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Maryland's two capitals, present-day Annapolis and the state's first capital, St. Mary's City, are only 86 miles -- and 3 centuries -- apart. Annapolis thrives today, while St. Mary's City has disappeared. But St. Mary's is reemerging, with archaeological digs and reconstruction of the colony's first town.

Though it's a state capital, Annapolis retains much of its Colonial heritage. The State House is where George Washington resigned as commander in chief and Congress ratified the treaty to end the Revolutionary War. More than 1,500 Colonial buildings are scattered along the narrow brick streets and alleys -- more than in any other town in the country.

It's also a college town, home to the United States Naval Academy and to St. John's College, known for its "Great Books" curriculum.

Lawmakers meet in the General Assembly from January to April. Midshipmen march in "The Yard" every semester. And on most weekends, Annapolis's streets bustle with packed restaurants, bars, and shops. Workboats still seek the shellfish for which the Chesapeake Bay is known. In spring, the pleasure boats arrive. Warm weather brings the festivities to the water's edge, and downtown takes on the air of a casual long-running party.

Among its long list of accolades, Annapolis has been named one of America's prettiest towns, a livable and a playful city.

Arriving

By Plane -- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (tel. 800/I-FLY-BWI [435-9294] or 410/859-7111; www.bwiairport.com) is 24 miles north of Annapolis, off I-295 (the Baltimore-Washington Pkwy.). Domestic airlines serving BWI include American (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com), Continental (tel. 800/525-0280; www.continental.com), Delta (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com), Northwest (tel. 800/225-2525; www.nwa.com), Southwest (tel. 800/435-9792; www.southwest.com), United (tel. 800/241-6522; www.united.com), and US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322; www.usairways.com).

To get to Annapolis from the airport, follow I-97 south to U.S. Route 50. Various exits will take you into town (although many chain hotels are right off Rte. 50). The Rowe Boulevard exit is the most direct one to the historic district. SuperShuttle (tel. 800/258-3826; www.supershuttle.com) charges about $30 between BWI and Annapolis. A taxi is about $45 one-way; call BWI Airport Taxi at tel. 410/859-1103.

By Train -- Amtrak and three Annapolis-area shuttle services have teamed up to make it easier to come to Annapolis by train. For about $26, a shuttle will take Amtrak passengers from the BWI terminal directly to their hotel or other destination in the Annapolis area. Reservations are required. For details or the reservation link, go to the Northeast Corridor timetable at www.amtrak.com.

By Car -- From Baltimore and points north, take I-695 (the Baltimore Beltway) to I-97 south to U.S. Route 50 east. Rowe Boulevard from U.S. Route 50 will take you into downtown. From Washington, D.C., take U.S. Route 50 east off the Washington Beltway (I-495) to Rowe Boulevard.

By Boat -- Docking at the Annapolis City Dock or moorings in the harbor are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Moorings cost $25 for boats under 45 feet. Dock fees are $6 an hour for boats up to 50 feet, $12 for bigger vessels. Electric is extra. Pay fees at the Harbormaster's Office on the City Dock. For information, call tel. 410/263-7973 or e-mail harbormaster@ci.annapolis.md.us.

By Bus -- Greyhound (tel. 800/231-2222 or 410/263-2964; www.greyhound.com) offers service to 308 Chinquapin Round Rd. Dillon's Bus Service (tel. 800/827-3490 or 410/647-2321; www.dillonbus.com) runs commuter buses to D.C., with stops at the Navy/Marine Corps Stadium, Harry S. Truman Park & Ride, and West Street. It costs $4.25 one-way. The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA; tel. 800/543-9809 or 410/539-5000; www.mtamaryland.com) provides commuter bus service between Annapolis and Baltimore, as well as Washington, D.C., connecting to some of the MTA's Light Rail stops.

Visitor Information

The Annapolis and Anne Arundel Conference and Visitors Bureau (tel. 410/280-0445; www.visitannapolis.org) runs a visitor center at 26 West St., just west of Church Circle. Trolley and walking tours depart from here daily. The volunteers will make recommendations and reservations for tours, dinner, and accommodations. A continuously running film gives visitors a taste of Annapolis's charms (daily 9am-5pm, except Jan 1, Thanksgiving, and Dec 25). The bureau also runs an information booth at the City Dock during warm weather.

City Layout

The streets of downtown Annapolis radiate from two circles: State Circle and Church Circle. The three main streets of the Historic District are Main, Maryland, and West. Main Street leads from Church Circle to the City Dock. Maryland Avenue stretches from State Circle to the walls of the U.S. Naval Academy. West Street runs from Church Circle to Westgate Circle and out to routes 2 and 50. The U.S. Naval Academy, surrounded by a high gray wall, is in its own enclave, east of downtown.

Getting Around

By Shuttle -- The Annapolis Department of Transportation (ADOT; tel. 410/263-7964; www.annapolis.gov/transport) operates two free shuttles between the historic/business district and the parking area of the Navy/Marine Corps Stadium. The State Shuttle runs Monday through Friday from 6:30am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm; it departs every 5 minutes during rush hour, every 15 minutes the rest of the day, with stops at Church Circle, near the visitor center, and near the State House. The Navy Bus Shuttle operates May through September, leaving the Navy/Marine Corps Stadium on the hour and half-hour every day. It stops at the Naval Academy's visitors' gate, Main Street, and West Annapolis locations. Tip: Board any shuttle bus in the historic district -- between Westgate Circle to the west and the City Dock -- and ride for free.

By Bus -- Annapolis bus service can get visitors all around town, from the historic district to West Annapolis and the shopping centers near Route 50. (The Brown route shuttles between the City Dock and Annapolis Mall. Base fare is $1, except in the Free Fare Zone; exact change is required.) Buses run every half-hour, Monday through Saturday, from 6am to 7pm, Sunday from 8am to 7pm. Get a schedule at www.annapolis.gov/transport.

By Car -- Car-rental firms in Annapolis include Budget, 2002 West St. (tel. 410/266-5030); Discount, 1032 West St. (tel. 410/269-6645); and Enterprise, 1023 Spa Rd. (tel. 410/268-7751).

Parking is limited in the Historic District, where streets are narrow and much of the 18th-century layout is intact. Visitors are encouraged to leave their cars in a park-and-ride lot on the edge of town, off Rowe Boulevard just west of the Navy/Marine Corps Stadium for $5, and then take the free shuttle. Parking garages at about $1 an hour can be found behind the visitor center off Northwest Street; on Duke of Gloucester Street, behind City Hall; and on West Street. You can also try your luck at metered parking at the City Dock or on the street. If you park on a side street, look for parking restriction signs; without a permit, parking is limited to 2 hours. If you come on a summer weekend, look for the parking valet near the City Dock.

Cars with handicapped tags can park at meters for twice the time limit at no charge. In residential districts, they may park 4 hours.

By Taxi -- Call Annapolis Cab (tel. 410/268-0022) or Yellow Cab (tel. 410/268-1212) for taxi service.

By Water Taxi -- The Water Taxi (tel. 410/263-0033) operates from the City Dock to restaurants and other destinations along Spa and Back creeks. You can also call for a water taxi, just as you would a land taxi, and get picked up from your boat or waterfront location. If you're at a restaurant, ask the waiter to call for a ride back. It's a handy way to avoid the parking hassle as well as a pleasant sightseeing experience. Fares range from $2 to $4.50. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 9:30am to 11pm, Friday from 9:30am to 1am, Saturday from 9am to 1am, and Sunday from 9am to 11pm. Service is available in early May and in September and October.

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.