There’s a lot to love about the state of Maryland. While sports enthusiasts may know Maryland for the Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Ravens, history lovers likely know it for its Civil War landmarks, including the infamous Antietam National Battlefield. From forests in the west to beaches in the east, Maryland is packed-full of things to see and do.
Best Things to Do in Maryland
1. Explore Maryland’s Capital City, Annapolis
Although many confuse Baltimore for Maryland’s capital city, it’s actually Annapolis. Annapolis boasts a rich history, with many of its buildings dating back to the 1700s. In fact, the Maryland State House, located in Annapolis, is the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use. Annapolis is also home to the United States Naval Academy, established in 1845.
Stop by the Annapolis Visitor Center at 26 West Street for brochures and information on the area, followed by partaking in local adventures. Annapolis’ top tourist attractions include Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park, St. Mary’s Church, and Sandy Point State Park. Annapolis is also home to several unique tours. If you’re feeling spooky, go on a ghost tour. If you consider yourself a foodie, you (and your stomach) will likely prefer a wine & cheese tour. If you’re adventurous, brave the skies on a helicopter tour above the city.
The downtown area of Annapolis is packed with other places to explore, such as local shops, art galleries, cozy cafes, and historic restaurants and taverns. Don’t forget to visit the waterfront, where you may see sailboats gentle gliding through the harbor.
Annapolis comes to life during the holiday season with twinkling lights and an annual yacht parade. Locals dress up their boats with colorful lights and tacky holiday decor; the fun festivities are a must-see in person.
2. Take in the Scenery of Western Maryland
Compared to the rest of the state, Western Maryland is like a whole other world. It’s home to the tallest mountains in the state, which means plenty of hiking trails, camp sites, and other adventures for outdoor enthusiasts.
Western Maryland is also where you’ll find Maryland’s largest lake, Deep Creek Lake. The lake spans 3,900-acres and 69-miles of shoreline. It’s a popular spot for boating, fishing, and swimming. The easiest place to access the lake is from Deep Creek Lake State Park, which also offers sandy beaches that are perfect for families.
Swallow Falls State Park is another essential place to visit while in the area. It’s home to the tallest free-falling waterfall in Maryland, Muddy Creek Falls. The park also offers hiking trails and plenty of picnic spots to refuel your body while admiring the surroundings.
Maryland’s western region is also home to the state’s only ski mountain, Wisp Resort. Along with winter sports, the resort offers various activities throughout the seasons, including white-water rafting, aerial adventures, and a mountain coaster.
Lastly, you won’t want to miss a ride on the area rail bikes, or partake on an actual train ride through the rolling countryside. The WMSR train rides offer offer scenic excursions, murder mysteries, holiday-themed rides, and a popular autumn excursion that’s gorgeous when fall foliage is at its peak.
3. See the Wild Horses at Assateague Island National Seashore
You can choose to visit either the state park side of Assateague, known as Assateague State Park, or you can visit the national park side, called Assateague Island National Seashore. Both areas are located in Maryland and are home to white sand beaches and wild horses. The third section of the island is known as Chincoteague, and is technically in Virginia.
Along with swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, sunbathing, and camping, nature lovers will also enjoy exploring the island’s diverse nature trails. Explore the park by foot or rent a bike from the Bayside Stand. If you’re more interested in exploring off-shore, rent a kayak and paddle around the coastal bay areas.
Due to little light pollution, Assateague Island is known as one of the best dark sky parks in the country. Those who camp on the beach overnight can marvel at thousands of stars and maybe even see the Milky Way. Night or day, there’s no doubt that this wild horse island is one of the best places to visit in Maryland’s eastern shore region.
Assateague Island is right next door to Ocean City, Maryland. When you’ve had your fill of majestic horses and uninterrupted ocean views, head to the Ocean City boardwalk for seemingly endless tourist attractions.
4. Visit the Many Attractions in Baltimore
Downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor are full of things to see and do, from museum exhibits for art lovers, to historical landmarks for history buffs. There are hundreds of iconic restaurants, bars, and plenty of free attractions for any age.
Sports fans won’t want to miss out on Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and M&T Bank Stadium, home to the Baltimore Ravens. Other well-known tourist attractions around Baltimore include the Inner Harbor, National Aquarium, Baltimore Museum of Industry, Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery Children’s Museum, Maryland Zoo, and American Visionary Art Museum.
On a budget? Admission is free at Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art, Federal Hill Park, Edgar Allan Poe’s grave, and more.
For a fascinating history lesson, head to Fort McHenry National Monument. It was the place that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the iconic Star Spangled Banner, also known as the National Anthem. History buffs will also enjoy the historic ships docked around the harbor–you can even tour the inside of the valuable vessels.
How about a tour? Charm City offers water tours, ghost tours, and foodie tours. For a sky-high view of the city, go on a helicopter tour, or simply admire the scenery from the 27th-floor observation tower at Baltimore’s World Trade Center. Stop by the Baltimore Visitor Center for tips about the above attractions, plus dozens more.
5. Enjoy a Crab Feast in one of Maryland’s Coastal Towns
Maryland has a whopping 3,190-miles of coastline, mostly due to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of miles of coastline means plenty of waterside towns and waterfront restaurants.
Is a blue crab feast on your Maryland bucket list? If so, consider visiting the bay-side town of Chesapeake Beach. Along with crab-filled restaurants, such as Tyler’s Tackle Shop, the tiny town is also home to Chesapeake Beach Water Park. The Kent Island area is also bustling with crab-feasting eateries. Head to Stevensville Crab Shack for take-out, or Bridges Restaurant for seafood paired with Chesapeake Bay views. Cambridge also has a great selection of crabby restaurants, like River View at the Point. After chowing down, you can walk off those calories at the nearby Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
Try a little bite of everything in Ocean City by going on a food walking tour. You’ll taste your way through several Ocean City restaurants and bars, all offering flavors from throughout the eastern shore.
Other noteworthy coastal towns in Maryland include Chestertown, Solomons, North Beach, Havre de Grace, Chesapeake City, St. Michaels, and Oxford. Many of these waterside towns are nestled next to the Chesapeake Bay, making for ample fishing opportunities as well. Would you dare catch and steam your own crab feast? There’s only one way to find out.
Where to stay in Maryland
With so many regions to visit in Maryland, it can be difficult to narrow down where to stay. Here are ten of the best-rated hotels throughout the entire state:
- Historic Inns of Annapolis – Annapolis
- Sagamore Pendry – Baltimore
- Rod ‘N’ Reel Resort – Chesapeake Beach
- Brampton Bed and Breakfast Inn – Chestertown
- Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center – National Harbor
- Inn at Deep Creek – Oakland
- Carousel Resort Hotel And Condominiums – Ocean City
- Island Inn & Suites – Piney Point
- Hotel Silver Spring – Silver Spring
- Inn at Perry Cabin – St. Michaels
How to Get Around in Maryland
Maryland ranks among the 10 smallest states in the US, so it’s relatively easy to get around. It’s only a four-hour drive from Maryland’s western-most portion to the Atlantic Ocean.
Although there are are a handful of Amtrak stations in Maryland, they only reach a small portion of the state. You’ll need a rental car if you really want to explore all of Maryland’s little nooks and crannies.
If you want to explore some of the state’s paved paths, consider bringing a bicycle as well. The Western Maryland Rail Trail, Kent Island Cross Island Trail, and Rock Creek Park (located near the Capital area), are all perfect for cycling among scenery.
Travel Tips Maryland
For a smaller state, Maryland is packed with diverse regions. From mountains to beaches, wetlands, and big cities, you’ll want to be prepared. Here are a few tips for planning your trip to the Old Line State.
Consider Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a good idea for any vacation, no matter the distance you’re traveling. The smartest thing anyone can do is prepare for the unexpected, and in Maryland, that could include:
Flooding and Other Natural Disasters – Some of Maryland’s towns are known to flood during heavy rains, and that could mean damage to your personal beginnings or even your vehicle. Ellicott City, Maryland had terrible floods in 2016 and 2018 that washed away vehicles and destroyed downtown businesses.
Crime – Crime can happen anywhere, even in the little state of Maryland. While most people may associate crime with the Baltimore area, you really never know where or when you could be the victim of a robbery, assault, or other violation.
Canceled Flights and Lost or Damaged Luggage – The Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is one of the most impressive airports in the country. It runs like a well-oiled machine, but that doesn’t stop it from having an occasional canceled flight. Baggage loss also happens more than people think, at every airport around the world.
All of the scenarios mentioned above, plus unexpected illness and more, could potentially be covered by travel insurance. Sure, you could save money by not purchasing travel insurance, but if something disastrous happens, you may end up owing more money than you’ll ever be able to pay back. Get the insurance — protect yourself and your family.
Prepare for the Weather
Maryland weather can be unpredictable year-round. Check the weather forecast before exploring the Old Line State, and prepare accordingly. Depending on which season you visit, it’s a good idea to pack the following:
Skiers and snowboarders will love visiting Maryland’s Wisp Resort during wintertime. A warm jacket and pants are essential when hitting the slopes, as Maryland’s winter temperatures average 34-degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also important to protect your fingers from freezing temperatures, so add windproof and water-resistant gloves to your packing list. Lastly, keep your noggin warm and cozy with a well-fitting beanie that fits perfectly under a hood or helmet.
Alternatively, Maryland’s summer temperatures can reach up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. With high humidity as well, consider packing t-shirts to keep you cool. To further beat the summer heat, wear a sweat-wicking cap and moisture-wicking socks. The summer months bring lots of sun. Polarized sunglasses will help protect your eyes and keep you looking cool, even when you’re feeling anything but.
Don’t forget about year-round rain, which can dampen plans during any season in Maryland. Sometimes surprise rainstorms arrive without being forecast, so pack a waterproof jacket, just in case. All-weather boots should also be a consideration, along with a wind-proof umbrella that folds-down for easy storage.
Find Accommodations in Advance
Depending on where you stay in Maryland and during which season, it can be difficult to find last-minute vacancies.
Ocean City, for example, is packed with tourists from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It is nearly impossible to find last-minute lodging, and hotel prices skyrocket during peak season. Plan to book months in advance if visiting Ocean City, Maryland, during summertime.
If you’d rather wait until prices drop, book accommodations any time during autumn, winter, or springtime. The benefit of visiting Ocean City during December is exploring the dazzling holiday light display at Northside Park.
The same advice goes for the state’s other coastal towns. Because so many waterside towns are home to sandy beaches, most people prefer to visit during warmer months. Reserve accommodations in advance to alleviate a bit of stress.
Lastly, be sure to also keep this practice in mind for the Deep Creek Lake area. Lakeside cabins book up quickly, especially for the summer months. Pro-tip: If you don’t mind visiting Deep Creek Lake during cooler seasons, consider staying during autumn. It’s a quieter, less expensive, and more gorgeous time to explore the area. Leaf-peepers will especially love the copper hues that paint the surrounding trees.
Remember the Necessary Hiking Essentials
Diverse regions mean a diverse amount of terrain throughout the state. Whether you hike through Maryland’s mountains, boardwalk trails, sandy paths, or lake loops, you’ll want to be prepared.
Insect repellent is essential, especially considering that Maryland has six species of ticks. Along with Lyme disease, some species can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other debilitating illnesses. There are many types of insect repellents that also deter ticks, from organic sprays, to clothing-worn repellent, and fragrance-free aerosols that are safe on skin.
Speaking of skin, don’t forget to wear sunscreen while hiking in Maryland. If you sweat a lot, a water-resistant sunscreen may work best. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two to three hours to combat ultraviolet rays throughout the day.
Although Maryland is home to easy trails, it has its share of difficult hikes as well. If you’re trekking a mountain or lunging over boulders, wear all-terrain hiking boots. You want friction and grip soles so you don’t slip on wet rocks or slide down dirt slopes.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is a first-aid kit. You never know what could happen when hiking in Maryland, especially when exploring alone. First-aid essentials may save your (or a friend’s) life.
Pay No Mind to Stereotypes
It’s true — Marylanders are obsessed with their state flag, and we put Old Bay on everything. But not all stereotypes are accurate. While exploring the Old Line State, remember the following:
Baltimore is Not Just a Crime City
As mentioned in this article, Baltimore is full of things to see and do. Unfortunately, the city’s reputation often overshadows tourist attractions like the Maryland Science Center, National Aquarium, Walters Art Museum, and Port Discovery Children’s Museum.
Baltimore has one of the highest crime rates in America. However, crimes don’t usually affect high-traffic tourist areas. Stay near the attractions, don’t wander around unknown streets at night, and be aware of your surroundings.
There Is A Ton To Do in Southern Maryland
With mountains in the west, large cities in the center, and waterside towns in the east, one area of the state is often forgotten. Southern Maryland has plenty to explore, despite being overlooked. Maryland’s southern region is home to Calvert Cliffs State Park, a famous fossil beach. Worthwhile attractions in the area also include Historic St. Mary’s City, Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, and Calvert Marine Museum.
Ocean City is Family-Friendly
Ocean City, Maryland, has gotten a bad rap over the last few years. With adult-themed merchandise lining the Ocean City Boardwalk and fights breaking out between large groups of teenagers, the tourist-filled area is often in the news. Despite its recent reputation, Ocean City has family-friendly events, restaurants, arcades, and more. Any age can enjoy the beach, as well as the tranquil Northside Park. With miniature golf courses, water park resorts, and Assateague Island National Seashore less than an hour away, it’s a perfect place to make memories.