Maryland is awash with gorgeous scenery, stunning beaches, vibrant cities, and old-fashioned fishing villages. There are islands, state parks, battlegrounds, theme parks, water parks, nature trails, underground railways, and more historic landmarks than you could shake a stick at. All of them deserve to be explored, but if you're on a tight schedule and can only devote a day to your destination of choice, these are the 20 best day trips to take in Maryland.
20. Adventure Sports Center International
If the temperature's rising and you're in desperate need of somewhere to cool off, take the advice of dctravelmag.com and head for Adventure Sports Center International. Even if you consider yourself a hardened adrenalin junkie, your heart is still guaranteed to miss a beat as you tackle the 1,700-foot long white water rafting course with its 24-foot descent. Kayak it, raft it, or river board it - the choice is yours. If it sounds way too extreme for your liking, don't worry too much- the wave action is adjustable, making it as suitable for kids and nervous nellies as for extreme sports addicts.
19. Tilghman Island
As planetware.com says, there are no chain stores on Tilghman Island, just a laid back way of life. An old-fashioned fishing village oozing charm and chilled vibes, it's the perfect place to spend a few hours resting, recharging, and exploring the gorgeous scenery. While you're there, be sure to check out the Tilghman Watermen's Museum, a small but fascinating museum that offers an intriguing insight into the island's rich maritime culture.
18. Sandy Point State Park
Sandy Point State ParkSandy Point State Park is a huge, 786-acre state park located just a little north of Annapolis. If you like hiking or biking, you're in luck - the park is awash with well-maintained trails and paths to explore. There's also plenty of shaded picnicking areas on offer, along with a Nature Centre that offers a ton of information on the park, its history, and its key landmarks. Kids are spoilt for choice when it comes to activities, with wildlife viewing tours, events with the park rangers, and both a beach and a playground to run around in. Chief attractions not to miss include the Corcoran Environmental Study Area, the Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse, and the Sandy Point Mansion.
17. Washington DC
Sure, it's not actually in Maryland, but considering its proximity, we're going to include Washington D.C. anyway. As you'd expect of the country's capital, there's no shortage of things to see and do. Your chance of fitting it all into one day is roughly zero, but if you plan ahead, you should be able to pack most of the key attractions in without too much trouble. One of the most important areas not to miss is the National Mall, which offers a museum for pretty much everyone, many of which come with zero admittance charge.
16. Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay doesn't need much of an introduction to Maryland residents, but if you're an out-of-towner, it's a giant estuary (the largest in America in fact) that flows directly into the Atlantic Ocean and stretches for miles up the coast. Dozen of cities, small towns, and tiny fishing villages are scattered along its shore, offering visitors the chance to experience a little bit of everything, from the bright lights of Charlestown to the outdoor adventures of Deal Island, the beachy delights of Chesapeake Beach to the wildlife spotting opportunities of Calvert Cliffs. Each place is unique, each is worth a visit, and the entire area is more than worth a day or two of your time.
15. Gunpowder Falls State Park
Day Trips from Baltimore: Gunpowder Falls State ParkIf you're in the mood for some outdoor adventure, head on over to Gunpowder Falls State Park. Despite being within striking distance of Baltimore, this huge state park feels like a different world. There's no crowds, no noise (save the chirping of birds), and instead of shopping, wining and dining, there's hiking, fishing, and swimming. Divided into six distinct areas, each of which comes with its own flavor, it's the ideal place to stretch your legs, breath in lung fulls of fresh, unpolluted air, and feast your eyes on some top-notch, Maryland scenery. Key attractions include the majestic Big and Little Gunpowder Falls, and the always fascinating Jerusalem Mill Historic Village.
14. Oregon Ridge Park and Lodge
Oregon Ridge Park and LodgeSpread over 1000 acres of prime Maryland scenery, the Oregon Ridge Park and Lodge offers more than enough to keep the whole family entertained. You can hike, bike, ride around on horseback, explore the beaches, fish, or check out the exhibits at the fascinating Oregon Ridge Nature Center. Back in the 1800s, the park was the site of marble and iron mining, and there's still plenty of artifacts and ongoing excavations to check out there.
13. Ocean City
Located on the tip of a large islet stretching between the Isle of Wight Bay and the Atlantic Ocean is Ocean City. If you like a good time, this is the place to come. The city boasts over 200 restaurants serving up every kind of cuisine that's ever been invented, and quite a few that haven't. There are endless shopping opportunities, golfing, amusement parks, events, beaches, free concerts and movies overlooking the sea, hiking, biking, fishing, and even a small amount of relaxing. Basically, if it's fun, it's happening here. To pack the most into your day, use the tram service to hop between attractions.
12. Smith Island
Most of the year, Smith Island is home to no more than 250 people. Come crabbing season, its population swells astronomically. To keep everyone in as much fun as work, the island has laid on a huge number of entertainment options and attractions, with enough shops, restaurants, and recreation venues to put a small city to shame. The real attraction, of course, is the sublime setting - with beaches ringing its exterior and trails studding its interior, it's a must-visit for nature lovers.
11. National Harbour
National Harbour is part town, part playground. Like washington.org says, it's a waterfront resort destination unlike any other. For shopaholics, there are more than 75 boutique shops to discover. Foodies will be in heaven thanks to the dozens of first-rate restaurants. Kids are guaranteed to get a kick out of the Capitol Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel that offers soaring views over the Potomac River. The whole family will enjoy watching a movie on the harbor at the Carousel. Basically, this is a place that caters to everyone. If you leave without a smile on your face and a bunch of happy memories, you clearly never left the car the entire time.
10. Antietam National Battlefield
Antietam National BattlefieldNamed by vacationidea.com as one of the best day trips in Maryland, Antietam National Battlefield is a must-visit for history buffs. Based on the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, its history is revisited through the numerous landmarks scattered throughout the park, including the 20th New York Monument, the Maryland Monument, and the New York State Monument. Other attractions not to be missed include the Dunker Church, the National Cemetery, the Pry House Field Hospital, and the Visitor Center, which boasts a small souvenir shop, a snack bar, and a theater showing an informational welcome video narrated by none other than James Earl Jones.
9. Six Flags America
Take a trip down memory lane at Six Flags America, a sepia-tinged theme park with snack stalls selling pink hot dogs and funnel cake, a 100-year-old wooden rollercoaster, and a ton of other old-school rides and slides. If your kids are too young to have developed a taste for nostalgia and Americana, don't worry - along with the retro delights, there are plenty of high octane, 21st-century attractions to keep them in thrills and spills, including the stomach-churning 200-foot Superman: Ride of Steel.
8. Hooper Island Road
Sometimes, it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey. If you didn't think a road could count as an attraction, just wait until you experience Maryland's most beautiful stretch of tarmac, Hooper Island Road. Recommended by onlyinyourstate.com as one of the best day trips in Maryland, the road passes by gorgeous wetlands, historic cemeteries, and charming churches, all of which warrant at least a couple of photos and a few minutes of your time. Along the way, you'll pass by Old Salty's Restaurant - if you're feeling peckish, this is the place to tuck into some sublime seafood while you enjoy the outstanding views from its windows. If you can, stick around till evening - the sunsets are out of this world.
7. North Beach
Located on the western side of Chesapeake Bay is the picture-perfect town of North Beach. North BeachGorgeously picturesque, it's ideal for a day trip, being small enough for you to get around easily without missing any of the key attractions. The historic downtown is a treasure trove of cute cafes, antique stores, and quaint boutiques, with plenty of restaurants to stop by for some temptingly good seafood. There's also a swimming beach, fishing spots, piers, and plenty of picnicking areas if you're in the mood for some al fresco dining.
6. Frontier Town
If museums, nature trails, and beaches have left you hankering for some good old-fashioned family fun, pack your sense of adventure in the car and head on over to Frontier Town. Once you're there, prepare for a day of high octane thrills on the outstanding assortment of rides and water attractions. Along with the Western Theme Park with its Native American Village and Wild West Shows, there are arcade games, mini-golf, and a water park packed with slides, a lazy river, and splash pools. if all that isn't enough to tempt you, the chance to check out Jaws (or at least, one of the working props that featured in the film) should be.
5. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway
As the harriettubmanbyway.org explains, the Tubman Byway is a self-guided driving tour that winds through 125 miles of glorious Maryland scenery before continuing another 98 miles into Delaware. Along the way, you'll pass through numerous landmarks that mark the spots where Harriet Tubman - abolitionist, freedom fighter, suffragette, human rights activist, underground railway worker, and all-round good egg - lived, worked, worshipped, and changed the face of America forever as she led over 300 people out of slavery and into freedom. Key stops not to miss along the way include the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center, the Harriet Tubman Gardens, and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor’s Center.
4. St. Michaels
If you prefer your cities to be full of relaxed vibes and good vibrations, take the suggestion of The Crazy Tourist and head on over to St Michaels. Located just an hour's drive from Baltimore, this charming seaside town is a place to unwind, relax, and take it easy. Take a stroll downtown to enjoy a leisurely lunch, followed by a quick tour of the shops before heading to the beach for some fun in the sun. Before you go (and providing you're not driving), enjoy a glass of something cool and refreshing at the St Michaels' winery.
3. Assateague Island
An easy day trip from Baltimore is Assateague Island, a 37-mile island that manages to lie half in Maryland and half in Virginia. An outdoor lover's dream, it's crisscrossed with trails and loops for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. If you want to explore the coastline, take advantage of one of the guided tours that take you on a whistlestop tour of the island before venturing into the waters for some shellfish hunting. To learn more about the island's must-visit landmarks, start your day with a tour of the visitors center, which contains lots of information on the island and its attractions.
Large, bustling, and utterly charming, Annapolis is the kind of city you start planning a return visit to before you've even finished the first one. Filled to the rafters with restaurants, bars, museums, and parks, Maryland’s capital is all things to all people. The architecture is particularly splendid, so be sure to look at the buildings rather than your feet as you run between attractions.
Baltimore might be a modern town with plenty of 21st-century delights, but it's also dripping from head to toe in history. There's the oldest running market in the US, the Fort McHenry National Monument, the original Washington Monument, the B&O Railroad Museum, the Lord Baltimore Hotel with its hidden Speakeasy... basically, it's heaven for history buffs, and if you've never had the chance to visit before, now's the time to put that right.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn