Maryland has as long and rich a history as almost any state. The first European settlers arrived in Maryland in the 1630s, and after the Revolution, Maryland was one of the original 13 states in the union. It is small in size (the 42nd biggest state out of 50), but not so much in population (19th out of 50).
For visitors, Maryland offers the excitement of big city Baltimore; the beaches, boating, fishing, crabbing, and other water activities of the Atlantic coast and the Chesapeake Bay; and Colonial and Civil War historic sites.
Herewith an introduction to these and other sample Maryland attractions:
St. Clement’s Island State Park
Across from the city of Coltons Point on the Chesapeake Bay is St. Clement’s Island, just a water taxi ride away.
Among the attractions on St. Clement’s Island State Park is the 40 foot memorial dedicated to the colonists who came over on the Ark and the Dove and founded the Maryland colony on this very island in 1634.
At the St. Clement’s Island-Potomac River Museum, which is actually in Coltons Point and not on the island itself, you can see Father Andrew White’s written account of the voyage of the Ark and the Dove, as well as numerous other exhibits about the history of the area, and the fishing and other maritime livelihoods of the locals.
Perhaps the island’s biggest attraction is simply its scenery. There are multiple hiking trails worth exploring, where one can admire the local flora and fauna, including the abundant waterfowl.
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum, Baltimore
Anyone who has played Monopoly has heard of the B&O Railroad. Like all the properties in the game, this is real (though unlike almost all the properties in the game it isn’t local to Atlantic City, New Jersey-the B&O Railroad never served Atlantic City).
B&O stands for “Baltimore and Ohio.” The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, now part of CSX Transportation, dates back to the 1820s and was the nation’s first common carrier railroad.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum has one of the most extensive collections of historic railroad artifacts in the world.
The exhibits include entire buildings used in the railroad industry, and locomotives from the 19th century. There are examples of different rolling stock, as well as smaller artifacts used by railroad personnel, such as lanterns, pocket watches, signals, and tools.
The museum is open until 4 PM seven days a week, closed holidays. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $8 for children up to 12. From April through December, a train ride is included in the price of a visit.
Inner Harbor, Baltimore
The Inner Harbor neighborhood is the area of Baltimore probably most familiar to tourists. The focus of the revitalization of the city’s waterfront in recent decades, it is anchored by three major attractions, but is filled with numerous other popular destinations.
One anchor is Harborplace, a festival marketplace spread over a complex of buildings, including Pratt Street Pavilion, Light Street Pavilion, and the Gallery at Harborplace, which is attached to the Renaissance Hotel. Each contains within it numerous shops and restaurants.
The other anchors are the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.
But in addition to these attractions, in and around the Inner Harbor area are such sites as Camden Yards, the American Visionary Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the Baltimore Convention Center, the World Trade Center Baltimore, the Holocaust Memorial, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, and the Civil War Museum. There are also many historic ships on display, including the USS “Constellation,” the last Civil War era ship afloat.
National Aquarium, Baltimore
Baltimore boasts one of the finest aquariums in the nation. Its National Aquarium should not be confused with the National Aquarium in Washington, DC (which incidentally has been operated by Baltimore’s National Aquarium since 2003). It draws the most visitors of any Maryland tourist attraction (averaging 1.6 million per year).
The aquarium features 16,500 specimens of over 600 different species. Though it has extensive exhibits on the local Chesapeake Bay, it also includes creatures from Australia to the Amazon.
Among its more impressive attractions are the dolphin display, a ray pool, Animal Planet Australia, a rooftop rainforest, and a multiple-story shark tank.
The aquarium is open seven days a week, with the hours varying seasonally. Admission (to all attractions, including the 4D Immersion Theater and the Dolphin Show) is $29.95 for age 12 and above, $28.95 for seniors, and $24.95 for under 12.
Poe House and Museum, Baltimore
One of Baltimore’s best known, and most controversial, citizens was the connoisseur of the macabre Edgar Allen Poe.
Though he was born in Boston, Poe lived in Baltimore for much of his life, and died there. An extensive search of city records, deeds, and maps established one home he lived in on Amity Street, which was in the countryside outside Baltimore during his lifetime but is now well within the city proper. This home was saved from demolition to make way for public housing, and turned into the Poe House and Museum.
The house has been restored to its 19th century state, with various exhibits related to Poe’s life. It is run by the Edgar Allan Poe Society, which sponsors tours and activities year round, including events for Halloween and for Poe’s birthday in January. The house is open to the public from April to early December, Thursday through Saturday, from noon to 3:30 PM.
Poe’s grave site is just a few blocks away on Fayette Street.
The National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Frederick
One of the more intriguing museums you’ll come across is the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Here you’ll find five immersion exhibits that recreate different scenarios and aspects of the practice of battlefield medicine during the Civil War. These five include an army camp, the evacuation of wounded from the battlefield, a field dressing station, a field hospital, and a ward in a military hospital.
In addition to these exhibits, the two floor museum also has numerous other relevant exhibits on the era’s medical education, nursing, dentistry, pharmaceuticals, embalming, veterinary medicine and other topics. The museum’s holdings include the only known surviving Civil War surgeon’s tent.
The museum also operates an auxiliary location, opened in 2005, at the nearby Antietam Battlefield. The Philip Pry House Museum contains a replica of a Civil War era operating theater, as well as interpretive panels and other exhibits concerning the care of the battle wounded.
Frederick, in western Maryland, is less than an hour’s drive from many major cities and key Civil War sites, including Baltimore, Washington, DC, Harper’s Ferry, Gettysburg, the Shenandoah Valley, and the aforementioned Antietam.
Ocean City Boardwalk, Ocean City
The Ocean City Boardwalk, on the Atlantic Ocean in the portion of Maryland directly south of Delaware, is three miles of beachfront with restaurants, arcades, a Ferris wheel and other rides, candy and ice cream and other vendors, souvenir shops, rental bicycles, and more.
USA Today and the Travel Channel are amongst those who’ve designated the Ocean City Boardwalk one of the top boardwalks in the country.
It’s a fine place to sit and look out at the ocean, or just relax and people watch.
Historic St. Mary’s, St. Mary’s City
Located on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, Historic St. Mary’s is a fascinating combination of a tourist attraction and a hub of academic research. Like many tourist cities around the country, it is a recreation of a town from centuries past, with employees dressed in period costumes, talking about and demonstrating life in the olden days. However, it has also for many years been the site of serious archaeological digs, which have unearthed a great deal of evidence that has helped to understand life in Colonial America in the 17th century.
St. Mary’s City was founded in 1634 as the first official city in Maryland. It prospered for a time, due mostly to successful tobacco farming. Relations with the local Indians were mostly peaceful. It gained a reputation as a place of religious tolerance, passing the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649, and it is the first place we know of in the New World where a woman settler demanded the right to vote.
However, in 1689, the religious amity had broken down to where tensions between Protestants and Catholics led to an uprising against Lord Baltimore, the chartered owner of the colony. The British responded by altering their intention of making St. Mary’s City the capital of the Maryland Colony, establishing that instead at Annapolis. Before long, St. Mary’s City became depopulated, with the surrounding farm land expanding to cover where the town center had been.
In modern times, historians and archaeologists have catalogued five million artifacts from the area. Visitors are free to wander the former city, where costumed interpreters recreate the life of over three hundred years ago. Or they can explore the on-site museum that tells the story of the recent archaeological successes.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels
Located on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, St. Michaels is home to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which tells about the lifestyle of the seafarers and fishermen of the area who made their living from the sea.
For $13 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $6 for children, visitors can explore the old fishing and crabbing vessels, a crabber’s shanty, the 1879 Hooper Straight Lighthouse, local artwork with a nautical theme, and the many other maritime exhibits that cover 18 acres and 35 buildings. The museum contains the world’s largest collection of boats that once sailed the Chesapeake Bay.
Year round, the museum offers educational seminars and workshops.
Antietam National Battleground, Sharpsburg
The first battle of the Civil War that occurred on Union territory took place near Sharpsburg, Maryland, close to where Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia come together. Northerners called it the Battle of Antietam; Southerners called it the Battle of Sharpsburg.
The 1862 encounter was the deadliest single day battle of the war, resulting in over 23,000 deaths. The Union forces had a three to one numerical edge, but the Confederate forces held the positional advantage. Over the course of the bloody day, numerous attacks were launched and resisted, with the result being that little or no ground changed hands; the armies basically fought to a draw.
Today visitors are free to walk the whole area where the battle occurred-the fields once filled with corpses, and Burnside Bridge and the other key landmarks one side fiercely fought to hold onto while the other side fiercely fought to take them away. There is a visitor center on site, with maps, documentaries, audio tours, Park Rangers to answer questions, and guided tours of the battlefield available.
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