By Carol Sorgen
Every Maryland schoolchild knows that the “Old Line State” has another nickname as well—“America in Miniature.” It’s not hard to see why. Maryland’s attractions range from the Eastern Shore with its Atlantic coastline and beach resorts, to the hustle and bustle of Baltimore, its largest city, to the slopes of the Allegheny Mountains in the western region.
The good news—all this diversity is in a compact package—measuring just a bit more than 12,400 square miles. In traveling terms that means, from Baltimore you can be “Down-y Ocean,” as those from “Bawlamer” say, in just three hours—or leaf-peeping in Western Maryland in just the same amount of time. So sit back and take a quick look at what this Mid-Atlantic state has to offer.
The three counties that comprise Western Maryland—Washington, Allegany, and Garrett—offer breathtaking scenery, with thousands of acres of forests, rivers, and lakes, as well as 37 miles of hiking paths on the famed Appalachian Trail.
But Western Maryland is more than a nature lover’s dream. Museums and historic landmarks offer a glimpse into the lives of the rugged pioneers who settled this area in the mid- to late-18th century. The highlight of a trip to Western Maryland, particularly in September and October, may well be a ride on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. This 1916 Baldwin Steam-powered train ride takes travelers from Cumberland to Frostburg along 17 miles of winding, mountainous track.
Transportation buffs should also visit the Western Maryland Station Center in Cumberland. Housed at this 1913 railroad station is the Transportation and Industrial Museum, with displays on railroads, canals, and other industries that made the area a major transportation center in the 1800s.
For a breath of fresh air, head for the outdoors in Garrett County. Deep Creek Lake in McHenry is the state’s largest lake; with 3,900 acres, the lake is 12 miles long and has 65 miles of shoreline. It’s an ideal spot for boating, swimming, fishing, water-skiing, camping, hiking, mountain biking, and picnicking.
Just a few miles beyond the lake, in Oakland, you can visit Swallow Falls State Park and Maryland’s largest waterfalls—Muddy Falls.
If the Civil War era beckons you, don’t miss the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, in Washington County.The quiet fields and farmland around Sharpsburg and Antietam Creek were shatterd by smoke and gunfire on September 17, 1862. On that bloodiest day of the Civil War, 23,000 men were killed or wounded as Union forces turned back Gen. Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North. The battle’s outcome enabled President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
A “Capital” Idea
Surrounding our nation’s capital are the Maryland suburbs of Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties. The highways linking this region to both Baltimore and Washington make it especially convenient for both residents and tourists alike.
Frederick, once occupied by both Union and Confederate troops, is another Civil War site rich with history and tradition. The John Greenleaf Whittier poem, “Barbara Fritchie,” tells the tale of the 95-year-old Frederick resident who dared the marching Confederate soldiers to shoot her rather than the Union flag she was waving. “Shoot if you must, this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag,” she said while leaning out an upstairs window. The Barbara Fritchie House was rebuilt in 1927 and is an exact replica built from material salvaged when the original house was torn down in 1868 because of the flooding of Carroll Creek.
If you’re traveling with kids, stop by the Rose Hill Manor Children’s Museum, also in Frederick. This “touch and see” museum has been restored to depict 19th-century family life; a blacksmith shop and log cabin are also on the grounds.
In Buckeystown you’ll find Maryland’s smallest town, Lily Pons, home of the Lilypons Water Garden. The garden is made up of 275 acres of water lilies and aquatic plants along the Monocacy River.
Montgomery County, one of the most affluent counties in the country, also boasts a number of historic, scientific, scenic, and educational attractions. At the C&O National Historic Park in Potomac, you can take a mule-drawn barge ride on the historic C&O Canal. Or walk the foot bridges for a look at the picturesque Great Falls. Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald may want to visit the graves of F. Scott and his wife, Zelda, at St. Mary’s Church in Rockville.
The town of Accokeek in Prince George’s County reminds visitors that tobacco was once the key to a thriving economy in Maryland. Accokeek occupies the site of a former Indian village, Moyaone, marked on a map by Captain John Smith. Settlers retaliating against Indian uprisings burned the village in 1622. About 1,000 skeletons as well as pottery and tools from 8,000-1,000 B.C. have been found at the site.
Not surprisingly, Southern Maryland revolves around the water. In Calvert County, visit the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary, a 100-acre sanctuary protected by the Maryland Nature Conservancy. The site contains one of the northern-most significant groves of bald cypress in North America.
Belying the region’s almost old-fashioned sleepiness, the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant Visitors Center hosts a number of exhibits of Calvert Cliffs and the power plant. Beachcombers can find lots of sharks’ teeth and other fossils as they stroll the sand as well.
In nearby Solomons Island, escape into the past at the Calvert Marine Museum which specializes in local maritime history, estuarine biology, and paleontology.
More Civil War attractions are nearby as well, at the home of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd in the town of Waldorf, in Charles County. Mudd’s home was where President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was treated for a broken leg the morning after the assassination. Mudd was unaware of the crime and the identity of his patient; nevertheless, he was convicted of complicity and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was pardoned in 1869.
In Historic St. Mary’s City in St. Mary’s County, you’ll be able to see the beginnings of Maryland’s history in the 1600s. An outdoor history museum sits on 800 acres of tidewater landscape. Among the attractions on the site are the Godiah Spray Tobacco Plantation, a working reconstruction of a 17th-century tobacco plantation; Governor’s Field, a reconstructed 17th-century inn; and the Maryland Dove, a replica of the small, square-rigged ships of the 1630s that brought settlers and cargo to Maryland.
The Heart of the State
With Annapolis, the state capital, and Baltimore, the state’s largest city, located in this region, Central Maryland could well be considered the commercial and political hub of the state. There is certainly no lack of interesting and worthwhile attractions in this area.
Anne Arundel County is best known for Annapolis, home of the Governor of Maryland and the State Legislature, as well as the U.S. Naval Academy.
The State House is the oldest U.S. state house in continuous legislative use. It served as the U.S. Capitol from November 26, 1783, until August 13, 1784. Not only did Gen. George Washington resign his commission here as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, but the Treaty of Paris was also ratified here, ending the Revolutionary War.
The Naval Academy is one of the country’s prestigious military academies. On the 300-acre grounds you will find John Paul Jones’ crypt in the chapel. Full-dress parades are held three times a week during the academic year, and during Commissioning Week in the spring. During Commissioning Week, don’t miss a walk by the chapel…weddings are scheduled almost every 15 minutes and you’ll see the happy brides and grooms walking out of the chapel under a canopy of crossed swords!
Annapolis itself, which dates to 1649, has been dubbed a “museum without walls,” as well as the “sailing capital of the East Coast.” The downtown historic district is ideal for history and architecture buffs, as well as water enthusiasts and shoppers.
Baltimore City became a major tourist destination when its Inner Harbor was refurbished in the early 1980s. Visitors can shop in Harborplace or the Gallery, dine at a number of fine restaurants, or pick up a Baltimore specialty—the crab cake—in the food court to eat by the water’s edge.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore, at the eastern edge of the Inner Harbor, features more than 5,000 aquatic animals, including sharks, dolphins, and seals. Also at the Harbor is the Maryland Science Center, with three floors of hands-on exhibits, the Davis Planetarium, and Imax Theatre.
Oriole Park at Camden Yars is Baltimore’s world-class ballpark. The staff conducts tours to give visitors a peek at life beyond the field of dreams, but you won’t want to miss a live Orioles game if both you and the team are in town at the same time.
At the end of East Fort Avenue, you’ll find the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. Baltimore lawyer Francis Scott Key was on board a British warship during the War of 1812, and wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” when he saw the American flag still flying after a night of heavy bombardment.
Leave the city limits and travel up to the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum in Harford County. The museum features exhibits that trace the history of the waterfowl-hunting decoy.
And at the Ladew Topiary Gardens and Manor House in Monkton, visit the home of artist and foxhunting devotee Harvey S. Ladew. Ladew designed the gardens, with dozens of sculptured animals—including a life-size foxhunt—geometric, topiary figures, and sculptured hedges. The house holds Ladew’s collection of English antiques, paintings, and foxhunting and equestrian memorabilia.
Howard County, between Baltimore and Washington, is home to Ellicott City, the first terminus outside Baltimore for the Baltimore and Ohio Ralilroad. The B&O Railroad Station Museum at the end of Main Street was also the destination of America’s first steam engine, the “Tom Thumb,” in August 1830.
Surf’s Up in the East
Say “Eastern Shore” to a Marylander, and the first thing that comes to his or her mind is Ocean City. But the Shore is much more than a good time at the beach, and the region has numerous other attractions. Chestertown, situated on the west bank of the Chester River, features a number of pre-Revolutionary War homes, a restored 19th-century general store, and an 18th-century tavern, as well as an increasing number of upscale boutiques and restaurants.
A visit to Smith Island might well make you think that you’ve traveled back to the turn of the century—the 17th century, that is. The islanders, who speak in much the same way their ancestors did, continue to make their living from the Chesapeake Bay, as their forefathers have done for the past three centuries. The island can be reached by cruise boats or by ferries from Crisfield, known as the Crab Capital of the World”.
St. Michael’s maritime heritage can be seen at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The museum focuses on the Bay’s history and traditions.
More nature abounds at the Assateague State Park and National Seashore, a long, narrow strip of Assateague Island that is home to wild ponies that roam across the windswept island dunes. Each July the ponies are rounded up on the Virginia end of the island for a quarter-mile swim across the channel to Chincoteague, Virginia. (If you’ve read the children’s classic, Misty of Chincoteague, you know what I’m talking about).
Finally, no visit to the Eastern Shore would be complete without a trip to Ocean City, the resort town that lies on a 10-mile barrier island. When you’ve finished sunning and swimming, drive over to Frontier Town, just outside Ocean City. This family entertainment destination offers a live Wild West show, gunfights, rodeo, Native American dancing, steam train ride, stagecoach rides, paddleboats, and the opportunity to pan for gold.
Then, when you head back into Ocean City, do what vacationers there have done every night for generations … stroll the 30-block boardwalk, where you can munch on Thrasher’s fries or Fisher’s caramel popcorn. You’ll fit right in!
For more information, check out www.mdisfun.org.