Historic sites, cultural heritage, amusement parks and the great outdoors – what more could you ask from a state? How about the best clam chowder and baked stuff lobster served in beautiful seacoast restaurants? Daytrips along some of the most beautiful scenic byways in the country? Strolls through colonial streets, Civil War battlefields and challenging hikes along well-maintained nature trails? Then you want Maryland, gateway between the Northeast Coast and the Sunbelt.
Maryland is a land of many vacation destinations for many different types of vacationers. Dubbed “American in Miniature” by the National Geographic in the 1920s, Maryland offers scenic outdoors from mountains to seashore, important sites from every period in the nation’s history, the nation’s capital, beach resorts and bustling metropolitan cities. Maryland’s board of tourism divides the state into five different and unique areas – Western Maryland, the Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland, the Capitol Region and Central Maryland. Each area offers a blend of outdoors recreation, historic sites and fun things for the whole family to do.
Western Maryland is a land of many adventures, offering mountains, lakes and the great outdoors at its greatest. Garrett, Allegheny and Washington County are in the Appalachian region, and the mountains and lakes offer many recreational opportunities. Among the many activities to enjoy in the mountainous region are nature hikes, skiing, biking, kayaking and canoeing and hunting and fishing. But there’s more to the Western region than the great outdoors. The railroads were important to the development of Maryland and the nation as a whole, and there are railroad museums throughout the county, including the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum with its model railroad layouts.
Central Maryland is home to two of the state’s most important cities – its capitol, Annapolis and its largest city, Baltimore. Comprised of five counties, the Central Region offers historical sites in abundance, along with the beguiling charm of waterfront cities and the stylish allure of a bustling metropolis. Among the attractions of the Central Region are the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, which is still “refreshingly open to the public”, according to the Washington Post, and the National Aquarium in Baltimore, hailed as “one of the best, if not THE best, aquaria in the country”. For food lovers, nothing beats Maryland’s fresh crabs and seafood, and you’ll find dozens of restaurants from fine dining establishments to seaside shanties that serve them up in every style imaginable.
The Capital Region is renowned for its high tech industries and research centers, but for all its forward-looking industry, it is still very much in touch with its past. The Capital Region is where you’ll find delightful vineyards, historic battleground museums and national museums and historic sites. Of special note in Frederick County, Lilypons Water Gardens is the largest water garden in the country and the Monocacy National Battlefield. In Montgomery County, be sure to visit the B&O Railroad Station, a Victorian railroad station that is open to the public, and the Stone Street Medical Museum. Montgomery County is also home to the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, the largest medical library in the world and the C&O Canal National Historic Park, where you can ride the canal on a mule-drawn barge. After you’ve steeped yourself in the transportation industry’s past, cross over into Prince Georges County and visit the NASA-Goddard Space Center and take a look at the future of transportation and exploration. Also in Prince Georges County, you’ll find the National Colonial Farm where you can learn colonial farming techniques from costumed interpreters.
Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s County make up the southernmost part of Maryland. The three counties are a treasure trove of early American history and art, abundant with museums and reproduction communities that tell the stories of America’s early years. In Calvert County, you can dig deeper, beyond the Colonies to prehistoric times at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons. There you’ll see fossils that have been found along the beach, along with displays and exhibits of Maryland’s maritime history. Calvert County is also home to several wildlife and nature preserves where you can enjoy the woods, ponds and salt marshes that form a natural patchwork of environmental beauty. In Charles County, explore Native culture at the Maryland Indian Cultural Center, and the role of African Americans in the history of our country at the Afro-American Heritage Society in LaPlata. St. Mary’s County offers you the chance to step back into the past in Historic St. Mary’s City, a recreation of Maryland’s colonial capital, or wander a century closer in time at Sotterley Plantation, a recreation of an 18th century slave plantation.
Made up of nine counties, the Eastern Shore of Maryland is one of the most varied regions of the state. Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean form the coast of the delightful region, with its inlets and bays, rivers and creeks, piers and docks. Family fun abounds at the Ocean City Pier and Boardwalk, where you’ll find the amusement parks and beachside attractions of a traditional seaside resort town. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum includes a working boatyard where visitors can watch boat builders at work, even asking questions to learn about the process and the craft. Take the kids camping at one of the premier camping resorts in the country, Frontier Town just outside Ocean City. The nearby amenities and attractions include a Western themed amusement park, nearby Assateague National Seashore – home to the wild ponies – and the Salisbury Zoo. Also in Salisbury, visitors can learn about the region’s rich traditions of hand carving at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, and tour the city’s historic homes and mansions.
Maryland offers a varied experience to any vacationer, from the modern-day fun of themed amusement parks to Smith Island, where time seems to have stopped. Historic sites and reproductions offer a glimpse into our country’s past and forward-looking museums take the visitor into the future. There’s truly something for everyone, just waiting to be discovered.