MARYLAND TOURIST INFORMATION: (800) 543-1036
No other city in America compares to Annapolis. No other city can boast more 18th century architecture -- adorable two-story buildings, beautifully preserved -- all clumped together in one central location, linked by tidy, narrow, lamposted streets that lock in the feeling of the city's colonial days. Annapolis is like a living history museum, except it's real life going on . . . real shops, real restaurants, real docks and ports and real people. Annapolis is quintessentially quaint, charming and genteel. Imagine a city where the main streets radiate from two circles of red brick. In the first circle, Church Circle, an old 18th century church commands attention; right beside it, sitting on a larger, redbrick circle called State Circle (signifying the importance of state over church), presides the 18th century statehouse. From these two redbrick circles radiate all the important streets of the city, most of which lead to Annapolis's many waterfronts. For this is a port town and the nautical theme runs rampant, from the nearby US Naval Academy's white-capped midshipmen who dot the streets like salt on an icy sidewalk, to magnificent yachts harbored at City Dock, aka., "Millionaire's Row," to the omnipresent "Maryland crab" served in restaurants, and featured in gift hops as stuffed animals, balloons and key chains and every other novelty imaginable. It's a fun, lively, salty town, with polite, cultured, well-dressed inhabitants.
Statehouse (410) 974-3400
Completed between 1772 to 1779 (the Revolutionary War stalling its completion) the Maryland State Capitol is the nation's oldest statehouse in continuous use. Because of its convenient location to both North and South colonies it served as the nation's capital from November 26, 1783 to August 13, 1784. Here, in what is now the Old Senate Chamber, George Washington resigned as Commander-in- Chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783, and less than one month later, the Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War, was ratified in the same room. Today's statehouse differs from its original design with a new wing added that blends beautifully with the older front section; however, standing from a vantage point directly under the the archway between the two sections one can see a clear distinction between old and new. Another alteration to the original statehouse is the large wooden dome which replaced the original cupola of 1788. The largest wooden dome in the United States, it was constructed of Cypress beams held together by wooden pegs. According to the tour guide, Cypress was chosen because "termites hate Cypress."
Check it out . . . Some older statehouses in the US have been converted to museums. Others remain fully operational as legislative buildings. The Maryland statehouse is both. While the newer section contains the legislative body of the state, the older section is preserved to reflect its rich colonial days. In fact, the Old State Chamber appears exactly as it did when General George Washington resigned in 1783, and many of the other rooms contain old documents, famous paintings and artifacts from those heady days of the new nation.
Tip: Be sure to read all the plaques and view all the photographs as there are some rare little historic tidbits scattered throughout the older section of the statehouse.
US Naval Academy, (410) 293-3363
Established in 1845 by Navy Secretary George Bancroft, the US Naval Academy, the undergraduate college of the United States Navy, sprawls out on the banks of Severn River, occupying the site of old Fort Severn. Visitors are welcome on campus and may tour the following: 1) the Academy Museum, featuring exhibits of ship models, paintings, flags, firearms, swords, uniforms, rare books and photographs; 2) The Gallery of Ships, containing bone models of ships carved out of bone from the beef rations allowed French prisoners-of-war while incarcerated in England during the Napoleonic conflicts; 3) the Chapel, the "Cathedral of the Navy," a large, domed church that dominates the campus. Inside are Tiffany stained glass windows, while the basement contains the crypt of Revolutionary Naval War hero, John Paul Jones. His remains were brought here in 1905 after 113 years of obscurity in a Paris cemetery. President Theodore Roosevelt, former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, dedicated the shrine in 1906. The crypt includes John Paul Jones's coffin, sword, medals, private letters and artifacts relating to his short, extraordinary life.
Baltimore is similar to Annapolis but bigger, busier and more diversified with distinctly different neighborhoods like, Little Italy, Little Lithuania, and H.L. Mencken's famous Union Square. Unlike Annapolis, Baltimore's historic buildings are not clustered together in a neat, tidy package of historic charm, wrapped in ribbons of redbrick sidewalks, but are scattered among urban growth and bustling city life. Nevertheless, the city retains a seaport charm of its own unique flavor with an active harbor life of quaint old streets and row houses, 200-year old farmer's markets and charming marinas mixed among towering condos, hotels and glistening skyscrapers.
City Markets (410) 396-9050
An abundance of 18th and 19th century city markets flourish at different crossroads throughout Baltimore. The Belair Market, Broadway Market, Cross Street Market, Lexington Market, Hollins Market, Lafayette Market, Northeast Market and Lexington Market are housed in old wood or brick buildings. Each market is crammed with vendors squeezed into small stalls selling their fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, and fruits from the sea, as well as mini-cafes offering fresh brewed coffee and fresh baked pastries. They all offer a colorful, aromatic, and entertaining environment for people-watching.
Washington Monument (410) 396-7837
Erected in 1815, this is the nation's first architectural monument honoring its first president. The 178-foot column, topped with a 30-ton statue of President George Washington was created by Robert Mills, who later designed the Washington monument in Washington D.C. His first tribute, the Baltimore monument, is considered by some to be the finer of the two. Visitors can climb the 228 steps of the spiral staircase that leads to the top of the monument and offers a wonderful view of the city. The monument is the centerpiece of Mt. Vernon Place, an upscale neighborhood between the Walters Art Gallery and 1829 United Methodist Church, a colossal Gothic structure.
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, (410) 962-4299
Built in 1798, the Fort McHenry served in every American War through World War II, when it was converted into a huge hospital compound. Today the fort is restored to it's pre-Civil War days, with the barracks and officers' quarters furnished as they would have been during the War of 1812. Various rooms within the compound are dedicated to the fort's different uses over the years with photographs showing how it was altered to suit the times. In the final days of the War of 1812, this star-shaped brick fort withstood heavy bombardment from British ships on the night of September 13, 1814 until dawn the following day. Witnessing the event from a prison ship offshore, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, adopted as our national anthem more than 100 years later in 1931. This is the first place where the 50-state flag of America was raised on July 1, 1960. It is also the only place where "Old Glory" is allowed to fly day and night.
Tip: Before touring the fort, first examine the model of the fort grounds displayed at the Visitor's Center, then view free film describing the events leading to Francis Scott Key's inspiration. And, bring a handkerchief, for if you have even a ounce of patriotism, your eyes are sure to drop a tear or two.
OUR CAMPSITE FOR THE WEEK
Duncan's Family Campground, Lothian (410) 741-9558
A rustic, woodsy campground with plenty of pine trees. The dirt roads are have deep ruts and the facilities are a bit run down, but clean. Close to Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington, DC. Hosts are very friendly. No modem hookups.