If you have only a week, put four places on your itinerary: Baltimore, Annapolis, any place on the Eastern Shore (or Ocean City, on the Atlantic), and Western Maryland. You can slow down long enough to see a Civil War battlefield, too. But hurry: There's lots to do in 7 little days.
Day 1: Baltimore Essentials
Baltimore means three things to first-time visitors: Fort McHenry, the Inner Harbor, and the National Aquarium. You can see all three in a day, so put on some comfortable shoes. Get your all-day ticket on the water taxi so you can travel to the fort and Fell's Point by water. Start off at the National Aquarium (get your tickets online, so you don't have to wait in line). You'll want to see the new Australia exhibit as well as the dolphin demonstration. Have lunch and shop a bit at Harborplace. Then hop that water taxi for Fort McHenry. You'll need most of the afternoon for this visit. In fact, if you can be here at sunset, you may be able to help take down the large flag -- it takes about 20 people to fold it. Get on another water taxi for an evening in Fell's Point, with dinner and live entertainment at one of the local watering holes.
Day 2: Baltimore History & Culture
Spend a second day in Baltimore soaking up either the history or the culture. Stop by the visitor center at the Inner Harbor to sign up for a Heritage Walk, which will give you a closer look at Charm City. After lunch in Little Italy, take in a museum. Baltimore has plenty to choose from: the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum, the American Visionary Art Museum, or the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. End the day at Power Plant Live with dinner and music.
Day 3: Annapolis
If you have only a day, you must go to the Naval Academy and sign up for a tour at the visitor center. The best one includes a stop at Bancroft Hall, about the time the midshipmen line up for noon formation. The State House, where George Washington resigned as commander in chief, and the Paca House and Gardens are also good places to visit. Or skip the history for an afternoon on a boat: Watermark Cruises, the Woodwind, or Annapolis by Boat can get you on the Chesapeake Bay and Severn River. Have dinner on Main Street or West Street, and finish with a carriage ride through the historic district. If you haven't clambered aboard a boat yet, make reservations at an Eastport restaurant and take the water taxi across the harbor for a good seafood meal.
Day 4: Boat Trip to St. Michaels or Day Trip to Ocean City
Get out on the water with a day on Chesapeake Bay. Watermark Cruises offers a boat trip to St. Michaels, an Eastern Shore village with shops, restaurants, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. If you need to see the ocean, take the day and drive to Ocean City. It's only 2 1/2 hours from here.
Day 5: Driving to Western Maryland
This is the way settlers headed from the rolling valleys around Baltimore to the hills of Appalachia. The drive to Western Maryland will take up to 4 hours. If you want, stop along I-70. Ellicott City has a charming historic district with antiques shops and the oldest railroad station in the world. New Market has a street lined with antiques shops. Civil War buffs should plan to stop at Antietam, near Frederick. Frederick has its own small-town historic district, as does Cumberland, a stop along the C&O Canal.
Days 6-7: Western Maryland's Great Outdoors
Ski at Wisp if it's wintertime, or head to Deep Creek Lake for a swim if it's warm. Don't miss a chance to hike to Muddy Falls at Swallow Falls State Park or enjoy the pristine Savage River State Forest. Sign up at one of the outfitters for a white-water rafting trip, fly-fishing, or boat or snowshoe rental. You can even sign up for dog-sledding. Take 2 days. Take 3 if you've got 'em.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.