Nifty Off 50
Turn off U.S. Route 50 for infinite adventure.
For most of us, the trip down 50 is just that last task on the way to Ocean City, but why wait until you hit the water to start your vacation? There’s a whole world waiting just off the highway. Plan a stop in downtown Chestertown, the Easton Town Center, Main Street in Cambridge or Berlin and you’ll wonder why you waited so long. Or, try one of these unusual excursions just minutes off the beaten trail.
Tour the factory floor where some of the best guitars on the planet are born. See the state-of-the-art facility where cutting-edge technology meets Maryland-made craftsmanship, and keep an eye out for legendary PRS devotees like Carlos Santana, Dave Navaro and Joe Walsh whose guitars are handcrafted on site. You can even try playing a genuine PRS guitar— no guarantee you’ll sound like Santana, though.
Once powered by sail and oar, the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry has been carrying passengers across the Tred Avon River since 1683. Just down the road, the Whitehaven & Upper ferries are relative newcomers (they’ve only been around since 1688). Drive or bike aboard and let your imagination drift back as the ferry carries you and the family along your way.
With nearly 50 square miles of forests, fields, marshes and open water, “The Everglades of the North” offers breathtaking vistas and a rare glimpse of untouched America. You’ll quickly lose count of the bald eagles soaring overhead in this birder’s paradise along the Atlantic Flyway. Bring or rent a kayak and paddle one of the park’s unforgettable water trails.
Home of Scout, the endangered red wolf, bison, jaguars, sloths and the zoo’s beloved spectacled bear, the Salisbury Zoo focuses on North, Central and South American species in beautiful, naturalistic environments. It’s the perfect break on the way to the beach, and if you don’t stop in for a visit, Scout will miss you.
Experience nature’s remarkable splendor as captured by the craftsman’s eye in this one-of-a-kind museum, chronicling the history of decoy carving from the practical splendor of centuries old Native-American carvings to the intricate masterpieces of today’s top artists. It’s a must-stop for bird lovers, hunters and anyone who simply appreciates beauty.
Frontier Town serves up a heaping helping of fun, with a new ropes course, camping, a water park and Wild West show, all in a—what else?— Wild West setting. Looking for historical accuracy? There’s cowboy mini-golf!
The Eastern Shore is rich in maritime history, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the vessels and people who made it. Skipjacks, bugeyes, and log canoes, maintained by a dedicated staff of skilled workers and historians, provide a window into the working past of the Chesapeake.
Family vacations can be tough when the kids get older. But they'll put down the cell phone when they see "The Dark and Bloody Grounds" of Dueling Creek, where notables such as war hero Stephen Decatur met their end just outside the dueling-unfriendly nation's capital.
Ocean City is great, but if you want to get off the boardwalk, or just need a break on the way there, Ocean Downs is a little more of an adult destination than, say, mini-golf. Kids can watch the majestic horses race, but you have to be 18 to wager on the sport of kings - or gamble in general (slots/tables).
One of the oldest cities in Maryland, Cambridge, with its newly revitalized downtown, has played a big role in the state's history. It was a stop on the Underground Railroad, a maritime center and key component of the Maryland oyster industry. Today, it's a designated arts and entertainment district, so in addition to exploring historic downtown, there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and events to bring you up to date.
The brick-paved streets of the "Sailing Capital of America" all lead to the City Dock, a great place to relax away a sunny afternoon watching the powerboats navigate Ego Alley. Just blocks from the Naval Academy and the State House - shops, restaurants, and bars fill the Colonial rowhomes. Get a bagel at Chick & Ruth's (or a six-pound milkshake if you're up for a challenge), then stroll down to the water and take a ride on the Schooner Woodwind.
Dedicated to this most remarkable of American women, this museum near Harriet Tubman's birthplace pays tribute to her service as a Civil War spy, nurse, suffragette and, of course, conductor of the Underground Railroad. Tubman grew up enslaved in Dorchester County, escaped to freedom and returned numerous times to lead other slaves to freedom. Looking for more? The museum is a stop on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railway Scenic Byway, which covers 30 stops across Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Nestled between "Are we there yet?" and "Don't make me turn this car around," Layton's Chance is a great place to make a pit stop. A playset for the kids, and for the adults, well, it's a winery - with outdoor games for all including cornhole and badminton. Check out the nature trails and picnic area before gritting your teeth and getting back in the car.
Interested in "alternative energy"? Park the Prius here for a look at the original green technology. The 1852 mill was rebuilt by master boat-builder Jim Richardson in 1972, but still relies on the same breezes to power the machinery.