Looking for something to do? Somewhere to go? A way to get your kids off their pads and out the door?
It would be difficult to say how often I am asked where to go and what to do, especially with kids. These questions pertain to the fun we have not only in the Annapolis area, but all over the country and the world.
Let’s focus for today on spots within 2-2.5 hours of Annapolis, which make them doable in a day. Let’s also focus on places the entire family can enjoy. There are way too many places for me to recommend at once, but here is a start, and I promise to post more asap. My kids are the poster child examples of how getting outside can change behaviors and attitudes for the better, so many of the places we go take advantage of area parks and nature and you will find some recommendations for that below.
If you want to know about other places, just message me, I am always happy to help with suggestions.
1. Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michael’s, MD
There’s something new and unique to do every day at this family-friendly and interactive museum. Check out a working shipyard and explore the maritime history of the Chesapeake Bay in the morning, then spend the afternoon strolling through charming St. Michaels, a lovely Eastern Shore town renown for antiques, great food and excellent shopping. Active service members enjoy free admission, children are just $6. (Budget: $50-75 for tolls, tickets and lunch in town for two adults. Even better? pack a picnic!) www.cbmm.org
If you can’t make it to St. Michael’s, try the Calvert Marine Museum on Solomon’s Island in Southern Maryland. While you are there, enjoy the playground, get some ice cream on the boardwalk, and enjoy the view of boats sailing past on the Potomac River. If you are lucky you might see jets taking off and landing from NAS Patuxent.
2. George Washington’s Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, VA
There is much for everyone in the family to enjoy on this sprawling plantation: history, trails, waterfront, interactive learning, gorgeous gardens, farm animals and nearby dining. Located just past Alexandria, Virginia, a day trip to Mt. Vernon should include a picnic with treats sourced off King Street. (Budget: $20/adult $10/child admission, plus extra for the gift shop and goodies). www.mountvernon.org and www.visitalexandriava.com.
If you can’t get to Mt Vernon, try Thomas Jefferson’s beautiful Monticello near Charlottesville.
3. The Awakening at National Harbor, Oxon Hill, MD
“The Awakening” is a 15-foot-high, multi-piece sculpture of a bearded giant bursting from the ground. For 30 years, the National Park Service displayed this art in Washington D.C. Now his home is on the beach at National Harbor. Aim for a sunrise or sunset visit. Be sure enjoy everything the National Harbor offers, including casual or fine dining, a ride on the Eye, fireworks and even a roll of the dice at MGM Casino. (Budget: The view is free, but National Harbor is not. Parking, meals and entertainment are discretionary and not necessarily cheap.) www.nationalharbor.com
If you can’t get to National Harbor, consider visiting Alexandria, a small town filled with history, shops and waterfront fun.
4. Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center Solomon’s Island, MD
Annmarie Gardens is a whimsical 30-acres of limitless magic for young and old alike. Walk or bike the paved path to see unforgettable 3D art including a circle of granite standing stones, fairies and an interactive boardwalk. After your tour, enjoy a walk through tiny Solomon’s Island. A stop for ice cream on the boardwalk, some southern Maryland seafood, a boat tour from Calvert Marine Museum and classic Maryland sunset. If you time it right, you may be able to enjoy a concert at the Museum or a drink at the infamous Tiki Bar. (Budget: $25 per person for tickets, lunch and a treat. Drinks are extra, but the sunset is free and well worth the drive).
If you want a pretty garden but don’t want to drive, consider historic Londontowne and Gardens, in Edgewater, MD. Its beautiful has great programs, and is filled with fun, hands on opportunities to learn about colonial America.
5. Parkers Creek Preserve, managed by American Chestnut Landtrust near Prince Frederick, MD
Nowhere else in Chesapeake country offers a pristine 3,000 acre natural area with 19 miles of hiking trails, including interpretive trails and historic structures, a community farm and guided canoe trips. Explore the self-guided hiking trails on your own, join a guided canoe trips, or attend one of the activities included in the ACLT’s schedule of events. (Budget: Free, but consider making a donation to this wonderful not for profit endeavor). www.acltweb.org.
If you can’t get to Parkers Creek, try SERC, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, near Edgewater, MD. Visit the learning center, enjoy the shady walk along the waterfront trail and learn more about the environmental health of the area, what the Smithsonian and other groups are doing about it, and some really cool science experiments happening right under our noses. SERC offers daily learning sessions, scout opportunities, homeschool classes and summer camps.
6. Gambrill State Park near Frederick, MD
Gambrill State Park is a beautiful mountain park, located on the ridge of the Catoctin Mountains in Frederick County. Its most popular feature is the 16 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. From the 1600-foot High Knob overlook you can see beautiful views of the Frederick and Middletown Valleys then continue to the northern reaches of the Shenandoah Mountains. The High Knob area also offers wooded picnic areas, three picnic shelters, and a large stone lodge, called the Tea Room. The picnic shelters and the Tea Room are available for reservation. The Rock Run area offers a cozy family-style campground, a picnic area, and a small pond for fishing. (Budget: parking, BYOB food & drink).
If you like a state park but can’t get to Western MD, try Tuckahoe State Park in Queen Anne, MD or a fishing expedition to Wye Mills Lake.
7. Elk Neck State Park near North East, Maryland
Elk Neck State Park is located in Cecil County on a peninsula, formed by the Chesapeake Bay on the west and the Elk River on the east. The park boasts over 2,188 acres of varied landscapes including marshlands, heavily wooded areas, white clay cliffs, and sandy shorelines. Camping, swimming, fishing, boating, and hiking, are popular pastimes. Visit Turkey Point Lighthouse or launch at the Rogues Harbor Boat Launch facility. (Budget: day use is $6 or less, bring a picnic, enjoy dinner at a dock bar).
8. The National Mall in Washington, DC
So close, yet so frequently overlooked by locals, the National Mall is an area treasure. Instead of heading to the many free museums, walk or bike the perimeter to see the memorials. Most have an interpretive area, shop, restrooms and great spots for photo ops. Visit the long line of food trucks, indulge in an ice cream from a street vendor, take a picnic for under a shady tree—bring along a Frisbee, some balls or bubbles—and let yourself enjoy a relaxing few hours. Enjoy a free concert–there are many all year-round.
Favorite picnic spots are the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Bartholdi Park or under the stately oak trees that line Maryland and Pennsylvania Avenues in front of the Capital Building Complex. Best parking is found on the Tidal Basin side of Constitution Avenue. Street parking is payable with meters—try a garage if you plan to stay for an extended period. A better plan may be to use the metro, which is cheap and convenient. Arrive early before the museums open for school tours and before its gets too hot. (Budget: Free, but you have to pay for parking and/or the Metro and food.)
If you can’t get to DC, why not try a day in Annapolis, MD? Go straight to the Maritime Museum. Bring a lunch for the deck overlooking the Bay or stop at Wild Country Seafood for a picnic. Walk through Eastport to get a sense of the maritime history of the area. Walk across the bridge to historic downtown Annapolis. Forego the shops momentarily to explore some historical attractions (we love a tour of the United States Naval Academy, William Paca House and the State Capital building), then go to Chick & Ruth’s Delly for award winning crab cakes, homemade pie or an insanely huge root beer float.
9. Rocks State Park, Jarrettsville, MD
Located about 1.5 hours from Annapolis, Rocks State Park features 855 acres of rocky forest land and a beautiful stream perfect for playing in. Primary attractions at Rocks include the King and Queen Seat, an interesting and historical geological feature that is fun but precarious. Be sure to watch your children!! Another popular attraction is further down the road at Kilgore Falls, a large waterfall that is usually crowded in summer. The main section of the park includes three picnic areas, easy hiking trails, and access to Deer Creek, which is ideal for fishing, wading and tubing. Canoeing and kayaking is great in season when the water is high. The park’s two satellite properties, Falling Branch (home to Kilgore Falls) and Hidden Valley, are a short drive from the main park.
10. Patapsco State Park Ellicott City, MD
There is so much to do at Patapsco. The opportunities are nearly limitless. Bike, run, hike, swim in a stream, cross a swinging bridge, play in a small waterfall on the Cascades Trail, picnic at innumerable stops or simply play on a playground. Patapsco is big with several entrances. Be sure to check out the map before you go to spot the closest parking, bathrooms and attractions. Everyone asks me about Blodes Dam. No, don’t swim there. No bueno. Its being removed over the next several months and is blocked off, so obey the rules and look but don’t touch.
If you can’t make it to Patapsco, try Watkins Regional Park near Bowie, MD.
Feel free to share...