Free Stuff in the Free State
"Land of the free" – words written by Francis Scott Key nearly 200 years ago – is an apt description for the many free attractions and activities that visitors can find in Maryland this summer.
Maryland offers a wide variety of free attractions, events and things to do. Heritage celebrations, city festivals, art shows and concerts – many of them with free admission – are regular happenings around the state, especially during the summer months.
In addition to free events, Maryland has other attractions that offer free admission. Two museums in Baltimore, for instance – Baltimore Museum of Art and Walters Art Museum – have free general admission, as well as many of the state's national parks and attractions.
Two Juneteenth events will honor the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States on June 15. The day will feature a 5K race, and gospel, funk and pop music at Lexington Park's Freedom Park. Watkins Regional Park in Prince George's County offers dance and musical performances, including traditional African dance with contemporary military movements.
The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis – in tribute to the ongoing War of 1812 bicentennial in Maryland – recently opened Seas, Lakes and Bay: The Naval War of 1812 – a free exhibit that showcases hundreds of items from the Naval Academy Museum and 86 items on loan from the collection of American businessman and sailor William I. Koch. The items include artifacts from the two first naval vessels engaged in the war: The USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon.
Maryland is also home to the Navy's only museum dedicated to naval aviation research, development, test and evaluation – the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum in Lexington Park (St. Mary's County). Numerous aircraft are on display and admission is free.
Here is a sampling of free-admission events in Maryland's five regions during June:
- Grantsville Days, June 28-30, Grantsville Park (Garrett County) – Grantsville Lions Club sponsors this 36th annual family weekend in the Deep Creek Lake area. Weekend includes a parade, live entertainment, Sunday gospel, tractor and truck pulls, and fireworks.
- Heritage Days Festival, June 8-9, Cumberland (Allegany County) – As the region's traditional summer kick-off, the festival – now in its 45th year – offers live entertainment, historic tours, steam-train excursions and numerous family-friendly activities. Admission to the festival is free. Some events and activities require fees. Free shuttle service is also available.
- Mountain Maryland Plein Air, June 1 – June 16 (Allegany and Garrett counties) – Sponsored by the Allegany County Arts Council, this yearly exhibition and competition features 30 juried artists vying for $5,000 in prize money. Artwork will be displayed at the arts council's Saville Gallery in Cumberland.
- Emmitsburg Heritage Days, June 28-30, 2013 (Frederick County) - An event commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg features living historians, Civil War-era vendors and crafts, and a concert by the Williamsport Band and the Metropolitan Detroit Chorale.
- The Civil War Comes to Rockville, June 29 (Montgomery County) – A day of free activities and programs marks the 150-year anniversary of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's march through town en route to Gettysburg. Events include an encampment at Beall-Dawson Park, a concert by the Federal City Brass Band at Courthouse Square and country-dance performers at the town square.
- Celebrating the Potomac, June 22, National Colonial Farm Museum, (Prince George's County) – This living-history museum features a family-oriented river and culturally themed festival, and musical performances on a farm that is representative of the Revolutionary War era.
- HonFest, June 8-9, Hampden (Baltimore City) – Three stages of live entertainment, a cornucopia of street food, arts & crafts vendors – and women of all ages strolling "the avenue" with their beehive hair styles, leopard prints and horn-rimmed eyeglasses – create a uniquely Baltimore landscape at this annual festival.
Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival, June 15, Creative Alliance at the Patterson (Baltimore City) – As the folk-life program of the Maryland State Arts Council, the festival is an indoor-outdoor arts showcase rooted in multi-cultural appeal. A Native American dance troupe, Khmer classical performers, bluegrass band and Baltimore-based doo-wop group are among the day's entertainers. Visitors can also indulge in traditional Maryland food and beverage choices, like Smith Island cake and locally crafted beer. Free parking and shuttle service are available.
- Taneytown Wine and Jazz Festival, June 22, Memorial Park (Carroll County) – The downtown festival will feature a variety of art ranging from sculptures, paintings and photography to wood turning, fashion design and local wines.
- Artsfest, June 8, La Plata (Charles County) – Presented by the Charles County Arts Alliance on the grounds of the town's city hall, this yearly festival is a celebration of music, visual art, drama, dance and literature. Historical, heritage and environmental organizations also participate. The Alliance views the festival as its "free gift" to residents of the county and Southern Maryland.
- First Friday Tours, June 7, Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum (Calvert County) - Enjoy a free behind the scenes tour of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, a state-of-the-art facility that houses more than 8 million artifacts. The "Behind the Scenes" guided tour allows visitors to get up close and personal collection.
River Concert Series, starts June 21, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Historic St. Mary's City (St. Mary's County) – World-class artists (classical, jazz, bluegrass and others) perform with the college's resident ensemble, the Chesapeake Orchestra. The series runs on Friday evenings through July 26.
- Delmarva Chicken Festival, June 21-22, Snow Hill (Worcester County) – A giant frying pan cooks up tons of chicken for visitors to this annual celebration of the region's poultry industry, which takes place this year in (where else?) Byrd Park in downtown Snow Hill, a half-hour from Ocean City. The festival includes live music, boat rides on the Pocomoke river, a 5K run/walk, arts & crafts, car show and juggling demonstrations. Admission is free. Free shuttle service also available.
- Ocean City Air Show, June 8-9, Ocean City (Worcester County) – Parachute jumps, low-altitude flyovers, and aerobatic maneuvers provide onlookers along the beach and boardwalk with two days of aerial thrills, beginning at 1 p.m. each day. The show features many of the nation's top civilian pilots.
- Tilghman Island Seafood Festival, June 22 (Talbot County) – A visit to Tilghman Island reveals the culture and tradition of Maryland's signature seafood industry. Admission to this annual summer festival is free. Once there, visitors will find music, dancing, hard-crab races and plenty of Maryland seafood. Tilghman Island is close to Easton, St. Michaels and Oxford.