Philadelphia to Washington East Coast Road Trip

A tour of the east coast is a trip through America's past, and an insight into its rise to prominence on the world stage. Big cities along the BosWash corridor – including Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC – are packed with memorable things to do and see.

From Philadelphia to Washington DC: An East Coast Road Trip

By Katy
6 July 2018

Ever heard of the BosWash corridor? Beginning in Boston and extending down the east coast via New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore down to Washington, DC, this cluster of cities is America’s greatest megalopolis.

Today, over 50 million people live in this region, making it a true economic stronghold of the country. The Atlantic coast was where the modern US was forged and fashioned, and the setting for some of the most important moments in its history.

For action-packed adventure, why not drive the 140 miles from the nation’s first capital to the current one?

History comes to life in Philadelphia

Touching down in Philadelphia, you're in prime position to begin your self-drive city-hopping escapade. This is Pennsylvania's 'City of Brotherly Love', founded in in the late 17th century by British Quaker William Penn.

In 2015, Philadelphia was declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO for its prominent place in America's story. It served as the U.S capital while Washington, DC was under construction, and played a pivotal role in the American Revolution as the meeting place for the Founding Fathers, who signed the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution in the late 1700s.

A walking tour of key sites is a must to help you appreciate the passion for freedom that motivated the Founding Fathers.

Stop by Independence Hall, Congress Hall and the Liberty Bell – iconic symbol of American Independence. If you're unlucky with the weather, there are plenty of excellent institutions such as the Franklin Institute and the National Liberty Museum to keep you occupied.

People describe Philly as a big city with small town charm, thanks to its mosaic of different architectural styles.

Try a curated bike tour to glimpse the best of its amazing buildings, from Art Deco skyscrapers to the Georgian houses on Elfreth's Alley (the oldest continuously inhabited street in the nation). Foodies must tuck into a delicious Philly Steak Sandwich or Cheese Steak. For cheap eats, you'll be spoiled for choice, with hoagies and deli counters on just about every corner.

If you're a movie fan, you'll recognise the 72 steps outside the Museum of Art well. Sylvester Stallone famous ran up and down these for the '70s box office smash hit Rocky, a film about a struggling Philadelphia boxer. Finally, you can always escape urbanity to the great outdoors with a quick trip to Cape Cod or Mt. Vernon from Philadelphia before moving further down the east coast – both drives are beautifully scenic too.

Nautical Nuances in Baltimore

Make Baltimore the next stop on your road trip. The largest city in Maryland is just a two-hour drive south of Philadelphia, and a visit here brings the chance to explore one of the most eclectic working class cities in the US. Known as 'Charm City' for the friendliness of the locals, residents here are exceptionally proud and devoted to their hometown.

Baltimore makes no bones about its blue-collar roots and the divide between the rich and poor is clear to see. There is a gritty side to the city that most tourists never see outside of The Wire, and that's no reason to avoid it. Once upon a time, it was the most important port city in America, and the nautical past is still very much present today, with plenty of astounding attractions concentrated around Chesapeake Bay.

Visit the impressive looking waterfront for a stroll along the docks. A world away from the city's business core, this historic seaport is "the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment around the world" – it's a scenic and welcoming space. Walk the cobblestoned streets of Fells Point or the shores of Fort McHenry, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics to America's national anthem, 'The Star-Spangled Banner'.

Continue the maritime theme with a visit to Baltimore's National Aquarium, one of the best rated in the world thanks to its coral reef and open ocean shark tank.

In recent years, Baltimore has garnered a glowing reputation for its new boutique hotels, farm-to-table restaurants and the American Visionary Art Museum. Local culture and hometown sports, from lacrosse to baseball, remain a huge part of the city’s appeal too.

Lovers of literature will find Edgar Allen Poe House and Museum more than memorable; this is the city where the writer found success in the 1830s. And if you're looking for cool bars, Midtown-Belvedere just north of Mount Vernon offers an array of microbreweries, dive bars and cocktail lounges right next to Symphony Hall and the Lyric Opera.

Political Tour of Washington DC

After you've finished exploring Baltimore, pack up the car and drive around an hour until you hit the final stop on your whistle stop tour of east coast cities. Washington DC needs no introduction as the capital of the United States of America. In a single day, it's possible to do and see more than you could ever imagine.

Founded in 1790, Washington is unique among US cities because it was purpose-built to serve as the nation's capital. Here, you can see the actual Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, stand in the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his 'I Have a Dream' speech and gawp at the actual flag that inspired the 'Star-Spangled Banner' at the Museum of American History.

Of course, visitors come in droves to peer through the gates of the White House, the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States.

The District of Columbia is home to many of America's greatest architectural buildings, including the White House, the Washington National Cathedral, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the United States Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Other politically charged sites include The Pentagon, The State Department, the World Bank and embassies from most corners of the globe. As a visitor, there's a thrill in seeing these famous landmarks and buildings up close.

If you're keen to get to grips with history, you are seriously spoiled for choice in Washington DC. There's nothing quite like the Smithsonian Institution – a collection of 19 artefact-stuffed museums lined up in a row along the Mall. All of the institutions are free to enter and the exhibits housed within each are incredibly varied, offering something for everyone. Choose between The National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of African American History and Culture and more – or just go to as many as you can.

Washington is a great place for art too, where you can visit amazing institutions such as the National Theatre, the Kennedy Center and the Folger Theatre.

Jazz music has a storied history here. In the mid-1960s to late 1970s, Washington became one of the music capitals of the US, being the birthplace of the go-go and punk scene. A night at one of the many Downtown venues is the perfect way to cap off your east coast road trip.

Ready to experience amazing cities on the East Coast?

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