boardwalk, restrooms, restaurants, food trucks, swings and more. 

Cottage rentals and camping are a popular overnight option for families here. If you have the time, plan a trip to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and James Monroe Birthplace, just outside of town.

Online:  www.visitcbva.com

Ocean City, MD

There’s a reason so many families return to Ocean City, MD, year after year. Less than three hours from Washington, DC, this classic beach destination is known for its sand and surf, where the waves are optimal for boogie boarding, along with its boardwalk, where you’ll find rides, games, and delicious eats including pizza at The Dough Roller. Plan a day trip to see the majestic, wild ponies at nearby Assateague Island National Seashore while you’re in town.

Online: ococean.com

Virginia Beach, VA

Just 3.5 hours from Washington, DC, Virginia Beach is perfect for a family getaway, whether you’re visiting for a long weekend or staying for a week. You’ll find an abundance of waterfront hotels and vacation rentals, restaurants, and attractions, including the boardwalk. Stroll, skate, or bike the 3-mile-long path, which often plays host to street performers, summer concerts, festivals, and other events.

This story covers everything to see and do near Delta Hotels Virginia Beach Bayfront Suites. 

Online: visitvirginiabeach.com

photo: Funland via VisitDelaware.com

Rehoboth Beach, DE

Beyond the sand and surf, it’s all about Funland in Rehoboth Beach, DE. There you’ll find “today’s fun at yesterday’s prices,” with classic rides and games the whole family will love. Stroll the boardwalk (with a stop for ice cream along the way, of course) and, when you need a break from the beach, enjoy the thrills and spills at Jungle Jim’s water park. Be sure to plan some day trips to neighboring Bethany Beach and charming Lewes, home to Cape Henlopen State Park, too.

Online: cityofrehoboth.com

photo: Cape Resorts

Cape May, NJ

Cape May is worth the four-hour drive from Washington DC, especially for families with young kids. The beaches are known for their shallow tide pools, and the town itself is famous for its candy-colored historic homes and B&Bs. Local attractions and activities include mini-golf, bicycling, climbing the Cape May Lighthouse, and shopping and dining at the Washington Street Mall. For an extra-special experience, book a stay at one of the Cape Resorts, such as the renowned Congress Hall.

Online: capemay.com

Outer Banks, NC

If you’re ready for a week-long family vacation and up for a five hour-plus drive, head for the Outer Banks. You can stay at a beautiful beachfront hotel such as the Sanderling Resort, or rent a giant house with multiple rooms, a swimming pool and more, just steps from the beach. It’s all about relaxing by the ocean here, but when you’re ready to explore, there’s the famous black-and-white-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, H2OBOX Waterpark, Jockey’s Ridge State Park (the best place to fly kites), and the Wright Brothers Memorial.

Online: outerbanks.org

—Amanda Norcross

featured photo: Frank McKenna via Unsplash

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Dive In: 10 Epic Airbnb Rentals with Pools

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Looking for a local place to get away this summer? You don’t need to go far for a true vacation. These Airbnb rentals near Washington, DC offer epic swimming pools, plus plenty of space for families of all sizes. Read on for the best Airbnb rentals near the DMV for summer fun. Splash on!

A Historic Hub | New Hope, PA

Escape to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where this historic homebuilt around 1790awaits families looking for some R&R near dining, shopping and outdoor activities in New Hope. The updated property retains its old-world charm throughout, but the real highlight is the secluded, outdoor pool, surrounded by lush greenery. Bucks County or the South of France? You won't know the difference here. 

Sleeps: 6
Cost: $452/night
Online: airbnb.com

Mansion at the Beach | West Ocean City, MD

This Airbnb is so big and so cool that you might forget the beaches and boardwalk of Ocean CIty, Maryland, are only a short drive away. Play in the oversized pool, relax in the hot tub, roast S'mores by the fire pit, hang out in the game room (where there's also a wet bar), play basketball, and more. This Airbnb has five bedrooms and sleeps a total of 12 guests, making it perfect for a multigenerational escape.

Sleeps: 12
Cost: $452/night
Online: airbnb.com

Relaxed Escape in Amish Country | Lancaster, PA

Planning a trip to the Strasburg Rail Road or the Turkey Hill Experience? Make this Airbnb your home base. Located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, it offers an oversized pool with diving boardthe perfect place to relax after a fun (and exhausting) day at nearby Dutch Wonderland or Hersheypark. It also has a spacious living room with a balcony. 

Sleeps: 6
Cost: $196/night
Online: airbnb.com

A Place to Reunite | Fairfax, VA

If you can safely see family and friends this summer, it’s time to plan a visit to this Airbnb that’s big enough to accommodate 15 guests. Situated in Fairfax, Virginia, this modern house offers a beautiful pool and hot tub, both of which can be lit up at night for after-dark swimming. You’ll also love the grill and outdoor dining area that’s covered and screened-in, ensuring the fun never stops, even when it rains.

Sleeps: 15
Cost: $600
Online: airbnb.com

 

A Backyard Paradise | Annapolis, MD

This property has been nicknamed the Petit Resort because you  will feel like you're tucked into your own private retreat. But petit it is anything but. This house can accommodate up to 10 guests in six bedrooms. Relax on-site in the hot tub or in the pool or take a short walk (or water taxi) to downtown Annapolis for fresh seafood and waterside dining. Bonus: these superhosts employ the latest technologies and cleaning products to make sure this rental is clean as a whistle (and based off of reviews, they're doing a great job). 

Sleeps: 10
Cost: $811/night 
Online: airbnb.com 

Getting Cozy by the Cottage | Chesapeake, VA

This private cottage offers waterview rooms from nearly every be in the house; there are 3 bedrooms to accommodate up to 6 guests (including a set of bunk beds for the littles).  Get direct access to the Chesapeake Bay from this property or take a dip in the home's pool or hot tub. Amenities at this cottage include two kayaks, a stand up paddle board, a crab pot and dip net, a charcoal grill, a fire pit and two adult bikes. Toss these folding bikes into the car for the kids! 

Sleeps: 6
Cost: $243/night
Online: airbnb.com

The Kiddie Pool | Arlington, VA

You don't have to travel far to dip your toe in a cool pool. This home in the heart of Clarendon in North Arlington offers a wading pool perfect for pint sized swimmers. Before or after your dip, don't forget to roast marshmallows in the outdoor fire pit. Feel free to leave your car at home; this house is conveniently located near a metro stop. 

Sleeps: 12
Cost: $1,152/night 
Online: airbnb.com

Rent a Five-Star Estate | Oakton, VA

Why rent a cottage when you can enjoy this spacious compound. It's the perfect place to self-quarantine for 2 weeks (there is a 14 day minimum stay) with family or friends.  This elegant retreat is just 30 minutes from the capital; the perfect rental for those that need work/life balance. Lounge by the heated salt-water pool and enjoy a retreat that will make you feel worlds away from city life.

Sleeps: 8
Cost: $750/night
Online: airbnb.com

A Pool With a View | Royal Oak, MD

Perched on 90 acres, this farmet has views for miles. Enjoy everything the Eastern Shore has to offer, like fishing from the on-property pier or catching blue crabs for dinner. Amenities include crab traps and fishing poles and a $100 credit toward kayak rentals (or bring your own). Or just spend a lazy day in the pool while watching the wildlife. 

Sleeps: 8
Cost: $666/night 
Online: airbnb.com

A Farm Stay | New Market, MD

This perfectly private property, aptly named Peace and Plenty Farm, features a heated lap pool (open May to October) surrounded by wildflowers. It's the perfect place to relax after exploring historic downtown Frederick, Maryland (about 15 minutes away), or Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (45 minutes away). Other features include a grill, fire pit and walking trails. 

Sleeps: 6
Cost: $225/night
Online: airbnb.com

—Amanda Norcross and Meghan Yudes Meyers

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