You don’t need a big budget to experience big fun in Maryland. Here are 25 top free (or nearly free) things to do—sure to keep you coming back again and again!
1 Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Marvel at this museum’s more than 7,000 works, including paintings, sculptures and objets d’art. Considered one of the finest small museums in the United States, the museum was established in 1931 in Hagerstown’s historic City Park, and with its stunning neo-Georgian architecture, the museum itself is a work of art.
More about Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
401 Museum Drive
Hagerstown, MD 21740
2 Swallow Falls State Park
Commune with nature and take a walk through the woods of Western Maryland, known for its gorgeous mountain views. Just a few miles north of Oakland, Swallow Falls State Park borders the Youghiogheny River and is nestled in the picturesque Allegheny Mountains. Let your spirit run wild at Swallow Falls with its rocky gorges, roaring rapids, centuries-old hemlock trees, and Muddy Creek Falls, the cascading 53-foot waterfall, is the tallest in Maryland!
More about Swallow Falls State Park
222 Herrington Ln
Oakland, MD 21550
3 William Brish Planetarium
Take a spin around the solar system, bust astronomy myths and learn how to keep our skies free of pollution at one of the planetarium’s programs offered on the first and fourth Tuesdays of the month. ($3 adults/$2 kids; cash or personal checks only)
More about William Brish Planetarium
Science & Education
820 Commonwealth Ave
Hagerstown, MD 21740
4 Canal Place
June through August, jam to live music at the Canal Place Ampitheater as part of downtown Cumberland’s Second Friday’s concert series featuring touring bands from Nashville, Knoxville, and the New York City. Year-round, bike along the canal or hike one of two trails in Maryland’s first Certified Heritage Areas.
More about Canal Place Heritage Area
13 Canal St
Cumberland, MD 21502
5 House of Yoder
History and architecture lovers will particularly enjoy this house in Grantsville’s Spruce Forest Artisan Village, which was modeled after early-eighteenth-century Swiss homes. Tour four stories displaying a massive fireplace, drawstring latch, stone-arched root cellar, smoke house, and more, all while learning about the Yoder family’s European heritage.
More about Spruce Forest Artisan Village
177 Casselman Rd
Grantsville, MD 21536
6 Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
For nearly a century, this famous waterway carried lumber, coal and crops to market; now the park is perfect for biking, hiking or exploring on a boat ride. See the lockhouses and other historic structures, and catch a breathtaking view of Mather Gorge, the narrowest section on the lower Potomac River. ($5 for a 3-day car pass)
More about C&O Canal National Historical Park Headquarters
1850 Dual Hwy., Suite 100
Hagerstown, MD 21740
7 Flying Dog Brewery
Get a peek behind the scenes of the brewing process, along with the chance to do a little beer tasting, when you head to Frederick to visit a favorite among craft breweries. An important thing to know before you go, though: being a brewery, you should come wearing closed-toe shoes, and children aren’t allowed. Tours run Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. ($5)
More about Flying Dog Brewery
Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries
4607 Wedgewood Blvd.
Frederick, MD 21703
8 The Awakening at National Harbor
There’s no chance of waking this sleeping giant—but there’s a high probability of getting an amazing photo. “The Awakening” is a 15-foot-high, multi-piece sculpture of a bearded giant bursting from the ground. For 30 years, the National Park Service had displayed the giant in Washington D.C.; now he makes his home on the beach at National Harbor. - Learn more http://www.visitmaryland.org/places-to-go/national-harbor
9 Brookside Gardens
Admire the beautiful blossoms at these public gardens in Wheaton. Originally planned by landscape architect Hans Hanses based on European designs and utilizing plants that thrive in Maryland’s temperate climate, the gardens have grown to include the evocative Fragrance Garden, the Gude Garden with its Japanese tea-house, the glorious Rose Garden, and the fanciful Aquatic Garden. Brookside Gardens hosts several exhibitions throughout the year, including a live butterfly and caterpillar event.
More about Brookside Gardens
Arts & Culture
1800 Glenallan Ave
Wheaton, MD 20902
10 Schifferstadt Architectural Museum
One of the oldest buildings in Frederick (circa 1758), this stone farmhouse preserves the best example of early colonial German architecture in the country. Tour the museum on Saturdays from April to October, and if you can, plan your trip around the annual Oktoberfest celebration complete with a beer tent, German food, music and cultural activities. Oompah! ($5 suggested donation)
More about Schifferstadt Architectural Museum
1110 Rosemont Ave
Frederick, MD 21701
11 Days End Farm Horse Rescue
This national rescue and rehab facility in Woodbine gives horses a second chance. Home to up to 80 horses rescued by Maryland’s animal control and humane agencies, Days End Farm offers daily tours. Come and learn about the rescue cause, hear the success stories, and, best of all, meet the horses!
12 Ego Alley
Stroll historic downtown Annapolis’ brick-lined streets and make sure to visit the city dock along “Ego Alley,” so nicknamed because the marina is home to some massive yachts. During the holidays, the yachts are decked out in sparkling Christmas lights and decorations.
More about Annapolis City Dock
Boating & Sailing
One Dock Street
Annapolis, MD 21401
13 Baltimore Book Festival
The Baltimore Book Festival features hundreds of appearances by local, celebrity and nationally known authors, book signings, more than 100 exhibitors and booksellers, nonstop readings on multiple stages, cooking demos by top chefs, poetry readings, workshops, panel discussions, storytellers and hands-on projects for kids, live music, and a delicious variety of food, beer and wine.
More about Baltimore Book Festival
Pratt and Light Sts
Baltimore, MD 21201
14 The Walters Art Museum
The Walters’ internationally-renowned collection of art spans the globe and the ages. Located in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, after visiting the museum, make sure to visit the Washington Monument right outside the Walters’ door. (Fee for special exhibitions)
More about The Walters Art Museum
600 N Charles St
Baltimore, MD 21201
15 The Anita C. Leight Estuary Center
At this family-friendly wildlife reserve in Abingdon, get a hefty dose of the great outdoors while learning how—and why--you should help preserve the health and beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. Explore the Bay’s ecosystem through interactive exhibits, a 300-gallon turtle pond and two miles of hiking trails.
16 Mallows Bay
Search for shipwrecks in the “Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay” at the largest ship graveyard on the East Coast, just off the Potomac River in Charles County. Take out a kayak for a hauntingly-beautiful afternoon spent drifting among the wrecked, World War I era ships that were supposed to be scrapped, but were abandoned instead.
17 St. John's Site Museum
In the heart of historic St. Mary’s City, this museum preserves the foundation of one of the largest enclosed spaces built in this colonial Maryland city back in 1638. Study archeological artifacts and learn about the history of the site where colonial legislators met to discuss policies 150 years before the existence of the U.S. Constitution. ($4 suggested donation for museum; additional fees for admission to all site exhibits.)
More about Historic St. Mary's City
History & Heritage
Rt 5 and Rosecroft Rd
St Marys City, MD 20686
18 Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center
A colorful, six-ton ceramic gate stands sentry at the entrance to this whimsical 30-acre sculpture garden. More magic awaits inside: walk or bike the quarter-mile paved walking path to see unforgettable 3D art including a circle of granite standing stones and an interactive boardwalk inscribed with interviews of area residents gradually wearing away. Check their calendar of events for rotating exhibits, public programs, and annual festivals.(Admission is $5 for adults 18+, $3 kids 6-17 and free to 5 & under)
More about Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center
13480 Dowell Rd
Dowell, MD 20629
19 Calvert Cliffs State Park
You’ll find a fishing hole, playground, beach, and—best of all--fossils at Calvert Cliffs State Park in Lusby. Hike the 13 miles of trails and search the beach where more than 600 species of fossils have been discovered through the years including the giant megaladon shark! Chances are pretty high you’ll collect a few fossilized shark’s teeth.
More about Calvert Cliffs State Park
10540 H.G. Trueman Rd
Lusby, MD 20657
20 Patuxent River Naval Air Museum
Visit this museum to see an impressive display of aircraft, engines, radar and more. See how U.S. Naval aviation has progressed over the years, and take to the skies, virtually speaking, with a ride in a flight simulator. Open Tuesday through Sunday. ($5 adults; $3 students and seniors)
More about Patuxent River Naval Air Museum and Visitor Center
History & Heritage
22156 Three Notch Rd
Lexington Park, MD 20653
21 Assateague Island National Seashore
Less than 10 miles from the excitement of Ocean City lay the serene shores of Assateague Island, beckoning you to romp on the beach alongside the wild horses that inhabit the island. The horses are smaller than normal horses, but a bit more aggressive, so watch your hands (and food)—but they’re definitely a sight not to be missed.
More about Assateague Island National Seashore
7206 National Seashore Ln
Berlin, MD 21811
22 Movies on North Beach
The line-up of free movies runs through the fall at this Chesapeake Bay Beach in Calvert County. Plop a beach chair in the sand, snuggle under a blanket, and catch a film projected on a large inflatable screen. In September and October, the beach’s visitor parking transforms into a drive-in where you can drive up and catch the latest flicks from the comfort (and warmth) of your car. Check out our full list of outdoor summer movies.
More about Town of North Beach
Scenic Points & Landmarks
8916 Chesapeake Ave
North Beach, MD 20714
23 Globe Theatre
Surround yourself with sound at this historic Berlin theater when you take in a show of live music performed by talented regional and national musicians. Or check out one of the art exhibits that showcase the works of curated local and regional artists at the Art Gallery & Lounge. Most shows are free to patrons of The Globe Restaurant & Bar.
24 Salisbury Zoo
Get in touch with your wild side at this 12-acre zoo, home to critters including a jaguar, Andean bear and alligator. Scheduled events take place throughout the year, including story time for kids (human, not goats) and an overnight Bunk with the Beasts Camping Adventure.
25 Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum
This outdoor, living history museum in Snow Hill recreates life in a 19th century village. The showpiece Nassawango Iron Furnace kept the town thriving between 1830 and 1850, and was the pinnacle of technology at the time. Visit the blacksmith, weaver, printer, and others. Families can also participate in archeological digs. ($6 adults/$5 seniors/$3 kids; $12 additional dig fee)
More about Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum
3816 Old Furnace Rd
Snow Hill , MD 21863