Annapolis, Maryland – Naval Strolls and Fresh Crab

Genie Davis July 26, 2011 No Comments

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Annapolis, Maryland is an out of the way destination well worth the drive from the more traveled destinations of Washington, D.C. or Baltimore. The capital of Maryland, the city has a relaxing, sea coast vibe, and plenty of history to explore in its colonial heritage. Three hundred and fifty years old, this easy to explore city houses the United States Naval Academy as well as the liberal arts institution of St. John’s College, established in 1696. Annapolis is a fantastic city to visit for anyone who loves history or architecture. In fact many of the cities buildings dating from the mid 1700′s are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Maryland State House is one of these, built in 1772 and still in use.

Annapolis State House

The historic buildings in Annapolis, like the State House, are still in use today.

Annapolisis also regarded as a center for sailors and boating enthusiasts in the region, and it’s a delightfully easy-to-explore-on-foot destination. When our feet grew weary, we loved taking the short water taxi ride from the downtown center to Eastport, across the bridge from the city proper. Eastport is a quaint neighborhood with an old time sea-faring flavor, and the location of the Annapolis Maritime Museum, which made for a fun afternoon exploration. The Museum includes at its location what was McNasby’s Oyster Packing Company. This historic building now contains the Bay Experience Center, an interactive experience dedicated to oysters. What kind of noise annoys an oyster? That I can’t answer, but we found the extensive exhibit fascinating.

Eastport is also home to the Boatyard Bar & Grill, an economical and homey stop for crunchy fish and chips and sweet crab cakes. While the bar brings in the sailing set, kids are most welcome in the restaurant. The walls are hung with historical photos, and the atmosphere is decidedly chill. The relaxed atmosphere and slightly out of the way location makes the Boatyard easy on the wallet, too.

As much as we enjoyed a late afternoon spread here, another great dining spot is Mike’s crab house. With an open air deck overlooking the South River – you can’t go too far in Annapolis without encountering another great water view of some kind – you’ll have steamed blue crabs piled on your table. Easy to pick apart, it’s fun for the kids to tie on a bib and dig in.

Appetites sated, we  also enjoyed touring some of the old colonial homes in the city such as the Hammond-Harwood House.  We also enjoyed the history on display at the William Paca House, with gardens, a pond, and a small bridge in the back yard of this gracious home.

In downtown Annapolis at the bottom of Main Street we explored the boats on display at the City Dock. Here, along with the find water craft, we found a bronze statue of author Alex Haley, who immortalized the area by choosing Annapolisas the arrival point for his character Kunta Kinte in the novel Roots. Across the street is a local institution, the delicious Storm Brothers Ice Cream Factory, assuming you have any room to consume another Annapolis treat after all that crab!

We also enjoyed Fawcetts, an enormous boating supply store with everything from ship models to rope bracelets whose design was originated by sailors. It’s an inventory you won’t see in your average mall, and one which kept our kids engrossed.

Avalon Harbor Annapolis

A view of Avalon Harbor from above town, the iconic casino is in the distance.

Next stop, the Naval Academy. Beautifully surrounded by fine views of the Chesapeake Bay, the campus is a great place to explore. The Annapolis Naval Academy has been instructing the nation’s naval sailors since 1854. Although we missed the end of May festivities, every year, a thousand midshipmen graduate in a week full of events such as the flight of the Blue Angels planes over the Severn River. Just walking past the lovely buildings and admiring the view gave us a sense of the tradition and strength of this enduring institution and gave the kids plenty of room to run and play.

In the evening we took a ghost tour (Annapolis Ghost Tours), led by a lantern carrying guide down streets with enough history that we could easily imagine a time when the ghosts being described walked with the living. Pleasantly spooky, but not too intense for children old enough to be still walking the streets at night. We particularly enjoyed listening to the ghoulish tale of a man who met his demise beneath the State House dome.

In the morning we took a two hour bay cruise on the Woodwind, offered by Schooner Woodwind Cruises. Great bay views and a knowledgeable guide made this sea sailing tour a relaxing indulgence. Another option is renting a boat and a sailor to sail it from South River Boat Rentals, and explore outlying waterfront areas such as Harness Creek or St. Michaels. If not by boat, a driving trip to these areas outside of Annapolis town is a great way to extend your trip. Small town fishing communities abound in this part of Eastern Maryland, and offer a laid-back lifestyle that transports visitors to an earlier era of weekend fish frys and impromptu band contests on the docks. We were able to experience both, and it was a lot of fun in a unique, historical region.

We stayed at one of the hotel chain giants, the Marriott’s Annapolis Waterfront. The water front location is excellent and we found a good rate on Hotwire. The rooms are large and comfortable and many front the water (although not ours). Best of all the lobby contains dozens of ship models which the kids were eager to explore. Another choice is the classic boutique hotel, the 1776 Maryland Inn (part of the three Historic Inns of Annapolis), originally constructed in the 18th Century and located close to the State House in the historic area of downtown.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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