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From the acclaimed National Aquarium at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, to Assateague Island’s wild, woolly ponies and Ocean City’s bustling boardwalk scene, the state of Maryland is a superb destination for RV travelers.
We like to kick things off in Baltimore, home of the trendy Inner Harbor, bordered by an expansive pedestrian complex lined with metro attractions, tempting seafood restaurants, and eclectic shops. You can make a day of it just strolling, shopping, and browsing around Harborplace and The Gallery. Take time to pop into Maryland Science Center to see more than a dozen, full-scale dinosaurs and a five-story-high IMAX film. And be sure to catch the sweeping harbor view from the Top of the World Observation Level at Baltimore’s World Trade Center.
Don’t depart from the Inner Harbor without visiting Maryland’s premier tourist stop, the National Aquarium. Thousands of individual animals represent diverse aquatic ecosystems such as Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and the otherworldly Amazon Rainforest. Sleek sharks and stingrays, performing dolphins, lively painted turtles, sizzling electric eels, and colorful coral formations are all part of the National Aquarium experience.
Just north of the I-95 junction with I-395, is the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum, where you’ll learn about the life and times of Baltimore’s larger-than-life native son, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, the renowned “Sultan of Swat.” The nearby Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards contains exhibits featuring the Orioles pro baseball team, (formerly) Baltimore Colts football team, and a selection of legendary Maryland-based sports professionals from various fields of play.
Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine is the hallowed site of a hard-fought battle against the British during the War of 1812. Based on his views of the dramatic clash at imperiled Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key wrote the time-tested song “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Go ahead, hum a few bars.
If you’re a devotee of thoroughbred horse racing, Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course, official home of the Preakness, will keep you entertained with seasonal live races and year-round simulcasts.
From Baltimore, take I-695 south, then Hwy 2 south to Annapolis. The U.S. Naval Academy, the undergraduate institution of the American Navy, first opened its doors in 1845. At the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center, you can view the film “To Lead and to Serve,” and learn about past and present roles of student midshipmen. The Freedom 7 space capsule, tomb of John Paul Jones, and campus chapel are available to tour. Visit the Academy Museum to see displays of naval uniforms, weapons of war, and the circa 1951 Gallery of Ships Models Collection.
During Colonial times, the City Dock was a bustling port occupied by ship’s carpenters and rowdy tavern guests. Presently preserved as a peaceful waterfront park, the location is a lovely place to relax and enjoy Annapolis’ incomparable views. To gain the best perspective of the circa 1875 Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse at the mouth of the South River, you really ought to view it from a boat. Still operated today by the U.S. Coast Guard, the unique screwpile offshore lighthouse is a National Landmark, one of only nine such lighthouses in the entire United States that have survived to this day.
Were you aware that the Maryland State House in Annapolis served as the capitol of the United States in the late 1700s? No? Then back to 6th grade with you! It also bears the distinction of being the oldest, continuously-used state house in America, home to the Maryland General Assembly for three months each year, with offices occupied by Maryland’s Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
For a breezy, invigorating close to your sweep of Annapolis’ sights, take a two-hour cruise on the schooner Woodwind, a 74’ sailing yacht. You can help hoist the sails as a participating crewmember or relax and rejuvenate on the sunny deck. It’s your call, sailor.
From Annapolis, take US-50 east towards Ocean City, with stops in Cambridge, Salisbury, and Berlin. Harriet Tubman, famed female abolitionist and escaped slave, was instrumental in the organization of the Underground Railroad, a system of getaway routes and safe houses used by slaves seeking freedom. At the site of Cambridge’s historic Bucktown Village Store, take a tour of Tubman’s birthplace and learn about the freedom network’s secret beginnings. As a sidelight, the store rents out bikes, kayaks, and canoes for self-paced explorations of the area’s unspoiled natural surroundings. At nearby Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, sizable flocks of swans, geese, and ducks swoop in for seasonal landings. The refuge boasts the largest nesting population of bald eagles on the eastern U.S. coast, so it’s a great stopover for avid bird watchers.
Speaking of bird-lovers (and wood-carvers), the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury houses the most extensive collection of contemporary and antique bird carvings found anywhere in the world. Salisbury University’s affiliated museum also interprets the history of waterfowl decoy art, and everything is presented in three-dimensional splendor.
Assateague Island National Seashore and State Park, in the town of Berlin, are must-sees! These classic, undeveloped coastal retreats on a 37-mile-long island stretch from Atlantic surf and sandy shores on its eastern boundaries, to Chincoteague Bay’s rippling waters on its western edge. Assateague’s most famous residents are its shaggy, free-roaming ponies. View them at close range in both the national and state park sections of the island. In addition to pony watching, pleasing pastimes on the island of Assateague include ocean swimming, surf-fishing, hiking to the lighthouse, seashell collecting, kayaking, and crabbing.
In Ocean City, Maryland, take a guided nature cruise, explore coastal bays, go for a fast ride on a giant speedboat, or book a customized fishing excursion from one of several local marinas. Play a leisurely round of golf at award-winning courses with the benefit of great ocean views, or stroll along the pier boardwalk and partake in a menagerie of rides, games, and traditional seaside amusements. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in some legendary Thrasher’s French Fries while you’re there. And be sure to see the aquariums and local history exhibits at the circa 1891 Life-Saving Station Museum.