Maryland See And Do
800 Key Highway
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 244 1900
Don't go here expecting to see a collection of Old Masters and postmodern abstractionists. This Federal Hill museum has a populist mission: to celebrate the self-taught artistry of factory workers and farmers, institutionalized patients, even a respected Maryland surgeon. It could have been a recipe for disaster, but somehow it works, from the model of the ocean liner Lusitania fashioned from 193,000 toothpicks, to a "Bra Ball" rolled from 18,000 foundation garments by Emily Duffy. Another permanent exhibit celebrates a vanishing indigenous folk-art style—the window and door screens on East Baltimore row houses decorated with hand-painted landscapes. The museum gift shop maintains the hip irreverence with black-velvet paintings, coffee-table books about rodeo tailors, and a macabre action figurine of Marie Antoinette—complete with "ejector head."
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 am to 6 pm.
Annapolis , Maryland
Founded in 1649, Maryland's state capital is a living museum of centuries-old shade trees, red-brick streets, and the greatest concentration of Georgian-style buildings in the country. Its street plan revolves around the domed State House, which dates to 1772 and could inspire an entire History Channel series: General George Washington resigned as commander of the Continental Army inside its Old Senate Chamber, where the Treaty of Paris formally ending the Revolutionary War was also ratified; in 1783-84 the State House also served as the capitol of the newly minted nation. When the current Legislature's in session, politicians often caucus at Chick & Ruth's Delly (165 Main St.; 410-269-6737; chickandruths.com), a friendly greasy spoon that keeps a special booth for Governor Martin O'Malley, a frequent customer. East of the State House is the campus of tiny St. John's College (1696), the third oldest college in America, and the U.S. Naval Academy. Exhibits at the latter's Armel-Leftwich Visitors Center (52 King George St.; 410-293-8687; www.usna.edu) include Freedom 7, the Mercury space capsule piloted by USNA grad Alan Shephard Jr., America's first astronaut. John Paul Jones, the heroic Revolutionary War skipper, is buried in an elaborate crypt beneath the Academy's neoclassical chapel.
Down on the busy waterfront, multimillion-dollar powerboats glide up "Ego Alley" to a small turning basin at City Dock, once a port for tobacco and slaves. Today most of the maritime activity in the self-styled "Sailing Capital of America" is found in Eastport, a working-class neighborhood of bungalows and boatyards just south of the harbor's forest of aluminum masts. Rent a boat yourself, or just watch them sail past while sipping cocktails at the dockside Pusser's Caribbean Grille.
10 Art Museum Drive (North Charles & 31st streets)
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 443 573 1700
Set three miles north of the Inner Harbor in parklike Charles Village, adjacent to Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore Museum of Art may surprise first-time visitors with the scope of its collection. The monumental neoclassical building designed by John Russell Pope holds major works by Botticelli, Van Dyck, Picasso, and Gauguin, castings of iconic sculptures by Rodin and Degas, and several dozen exquisite Antioch mosaics, which enliven a sun-splashed atrium courtyard. The core of the museum's holdings, including the largest number of works in the world by Matisse, is the Cone Collection. It was the gift of two thoroughly modern sisters, Etta and Claribel Cone, friends of Gertrude Stein who decorated their Baltimore apartment wall-to-wall with Impressionist masterpieces. The Cone Wing includes a touch-screen virtual tour of the sisters' amazing rooms. Given Maryland's importance in thoroughbred racing, the BMA also has an entire room devoted to English sporting art, with paintings by George Stubbs and the Tiffany-designed Woodlawn Vase, presented every May at nearby Pimlico racetrack to the winner of the Preakness Stakes. Plan on having lunch here: Instead of a pedestrian café, you'll find modern American fare at Gertrude's Restaurant, which overlooks the Sculpture Garden.
Open Wednesdays through Fridays 11 am to 5 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 6 pm.
Chesapeake Bay , Maryland
Even if you don't know a schooner from a skiff, you'd be remiss if you didn't take at least a short cruise on the Bay. Maryland's history and economy hinge on the 200-mile-long Chesapeake, and the nation's largest estuary is considered a paradise for pleasure boats. Annapolis has a variety of day-sail options, including the Schooner Woodwind (410-263-7837; www.schoonerwoodwind.com), a 74-foot wooden yacht that's repeatedly won the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. The state capital is also home port for several sailing schools; the hands-on courses at J World Annapolis (213 Eastern Ave., Annapolis; 410-280-2040; www.jworldannapolis.com) will have you tacking in no time. Watermark (410-268-7601; www.watermarkjourney.com) offers Bay cruises to historic lighthouses or to St. Michaels. On the Eastern Shore's Tilghman Island, Captain Wade H. Murphy Jr. makes day sails aboard the skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark, a national historic landmark first launched in 1886 (410-886-2176; www.skipjack.org). From Memorial Day until mid-October, Smith Island Cruises (410-425-2771; www.smithislandcruises.com) operates a daily ferry from southernmost Crisfield to the state's only inhabited island, which was settled in 1686 and is home to watermen who still speak with a unique, lilting English accent.
213 North Talbot Street
St. Michaels , Maryland
Tel: 410 745 2916
Sprawling across 18 waterfront acres on the Eastern Shore's tranquil Miles River, this smartly organized museum could almost pass for a working port. An old colonial home holds natural-history exhibits, while nearby sheds display a dizzying array of purpose-built watercraft that once worked one of America's greatest fisheries, including the sail-driven skipjack E.C. Collier, which dredged oysters for decades. You can try your luck working scissor-like oyster nippers and tongs from Waterman's Wharf and hoisting up the baited crab traps and eel pots. The more ambitious can enroll in the museum's "Apprentice for a Day" weekend program and help master shipwrights restore boats or build a traditional flat-bottom wooden skiff. And how's this for a gift-shop souvenir? The handmade boats are for sale for a bargain $10,500.
Open daily 10 am to 6 pm.
Eastern Shore , Maryland
The Eastern Shore is a bucolic, baking-sheet-flat landscape of corn fields, tidal rivers, and centuries-old towns tied to farming and fishing. Though it's just 90 minutes from Washington, D.C., tourism is largely seasonal and development is minimal. Main-street shops haven't given way to gourmet coffee bars, except in well-heeled St. Michaels (800-808-7622; www.stmichaelsmd.org), a town so quaint that even its police station resembles a B&B. Its part-time residents include former Vice President Dick Cheney, but St. Michaels's working roots are still found in places like Big Al's Seafood Market (302 North Talbot St.; 410-745-3151), which sells remarkable crab cakes as well as the necessities to catch your own (dipping net, hand line and crabbing permit). To explore the Eastern Shore, it's best to simply wander the two-lane roads through thriving, well-preserved settlements like Chestertown (410-778-0416; www.chestertown.com), a trove of architectural styles from Georgian and Federal to Italianate and Queen Anne, and especially the sleepy Oxford (410-745-9023; www.portofoxford.com), a village of boatyards and clapboard homes founded in 1683 that was once an international tobacco port. If you travel there from St. Michaels, you can cross the mile-wide Tred Avon River via a seasonal, nine-car ferry (410-745-9023; www.oxfordferry.com), the oldest privately owned ferry in America, which cuts the travel time in half.
The charming county seat of Easton (410-770-8000; www.eastonmd.org) springs to life every November when its annual Waterfowl Festival attracts thousands of hunters, bird-watchers, and decoy collectors. Though the summer crowds pack the chain restaurants and kitschy boardwalk of Ocean City, the real star of Maryland's brief strip of Atlantic coastline is Assateague Island National Seashore (410-641-1441; www.nps.gov/asis), a pristine, 18,000-acre barrier island that's home to herds of the wild horses made famous in Marguerite Henry's classic children's book Misty of Chincoteague. There are no hotels in the park, but drive-in and walk-in campsites are available.
2400 East Fort Avenue
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 962 4290
The National Anthem was inspired by this world-famous fort commanding the entrance to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which withstood a daunting 25-hour bombardment by British warships beginning September 13, 1814. The bastion's resilience—and the sight of the flag with its "bright stars and broad stripes" (15 in all)—prompted Francis Scott Key, a young Washington lawyer who was negotiating a prisoner exchange with the British aboard a truce ship, to pen his immortal poem. Exhibits at a small visitor center and throughout the restored ramparts trace the lengthy history of the star-shaped fort from its 1805 construction to its use as a Civil War prison for Confederate sympathizers—including, ironically, Key's grandson—and, later, a World War I hospital. The original banner now hangs in the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., but an exact replica of the 30-by-42-foot flag flies over the fort. You can arrive by land or by sea: Family-owned Ed Kane's Water Taxis (410-563-3901; www.thewatertaxi.com) stops at the fort's dock from April through October.
Open daily 8 am to 5 pm, with extended summer hours.
501 East Pratt Street
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 576 3800
Just as Baltimore's Camden Yards influenced sports stadia across America, the aquarium's 1981 opening represented a watershed moment in urban fish-tank design. Rising five stories from the north side of the Inner Harbor and topped by a distinctive sail-shaped glass atrium, the structure is fins-down the city's most beloved attraction, luring 1.6 million visitors a year. Its exhibits cover the waterfront: In addition to colorful reef fish, there are areas devoted to such ecosystems as western Maryland waterfalls, the Amazon River, Pacific kelp forests, Australia (including a freshwater croc), and a tropical rain forest, complete with exotic birds. There is also a 4-D big-screen theater and de rigueur dolphin show, but the main attraction is the gi-normous Atlantic coral reef exhibit; visitors are treated to 360-degree views of jacks and angelfish while descending a spiraling walkway in the middle of the doughnut-shaped tank. Another theater in the round holds nurse, lemon, and sand-tiger sharks. Every other weekend, Atlantic Edge Dive Center (301-519-9283; www.atlanticedge.com) leads certified divers on a pair of 30-minute plunges inside the Atlantic reef tank and nearby "Wings in the Water," a shallow tray that holds sea turtles and stingrays.
Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.
333 West Camden Street
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 888 848 BIRD
Camden Yards was the game-changer when it debuted in 1992, sparking a retro-ballpark boom that continues to this day. The old-school brick facade, steel trusses, asymmetrical outfield fences, and natural turf lend a sense of intimacy to America's greatest pastime. Though the Orioles have long been mired in mediocrity, Baltimore still gets home-field advantage: The ballyard is just a ten-minute walk west of the Inner Harbor, and tickets are much easier to come by than at, say, Boston's Fenway Park. You can order tickets from the team or drop by Gate F, a designated "scalp-free zone," on most game days. Allow yourself pregame time to soak up the street-fair atmosphere on pedestrian-only Eutaw Street behind right field. The pavement holds baseball-shaped brass plaques commemorating epic home runs; a marker on the wall of the former B&O Railroad warehouse commemorates the longest ball, a 445-foot blast by Ken Griffey, Jr. Nearby, former Orioles slugger John "Boog" Powell rustles up pit beef and smoked-pork sandwiches at Boog's BBQ, while Sawmill Slat Bat Factory (410-643-8357; www.sawmillslat.com) will have an engraved ash or maple bat waiting for you by game's end. Once inside the park, follow the scent of Old Bay seasoning to Charm City Seafood, just behind home plate. Skip the peanuts and Cracker Jack and order a crab cake instead. On Tuesdays, Upper Reserve section seats are just $8, while kids 14 and under can run the bases after Sunday games. If the Birds aren't in town, it's still worth dropping by to tour the park.
600 North Charles Street
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 547 9000
A small museum with a strong personality, this institution owes its existence to William Walters, a 19th-century Baltimore railroad baron who annually opened his art-filled private residence in Mount Vernon, the city's toniest neighborhood. His son, Henry, an equally avid collector, commissioned a palazzo-style building to exhibit the family treasures and later bequeathed the whole lot to the city. That inheritance is a six-millennium survey of art history, from Egyptian mummies to Monet. Located one mile north of the Inner Harbor, the Walters is just the right size to digest in a few hours. Of special note are the Asian and medieval art, as well as the 17th-century Flemish Collection, which features a sumptuous "Chamber of Wonders" that shows off then-unfamiliar New World curiosities like a stuffed alligator, a walrus tusk, and a leopard skin. Another unusual museum attribute: free admission to the main collection and complimentary audio guides.
Open Wednesdays through Sundays 10 am to 5 pm.