There’s nothing like a summertime day trip to a small town for sightseeing, a learning experience and searching out local ice cream shops, and Maryland has a number of gems.
James and Stephanie Bean of Lusby count the small island town of Solomons as a favorite to visit with their three children, who range in age from 1 to 7.
“We love visiting the otters at the [Calvert Marine] museum, or just walking down the boardwalk in Solomons,” Stephanie says. “They also have an ice cream stand right on the boardwalk that our kids love to walk to.”
This summer, check out one of these four charming main street towns. You might just stumble on one of the largest model train displays in the country, relax in a pirate’s hammock or watch a steam engine change direction on a large turntable.
Solomons sits at the tip of Calvert County, where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay, offering beautiful views and plenty for families to explore.
You can stop by the Calvert Marine Museum where kids can search for fossils, play in a model of the Cove Point Lighthouse and catch a glimpse of the otters in the River Otter Habitat.
Meander down the museum’s Marsh Walk, which passes through a natural salt marsh along Back Creek. Then wander along the dock to the Drum Point Lighthouse, one of three remaining screw-pile lighthouses on the Chesapeake Bay.
Dine on local seafood at The Pier Restaurant or The Island Hideaway and then stroll down the Solomons Island Boardwalk. Be sure to enjoy a cold treat at the Cone Island Ice Cream stand.
If you are up for a short 10 minute drive outside of town, consider exploring the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Art Center in Dowell, which has an outdoor nature play space for kids, an Art Lab and a garden with fairy and gnome houses hidden along the trails.
Distance from Annapolis: 59 miles
Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center 13480 Dowell Road., Dowell. 410-326-4640,
Calvert Marine Museum 14200 Solomons Island Road. 410-326-2042, Calvertmarinemuseum.com
Cone Island Ice Cream 14441 Solomons Island Road S. 410-326-2578
On the banks of the Choptank River, Cambridge is a quaint Eastern Shore town with history and parks worth a visit.
Sailwinds Park has beautiful views of the river as well as a pirate ship play structure, a fiberglass lighthouse to climb, twisty slides and a pirate hammock to swing in. Cool off on the sandy riverbank or walk along the shore on a wooden path. The park also has a picnic area and swinging benches with views of the river.
Tour the Choptank River Lighthouse, a replica of the original watchtower that was established in 1871, located at the end of Pier A at Long Wharf Park. The lighthouse also has a small museum to explore.
Visit the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in downtown Cambridge to learn about the life and legacy of the local woman who worked to free slaves through the Underground Railroad. Next, wander over to Black Water bakery for a sweet treat. Just down the street, RAR Brewing serves local brews, a bite to eat and a chance for a game of shuffleboard with the kids.
Distance from Annapolis: 56 miles
Black Water Bakery 429 Race St. 443-225-5948
Choptank River Lighthouse Long Wharf Park between High and Water streets. 410-228-4031,
Harriet Tubman Museum & Educational Center 424 Race St. 410-228-0401,
RAR Brewing 504 Poplar St. 443-225-5664, Rarbrewing.com
Sailwinds Park 200 Byrn St. 410-228-7245, Sailwindscambridge.com
The second largest incorporated city in Maryland, Frederick maintains a small town feel and offers plenty for families to explore just to the east of the Catoctin Mountains.
Check out one of the country’s largest model train displays at the Roads and Rails Museum. Head over to Baker Park for a walk along Carroll Creek on a path that leads to Culler Lake, or take a picnic and let the kids play at one of the park’s two play areas.
Don’t miss the Rose Hill Manor Park and Museums, which offer plenty of hands-on opportunities. The Children’s Museum of Rose Hill Manor gives kids a chance to experience life in early America from learning to card wool to grating spices to playing with toys from the past. Families can also explore an icehouse, log cabin, blacksmith shop, carriage collection, two barns and more at the museum.
While in town, make your way to downtown Frederick for some shopping and a bite to eat. Be sure to stop by the North Market Pop Shop, an old time soda pop and ice cream shop, for a double scoop.
Distance from Annapolis: 70 miles
Baker Park – 121 N. Bentz St., Visitfrederick.org/listing/baker-park/12/
Roads and Rails Museum – 200 N. East St. 4-5524, Roadsnrails.com
Rose Hill Manor Park and Museums – 1611 N. Market St. 301-600-1650,
North Market Pop Shop 241 N. Market St. 240-575-9070, Northmarketpopshop.com
Nestled in Western Maryland’s Appalachian Mountains, Frostburg offers a bit of history and plenty of ways to explore the outdoors.
From horse-drawn carriages to sleighs and funeral wagons, learn about the history of transportation at the Thrasher Carriage Museum. After a tour, check out the train turntable located just outside for a chance to see one of Western Maryland Scenic Railroad steam engines turn around for the journey back to Cumberland.
Next, go for a hike or a bike ride along the Great Allegheny Passage — a 150-mile trail that runs from Pittsburgh to Cumberland.
If you’re looking for an afternoon of leisure, head to Main Street where you can wander through the town’s many shops and top off the day with a frozen treat from Grammy’s Attic or Frostburg Freeze.
Distance from Annapolis: 179 miles
Frostburg Freeze 225 W. Main St. 301-689-3020
Grammy’s Attic 14 S. Broadway. 240-284-2261, Grammysatticfrostburg.com
Great Allegheny Passage Trail 13 Canal St. at mile marker 15. downtownfrostburg.com/great-allegheny-passage/
Thrasher Carriage Museum 19 Depot Road. 301-689-3380, thethrashercarriagemuseum.com/index.html
Frostburg Photo by Gerald Snelson
By Amanda Danaher