WHY VISIT MARYLAND
A hop, skip, and a jump from the US capital, Maryland charms visitors with its gorgeous beaches, bustling cities, and bountiful opportunities for outdoor adventures. Washington DC actually spills over the state line into Maryland: Bethesda, with its enticing delis, bakeries, and galleries, and Silver Spring, home to the American Film Institute’s art deco Silver Theatre, are both on DC’s metro red line.
But who needs DC when you have Baltimore? Officially the largest independent city in the US, its landmark attraction is Inner Harbor, where fantastic museums, excellent seafood, and stunning views abound. Grab a water taxi to the trendy Canton neighborhood, with its historic houses and hip hangouts, or join football-crazy locals and cheer on the Ravens.
Nestling on the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the US, Annapolis is Maryland’s stunning state capital. The busiest sailing destination on the Eastern Seaboard, it boasts a stunning colonial old town, and charming museums, and is the gateway to wildlife-rich wetlands.
Further along the coast, beachcombers and bathers mingle on golden sands for old-fashioned seaside fun. You can chow down on fresh crab, take a whirl on the rides at Ocean City, or snap Assateague Island’s iconic wild ponies.
Out west, anglers and boaters hole up in rustic cabins to enjoy the simple pleasures of Deep Creek Lake. Hiking and biking trails crisscross the surrounding forest, which also harbors an Olympic-standard white-water rafting course and a winter snow-tubing park. And then there’s Cumberland, the terminus for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which takes passengers through the Appalachian Mountains and back to the bygone era of steam travel.
Suffice to say, Maryland has much to offer. Little wonder they call it ‘America in Miniature’.
WHAT TO SEE IN MARYLAND
- Assateague Island National Park: known for the wild horses which call this area their home, Assateague Island remains uninhabited by humans. Assateague’s wild horses are feral, descended from domesticated horses that have since broken free and were made famous by Marguerite Henry’s book, Misty of Chincoteague. Every last Wednesday in July, the horses are herded and swum from Assateague to Chincoteague Island, and the young foals are auctioned off. Visitors can enter the park during daytime hours to enjoy a hike, canoe, kayak, walk along the shore, or try to spot the horses. There is an entrance fee for visitors and cars and guided tours are available.
- National Aquarium: with over 1.6 million visitors a year, the National Aquarium in Baltimore is one of the city’s most popular attractions. The aquarium boasts over 660 animal species and children love the Dolphin Discovery zone, where visitors can interact with dolphins. For something unusual, why not try the Shark Lover’s Dream, an overnight stay at the aquarium with the sharks? There is also a 4D Immersion Theater showing 3D films with special effects like bubbles, smells, wind, and leg ticklers.
- Allegheny Mountains: the Allegheny Mountains are part of the large Appalachian Mountain chain and run through Western Maryland. Backbone Mountain is Maryland’s highest point at 1,024 m high, while Dans Mountain provides climbers with another challenge at 883 m. Cumberland is the main starting point for outdoor adventures with hikers able to take in the abundant flora and fauna from red maple to elk and bison.
- Cumberland’s Historic District: the main hub of Maryland’s Allegheny Mountains is home to an interesting historic district simply called Downtown, which features the city’s largest concentration of stores and restaurants. The pedestrianized Baltimore Street is the center, lined with pretty 19th and 20th-century buildings indicative of the city’s former wealth. Weekly farmers’ markets and summertime festivals make for great events to attend.
- NASA Goddard Visitor Center: for anyone interested in space, the NASA Goddard Visitors’ Center is a must-see. Open daily and free of charge, the facility showcases spacecraft, satellites, Hubble photographs, and interactive displays. Monthly model rocket launches take place here and the center also hosts many special events.
- Annapolis Maritime Museum: Annapolis is steeped in maritime history and is home to the famous Naval Academy. The Annapolis Maritime Museum is a crown attraction with the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse at its core, built in 1874. Interesting exhibits include the Oysters on the Half Shell, which explains the history of the oyster industry in Maryland, and the interactive Bay Experience Center. The museum also hosts a wide range of events, concerts, lectures, and educational activities.
- Adventure Park USA: no family trip to Maryland would be complete without spending a day at Adventure Park USA, the largest amusement park in the state. Thrill rides, mini-golf, a rock wall, paintball, go-karts, and much more await. Unlike other amusement parks, the park has no entrance fee, but rides are charged via a Fun Pass which is like a debit card.
- Adventure Sports Center International: the Adventure Sport Center International (ASCI) is home to several activities: a whitewater kayak/canoe course, rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking. This manmade whitewater adventure is open from May to October for those that want to give whitewater rafting or river boarding a try. All skill levels are welcome with a professional guide. ASCI also offers a range of other outdoor sports like bike tours, backcountry trips, rock climbing, and rappelling that need to be booked in advance.
WHEN TO GO TO MARYLAND
The best period to visit Maryland is from June to September.
Hot, humid summers and mild, damp winters.
Following is a list of typical festivals and celebrations of Maryland.
- Capital Jazz Festival: taking place in June every year, Capital Jazz is a music lover’s dream. Big names come together in Columbia to showcase the best of jazz along with food stalls, craft shops, workshops, and shows.
- Independence Day Celebrations: Independence Day on July 4 is big throughout the US but especially impressive in Annapolis. There is a parade and a concert at the docks topped off with an impressive fireworks display over the Annapolis Harbor.
- Assateague Horse Round-up: every year on the last Wednesday of July, the horse herd from Virginia is rounded up and the foals are sold at auction after the horses swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island. Visitors are welcome and the proceeds go to the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland, which owns and manages the herd.
- Maryland Renaissance Festival: this festival has been taking place for almost 40 years and is like traveling back in time to the Renaissance era. Costumed shows and activities are fun for the whole family including jousting. The event runs from the end of August until mid-October.
- Prince George’s County Fair: in September every year, a traditional county fair takes place in Upper Marlboro (Princes George’s County) in Maryland. Showcasing live animals, food, music, and family-friendly activities, both young and old alike can enjoy this wonderful event.
- Germantown Oktoberfest: you don’t have to travel to Germany to enjoy Oktoberfest, just head to Germantown in Montgomery County. The county’s top annual event on October 1, visitors can enjoy food, drink, and music at the Biergarten, as well as lots of activities for children. Each day ends with a fireworks display.
- National Canoe & Kayak Championships: Deep Creek Lake (McHenry) in Maryland is home to a world-class, manmade kayak and whitewater rafting course. Every year, it hosts the US Nationals in September, attracting the top athletes from across the country to cheer on the rowers.
- Baltimore Thanksgiving Parade: the best Thanksgiving day parade takes place in Baltimore on the fourth Thursday in November. Visitors can marvel at the amazing floats, marching bands, and gigantic balloons that are part of Maryland’s annual celebration. Children will enjoy the fact that Santa Claus arrives early in Baltimore at this time and can see him at Harbor Place.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH MARYLAND
Taxis are a safe and easy transportation option in the cities of Maryland. In the countryside, cabs are limited with most services available as radio taxis. To explore the more remote regions, self-driving is probably the best option.
Maryland is well-connected to the interstate highway system. Car rental is affordable and convenient but will need to be booked in advance, especially over weekends and the holidays. The cities have plenty of international rental options.
Both Baltimore and Annapolis have water taxis that visitors can use. In Baltimore, the water taxis run from Fort McHenry to the Inner Harbor and are a great way to see the sites and get to restaurants and bars. In Annapolis, water taxis offer services from Annapolis Harbor, Spa Creek, and Back Creek.
Maryland is served by Amtrak for long-distance connections to many other US cities. The main rail stations are in Baltimore, Cumberland, Rockville, Aberdeen, and Salisbury. The MARC train offers services primarily for commuters operating Monday through Friday with trips through Baltimore, Washington DC, and West Virginia.
Public transportation in Maryland is regulated by the Maryland Transit Administration, which includes buses, light rail, MARC, and subways. Baltimore offers the most options with visitors able to use the light rail lines, metro, buses, and water taxis.
Main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON MARYLAND
health tips & vaccination: none
local currency: US Dollar
local time zone: GMT-5 (-4)
electricity: type A and type B (120V – 60 Hz)
WHAT TO DO IN MARYLAND
Typical food in Maryland
- Maryland Blue Crab
Souvenirs from Maryland