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


A Shore Thing: 6 Beaches within 6 Hours of DC

Across America! 12 Lakes Worth a Visit This Summer

The Best National Parks to Visit with Kids (& the Airbnbs to Book When You Do)