St, Mary's City

Travel through Maryland’s Heritage Areas

By Jennifer Ajello

Discover some of Maryland’s greatest historic and cultural sites and towns.

 St, Mary's City

One of the best ways to explore Maryland is through its past. Thanks to the Maryland Heritage Area Authority, it’s easy to travel around the state’s Certified Heritage Areas. By car or on foot, discover Maryland’s local color and culture and watch history come to life.

Anacostia Trails Heritage Area
Heritage Center in Hyattsville
Grace Davenport/ATHA

For an immersion into local culture, art and entertainment, head to Prince George’s County. You can explore trails by bike or foot. Both the Painting the Town: Arts & Humanities Heritage Route and the Cultural Crossroads Route showcase theaters and art centers dotting the region. Additional featured routes connect multiple sites with themes such as the War of 1812, transportation and communication milestones, urban outdoor activities and agricultural heritage.

Baltimore National Heritage Area
USS Constellation ship
@kramerdog - Instagram

Founded in 1729, Baltimore quickly became an influential American city. Several routes explore its history. The Heritage Walk includes sites such as the Flag House and Star-Spangled Banner Museum, the USS Constellation, The Baltimore Civil War Museum and the Reginald Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. The Mount Vernon Cultural Walk features the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Basilica and Baltimore’s Washington Monument. The Historic Fells Point and Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage trails showcase Baltimore’s authenticity and charm.

Four Rivers Heritage Area
Children with flags
Four Rivers Heritage Area in Annapolis

Annapolis is Maryland's capital city, home of the U.S. Naval Academy and a great base for exploring nearby pastoral landscapes, waterfront villages and historic sites. The Four Rivers Heritage Area encompasses Annapolis, Eastport, Edgewater, Deale and Galesville. An especially great time to discover southern Anne Arundel County is during annual Maryland Day observances in March that mark the day settlers arrived in 1634.

Patapsco Heritage Greenway
Ellicott City
B & O Railroad Museum Ellicott City Station

More than 1 million people a year visit Maryland's first state park—Patapsco Valley State Park. Extending 32 miles along the Patapsco River, the park winds through historic towns with plenty of landmarks to enjoy along the way. Check out the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum, the Thomas Viaduct, and even the Guinness Open Gate Brewery—all near the greenway. The Patapsco Valley Heritage area also includes Mount Pleasant, and a portion of Korean Way, where you’ll find delicious Korean food and dining options.

Passages of the Western Potomac Heritage Area
Allegany County
C&O Canal Towpath Entrance

This region in the western terminus of the C&O Canal in Cumberland was the first designated heritage area in the state and formerly was known as Canal Place Heritage Area. Here, Maryland’s transportation heritage is waiting to be explored with a ride on a steam train, a hike or bike ride along the C&O Canal Towpath, or a tour of a canal boat replica. Other notable sites include George Washington’s Headquarters, Lonaconing Iron Furnace and Park, Mount Savage historical structures and Old Bedford Village.

Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area
Garrett County
Casselman River Bridge
DNR/John Moore

In Maryland’s westernmost county, you’ll find beautiful waterfalls, a tribute to farming history, Amish-made crafts and rail trails. Feast your eyes on some feats of architectural ingenuity like the Casselman River Bridge and Bloomington Viaduct. And for a different kind of visual treat, don’t forget to stop at the Spruce Forest Artisan Village. There you’ll find artists working away in their studios. Stop by for a chat, or purchase works you love! Elsewhere in the heritage area you’ll find parks and trails ripe for exploration.

Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area
Dorchester County
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge at Sunrise

With nearly 50 square miles of forests, fields, marshes and open water, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, “The Everglades of the North,” offers breathtaking vistas and a rare glimpse of untouched America.

Dating to the 1600s, the Eastern Shore’s Dorchester County is one of the oldest colonial counties in Maryland. Churches, museums and historic sites dot this heritage area. Visit the Spocott Windmill, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center and more.

Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area
Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne's and Talbot Counties
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Courtesy of CBMM

Discover what it was like to be a traditional waterman through hands-on exhibits at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. Don't miss the annual OysterFest in October.

Celebrate the arts in small maritime towns while enjoying the natural beauty of the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Explore the area’s Colonial past by traveling country roads, passing by buildings that date to the 17th century, and visiting museums and picturesque villages. From the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels to the Choptank River and its iconic lighthouse, you’ll discover authentic Maryland as you travel the Chesapeake.

Beach to Bay Heritage Area
Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester Counties
A Flamingo at Salisbury Zoo
Salisbury Zoo

Explore beaches, byways, parkways and waterways in this warm and inviting area, formerly known as the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Area, which is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay. The Salisbury Zoo, Assateague Island National Seashore, Bald Cypress Nature Trail and the “World’s Coolest Small Town” of Berlin all sit within this heritage area.

Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area
Carroll, Frederick and Washington Counties
National Museum of Civil War Medicine
Visit Frederick

Tour towns and homes of those who experienced the war firsthand in Frederick, Union Mills, Westminster and Hagerstown. See the legendary battlegrounds of South Mountain, Antietam and Monocacy as well as cemeteries, hospital centers and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Visit 16 sites, where geocaches are hidden for you to find.

Montgomery County Heritage Area
Montgomery County
spring flowers

Discover 18th- and 19th-century landmarks just beyond the Bethesda and Silver Spring arts and entertainment districts. Peek into the past of Maryland’s African American and Quaker heritage. Follow rivers, roads and rail trails to gems such as Harper Cabin at Brookside Nature Center, King Barn Dairy MOOseum and the town of Poolesville.

Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway
Cecil and Harford Counties
Main Street, Havre de Grace
B. Peters

Plan to spend time walking or biking through historic towns like Havre de Grace and Port Deposit.

Almost entirely accessible by foot, this area boasts waterfront towns like—Perryville and Havre de Grace—that offer bay views and waterfront wonder. The Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway is also home to 40 miles of recreation trails and 14 museums including the Steppingstone Farm Museum, which celebrates the area’s rural heritage. You’ll also find plenty of wildlife in the area—try to capture a picture of an American bald eagle by the Conowingo Dam..

Southern Maryland Heritage Area
Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties
Woodland Indian Hamlet at Historic St. Mary's City
Courtesy of Historic St. Mary's City

Time and tide meet amid the region's sandy beaches, fossil-filled shores, ample fishing spots and Maryland's earliest settlement, Historic St. Mary's City. Explore this peninsula by following the flow of the Patuxent and Potomac rivers. Along the way, stop in museums, drive on a scenic byway and sip local flavors at wineries, breweries and distilleries.