Lovers of the outdoors adore this part of Maryland. It has biking and hiking trails, lakes, and white water. It has the Catoctin Mountains and Deep Creek Lake, charming towns, and historic sites.
Everything west of Frederick County is considered Western Maryland. Although development has begun here, particularly around Hagerstown and Cumberland, the atmosphere is peaceful. You can expect a smile and a welcome from the people you meet.
It used to take hours driving over small winding roads to get to the far reaches of Western Maryland. That's no longer true since the construction of Route 68, which continues westward when Route 70 heads north near Hancock. Route 68 bypasses the small towns and slices right through a mountain at Sideling Hill.
Now skiing at Wisp Resort is just a few hours away from the more populous eastern part of the state. Hiking a trail at Swallow Falls can take longer than driving to it. And many visitors frequent Deep Creek Lake and Rocky Gap State Park and Resort.
Summer and winter are the best times to visit. Summer offers hot sunshine and cool shade for outdoor activities. State parks beckon in winter with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and rides in horse-drawn sleighs. Spring and fall are the seasons for hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, and sometimes boating. Colorful foliage also makes this a popular spot in fall, but sometimes spring can be a little cold and wet for activities other than shopping and limited sightseeing. The Wisp Resort keeps visitors coming year-round, with golf, a white-water course, hiking, and biking, as well as downhill skiing.
The Washington, D.C., Suburbs
A lot of territory is dumped into this region. All roads -- or at least highways -- lead to Washington, D.C., and so do many of the people who live in these Maryland counties. But the counties of Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George's, Howard, and Carroll are distinctly different. Frederick's history is tied more to that of Western Maryland, though you'd never know it if you were driving the highways around rush hour. It's part of the Civil War crossroads, so you can't go far without finding another reminder of the War Between the States. The area is also home to Camp David, the presidential retreat, and rolling hills covered with orchards and dairy farms. A drive up Route 15 toward Gettysburg offers one of Maryland's best day trips.
The other four counties have mostly given themselves over to urban sprawl. There are still some gems, such as the Great Falls of the Potomac and the home of Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. Theme-park fans can head for Six Flags America in Prince George's County.
Baltimore Metropolitan Area
The heavily populated region around Baltimore and Annapolis is home to most Marylanders. Baltimore keeps attracting more businesses and residents as it continues to transform from aging industrial town to up-to-the-minute cosmopolitan city. Annapolis, 25 miles away, works hard at staying just the way it has always been. That Colonial style, with the U.S. Naval Academy and Chesapeake Bay as charming backdrops, still attracts plenty of visitors.
Tobacco once was king in Southern Maryland, and reminders are still evident. As you drive through Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary's counties, you can see tobacco-curing barns with the long narrow slits that open up to the air.
St. Clement's Island, where Maryland's first settlers stepped upon the New World in 1634, is still a very remote place. St. Mary's City disappeared after Annapolis became the capital, but archaeologists are rediscovering and restoring the 374-year-old buildings in a fascinating work in progress.
Surrounded by the mouth of the Potomac River and the Atlantic Ocean, this is fishing territory. At Point Lookout State Park, anglers can try their luck in both. In Calvert County, both Chesapeake Beach and Solomons offer many a fishing-boat charter.
The Eastern Shore
This is the home of corn, oysters, and geese. On a flat spit of land that stretches up the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay, the Eastern Shore is different from the rest of Maryland. Natives have their own accent and are sun- and wind-burned from long hours on a tractor or a workboat. Towns are small, and though many are more businesslike than pretty, some have deserved reputations for charm and history. There are rivers for fishing, boating, and swimming. The wide-open spaces attract waterfowl from fall to spring, a delight if you're a hunter or a birder. And the Eastern Shore's flatness makes biking easy.
The Mid-Shore -- Talbot, Kent, and Dorchester counties -- is the most developed part of the Eastern Shore and the most tourist-friendly. Though fishing and crabbing are important, the main industry here has historically been shipbuilding.
Don't care about any of that? You'll love Route 50 because it will get you "downy ocean" in a hurry, hon.
Down the Ocean
The Atlantic rules here -- sun, beach, and miniature golf as far as the eye can see. Here, too, are the lifesaving stations and concrete watchtowers that once housed those on the lookout for sailors in distress and World War II enemy ships.
Ocean City's condos, shops, and highways dominate the state's coastline; in summer, it's Maryland's second-largest city. South of the inlet is Assateague Island, a seashore park renowned for its wild ponies and its pristine landscape.
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.