Top Ten Things for your Family to Do in Maryland

Just outside of Washington, D.C. lies open farmlands, bustling harbor cities, miles of beautiful shoreline along Chesapeake Bay, and hundreds of family-friendly activities. The Old Line State may be small in size, but it is large in adventures to be had that will delight kids and parents. There are so many fun things to do in Maryland with kids. Check out Trekaroo’s top ten things for your family to do in Maryland!

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Fun Things to Do in Maryland with Kids

10. Walk or Sail Back in History at Maryland’s State Capital

Photo by: Melissa Moore

A visit to Maryland’s state capital, Annapolis, gives families the opportunity to learn about the early history of the United States and sample some of the best food in the state. The elegant Maryland State House served as the nation’s First Peacetime Capitol building for almost a year in 1783-1784 during which time General George Washington resigned his commission as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Today visitors can view the current house and senate chambers as well the historic ones, which include several educational exhibits.

If you’re still in the mood to visit more of Maryland’s most beautiful and historic buildings after a self-guided tour of the Maryland State House, walk over to the William Paca House or the United States Naval Academy. My kids loved checking out the model dorm rooms at the Naval Academy and viewing the ship models in the academy’s museum. Once you’ve had your fill of history, head to one of Annapolis’ many family-friendly restaurants. Eat breakfast for dinner at the Iron Rooster just a few blocks from the Naval Academy or cross over the Spa Creek Bridge to Eastport for brunch at The Blackwall Hitch or some local seafood at the kid-friendly Boatyard Bar and Grill. There’s nothing like learning about our country’s navy -and one of the top things for your family to do in Maryland.

Looking to Plan a Weekend Getaway to Annapolis? Here’s An Itinerary for a Family-Friendly Annapolis Weekend Getaway

9. Pick Berries, Cherries, or Peaches at a U-Pick Orchard

Photo by: Melissa Moore

While the state of Maryland certainly has its share of suburban neighborhoods surrounding both Washington D.C. and Baltimore, much of the state’s landscape is dominated by rich farmland. From nearly anywhere in the suburbs, it’s only a thirty minute drive out to the nearest U-pick farm. If your family is driving Hwy 70, take a quick detour and pick some cherries or blueberries at Larriland Farm; road trips are so much more fun, if not just a tad bit messier, with a freshly picked fruit snack. Making the drive from Washington D.C. out to Harper’s Ferry? Take the scenic route and stop at Homestead Farms for strawberry or apple picking on your way. Or, if your family is driving Hwy 270, take a five minute detour to Butler’s Orchard clearly marked on the highway to pick my very favorite fresh fruit, black raspberries.

Fruit is not the only farm-fresh food that families should drive out of their way to sample in Maryland. There are several creameries that are also worth a scenic drive to visit. South Mountain Creamery in Frederick County is a family favorite; arrive in the afternoon to buy a bite of ice cream and stay to feed a bottle of milk to the cute, baby calves at 4PM. Older children, ages five and up, can pick out their very own calf to feed roughly 15 minutes before feeding time, and bottles are passed out at 4PM sharp. My kids also know that I am always happy to take a bit of a detour to eat some ice cream out next to the sunflower field at Rocky Point Creamery just outside of Point of Rocks where I-15 crosses into Maryland.

8. Spot a Bald Eagle at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Photo by: Melissa Moore

Nearly every kindergarten-age child in the United States can recognize a photograph of a bald eagle, but how many kids, especially those that live in urban areas, can say that they’ve spotted one out in the wild? If you’re looking to go birdwatching in hopes of finding a bald eagle in the Mid-Atlantic region, look no further than the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge or one of the many parks along the Patuxent River or Potomac River with nesting bald eagles. Cambridge, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, is the ideal destination for a somewhat educational and very relaxing getaway; the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is only a short 30 minute drive from the fabulous, family-friendly Hyatt Chesapeake Bay Resort, and neighbors the brand new Harriet Tubman National Historic Site. We saw at least ten eagles soaring far overhead during our visit to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and one or two fishing down by the water. I hope that this sticks in my son’s memory reminding him that bald eagles are so much more than a symbol on our country’s money, but also beautiful living animals.

My son and I have spotted a few bald eagles on our Washington D.C. area adventures. On a free, mid-afternoon boat cruise on the Patuxent River from the Bladensburg Waterfront Park just outside of Washington D.C. in Prince George’s County our boat crossed from Maryland into the District of Columbia and was greeted by a bald eagle soaring in front of us leading our boat down river. What an opportunity to see a real, wild bald eagle in the Nation’s Capital.

Love Birdwatching? Here’s a list of Places to Spot a Bald Eagle Near the Nation’s Capital

7. Hike to a Waterfall or along the Appalachian Trail in Western Maryland

Photo by: Melissa Moore

Western Maryland is the place to get outdoors, away from the city, and enjoy the fresh mountain air. The Deep Creek Lake area of Garrett County is the place to rent a cabin or spend a week camping during the summer months. At Deep Creek State Park, families can spend a day swimming or fishing at the lake; bring your water toys and a picnic lunch so the kids can happily play lakeside all day long. Spend another day hiking to Swallow Falls, the hike into the falls is simple enough for adventurous tots and takes less than an hour; families who arrive early and beat the crowds will enjoy swimming in the cold waters of Tolliver Falls, the final waterfall on the trail. In the winter months families can ski at Maryland’s only ski resort, Wisp Resort just north of Deep Creek Lake in McHenry.

There is no shortage of opportunities for hiking in Western Maryland. For families with older children, approximately 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail run through the state of Maryland. Maryland’s most popular day hikes on the Appalachian Trail both begin in its state parks; families that hike to Annapolis Rock from Hwy 40 just outside of South Mountain State Park will be rewarded with amazing views once they reach the top.

Look for the best prices on Family Friendly Hotels in Maryland

6. Learn about the Chesapeake Bay at a Maritime Museum

Photo by: Melissa Moore

Maryland has nearly seven thousand miles of shoreline along the Chesapeake Bay; it’s no surprise that the state’s history, livelihood, and industry are closely tied to the bay. Venturing out of urban and suburban Maryland towards the shores of the bay, families find several maritime museums that tell the story of the Chesapeake Bay watermen who historically have made a living off of harvesting or farming oysters as well as catching blue crab.

Driving southeast of Washington D.C., families can explore the beaches along the Calvert Cliffs swimming in the bay water and searching for sharks’ teeth by the shore or checking out the Calvert Marine Museum in the picturesque town of Solomons where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay. The Calvert Marine Museum has my favorite exhibit on the local ecology of Chesapeake Bay with recently remodeled aquariums featuring aquatic life. However, there’s a good deal of history to be found at the Calvert Marine Museum as well. My kids loved climbing up into the Drum Point Lighthouse and checking out what the life of a lighthouse keeper would have been like in the early 20th century.

To visit the Eastern Shore, families can take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge out of Annapolis to St. Michaels and Cambridge. On the Eastern Shore the families can spend their day learning about the Chesapeake Bay watermen at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St Michaels.

Does your family like to learn while on the road? Check out Trekaroo’s Road School Guide: Human Impact on Aquatic Ecosystems for tips on making the most of your visit to the bay.

5. Explore Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Many of the larger cities in the Mid-Atlantic region can boast of their impressive science, art and history museums. However, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor neighborhood is unique in that it includes the Port Discovery children’s museum, the National Aquarium, and the Maryland Science Center, all three world-class museums within walking distance of the city’s beautifully revitalized harbor. If that’s not enough to keep your family busy, the harbor is also home to four historic ships including the USS Constellation, a Civil War era sloop first launched in 1854. Baltimore Water Taxi also docks right next to the USS Constellation and can take families to the historic Fells Point neighborhood to catch a kid-friendly Urban Pirates cruise or across the harbor to the American Visionary Arts Museum.

There’s so much for families to do in Baltimore! Check out Trekaroo’s Top 10 Things for Families to do in Baltimore.

4. Go Play at the Beach

Photo by: Melissa Moore

While Maryland has only about thirty miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, this coastline boasts both a boardwalk with amusement park rides and one of the nation’s ten protected national seashores. In Ocean City, families can stay beachside in one of the dozens of hotels or hundreds of rental properties available within sight of the sand. I love staying in a room overlooking the ocean for perfect sunrise views and movies on the beach after sunset. With water parks, amusement parks, and miniature golf available at several locations on the island, kids can get their thrills even when they tire of the saltwater and sunshine. After spending a few days last summer splashing at Jolly Rogers Splash Mountain Waterpark and screaming on their amusement park rides in between visits to the beach, Ocean City easily gets my kids’ vote of their favorite place in Maryland for a summer vacation.

Yet, less than an hour’s drive from the boardwalk crowds is Assateague State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore. Families can get away from it all and camp on the beach, as long as they don’t mind sharing their campsite with the wild Chincoteague ponies that make their home on Assateague Island. Or, if they prefer the comfort of their Ocean City condo, families can simply spend the day swimming at the beach or exploring the island by bike. For parents that like to encourage a bit of learning during their summer vacation, the national seashore’s visitor center is the perfect place to learn about the island’s wildlife and pick up a Junior Ranger packet for the kids.

The Eastern Shore is the place to get away for a vacation. Can’t decide where to vacation on the Eastern Shore? Check out Trekaroo’s Family-Friendly Eastern Shore Getaways Vacation Guide.

3. Hike, Bike, or Paddle the Historic C&O Canal

Photo by: Melissa Moore

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park, which stretches from Georgetown in Washington D.C. all the way to Cumberland in Western Maryland, might be Maryland’s best kept secret. In my opinion, this national historic park can rival most of the United States 59 national parks both in natural beauty and historic value. Hiking the Billy Goat Tail, which traverses the rocky cliffs of the Potomac Gorge just upriver from Washington D.C., is one of my children’s favorite weekend activities; they love to climb the rocks while I enjoy taking in the view of the Potomac River rushing by. However, families don’t have to tie up their hiking boots and hike miles of strenuous trail in order to get the perfect view. The view of Great Falls from Olmstead Island is just an easy 10-15 minute walk along the towpath and a boardwalk from the Great Falls Visitor Center and parking lot.

With 184.5 miles of canal, visitors don’t have to battle the traffic of suburban Maryland in order to experience this park. The Cumberland Visitor Center terminus of the canal is full of educational displays describing the procedure for bringing the canal boats through the many locks along the canal; it’s a great place to pick up a Junior Ranger packet and learn about the history of the canal. While you’re in town, don’t forget to stop and get some ice cream at the Queen City Creamery. Another of my favorite stops along the canal is in Brunswick, just a short drive from Harpers Ferry; there is a small, free visitor center inside the first floor of the Brunswick Heritage Museum. If your family stops in Brunswick, make sure to eat at one of my favorite Maryland coffee shops, Beans in the Belfry. This classic, small town church has been converted to a restaurant complete with stain glass windows, toys for the tots and the most amazing deserts.

2. Eat Some Crab

Photo by: Melissa Moore

Crab cakes, steamed crab, soft shell crab, crab soup, crab imperial, and the list goes on and on. There’s a reason that Maryland is known for it’s crab; not only is the blue crab Maryland’s official “State Crustacean,” but approximately 50 percent of the country’s blue crab harvest comes from Maryland waters. Families visiting Maryland should give crab a try whether trying the seafood platter featuring both crab cakes and crab imperial at the Phillips Crab House in Ocean City or cracking their own steamed crab at Bo Brooks in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood. Just ask the locals anywhere along the Chesapeake’s Eastern or Western shore for a local recommendation as I did when visiting the Chesapeake Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. The locals recommended the crab soup at the nearby Chesapeake Landing Seafood restaurant, which was very tasty with huge chunks of crab meat.

Of course, wherever you choose to sample some local crab, it will invariably be seasoned, likely covered, in Old Bay Seasoning. This seasoning originated in Baltimore and was quickly bought and manufactured by the McCormick Co. at their spice factory. The spice factory was a fixture on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor until the late 1980s. Now all that is left is a large spice store, McCormack’s World of Flavors, located along the harbor between the Maryland Science Center and the National Aquarium.

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1. Become a Junior Ranger at a National Historic Site or Battlefield

Photo by: Melissa Moore

There are at least ten parks, mostly historic sites and battlefields, run by the national park system where kids ages 5-13 can become a Junior Ranger in Maryland. One historic site that families should make sure to put on their itinerary is Fort McHenry, which is easily accessible from I-95 in Baltimore. Fort McHenry is the site where the United States flag was seen by Francis Scott Key in the dawn’s early light the morning after the Battle of Baltimore. He went on to pen the poem that eventually became the United States National Anthem while the enormous flag that flew over Fort McHenry and inspired the “Star Spangled Banner” found its way to the Smithsonian American History Museum just an hour south in Washington D.C. The video shown at the Fort McHenry visitor center is one of my favorites in all of U.S. national park system, appropriate for all ages and should not be missed.

If you take a moment to look at a Civil War era map that includes the infamous Mason-Dixon Line resting between Maryland and Pennsylvania, you’ll quickly see why the state of Maryland is home to so many Civil War battlefields and historic sites dating back to the mid-1800s. There are visitor centers and Junior Ranger programs at both Monocracy National Battlefield, just off of Hwy 270 in Frederick County, and Antietam National Battlefield, the location of the bloodiest one day battle of the Civil War. Our children are fortunate that these historic sites have been preserved and that park rangers are available to provide educational programs so that we all can learn from our country’s past.

Do your kids love the Junior Ranger Program as much as mine do? Here’s a guide to Places to Become a Junior Ranger Near Washington DC.

Featured photo by: Bigstock/flownaksala


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About the author

Melissa Moore is one of Trekaroo's Travel Experts located in Washington DC. She's a mom to two energetic young children who wake up at the crack of dawn asking, "Where are we going today?" Being a Coast Guard wife gives her a new "hometown” to explore and a cross country road-trip to plan every few years. Recently, she left her native California behind and now has the privilege of introducing her kids to all the history that the Nation's Capital has to offer.
3 Responses
  1. R Byrd

    Great list. I work with the marketing department for D.R. Horton America’s Builder and they currently have homes available in Maryland! A great place to live and play. Maryland a home for everyone.

  2. Great list. We have visited a few of the places you mentioned and can’t wait to visit more. The C & O canal is one of our favorite areas to explore. It really is one of Maryland’s hidden gems!

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