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The Best of Maryland & Delaware

Annapolis is a fairly central place to start this trip -- especially for those flying into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). Or, if you're coming from the west, start in Western Maryland and just keep heading east. Coming from the south? Take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and visit Delaware and the Eastern Shore before heading across the other Bay Bridge to see the rest of Maryland.

Maryland requires a lot of driving in order to see everything, from the mountains of Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore to the Atlantic Ocean. Delaware's attractions begin at the beach and end in Wilmington. There's a lot to see in both states: Civil War battlefields, museums of all sorts, the Chesapeake Bay, waterfalls and mountain trails, historic homes and districts, and veritable castles.

I've designed this itinerary for visiting at breakneck speed. Feel free to slow down and savor any place you like.

Day 1: Annapolis

You could start in Baltimore, but Annapolis offers a slower pace -- so you'll feel like you're on vacation right away. HistoryQuest at the St. Clair Wright Center makes a good first stop for walking tours and an orientation exhibit on Maryland's capital. Stop for lunch along the City Dock, then visit the State House, and afterward spend a leisurely afternoon shopping along Maryland Avenue. Have dinner on Main Street or West Street and finish with a carriage ride through the historic district. Get a good night's sleep at a local B&B or one of the Historic Inns. Because you want an early start in the morning, it's best to stay downtown.

Day 2: United States Naval Academy & Historic Homes

Head 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. After they march in for lunch, head into the historic district for your own. Near Maryland Avenue are three houses worth a visit: the Chase-Lloyd House, the Paca House and Gardens, and the Hammond-Harwood House. You can probably see all three in an afternoon, or just go to the Hammond-Harwood, and then spend a leisurely time in the Paca Gardens. (Hours at the Chase-Lloyd are quite limited.) Make reservations at an Eastport restaurant and take the water taxi across the harbor for a good seafood meal.

Day 3: Boat Trip to St. Michaels

You can't be this close to the Chesapeake Bay and not get on it. Watermark Cruises offers a boat trip to St. Michaels, an Eastern Shore village with a number of shops, restaurants, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Not a big boat fan? Try one of the shorter cruises, such as a trip on the Woodwind, a schooner with several 2-hour cruises each day, or Annapolis by Boat, which offers a variety of short excursions.

Days 4-5: Ocean City

Head across the Bay Bridge and down Route 50 to Ocean City. The visit to St. Michaels was your only stop along the Eastern Shore; but, if it caught your fancy and you want to see more, stop for lunch in Easton or Cambridge. Bird lovers may want to make a detour to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which is southwest of Cambridge.

In Ocean City, take a break: Rent an umbrella and a chair and relax by the surf. Plan an early dinner at one of the local restaurants before heading to the boardwalk for a little amusement. Or spend the evening playing miniature golf; this town is full of courses. Marylanders (and plenty of out-of-state visitors) could do this for a whole week or more. Another way to spend your second day is beachcombing and seeing the ponies on Assateague Island.

Day 6: The Delaware Shore

Delaware's beaches are just like Ocean City's, but Bethany, for example, is small and quiet. Rehoboth has lots of good restaurants, plus spas, live jazz, and a plethora of tax-free outlet stores. Lewes is the First State's First Town and has museums and historic sites. Choose one and go exploring.

Day 7: Dover

Delaware's capital city has a cluster of unusual museums along with the well-regarded Biggs Museum of American Art. The downtown sights, along with the Legislative Hall and state archives, are known as the First State Heritage Park at Dover, and could easily be seen in a day. Or chuck all that culture and head to the slots or horse races at Dover Downs. Wildlife fans may prefer to wander Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge for a little bird-watching. Plan to be there for about 2 hours or more -- depending on how much walking you want to do.

Day 8: Historic New Castle

The original capital of Delaware was the waterfront village of New Castle. Its historic sites are still lovingly maintained, including the Federal-style Read House, home of the son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. A number of other Colonial-era homes are open most days (except Mon). Have lunch at the Colonial-era Jessop's Tavern. Or go modern and stop at the chic Prince on the Delaware.

Day 9: Wilmington

Make this a base for your visit to the Brandywine Valley. You'll want to see one of the du Pont properties: Winterthur, if you love home furnishings; Nemours, if you love lavish style; Longwood Gardens, if flowers are your passion; or Hagley, if you like to learn how things work in a bucolic setting. Or stay in town and visit the 12,000 works of art at the Delaware Art Museum or the changing exhibits of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. History buffs should see the Delaware History Museum or visit the Kalmar Nyckel if it's moored here. Get some rest; it's off to Baltimore tomorrow, a 2-hour drive.

Day 10: Baltimore

If you have only a day to see Baltimore, your first stop has to be Fort McHenry, home of the Star-Spangled Banner. Lunch at Harborplace while you decide where to go next. Should it be the National Aquarium to see the new Australia exhibit? Or the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture? Art lovers can choose from the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum, or the American Visionary Art Museum. History buffs may choose from the Maryland Historical Society, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, or sign up for a Heritage Walk (at the visitor center in the Inner Harbor) to get a closer look at Charm City. Prefer a view from the top? Go to the Top of the World observation level in the World Trade Center. End the day with dinner in Little Italy, tony Harbor East, or historic Fell's Point.

Day 11: Frederick

The drive to Frederick takes about an hour along I-70. After checking into your hotel or B&B, spend the afternoon at Antietam Battlefield. Head to Frederick's historic district for dinner.

Days 12-14: Outdoors Maryland

You have a choice: The Deep Creek Lake area off I-70 and I-68 has lots to draw an outdoors enthusiast -- skiing, dog-sledding, white-water rafting, hiking, and fly-fishing. If you have the time, make sure you include this area on your itinerary; if you're running out of time, head north on Route 15 to Cunningham Falls State Park. Here you can hike to a waterfall and swim or canoe in a nearby lake. Stop for local produce along the way, and have a meal at one of the roadside restaurants.

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.