From rugged mountains of its western reaches to sandy dunes on the Atlantic Coast and rolling salt marshes around the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland is home to dozens of exploration-worthy wild spaces, for which it earned the moniker America in Miniature. Maryland is also a cultural cornucopia with Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic and Southern influences. And as one of the original colonies, the Chesapeake Bay State has played a unique role in centuries of American history.
Feeling overwhelmed? Read on for some fantastic ideas sure to deliver a great trip to Maryland.
After burning Washington in the War of 1812, the British set their sights on Baltimore. The world’s most powerful navy rained down artillery fire on Fort McHenry for 25 hours. But once the smoke cleared, the fort and the flag still stood, inspiring the Star-Spangled Banner’s immortal lyrics.
Today, Fort McHenry is the National Park Service’s only Historic Shrine. In addition to exploring the site and its visitors center, groups can participate in raising and lowering the fort’s flag. Call ahead for details.
The U.S. Naval Academy
The U.S. Naval Academy, with its storied history, impressive architecture and location in the Colonial Annapolis Historic District, is worth a visit by itself, but make sure to get there before 12 p.m. A morning arrival will ensure that your group doesn’t miss the highly anticipated Noon Formation, where 1,200 midshipmen present themselves for muster.
Although the Noon Formation is more pageantry than practicality, the energy is palpable. With crisp, well-orchestrated coordination and music by the U.S. Naval Band and bagpipers, it’s a show you won’t soon forget.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
The Chesapeake Bay formed Maryland’s commercial heartbeat for centuries. That history, along with the bay’s unique environment and culture, were the driving factors behind the 1966 creation of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The museum includes a water campus, with a dozen working historic boats in its fleet. Vessels transport visitors back to multiple eras, from a 1909 crab dredger to a working replica of John Smith’s 1608 shallop.
Plan for self-guided tours, river cruises and time to explore the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, a screw-pile lighthouse that once lit the way for ships navigating the dangerous Hooper Strait.
Up and Coming
The 2022 Bicentennial of Harriet Tubman’s Birth
Harriet Tubman knew the marshlands of Maryland well. Here she grew up, escaped slavery and later led 70 other slaves to freedom through journeys fraught with danger. Today, visitors can explore these same wetlands and 45 stops of interest thanks to the Harriet Tubman Scenic Byway. At the heart of the byway is the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitors Center in Church Creek.
This year, the National Park Service will celebrate the bicentennial of Tubman’s birth with live events in March and the unveiling and dedication of a new permanent statue in September.
Western Maryland Scenic Railway’s 1309 Steam Engine
Silhouetted by rugged Allegheny mountains, western Maryland feels more Appalachian than Mid-Atlantic. There is no better way to experience this side of Maryland than by rail.
Want to make that outdoor expedition special? Take the 1309, the Western Maryland Scenic Railway’s completely restored steam engine and the largest compound articulated steam locomotive in service in the world.
Built in 1949 to pull coal, the engine retired in 1956 and hadn’t been under steam again until 2020. When restoration is finished later this year, travelers will enjoy modern entertainment through onboard dinner theater, murder mysteries and more.
Annapolis Maritime Museum’s New Cruises on Skipjack, the Wilma Lee
You can’t think about Maryland without envisaging heaping plates of fresh seafood and its picturesque skipjack boats dotting the shoreline. Skipjacks are a quintessential symbol of the Maryland way of life. Just a short time ago, a restored skipjack christened the Wilma Lee became a prized local treasure at the Annapolis Maritime Museum.
The Wilma Lee dredged oysters for six decades before retiring. After a full restoration, tour groups and museum visitors can now step foot on this floating listing of the National Register of Historic Places.
Rod ’N’ Reel Resort
Once a humble marina restaurant, the Rod ’N’ Reel Resort is now a glamorous bayside fixture in the town of Chesapeake Beach. The self-styled charter fishing capital of Maryland has offered fishing expeditions since the ’40s and boasts the largest fleet on the bay. After a day of hauling in trout, bass and bluefish, refresh at any of the resort’s on-site offerings. Dine at any of the resort’s four restaurants, stroll through its two marinas, enjoy live entertainment on the boardwalk or just relax in the resort’s accommodating rooms or spa, all right on the bay.
A crafty ruse is said to have saved the coastal residents of St. Michaels from the British during the War of 1812. Town residents darkened their homes and hung lanterns in the uninhabited woods a safe distance away. The lanterns fooled the British who, from the evening darkness, fired upon the trees instead of the town.
The Wildset Hotel is named for the Marylanders who outsmarted the British that day. Today, the historic coastal hotel accommodates guests with a modern Eastern Shore atmosphere in 34 chic rooms in three connected historic St. Michaels houses.
Carriage House Inn
Once a grain warehouse, then a broom factory and later a bus depot, the historic Carriage House Inn’s fourth reincarnation is as a fine-dining establishment.
The restaurant features classic Maryland dining in quaint Emmitsburg, nestled in the Catoctin Mountains foothills. If you want a taste of the state’s famous seafood, try the Carriage House Inn’s jumbo lump crab cakes or cream of crab soup.
The Carriage House Inn is located just outside the charming Emmitsburg Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architecture.
The Wellwood Club on the waterfront in Charlestown was once a hunting lodge for the Washington and Philadelphia well-to-do. Locals claim the Wellwood has the best food for upscale or casual dining. That’s because the Wellwood has two dining options under one roof. The Wellwood Restaurant offers sumptuous Maryland seafood in an elegant dining experience. For a relaxed vibe, the River Shack embodies the traditional pub-style Maryland crab shack. Each dining experience offers views of Maryland’s North East River, coupling river scenery with steamed crabs all year long.