Top Things to See and Do in Central Maryland
Central Maryland features Chesapeake Bay charm and a “choose your own adventure” experience for everyone. Whether you’re craving arts and entertainment, food and drink or history and heritage, the state’s cultural crossroads have you more than covered.
Some of Maryland’s best crab houses are in the Central Region, with no-frills hotspots luring locals and visitors alike for some of the meatiest bites around. Follow the Maryland Crab and Oyster Trail to find these establishments. Try the decades-old Ocean Pride in Lutherville, Schultz’s Crab House and Mr. Bill’s Terrace Inn in Essex and Costa's Inn in Dundalk. You can also sit down for a quintessential crab feast at Cantler’s Riverside Inn, which overlooks a quiet creek in Annapolis. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you see tables covered with brown paper, wooden mallets and spicy seafood seasonings such as J.O. Spice, Old Bay or a secret recipe.
Charm City, a nickname to acknowledge the city’s slew of hidden gems, boasts one of the hottest food scenes on the East Coast with rave reviews rolling in as local chefs shine at both chic, cheap eats and five-star fine-dining experiences. With so many options from freshly caught fish, to exotic Ethiopian and farm-to-table fare, it can be hard to decide how to treat your taste buds. Lucky for you that Baltimore offers inspired food halls such as Cross Street Market, Mt. Vernon Marketplace and R. House with eclectic mixes of flavorful offerings.
Evenings are all about chivalry, rivalry and revelry at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament in Hanover. Cheer for daring knights who sword fight and joust on horseback as you feast on scrumptious roast chicken and hearty Middle Age fare. Lace up your bodice and jerkins, grab a turkey leg and prepare for some good “Olde”-fashioned fun at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, one of the biggest Renn fests in the country—it lasts for two months, from late August to late October, in Annapolis.
The Central Region features many historic landmarks, including the State House in Annapolis, where the Continental Congress signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783, officially ending the Revolutionary War, and Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, which protected Baltimore from the British bombardment in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” For a small fee, you can take self-guided tours of these historic landmarks where American history was made.
Train buffs can touch—and even ride—the amazing collection of historical iron at this one-of-a-kind museum. For kids, the rides, games and occasional visits from Thomas the Tank Engine make the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum a must. After your visit, tell everyone you were at a site from the Monopoly game board!
Some of the finest art collections on the East Coast are in Baltimore museums, many of which offer free admission. The Baltimore Museum of Art, for instance, houses an exceptional array of classic and contemporary work, including pieces by Picasso and Degas, and more than 1,000 works by Matisse (the largest holding of his work in the world!) in the esteemed Cone Collection. The Walters Art Museum features objects from around the world dating back 7,000 years; see ancient Medieval armor, Grecian sculptures and Egyptian mummies. The American Visionary Art Museum offers one-of-a-kind exhibits, for a small fee, that would make John Waters proud.
Explore an extensive collection at the African Art Museum of Maryland in Fulton. Come face to face with American heroes like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum and discover the breadth of the African-American experience at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture and the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. Other places to get in touch with history include the Howard County Center of African American Culture in Columbia and the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Catonsville.
Everyone must see the National Aquarium, with its soaring glass pyramids rising like shark fins above Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Try a “Fly & Dive Family Package” offered by Charm City Helicopters for an unforgettable journey that combines an aerial tour of Baltimore with a chance to scuba dive with sharks, rays and more in the aquarium’s 335,000-gallon Atlantic Coral Reef tank.
To get a taste of authentic Korean cuisine, head to Route 40 in Howard County for a bevy of mouthwatering barbecue spots. Perhaps most famous is Honey Pig Restaurant in Ellicott City, open 24/7 and always buzzing with energy. Shin Chon, also in Ellicott City, and Iron Age Korean Steak House in Catonsville are family-friendly favorites for traditional dining experiences with tabletop grills.
Throughout the spring and fall, the sound of hooves fills Maryland’s horse country for great equine traditions established over the past 100 years. From April through May and again in September and October, cross-country steeplechase races and equestrian events take place across Baltimore, Howard and Harford counties. Watch the region’s top riders compete across fields and over timber fences. Arrive early for the epic tailgate parties.
Named for a legendary thoroughbred, Bulle Rock Golf Club features a Pete Dye-designed course that has hosted multiple LPGA championships. This vast green in Havre de Grace is an ideal place to test your skills across 18 holes with challenging terrains and serene scenes.
The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum in Baltimore County tells the story of lacrosse, America’s oldest sport, and honors notable men and women for their contributions. Follow the history via memorabilia and exhibits that recollect how the popular pastime originated with Native Americans and continues to excite today.
Whatever the time of year, Maryland sports fans show up to support their ball-playing birds in and around Baltimore. In the fall and winter, the M&T Bank Stadium parking lot packs with tailgate parties for Ravens football games, while in the spring and summer, Camden Yards fills with friends and families for a quintessential evening of baseball with hot dogs, peanuts and cold beers as the Orioles rule the roost. Just outside the city in Aberdeen, Ripken Stadium offers family-friendly experiences while hosting Ironbirds Minor League games. Throughout the summer, kids can run the bases, play catch on the field, watch fireworks and even meet team members, some of whom might one day become Os.
Baltimore offers a world of scientific exploration for kids at Port Discovery Children’s Museum with multiple floors of adventurous hands-on activities, and the Maryland Science Center hosts 10 full-sized dinosaurs for aspiring paleontologists. Kids also love the interactive exhibits and old antiques and relics of firefighting at The Fire Museum of Maryland in Lutherville, the third-largest of its kind in the world.
At the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, visitors can get an up-close look at giraffes, penguins and many more creatures through world-class exhibits. The Zoo even hosts slumber parties for bedtime stories beside the wildlife.
Sign up online for the Legends and Legacies Heritage Pass and celebrate the lives of Marylanders who changed the course of American history. The pass provides discounted entry to three of Baltimore’s most popular attractions honoring African-American history and culture. Enjoy discovering The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture and the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park.
With the Chesapeake Bay watershed spanning some 64,000 square miles, it’s no surprise sailing is somewhat of a state sport. In fact, Annapolis just so happens to be the “Sailing Capital of the U.S.” Take to the seas yourself aboard the Schooner Woodwind for two-hour cruises past the U.S. Naval Academy and along the historic seaport. On land, learn more about maritime history at the Annapolis Maritime Museum or the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Drive 45 minutes to Baltimore and visit the Living Classrooms Foundation for on-water fun, paddling a Chessie Dragon boat or scooting around in an electric pirate ship!