African-American Heritage Tour, 10:30 a.m. Saturdays through September, Watermark Cruises at Annapolis City Dock, Annapolis, (410) 268-7601, website. Learn how free and enslaved blacks helped create the city of Annapolis, with a tour by boat and lecture.
Fells Point Walking Tours, call for times, starts at 812 S. Ann St., (410) 675-6750, website. Ghost Walks, Home and Garden tours, and cultural and historical tours to give you a perspective of Fells that’s not from inside a bar.
National Historic Tours, Union Station and other points, Washington, (202) 832-9800, website. D.C.’s only an hour away, and yet you’ve never visited the monuments other people travel thousands of miles to see. Get all the sights in one day, at your own pace—including the Spy Museum, the National Cathedral, and the Vietnam Memorial.
Historic Sites Open House, June 3, July 8, Aug. 5, Sept. 2, Queen Anne’s Visitor Center, 425 Piney Narrows Road, Chester, (410) 604-2100, website. Pick up a Heritage Explorer’s guide map and set off on your journey, visiting historic sites all over the county.
West Virginia Days Celebration, June 16-18, Davis, W. Va., (304) 866-4121, website. Generals Grant and Lee meet again, in celebration of West Virginia’s birthday, in a Civil War reenactment festival. Bands play music from the 1860s, and people with muttonchops get a chance to look fly for three days out of the year.
Chautauqua, July 7-14, several locations, (410) 685-4185, website, free. Car guy Henry Ford, tanned fashionista Coco Chanel, actor/lawyer/Un-American Paul Robeson, and prototypical Renaissance Man Leonardo Da Vinci, all in the flesh—or at least, portrayals by actors and scholars, complete with costumes, props, and characteristic mannerisms and accents.
Battle of Bladensburg, noon-4 p.m. Aug. 12, Riversdale House Museum, 4811 Riverdale Road, Riverdale Park, (301) 864-0420. Don’t be scared, we’re not really at war (at least with England). Watch those British and American rascals go at it again in a reenactment of the Bladensburg battle in the War of 1812.
Roman Days, June 3-4, 10-11, Marietta Mansion, 5626 Bell Station Road, Glenn Dale, (301) 464-5291, website. So what if the mansion isn’t in Italy and dates from 1811. That’s no reason to miss a Roman-style bacchanal, with everyone from plebes to aristocrats and military reenactments.
Antietam National Battlefield, Route 65, Sharpsburg, (301) 432-5124, website, $4, family pass $6. Today the fields are so tranquil and green, it’s hard to believe that during the Civil War, 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or MIA on a single day—more than all American deaths in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, and Spanish-American War combined. Take a driving tour or watch the short film about the bloodiest day in American history.
Antique Chesapeake Carousel, Watkins Regional Park, 301 Watkins Park Drive, Upper Marlboro, (301) 218-6700, ww.pgparks.com/places/parks/watkins.html. Go for a spin on an old-fashioned fave, hand-carved and hand-painted around the turn of the century. You can choose from cheetahs, donkeys, buffalo, lions, goats, or an ostrich, but we still prefer the horsies. And while you’re at Watkins, hop on a miniature train for a ride around the park, just like on Silver Spoons.
Ballestone Manor House, 1935 Back River Neck Road, Essex, (410) 887-0218. While it may be a shining example of Federal architecture and its small collection of early American art is very nice, this house is especially interesting because it’s considered haunted. Call to find out when you can go on a ghost tour and try to be brave.
Baltimore Civil War Museum/President Street Station, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, 601 President St., (410) 385-5188, website, $4, ages 13-17, students, and seniors $3, children 12 and under free. April 19, 1861: Southern supporters attacked a Union regiment outside the President Street Station, shedding the first blood of the Civil War. Learn how Maryland dealt with its position as the northernmost state below the Mason-Dixon, torn between sympathies to North and South.
Baltimore Maritime Museum, piers 3 and 5, Inner Harbor, 802 S. Caroline St., (410) 396-3453, website, $8, seniors $6, kids ages 6-14 $4, kids 5 and under free. The USS Torsk, USCGS Taney, and the Lightship Chesapeake, docked in the Harbor, and the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse give you permission to come aboard, so you can actually explore Baltimore’s maritime heritage for yourself.
Baltimore Museum of Industry, 1415 Key Highway, (410) 727-4808, website, $10, seniors, students, and kids $6. Who would have thought that a museum dedicated to work would be fun? Lots of exhibits and artifacts detail Baltimore’s history as one of the most important industrial cities in the United States, but the best part is the big toys: the 1937 Mini-Mariner, a boat bomber, restored by some of the same workers who originally built it, and the SS Baltimore, the only operating steam tugboat on the East Coast.
Baltimore Streetcar Museum, 1901 Falls Road, (410) 547-0264, website, $6, seniors and kids $3, ages 3 and under free. Hearken back to the good old days, when it was actually practical to use public transportation—the museum has cars dating from 1880 to 1944, and admission includes unlimited rides. Hop on car 1164, a 1902 open streetcar, to cool off without AC.
Banneker-Douglass Museum, 84 Franklin St., Annapolis, website. Annapolis Underground, a new exhibit at the recently reopened museum, digs in to explore African-American life in Annapolis through archeology. Deep Roots, Rising Waters traces Maryland history from the 1630s through the Civil Rights Movement.
Brunswick Railroad Museum, 40 W. Potomac St., Brunswick, (301) 834-7100, website, $5, seniors $4, kids ages 6-12 $2.50, kids under 12 $1.25. Houses a huge, interactive, accurate scale model railroad layout, representing the B&O from Union Station to Brunswick. In other words, toy trains! Whee!
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Mill Street, St. Michaels, (410) 745-2916, website, $11, seniors $10, kids $5. Can’t afford a boat of your own? Visit the museum and go see lots of old ones, and while you’re at it, learn about boat-building, decoys, fishermen, and all kinds of Bay history. Much better than getting seasick and sunburned.
Cannonball House, 118 Front St., Lewes, Del. (302) 645-7670, website. The architectural equivalent of 50 Cent: a house struck with British cannon fire in 1812—a damn cannonball’s still lodged in its side—and it’s still standing.
Colonial Williamsburg, between Norfolk and Richmond, Williamsburg, Va., (800) 447-8679, website. A living history museum unlike any other, Williamsburg is 301 acres of preserved and restored colonial buildings and grounds, including a hospital, two taverns, homes, a theater, and the Governor’s palace.
Delaware Archaeology Museum, 316 S. Governor’s Highway, Dover, Del., (302) 739-4266, website, free. Going beyond the basic arrowheads, the exhibits incorporate anthropology, geology, botany, and other disciplines to dig through ancient garbage-pottery shards, old glass, animal bones, broken tools, and more.
Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry, 31 S. Greene St., (410) 706-0600, website, $4.50, seniors, students, and ages 7-18 $2.50, kids under 6 and members free. Much less painful than a visit to the dentist, plus they probably won’t scold you for not flossing. You can see George Washington’s lower denture, a “Tooth Jukebox” that plays old dental product jingles, and what must be one of the biggest oral health-related gift stores in the world.
Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center, 847 N. Howard St., (410) 225-3130, website. Not just an art gallery and repository of jazz and African-American history, the organization also offers African dance classes for kids and adults, jazz dance, an after-school program, and computer, drama, and music programs for students.
Evergreen House, 4545 N. Charles St., (410) 516-0341, website, $6, seniors $5, students and children, $3. An incredibly gorgeous house filled with treasures from Baltimore’s past: rare books (including Shakespeare’s four folios) in the 29,000-volume Garrett Library, post-Impressionist artworks, two dozen acres of garden (with a sculpture exhibit this summer), and plenty of programs and exhibits going on. Plus, a bathroom covered in gold leaf.
Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster, (410) 876-2667, ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/farmmus, $5, seniors and ages under 18 $3, kids 6 and under free. Experience life as a Carroll County farmer back in the day, as you tour the Smokehouse, the Broom Shop, the One-Room Schoolhouse, and more. This summer there will be lots of programs to really give you a taste of rural history—including blacksmithing classes, gourd art classes, and a Victorian tea.
Fire Museum of Maryland, 1301 York Road, Lutherville, (410) 321-7500, website, $6, seniors and firefighters $5, ages 2-12 $4. If your kid is the kind whose first words included “firetruck,” you better head to the museum to check out old fire wagons, protective clothing, and equipment, and walk along on the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 tour.
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Fort Avenue and Wallace Street, (410) 962-4290, website. When you place your hand over your heart and stand for the anthem, remember that Baltimore’s star-shaped fort was the inspiration. Summertime brings lots of historical activities, including concerts, reenactments, and educational programs.
Friend Family Association’s National Museum, 261 Maple St., Friendsville, (301) 746-4690, website. If you’re sick of the family you’re stuck with in this century, see what kind of ancestors you have. Research your own genealogical history—or find a cooler gene pool to claim.
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Burial Place, St. Mary’s Church, Veirs Mill Road and Route 355, Rockville, (301) 762-0096. The Gatsby author and his crazy-ass wife finally settled down here after a lifetime of parties and fighting. Bring a copy of The Last Tycoon and try to commune with his genius.
Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum, Old Furnace Road, Snow Hill, (410) 632-2032, website, $4, kids $2. This 19th-century mill village was a ghost town rotting in the woods, but now you can explore the town as it would have looked in its hey-day. Walk through the nature trail, stop by the church and the museum, and definitely go see the furnace itself—all that remains of the original settlement.
Gettysburg National Military Park, 97 Taneytown Road, Gettysburg, Pa., (717) 334-1124, website, free. The Civil War’s largest battle was fought here, 50 miles from Baltimore, and four months later Lincoln delivered his famous address. You can see photos taken by soldiers, along with items they left behind after the battle, offering poignant insight into their lives—pinups, pipes, Bibles, and poker chips made from flattened bullets.
Hammond-Harwood House, 19 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, (410) 263-4683, website, $6, students $5.50, kids $3. The 1773 “Anglo-Palladian villa” was designed for a tobacco farmer, passed through several families, and became a fraternity house for a time. It’s worth a visit just to see what architectural historians refer to as “the most beautiful doorway in America.”
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, Harpers Ferry, W. Va., (304) 535-6029, website. More history in one beautiful natural setting than you can handle: railroads, industry, John Brown’s Raid, Civil War, the integrated Storer College, and forest covering 70 percent of the land.
Hays House Museum, 324 Kenmore Ave., Bel Air, (410) 838-7691, website, $3, kids $2. Hidden among the chain restaurants and the electric glow of gas station lights is Bel Air’s oldest house and one of the last relics of the town’s heritage. Check the web site for events like the Ice Cream Social and the Encampment of Living History.
Historical Society of Talbot County, 25 S. Washington St., Easton, (410) 822-0773, website. Award-winning Federal gardens, 10,000 artifacts, an extensive photograph collection, and two antiques stores all on one block. Pick up a tour map and walk around historic Easton, or gas up and go on the Frederick Douglass driving tour-but make sure you come back to watch a “Vintage Base Ball” game.
Landis Valley Museum, 2451 Kissel Hill Road, Lancaster, Pa., (717) 569-0401, website. $9, seniors $7, ages 6-17 $6, kids under 6 free. You could visit this Pennsylvania German living history museum on the web site’s virtual tour, but that would be kinda defeating the purpose. You’ll miss the cooking, quilting, planting, and other downhome workshops, and virtual stables aren’t quite the same as the real thing.
Liriodendron Mansion, 502 West Gordon St., Bel Air, (410) 838-3942, website. Once a summer home for Hopkins Hospital founder Dr. Howard Kelly, the sprawling home now houses a small art gallery and seasonal events. Bring a picnic lunch to eat on the lawn or the vine-shaded porch.
Mount Vernon, near Alexandria, Va., (703) 780-2000, website, $13, seniors $12, kids ages 6-11 $6, kids under 5 free. Poke around George Washington’s house for a while, then go for a walk around the property, visit GW’s tomb, and stop by the shops for some Virginia-made goods.
National Air and Space Museum, Sixth Street and Independence Avenue SW, Washington, (202) 357-2700, website, free. Whatever, so maybe your dad isn’t an astronaut like you like to tell people. Make your story more convincing by visiting the world’s largest collection of historic air and spacecraft, or by clicking through the massive web site.
National Archives, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, (866) 272-6272, website. Come up with your own conspiracy theories as you pore over the JFK assassination records and the Nixon Presidential materials.
Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, 3900 Harewood Road NE, Washington, (202) 635-5400, website, suggested donation $5, students and seniors $4. Even if you’re not the churchgoing type, you’ve got to be curious about those Catholics, and you can explore the church’s history (minus the Da Vinci Code) and beliefs at this surprisingly high-tech, modern museum. Lots of activities for the kids and a chapel to visit if the spirit moves you.
Historic Savage Mill, 8600 Foundry St., Savage, (800) 788-6455, website. Sure, you can just walk around the grounds, but the best way to explore this fully restored 19th-century textile mill is to devote the day to shopping in the antique mall, art studios, and gift stores. Afterwards, you can stop for a tasty brew and dinner at Rams Head.
Sotterley Plantation, Route 245, Hollywood, (800) 681-0850, website, $7, seniors $6, kids ages 5-12 $5, kids under 5 free. The last Tidewater plantation open to the public, the grounds include a 18th-century mansion, formal gardens, and an amazing slave cabin—the only one remaining where a row of homes once stood.
St. Mary’s Square Museum 409 St. Mary’s Square, St. Michaels, (410) 745-9561, donations appreciated. You almost don’t need to visit the museum to learn about the history of St. Michael’s—the town itself is so well-preserved and quaint. But it’s still worth it to see the two 19th-century colonial buildings chockfull of relics of ye olde shore-town.
Sultana, 105 S. Cross St., Chestertown, (410) 778-5954, website. If you don’t think you can handle another maritime museum, climb aboard a reproduction of a 1768 schooner and sail over the bounding blue of the Chesapeake.
USS Constellation, 301 E. Pratt St., (410) 539-1797, website, $8.75, seniors and active military $7.50, kids ages 6-14 $4.75, kids 5 and under free. Docked in the Inner Harbor is the last sail warship built by the U.S. Navy and the only Civil War vessel still afloat, now a museum and a sweet way to explore history.
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW, Washington, (202) 488-0400, website, free. You could spend a week exploring the world’s largest collection of Holocaust-related materials, including recordings of music and sound, personal papers, photographs, victim and survivor memoirs, art, uniforms and other period clothing, correspondence, and a vast number of other artifacts-some terrifying (the Nazi Deadly Medicine exhibit), some touching (the collection of children’s toys from the camps), and all of it thought-provoking.
U.S. Naval Academy, Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center, 52 King George St., Annapolis, (410) 263-6933, website, $7.50, seniors $6.50, students $5.50. Step into a recreated midshipman room, question whether that’s really naval hero John Paul Jones buried in the USNA Chapel, and learn about life as a “swabbie.” Go Army.
White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, (202) 456-7041, website. This is where Martin Sheen used to live. Take a tour, but we’ve learned sneaking off to see if you can rock the Lincoln Bedroom is frowned upon.
Wye Grist Mill and Museum, 14296 Old Wye Mills Road, Wye Mills, (410) 827-6909. Maryland’s oldest grist mill in continuous use has been grinding like a champ for over 300 years. Pick up a bag of Wye organic stone-ground flour on your way out.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201