Hugging the Chesapeake Bay and bordered by Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, Maryland is a coastal state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US. Famous for the city of Baltimore, blue crabs, and baseball, the state is also known for being the birthplace of the national anthem.
Relatively small in size overall, Maryland has a wide variety of tourist attractions and activities. Big cities like Baltimore are glamorous, but there are plenty of small towns worth visiting too. In the countryside, visitors can head deeper into the Appalachian Mountains to see hidden lakes and waterfalls. On the coast, beaches are great for dining on fresh seafood and soaking up the sun on the sand.
Of course, travelers shouldn’t forget the impact of Maryland on American history. Scattered throughout the state are historic sites that date back to early Native American habitation, Colonial America, as well as the Revolutionary and Civil War. Moving into the modern world, the state has remained an important hub for business, trading, innovations, and tourism.
Called “American Miniature” because of its diversity, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Maryland. Everyone will find something that suits their tastes in this state, whether it’s literally trying the local cuisine, enjoying the historical sites, or heading off into the Marylandian wilderness.
Livin’ La Vida Maryland
Visit Maryland’s Top Towns and Cities
History of the “Old Line State”
Maryland has been inhabited by humans since the 10th millennium BC. However, the state’s recorded history did not begin until 1498, when the Venetian John Cabot was sent on an exploration of North America by the Kingdom of England. More than a century later, the state would become the colonial Province of Maryland.
The first settlement and beginning of the colony began in 1632. Originally granted to Sir George Calvert by King Charles I, Calvert’s death passed the charter onto his son, Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore. The name Maryland is thought to have been in honor of King Charles I’s wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. Others believe the name came from Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Throughout the years, the state has been involved in numerous wars. During the Revolutionary War, there were no significant battles in Maryland, but nonetheless, General George Washington was still impressed by the Maryland Line, which was a formation of the Continental Army.
As a border state that straddles both the North and South, Maryland was divided on slavery. Nearly half of the state had sympathy for slaves, while the other half still did not want to make slavery illegal. After the Revolutionary War, some Marylander planters did free their slaves. About 49% of all the African Americans in the state were freed slaves.
Ultimately, the state sided with the Union throughout the war. Maryland’s most famous and significant Civil War battle was the Battle of Antietam, which was fought on September 17th, 1862. Victory for the Union, the Battle of Antietam forced General Lee to stop his invasion of the North.
Even after the end of the war, racial tensions were still high. Famous reformers that were born in the state include Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. Most famously, the state had a network of lines that became a part of the Underground Railroad, allowing hundreds of people to escape their enslavement.
Capital City of Annapolis
Located on the Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis is the capital city of Maryland. Home to 40,812 residents as of 2020, the city is nicknamed “America’s Sailing Capital” and the “Sailing Capital of the World.” With the local culture being strongly tied to the Chesapeake Bay, most of the city’s top attractions are close to the water if not nautical-themed.
One of the busiest places in the city is Annapolis Harbor & Dock Street. A picturesque waterfront area, the harbor is a great place to shop, dine, and sail. Dock Street is the best part of the harbor where tourists can find excellent restaurants that serve the freshest seafood, including the state’s famous blue crabs.
Not too far from the harbor is the United States Naval Academy. Visitors who want to learn more about the naval history and academy are encouraged to book a tour. With different tour packages offered, visitors explore the academy for as little as 75 minutes or as long as 3 hours.
Additional attractions in Annapolis are the William Paca House & Garden, Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park, Banneker-Douglass Museum, and Sandy Point State Park. Most of the city’s attractions are family-friendly, which makes it a popular place to vacation with travelers with kids.
Baltimore, The Largest City in Maryland
Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland with a population of 585,708 as of 2020. With lots of things to do, the city attracts a diverse mix of tourists from families to couples and independent spirits. With historic areas and influential pop cultural icons, the city is one of the best destinations in Maryland.
The focal point of Baltimore is the Inner Harbor, which has dozens of pavilions, promenades, shops, and restaurants. Historic ships docked at the harbor are fun activities for tourists looking to learn more about old maritime lifestyles.
For a good time, the upbeat character of Fell’s Point makes it one of the best neighborhoods for young tourists. Visitors should also check out the Mount Vernon, Little Italy, and Hamden neighborhoods.
Top attractions include the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Walters Art Museum, National Aquarium, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland Science Center, and the Maryland Zoo.
Also known by literary fans as the city where Edgar Allen Poe died in 1849, visitors who want to chase some of Baltimore’s more unusual attractions should consider checking out the Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum, his gravesite, the Annabel Lee Tavern, and The Horse You Came In On Saloon.
Germantown, The Third Largest City in Maryland
Founded by European immigrants in the 19th century, Germantown is a suburban hub where visitors can enjoy the local parks, museums, galleries, shops, and restaurants. Less popular with tourists, Germantown is the perfect destination for travelers who want to see new places and head off the beaten path.
With fewer crowds, you can actually relax and enjoy nature. Some of the best attractions in Germantown are Butler’s Orchard, the Great Seneca Valley Stream Park, and Bohrer Park.
Visitors exploring Germantown can also head to a local favorite for a bite to eat. The Lancaster County Dutch Market of Germantown is a great place to explore, selling fresh produce, meals, and desserts made by Amish people who come from Pennsylvania. Only open on certain days of the week, the market is a great place to stroll through and grab a few snacks.
Another quiet suburb worth checking out if you’re tired of the big cities is Silver Spring. Home to 81,015 people in 2020, the city is located less than half an hour north of Washington D.C.
A fun place, some of the best things to do in Silver Spring are to peruse the downtown area including the Downtown Silver Spring Mall, take a tour of a local brewery or winery, see a show at the Black Box Theatre, walk around Woodside Urban Park, or visit the National Capital Trolley Museum.
With an upbeat vibe, colorful appearance, and 20 miles of beach, Ocean City is one of the top seaside resort towns in Maryland. Attracting up to 4 million tourists annually, most activities are centered around the sand and surf with watersports being particularly popular.
As a resort town, there are plenty of hotels and restaurants to cater to tourists. Many are located right on the beach with views of the water and sand. Along the boardwalk, Trimper’s Rides is a small amusement park that is perfect for families with younger children. When the day is done, you should head to the small Sunset Park to watch as the sun disappears under the Isle of Wight Bay.
Assateague Island is shared between Maryland and Virginia. However, Maryland has the bulk of the island with nearly 25 miles of it within the state’s borders. Just eight miles south of Ocean City is one of two entrances to the island. Sitting at the end of Route 611, the North Entrance is the only way to access the island from Maryland, meanwhile, the other entrance is located in Virginia.
On Maryland’s part of the island in the State Park and some portions of the National Seashore, visitors are permitted to camp overnight. However, most choose to visit the island during the day to see the famous beaches and feral horses.
Historic Sites and National Parks
Many historic sites in the state have been turned into national or state parks, which give them federal or state-level protection. Being perfectly preserved and maintained ensures that these parks, monuments, and sites will remain for future generations.
Maryland’s most famous historic site is the Antietam National Battlefield. Once the site of 12 hours of brutal conflict during the American Civil War, the battlefield sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Much more than just the battlefield, tourists can also view the visitor center, the national military cemetery, the field hospital museum, and the Burnside’s Bridge stone arch.
Dating back to the War of 1812, the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is a popular day trip destination for tourists in Baltimore. Water taxis from the Inner Harbor take visitors to the fort where they can watch a free movie, as well as tour the visitor center and fort.
Another extremely important site is the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park and State Park. Dedicated to Harriet Tubman who risked her life to help slaves find freedom, the park preserves some of the landscapes that she had to pass through on her journey. Two attractions at the park include the Visitor Center and the Scenic Byway.
Embracing its diversity, Maryland has an abundance of attractions and activities to keep you busy on your vacation. From significant historical sites to long stretches of unspoiled landscapes, visitors will fall head over heels for this Mid-Atlantic state. With a little bit of everything, Maryland will surely have you planning a return trip.
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