A popular nickname for Maryland is America in Miniature. That is an apt description of the Mid-Atlantic state that offers a little bit of everything. Within its borders, you will find coastal destinations, waterfront cities, stunning mountains, historic national parks and maritime villages. It’s proximity to Washington, D.C. keeps it modern, but the incredible history of the region means that the state is rooted firmly in the past. From major cities like Baltimore and Annapolis to the gorgeous bodies of waters dotted throughout the state, here are the best places to visit in Maryland:
In the verdant forests of Maryland, there is a manmade lake known as Deep Creek Lake. The area surrounding the lake goes by the same name, and it is an outdoor recreation hub for locals and visitors alike. During the winter, the mountains around Deep Creek Lake are wildly popular for skiing. During the summer, you can play golf at more than a half dozen regional courses. All kinds of water-based activities are available, but one of the most enjoyable ways to pass the day is on land. On the Amish Miller Farm, you can set off for the afternoon on a horse-drawn carriage ride, exploring the daily life on a traditional Amish farm.
One of the largest estuaries on the planet is the enormous Chesapeake Bay, which was once known as Great Shellfish Bay. Countless destinations throughout Maryland are located right on the waters of the bay, meaning there are a large number of ways to experience the location. You might admire the waters while driving over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from Sandy Point, or you could immerse yourself in the Methodist community found on Smith Island. Wherever you go, don’t miss out on the regional culinary specialty of Chesapeake Bay: Maryland Blue Crabs.
If you’re a fan of antiques, then there is no better place to visit than the small city of Frederick. Founded in the middle of the 18th century, Frederick retains its historic atmosphere, and there are several great antique malls, local dealers and artists in the area. There are also lots of historic homes that you can visit, such as the Barbara Fritchie House. This house is furnished in period decor, and Barbara Fritchie was a known hero for bravely flying the Union flag even as General Stonewall Jackson marched past. Market Street is the best place to begin antique souvenir shopping, although the Francis Scott Key Mall is a large alternative.
The Battle of Antietam is known as the bloodiest day in America’s military history. That means that the Antietam National Battlefield is an important landmark worth exploring. The best way to visit the large battlefield is to start at the Visitor Center. From there, there’s a nearly nine-mile route complete with audio tour. For the serious Civil War enthusiast, this can’t be beat. You can also visit the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, which boasts fantastic exhibits showing the scope of what doctors and nurses coped with during the battle. Finally, you can appreciate the landscape and the natural beauty of the area by hiking along the Antietam Remembered or Union Advance Trails.
Outside of Oakland is Swallow Hills State Park. The Youghiogheny River flows right through the park’s borders, creating lots of stunning rapids and beautiful gorges. A highlight of any visit to Swallow Falls State Park is the Muddy Creek Falls, a 50-foot waterfall that makes a serious splash. An easy one-mile hike takes you to the falls, and you’ll pass through beautiful hemlock trees along the way. If you’re in the mood for a longer, more strenuous hike, you can walk from Swallow Falls to Herrington Manor State Park, a clearly marked hike that is just longer than five miles.
Off the coast of Maryland lies the barrier island of Assateague. This uninhabited island is divided, with half being a state park and the other half being a United States National Seashore. The beautiful island is best known for its wild ponies, which make an awesome sight as they run along the sandy dunes of the shoreline. A stroll along the Life of the Dunes Trail is a wonderful experience, allowing you to admire the landscape, listen to the waves of the ocean and spot the many birds that call the area their home. Swimming is possible on most of the island’s beaches, and lifeguards are in place at the busiest spots.
As the capital of Maryland, Annapolis is a big city with a lot of worthwhile attractions. In the downtown area, much of the architecture is historic, and a significant portion dates back to the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries. The Annapolis City Dock is a popular place to spend some time. In addition to watching the Naval Academy midshipmen performing exercises in uniform, the dock is home to lots of live music and, of course, enormous ships coming in and out daily. Tours are also available of the United States Naval Academy itself, and they can be arranged through the Armet-Leftwich Visitor Center.
The C&O Canal, or the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, was built in the mid 1800s from Washington, D.C. all the way into Cumberland, a distance of more than 100 miles. Paths run along most of the canal, offering lots of opportunities for hiking, cycling or just admiring the view. Since the area is steeped in history, there are also lots of attractions surrounding several key spots in the canal. During the summer, there are boat tours available from both the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center and the Williamsport Visitor Center. Although few people cover the entire trail, visiting a small piece of history can be a memorable experience.
As the name might suggest, Ocean City is a city located on the water’s edge. Being on the Atlantic Ocean means that the 10-mile sandy beach, and all accompanying recreational activities, are a big reason to visit. The historic boardwalk is a must-see attraction, and it is found in the southern end of Ocean City’s beach. Along the boardwalk, you can stop to play games, watch live performers, go shopping, dine on delicious beach favorites and even stop in at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.
The city of Baltimore is an exciting place to visit in Maryland, and its Inner Harbor is the center of the action. The National Aquarium in the Inner Harbor is the city’s biggest attraction, and it is packed with more than 17,000 species ranging from seahorses to sharks. You can see entire marine ecosystems within a single enormous glass tank, and you can watch 4D films that showcase the depths of the ocean. Also in the Inner Harbor is the Top of the World, an observation deck that allows you to admire the city from a 27th floor vantage point. If you’re eager to enjoy the pirate-themed adventure in the city, head to the open seas with a swashbuckling ride on a pirate ship, complete with costumed boat staff and even a firing cannon.