City guides: Mid-Atlantic Travel
Things to do and see in cities in the Mid-Atlantic region, from Virginia to New Jersey.
March 9, 2009
Go here: Berlin, only seven miles west of Ocean City, is an antidote to a vacation overdose of sun, saltwater and mindless fun. The quiet, tree-lined streets of the town's historic district have a multitude of shops, art galleries and antique stores. The town is so picturesque it was chosen as the location for the filming of Runaway Bride and Tuck Everlasting. Berlin's historic district is lovely but small; it can easily be covered on foot in an afternoon, although you could linger there much longer if you have more time. If it's history that interests you, the National Register of Historic Places lists 47 buildings in Berlin, including the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum, the early-17th-century house with period furnishings and Berlin memorabilia that is the town's official museum. You can rent an audio walking tour from the Globe Theater.
Go here: Cousins of Daniel Boone, George and William Boone established a rural town at the foot of South Mountain in 1792. The town was originally named after William's wife, Margaret, but eventually evolved into Boonsboro. Boonsboro was active in the Civil War and the first battle fought on northern soil was the Battle of South Mountain. Several of the town's churches were converted to hospitals to care for wounded sick. As a town of many "firsts," Boonsboro citizens also erected the first monument to honor President George Washington, at the top of South Mountain. The war heritage of Boonsboro is incorporated into the town's Civil War Museum, various parks and the nearby Antietam Battlefield.
May 7, 2009
Go here: Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Choptank River waterfront, Cambridge is a still-quiet vacation spot poised for discovery as restored 19th-century buildings become home to contemporary boutiques and art galleries, and streets are outfitted with new plantings and period lighting to accentuate the old-fashioned charm of the historic district. A walk downtown will reveal restaurants, antique shops, thrift shops, maritime museums, spas and more. For a more official walking tour, take one of historic High Street, guided by a docent in Colonial costume who will reveal the fascinating history of downtown Cambridge (West End Citizens' Association, 410-901-1000). Or take a cruise aboard a genuine Chesapeake Bay skipjack, the Nathan of Dorchester (410-228-7141). Also call to arrange a tour of M. Clayton Co., the world's oldest working crab house (108 Commerce St., 410-228-1661, jmclayton.com).
Go here: Surrounded by farmland on one side and the Chester River on the other, Chestertown is a look back in time to the flourishing Colonial port it was in the 1640s, when it harbored vessels bound for Europe, the Caribbean and West Africa. The town's population today is barely larger than during the American Revolution, and the people of Chestertown still go about their lives on quiet cobblestone streets amid restored 18th-century houses and churches. The layout of the town, also the county seat of Kent County, is much the same as it was in Colonial times, encompassing dozens of historic structures, as well as newer antique shops, art galleries, restaurants and bars. During the Revolution, Chestertown merchants led protests against British rule, and each year the citizens of Chestertown commemorate their role in the war with the Chestertown Tea Party Festival, a long weekend of tours, parades, Colonial costumes and more.
March 11, 2009
Go here: Locals call Easton in Talbot County the "Hamptons of the Chesapeake Bay" because of its eclectic arts scene. Throughout the year, you can check out live music, performing arts and gallery events. There's even a film festival. Summer is a fabulous time to rent a bike and cycle the triangle formed by Easton, St. Michaels and Oxford, and to catch a ride on the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry. All around are boat races, kayaking and nature preserves.
Go here: Frederick may not strike Marylanders as a vacation destination, but its residents know that the city is always an entertaining place to be, with its combination of chic locales and rich Civil War history. Visitors can take a walking tour of Frederick's Civil War trails or watch field surgery demonstrations at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine (48 E. Patrick St., 301-695-1864), and Frederick is only a half-hour from Antietam National Battlefield.
March 6, 2009
Go here: Walking the tree-lined streets of historic Havre de Grace is like stepping back in time. Leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind, skip the mad rush of suburban shopping malls and spend an enjoyable weekend in this quaint town, tucked into the easternmost corner of Harford County. Located at the confluence of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, Havre de Grace played a prominent role during the Revolutionary War. During the First Congress in 1789, Havre de Grace missed by only one vote being named the capital of the fledgling United States.
March 11, 2009
Go here: How's this for a perfect Eastern Shore retreat? Spectacular views of the Chesapeake Bay. Hiking and biking trails that wind through marshes, wildflower meadows, woodlands and tidal ponds. Fantastic waterfront dining. Best yet, it's only minutes from the Bay Bridge. Despite its small size, Kent Island - just 4.2 miles wide and 15 miles long - offers up large helpings of wonderful shore habitat that can be explored on foot or by boat, car or bike. The Cross Island Trail, a six-mile paved trail that wanders through canopied woods and nudges up against creeks and marshes and a wildflower meadow that will burst into color in June and July, is superb for bicycling. (It's also pet-friendly as long as your dog is leashed.) The best spot to launch a Kent Island visit is the Chesapeake Exploration Center at Kent Narrows. There are handouts on everything from boat and kayak rentals to local produce stands to a self-guided tour of historic structures.
Go here: Experiencing fall foliage at its finest doesn't mean roughing it. Make the Lake Pointe Inn your base and then fan out to enjoy other activities amid a mosaic of crimson, amber and moss-green foliage reflecting across the surface of Deep Creek Lake. In case you are feeling too mollycoddled, take a white-water rafting ride down the Upper Youghiogheny River. For a gentler nature interface, check out Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright house that is about an hour's drive north. Take the four-falls trail up to Muddy Creek Falls (Maryland's highest waterfall) in Swallow Falls State Park. Look out for wild turkeys and beavers. ( www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/ swallowfalls.html)
April 17, 2009
Go here: With spring here, many folks may feel like getting out and about. If you want a taste of quaint, quiet rural village life in a spectacular waterfront setting, visiting Whitehaven on the banks of the Wicomico River is a treat. The old two-room schoolhouse has been converted to a museum and community center, where you can learn about the history of the village, which has about 30 full-time residents. The population swells a bit on weekends and in summer, as several houses are maintained by out-of-towners. Visitors can also see plenty of waterfowl, including ducks, cormorants, ospreys, great blue herons, bald eagles, red-winged blackbirds and a profusion of other songbirds.
February 24, 2009
Go here: Fredericksburg, the boyhood home of George Washington, is neatly laid out in a rectangular grid of one-way, tree-shaded streets. The map provided by the Visitor Center points out the conveniently grouped historic sights and estimates walking time. However, it's difficult to take an uninterrupted stroll through Fredericksburg, for there are too many distractions. Antiques shops, modern galleries, venerable old houses turned into B&Bs all compete for your attention with museums and historic churches.
Go here: Lexington, a city with many historical sights and national forests, wildlife areas, and parks, is a small community nestled in the valley of Shenandoah Valley. It was built at the intersection of the main north/south route through the valley and the route west. It is a discreetly restored, predominantly brick, mostly 19th-century town of around 7,000. Church steeples dominate the skyline. And the two institutions of higher learning, Washington and Lee and Virginia Military Institute, bring a steady stream of world-class cultural events to town. About 190 miles from Washington and 180 from Richmond, this quiet city's tourism is ever growing because of their efforts to improve the downtown area and preserve their wildlife and historic buildings.
Go here: Luray, in the Shenandoah Valley, offers beautiful scenery above and below the ground. It is home to the Luray Caverns, where you can see stalagmite and stalactite formations that resemble a fish market or fried eggs. Other notable formations include the eerie Pluto's Ghost and the world's only stalacpipe organ. Tickets are $10-$21 and include admission to a historic car museum.
Go here: Sprinkled throughout Norfolk, Virginia is the image of a young mermaid, who, as Norfolk's popular logo, represents the 300 years of marine heritage the city boasts. Aside from the naval heritage, Norfolk is also home to the Virginia Symphony, Virginia Ballet Theatre, Virginia Opera, Virginia Stage Company and the Virginia Chorale and Commonwealth Theatre Company. Norfolk has nearly a quarter million people that live near one of the busiest ports on the East Coast. Norfolk is surrounded by lakes, rivers and is near the Chesapeake which allows visitors to enjoy the water both through history and aquatic activities. A new cruise terminal offers cruises to the Bahamas and Bermuda. The city also has beaches and historic homes.
Go here: You can't visit Richmond without confronting the Civil War. The city is so rich in Civil War history that you can't miss it, even if you're not a Civil War buff. In fact, a weekend visitor invariably confronts one of two pickles: If you aren't particularly interested in the War Between the States, you'll feel guilty bypassing what is just about Civil War Central. And if you are a war buff eager to immerse yourself in the subject, you won't have enough time to do it justice. At the Museum and White House of the Confederacy, as you might expect, the focus is on the Southern side of things during the Civil War. The museum houses the world's largest collection of Confederate artifacts and flags. Extending from the visitor center is the Riverfront Canal Walk, an appealing place for a stroll through history.
February 24, 2009
Go here: Step back in time to walk the streets that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry walked on the road to American independence. Scores of original buildings and hundreds of homes, shops and public buildings are reconstructed over 301 acres most on their original foundations. Tickets start at $21.95 for a one-day pass for adults; children ages 6 to 17 get half off with a paying adult.
February 24, 2009
Go here: Virginia Beach boasts three distinct beaches within the city limits: the Chesapeake Bay, which offers the lush green scenery of First Landing State Park, where settlers embarked in 1607 before pushing their way up the James River to Jamestown; the busy resort area, which features live music, street performers and outdoor cafes; and the secluded Sandbridge area on Virginia Beach's southern shore, perfect for family retreats.
Go here: Morgantown, West Virginia, is a college town that gets high marks for its pleasant atmosphere and easy access to the great outdoors. The small town is home to about roughly 70,000 residents, many of whom attend West Virginia University. With lots of history and open outdoors there is plenty to do in this small town located in the northern region of the state near Pennsylvania. Kick off your driving shoes and enjoy some of the many places to go hiking, bike riding, swimming and more.
Go here: This is where the Shenandoah meets the Potomac, where the Appalachian Trail joins the C&O Canal path, where past and present converge as well. A lot of things come together in the misty, mystic hamlet of Harpers Ferry, W.Va. - often, in its history, tragically so. Here, abolitionists led by John Brown clashed with backers of slavery in an ill-fated attempt to take over an arsenal and launch a slave revolt. It's been more than 150 years since John Brown led a group of men who seized the arsenal at Harper's Ferry in an attempt to incite a slave rebellion, but the town still looks much as it did then. Quaint shops and museums dot the narrow streets. Much of the town is owned by the National Park Service, whose rangers offer guided tours of the area.
Go here: American Indians believed the warm springs at Berkeley Springs had curative powers. George Washington was a frequent visitor as he sought relief from various ailments. And when land around the town was sold, Lord Fairfax specified that the springs themselves remain open to the public. And so they are, in the tiny Berkeley Springs State Park in the center of town. The park contains two bathhouses, a pavilion with water pumps (for drinking), wading canals and a swimming pool. You can soak in the waters and get a 30-minute massage for $40. Reservations required. Call 800-225-5982 or go to www.berkeleyspringssp.com
March 6, 2009
Go here: You don't have to travel far to learn Bethlehem's Moravian history. The story of its founding by Christian missionaries in the 18th century echoes underfoot on cobbled streets and from austere limestone buildings scattered throughout downtown. The town, one of three that make up Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, is rich in history and culture, from the museums to the suspended Star of Bethlehem, from the well-preserved churches to the antique shops. Take a walk down restaurant row or Main Street, tour the Burnside Plantation, or sign up for a walking tour of a steel mill. The city's Colonial roots are never more apparent than at Christmas, its name having been given to the community on Christmas Eve 1741 by its first Moravian settlers.
Go here: Located within the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania and Pike County, is nature-oriented Bushkill, Pennsylvania. The town hosts a 45 mile network of trails in the Thunder Swamp Trail system, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and plenty of opportunities to swim, fish and kayak. Bushkill is arguable best known for Bushkill Falls, a collection of eight waterfalls that have been described as the "Niagara of Pennsylvania."
March 6, 2009
Go here: The bloodiest battle of the Civil War occurred in these rolling farm fields in the summer of 1863, when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee invaded the north. More than 51,000 Americans were killed or injured on the battlefield that provided President Abraham Lincoln with the setting for his most famous address. Today's visitors to Gettysburg National Military Park, 1195 Baltimore Pike, can tour not only the battlefield, but a new Museum and Visitor Center, which features 11 exhibit galleries containing weaponry and uniforms as well as other artifacts to offer perspective on the battle and its consequences. Museum admission is $7.50.
March 6, 2009
Go here: A trip to Lancaster, Pa., is a trip back in time. Amish buggies pass along on the highways, farmers work their fields with mule teams, restaurants offer all-you-can eat smorgasbords and family dining. Markets feature handmade quilts and homemade shoo-fly pie. You can take tours to learn about the Amish, drive over covered bridges and visit working farms. A few miles away, downtown Lancaster caters to arts lovers with museums, galleries, performance venues and boutique shops.
February 23, 2009
Go here: Bethany Beach is part of the "Quiet Resorts," a seven-mile stretch of beaches including South Bethany and Fenwick Island, just north of Ocean City. Thanks to a beach replenishment project, there's more sand than ever for lounging, but there's also swimming, fishing, surfing, sailing and raft-riding. The boardwalk is lined with shops, restaurants, bars and video arcades, and Captain Jack's Pirate Golf mini-golf course is just two blocks away. Its proximity to Ocean City makes it a popular destination for high school graduates in the spring, so be wary of large crowds in May and June.
February 23, 2009
Go here: The capital of the First State, Dover provides a wealth of historical and cultural attractions, including Amish markets, arts and antiques, the Dover International Speedway, slots and harness racing, and dozens of museums and historic sites, most of which offer free admission.