Maryland is big on things to do. You can take a city break, hit the beach, explore US history, or have a hiking adventure in this small but mighty mid-Atlantic state. My youngest daughter, who lives in Washington, DC (home to the epic spring cherry blossom festival), takes frequent day trips to Maryland. And we also meet her there for weekend getaways from our Brooklyn NY home. It takes less time to drive or take the train to Maryland than it does to Washington, DC and we always find plenty to do.
The “Big” City: Baltimore
Baltimore ranks in the top 50 cities, by population, but its area is more similar to a smaller city like Seattle. This is great news for a city vacation. Many of its cultural institutions and restaurants are concentrated in the downtown area, so you can walk from a museum to dinner, and then to an arena for a baseball or football game.
From art museums to historic sites like Fort McHenry, Baltimore is great for a culture vulture. It also has much to recommend to foodies, from the Italian food in Little Italy or Fells Point to Korean brunch at Dooby’s in Mount Vernon to Maryland blue crab.
There is live music at Power Plant, major league baseball at Camden Yards, and Fort McHenry for history buffs.
Baltimore also excels in family-friendly attractions, located in the Inner Harbor:
- National Aquarium
- Port Discovery Children’s Museum
- Museum of Science
We had planned to explore Annapolis Maryland’s capital city, just as tropical storm Ophelia hit. The adorable historic district, with its brick streets and Victorian houses, wasn’t as charming in the rain. The wind blew in off the Chesapeake Bay and we couldn’t even get a good look at the Maryland State House.
If it’s not raining, take a guided tour of the United States Naval Academy. The Naval Academy also has a museum with the largest collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century ship models on display in America.
The capital of Maryland, Annapolis is about equidistant from Baltimore and Washington, DC. Take a self-guided tour of the Maryland State House, the oldest state house in America still in continuous legislative use. History buffs also note that it is the first state house designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Maryland’s Eastern Shore
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary for migratory birds home to the largest breeding population of American bald eagles on the East Coast. This is a great place to go birding. There are also biking and hiking trails and paddling trails. There are no boat rentals. You have to bring your own boat if you want to go kayaking. There is also a Visitor Center.
The small town of Cumberland boasts the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. You can ride the steam train and get stunning views of the Allegheny Mountains. The ‘gateway to the west’ before St. Louis, Cumberland grew from its location on the railroad between Baltimore and Chicago. The Cumberland Visitor Center has interactive displays, a model of the Paw Paw Tunnel, and a life-size section of a canal boat.
History buffs should check out the Victorian Gordon-Roberts House in the Washington Street Historic District and the Art Deco and Neoclassical Allegheny Museum. Cumberland and the surrounding area is also known for its wineries.
Deep Creek Lake
Deep Creek Lake, near Cumberland, has many state parks including Deep Creek Lake State Park, with hiking trails, campsites, canoeing, and kayaking. There are golf courses, a ski area with downhill and cross-country skiing, mountain biking, snow tubing, and the longest sledding park on the East Coast.
Near Deep Creek, Oakland calls itself a “great small town”. It has a pedestrian-friendly Main Street and a 19th-century Railroad Station. Swallow Falls State Park has the largest waterfall in Maryland.
Note: The campsite at Swallow Falls State Park is closed until December 2024.
Ocean City is a charming beach town. The wooden boardwalk, miles of oceanfront beaches, and local amusement parks make for a classic beach town. There are foodie tours and kayak rentals too.
Bethesda is more than a Washington, DC suburb. One time we were visiting my daughter in DC but we wanted to go to Planta, a high-end vegan restaurant that also has locations in New York, Toronto, and Miami. And Bethesda.
Planta has many amazing dishes, appealing to foodies whether or not they are vegan. The watermelon sushi and spicy Bang Bang broccoli are musts. The cocktails are also delicious.
We took the Metro and discovered a cute small-town feel. There is a children’s museum, KID Museum Bethesda Metro Center, and many restaurants with outdoor seating clustered near the Metro stop. There are even hotels if you want to make this your home base for a weekend getaway.
On our recent weekend trip, we were seeking outdoor adventures.
Hiking Trails in Maryland
Potomac, Maryland, an easy day trip from Washington, DC, features the Billy Goat Trail, a 4.7-mile hiking trail. This hiking trail includes rock scrambles so dogs are not allowed. There is a flat section along the C&O Canal and the Potomac River where you can bring your dog.
The Great Falls waterfall is not the most dramatic waterfall, but the difficult hike, part of the Chesapeake & Canal National Park, is a rewarding challenge.
For something a little less challenging, take a canal boat ride. Great Falls Canal Boat Rides leave from The Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. The historic site also has interpretive exhibits so you can get a little history with your outdoor adventure.
Calvert Cliffs State Park
Ocean City is not the only place in Maryland to go to the beach. Calvert Cliffs State Park has 13 miles of hiking trails, a sandy beach, and prehistoric fossils. The beach here is part of the Chesapeake Bay.
Where to Stay for a Maryland Weekend Getaway
Baltimore is a great home base for a Maryland weekend getaway. You can choose a bed and breakfast like the 1840s Carrollton Inn, for a romantic getaway. The inn, a series of connected 19th-century houses, has a vegan breakfast option.
If you are bringing the kids or a dog, choose a boutique hotel on the harbor like Canopy by Hilton Baltimore Harbor Point. The Canopy by
For five-star luxury, the boutique hotel The Ivy Hotel, in Mount Vernon, also has a spa. This is also a great place for a romantic weekend getaway,
Driving Around Maryland
We drove the plug-in hybrid Ford Escape, which comfortably fits 5 passengers and luggage. It has a large panoramic roof that bathes both front and rear passengers in light, wireless charging, and wireless Apple CarPlay.
And the Ford has every safety feature including pedestrian detection, which was quite useful when driving in cities.
The one-touch power windows took a little getting used to. If you want to open the window just an inch or two, you might find yourself opening and closing the window all the way a couple of times until you get the hang of it.
We walked over from our boutique hotel in Baltimore to the American Visionary Art Museum and then saw that right across the street, there was electric vehicle charging. The Maryland House Travel Plaza in Aberdeen, which is only about half an hour from Baltimore, has EV charging for Teslas and other electric vehicles, like the Ford Escape PHEV. But when we wanted to charge in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, we were out of luck. We stopped at two service areas; one had only Tesla chargers, and the other had broken chargers for the Ford and another non-Tesla EVS. We had to wait in line to get gas.
But the fuel-efficient Escape gets 40 miles per gallon with gas, and 101 mpg combined gas and electric.
If you want to drive some more, check out Frederick, Maryland’s second-largest city. The Main Street of Frederick is a historic district, lined with art galleries and museums.
Assateague Island National Seashore, a barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean, has miles of sandy beaches and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, home to wild horses.