Many visitors to the USA make New York City their one and only stop on the East Coast, but that means they’re missing out on the many things this side of the country has to offer. If you’re looking for a trip with a variety of things to do and discover, we recommend checking out Baltimore, Washington DC, and Richmond. The best part is it’s easy to get to all three by train, bus, or car.
If you love art:
The Walters Art Gallery and Baltimore Museum of Art are excellent places to explore the city’s creative scene, as they are both free and easily accessible by the (also free) Circular bus that runs through Baltimore. The American Visionary Art Museum, which is full of cool, eccentric art, is a little bit on the pricey side, but worth the splurge if you’d like to see some moving creations.
Otherwise, there’s always HI Baltimore’s street art tour. Open to all hostel guests, the walk makes stops at some of the city’s awesome murals and “Graffiti Alley,” a whole lane with ever-changing artwork by locals.
If you’d like to learn something new:
While your mind is loose and open to new experiences on the road, why not pick up a new skill? Try your hand at screen-printing or letterpress at a workshop at Baltimore Print Studios, or get hard core with woodworking and welding at The Foundry. Baltimore is full of artists and artisans who love to share their craft, so find the right craft for you and be sure to book a class before you visit.
If you love history:
With a wealth of free museums to explore, DC is the history-lover’s dream. The Smithsonian’s newest addition is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and it’s filled with stories and artifacts, like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, that are not to be missed. Entry is free, but a limited number of tickets are available daily, and you have to get them in advance. Your best bet is to try and visit the museum on a weekday.
If you love comedy:
As the home of Dave Chappelle, Patton Oswalt, and Wanda Sykes, DC is also a capital of comedy, so while you’re in town you should definitely try to catch a show. Try DC Improv or U Street Music Hall to see smaller up-and-coming local acts, or see if you can score tickets at the Warner Theatre and get belly laughs from a big star in town. Keep an eye on the hostel’s activity calendar in the lobby to see if there are any volunteer-led comedy outings during your visit.
If you love food:
Who are we kidding? Of course you love food! And you’ll probably love soul food, which is as traditional as American food gets. With its origins in the American south, soul food stars hearty, bad-for-the-body-but-good-for-the-spirit dishes like fried chicken, grits, and collard greens. The go-to spot in Richmond is Mama J’s, which is just a few blocks from HI Richmond and serves delicious fried chicken and catfish that you absolutely must try.
If you’re looking to explore different cultures through tasty food, check out the Cooking as a Second Language sessions held once a month at the hostel. Not only will you get to learn how to prepare food from different countries, but you’ll get to eat it too while mixing and mingling with fellow travelers and locals alike!
If you love the outdoors:
Getting a good dose of fresh air and nature doesn’t take much in Richmond. When you get there, explore the city by bike (you can get one from Richmond Bike Share) – the James River is a few blocks from HI Richmond, or the hostel staff can show you a few favorite routes. For a mix of nature meets the city, meander along the James River Park Pipeline walkway, where you might see nesting herons hunt for fish, or make a day of it and hang out at the sandy beach along the river. Otherwise, you can hit up Forest Hill Park or Pocahontas State Park to do some top-notch hiking and climbing.
HI USA Tip: If you’ve got more time, take a look at all the sweet cities to visit while you’re exploring the East Coast. And while you’re on the road, you can do these things to help lighten your travel footprint.