Here’s the insider’s guide to visiting Historic Annapolis with kids.
The downtown area of Annapolis is very walkable and full of historic sites, playgrounds and fun things to do, suitable for families. Once you get to Annapolis, park your car in one of the four garages and then walk, use the free Circulator Bus, or take a boat, to the destinations featured here.
It’s easy to do a looped route with only a little retracing of your steps. Or break the following route into several shorter trips. Food is easy to find, but public bathrooms are a little harder. The Market House and Harbormaster’s Office have clean public restrooms. They are both near the City Dock area so plan accordingly.
Watermark Journey operates the water taxi in Annapolis. They have numerous pickup and drop-off points and we’ve found a ride on the water between destinations is a fun way to break-up the day, plus it adds to the adventure. The Acton’s Landing stop is three blocks from the Knighton Garage. If you think your kids will get tired from walking, save the boat ride for the end.
Here’s a suggested itinerary that uses the Knighton Garage as your parking spot. Add, delete or get sidetracked. It’s all meant to be fun.
From the Knighton Garage head out to West Street toward Church Circle. You’ll pass plenty of places to grab a quick drink or a bite to eat.
Murals in Annapolis
You’ll only walk a little over a block before you pass the large painted mural dedicated to John Lewis. It’s on the wall adjacent to the 7-11. The mural honors Lewis and other activists who led the Selma to Montgomery marches over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.
The Banneker-Douglass Museum
Walk a couple more blocks until you get to Cathedral Street. Turn left and then turn left again when you get to Franklin Street. The Banneker-Douglass Museum* is in the middle of the first block at 84 Franklin Street. The museum is housed in what used to be Mt. Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic church constructed in 1875 and remodeled in 1896, and is the State of Maryland’s official museum of African American heritage. Temporary and permanent exhibits fill the museum.
Deep Roots, Rising Waters: A Celebration of African Americans in Maryland is the permanent exhibit in the museum and provides an overview of African American history in Maryland from 1633 through present day. Learn how African Americans throughout Maryland made lasting changes for all Americans. After touring the museum head toward St. Anne’s Church at the end of Franklin Street. At the circle look right to see the “Equal Justice” mural featuring the images of Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Historic Annapolis Walking Tour
At Church Circle you will pass St. Anne’s Church. Turn left towards College Avenue, and walk by the Southgate Waterfountain. St. Anne’s was originally built in 1704 and was rebuilt in 1859 after a fire. At the request of the City of Annapolis, a town clock is housed in the tower at St. Anne’s. It is still maintained by the city today.
Continue walking past the Government House, which is the official residence of Maryland’s Governor, until you get to an open space known as Lawyer’s Mall. This is where many protests and demonstrations take place, especially during legislative sessions. Recently restored, this area recognizes and honors the work done by Thurgood Marshall, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Take a few minutes to read his accomplishments.
At the end of Lawyer’s Mall you will see the steps up to the Maryland State House*. It is the oldest U.S. State Capitol in continuous legislative use, dating to 1772 and open to visitors. Adults will need a photo ID to enter. You will see Chamber rooms and other interesting exhibits, some dating back to colonial use, including George Washington’s resignation as commander in chief of the Continental Army, and the ratification of the Treaty of Paris.
Wander around the State House for hilltop views of downtown Annapolis and see one of the cannons used by the first Maryland settlers in 1634 to defend the Fort at Old St. Mary’s. The Old Treasury Building, built in 1735 is also on State House grounds.
Take East Street to Prince George street to see two of the oldest houses in Annapolis, the James Brice House and William Paca House & Gardens. The 2-acre garden at the Paca House* has tours Thursday – Sunday, and is the perfect place to let kids run around a little.
Walk past the Paca house and turn right on Maryland Avenue. You’ll find Old Fox Books with the delightful Brown Mustache Coffee Shop in the back, located at 35 Maryland Avenue. Stop in and enjoy a treat while you relax in the beautiful back garden.
Tour the United States Naval Academy
Headed back towards City Dock you are going to follow King George Street. Part way down you’ll be able to peek over the brick fence and see the beautiful Paca House Gardens. The Naval Academy Chapel towers above on your left. Continue on towards the USNA Visitor Center.* Adults need a photo ID to enter the grounds of the Naval Academy. There is plenty to explore at the Naval Academy. Don’t miss the Visitors Center, the Museum, the Chapel and take a little walk around the seawall. You could spend quite a bit of time here, or save the tour for another day.
Annapolis City Dock
Depart the Naval Academy from the Commodore John Barry Gate onto Prince George Street. Almost immediately turn left onto Craig Street, then Dock Street. You’ll be right near restrooms and plenty of options for food and ice cream. The second floor of Mission BBQ has spectacular views of the town. The Market House also has restrooms and lots of food options. Iron Rooster is another fun option for food but go early to avoid the crowds.
Duck, boat and people watching is a great pastime from the benches and walls around City Dock. The Story Wall, a series of plaques designed to share messages to encourage reconciliation and healing from a legacy of slavery, ethnic hatred, and oppression surrounds the Kunta-Kinte Alex Haley Memorial.
Take a few moments to read the plaques and realize the importance of the messages. It’s a powerful message. While we know that slaves were sold from City Dock, there are rumors of shackles still remaining in the basements of some of the nearby buildings and hiding spots that were part of the Underground Railroad.
Now for some energy burning. You can hit three playgrounds in a short walk. Head down Compromise Street past the Annapolis Summer Garden Theater and towards the Spa Creek Bridge. The first playground is on Newman Street. It features some big sliding boards, a climbing wall, swings and a tunnel to climb through. The area is shaded which helps when it’s hot.
Go back out to Compromise Street and walk across the Spa Creek Bridge. Take your first left onto Severn Avenue, then take the next right on Fifth. The Eastport Elementary Playground is at the corner and welcomes all kids to come and play. There isn’t much shade. After running around here, continue on Fifth until you get to Chester. There’s still another playground at the corner of Chester and Third. Walk one more block to Second, turn right and walk to the waterfront and the Annapolis Maritime Museum.
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Annapolis Maritime History
Do you know that oysters were an extremely valuable commodity in the 1800s? Some boats actually fired cannons on other boats in order to keep their catch. And they would grab young, drunk men from bars to work on oyster boats, only returning to Annapolis when they had a full load. Newly renovated and reopened, the Annapolis Maritime Museum shows visitors about the Oyster Wars, Annapolis maritime history and the environment of the Chesapeake Bay. Skipjack tours are also available.
Water Taxi Ride
Your kids are probably really tired now. Walk to the other end of Second Street and catch the Water Taxi near the Chart House. Call to have them come and pick you up. 410-263-0033 or watermarkjourney.com. They will pick you up and drop you off at multiple locations along Spa Creek so you can deviate from the planned itinerary if you want. Prices start at $4/person. Take the Water Taxi to Acton’s Landing. There’s a nice park there with benches and huge statues of ducks perfect for climbing. From Acton’s Landing it’s only four blocks back to the Knighton Parking Garage on Murray Avenue to Colonial.
Find where to park in Downtown Annapolis: Parking Garages
Use public transportation to get around: Circulator
Get across Spa Creek in a fun way: Water Taxi
Space to run at in historic gardens: Paca House
Check the ChesapeakeFamily.com calendar for events happening in Annapolis.
*Check COVID protocols