A "Star-Spangled" State- MARYLAND|
by Alice Gregory
Three centuries of history and landmarks that represent the Revolution, Civil War, the War of 1812, and the birthplace of our national anthem are all found in this compact state. Maryland incorporates an area of just 10,000 square miles and extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains. With the magnificent Chesapeake Bay at its heart and the Atlantic Ocean its eastern boundary, Maryland is all about water. Baltimore is a major port, Annapolis is home to the U.S. Naval Academy and the Chesapeake (which comes from a Native American word meaning "great shellfish bay") provides the ingredients for Maryland's world-famous crab cakes. A stop in Baltimore is a must. The area is filled with history and there are great sights throughout the city, but its Inner Harbor is the best place to begin any visit to Maryland's largest city.
The Inner Harbor hosts many great attractions, restaurants and shops. A highlight for visitors is the Showcase of Nations, which offers colorful ethnic festivals each weekend from June to October. A favorite stop is the National Aquarium, a five-story structure which houses an Atlantic coral reef in a 335,000-gallon tank, a South American rain forest In a glass pyramid, the Open Ocean where visitors can
get an up-close look at several species of sharks, and a 1.2-million-gallon dolphin habit.
At Pier 1 is the USS Constellation, the last Civil War vessel still afloat and the last all-sail warship built by the Navy. Many artifacts are displayed and visitors can try their hand at turning the capstan and setting the sails. For a personal look at the people who have made Baltimore their home, groups can take a walking tour through the charming neighborhoods of Little Italy, Union Square, or Federal Hill, where 4,000 residents gathered celebrate the ratification of the Constitution in 1788. From the Inner Harbor you can reach Fort McHenry, which guards the entry to Baltimore's harbor, by boat (by motorcoach). This is where Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the War of 1812. A flag of a different color flies at Pimlico Race Course on race days. Home of the Preakness, this is the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown. Pimlico is the second oldest race course in the United States.
Another 19th-century event has evolved into the Baltimore & Ohio Railway Museum. Started as a tradeshow exhibit for a major Baltimore railroad, the museum has involved into the best collection in the world of American railroad rolling stock and railway memorabilia. Now a National Historic Landmark and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, visitors gain a sense of both the importance of the railway in America's expansion and also the elegance of railway travel in its heyday. In Columbia, groups are in for a treat at Toby's Dinner Theatre. Now in its 27th season, this award-winning regional theatre offers groups Broadway-style entertainment in an intimate setting.
On the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay is Annapolis. Now the state capital, it was the capital of the United States at the close of the Revolution. Visit the Maryland State House to see where George Washington resigned his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army and where the Treaty of Paris was
signed, officially ending the Revolution. Annapolis is also the home of the U.S. Naval Academy. The buildings and exhibits display the history of this military institution that was founded in 1845. For groups visiting during the school year, be sure to include formation at noon.
The highlight of Annapolis, however, is the city itself. Annapolis is sometimes called a "museum without walls" because this charming city is an architectural treasure trove - over 1,300 buildings were built before 1900 and Annapolis possesses the largest concentration of Georgian architecture in the nation. A great way to explore Annapolis walking tour arranged by Historic Annapolis Foundation Museum.
From Annapolis it is just a short and scenic hop over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the area known as the Eastern Shore. Until the opening of the bridge in 1951, the Eastern Shore was cut off, and today visitors savor the rural charm and heritage that was preserved because of this isolation. An easy excursion from Annapolis
is St. Michaels on the East Coast of the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, devoted to the history and culture of the Chesapeake Bay, is well worth a visit. Opening in summer 2006 is "Waters of Despair, Waters of Hope," a special exhibit on African-Americans' lives on the Chesapeake. Finally venturing away from the water, perhaps the most moving sight in all of Maryland is Antietam National Battlefield at Sharpsburg, not far from the Potomac. This now beautiful and peaceful place was the sight of the Civil War's "bloodiest day." On September 17, 1862, 10,700 Confederate soldiers and 12,400 Union troops were killed or wounded. This strategic Union victory made it possible for President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
The visitor center offers an introductory film and documentary on General Lee's Maryland campaign, and the nearby Antietam National Cemetery contains a monument to all Civil War dead, The Private Soldier. In nearby Frederick you can continue to explore Maryland's Civil War history or, since Frederick County is home to Camp David, groups may enjoy taking a tour of the town that focuses on the first families who have frequented this presidential retreat.
Traveling north, Hagerstown is the area's largest community. Itoffers history but also is filled with parks and trees, and is a lovely spotfor either a short stop or an overnight stay. The Hager House, built by the founder of the town in 1739, has been restored and furnished as it might have been when this was a pioneering outpost. In such a compact area, Maryland offers visitors a taste of the richness of America's heritage. Interspersed with all this richness of history is an area that rejoices in its maritime location - yachting abounds on the Chesapeake Bay, the beaches of Ocean
City lure sun worshippers in the summer and, in Maryland, every seafood restaurant offers its own version of those world-famous crab cakes. Maryland is indeed a "Star-Spangled" state.
For Information on Group Travel and Group Travel Services visit GroupTravelDirectory.com