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28 Things Everyone Should Experience In Maryland At Least Once

A Maryland Blue Crab tries to escape from its inevitable place on your bucket list.
Benjamin Wilson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wilson86/7386482974
A Maryland Blue Crab tries to escape from its inevitable place on your bucket list.

Maryland became the seventh state to ratify the U.S. Constitution of the United States 226 years ago today, on April 28, 1788. Small though it is, the Free State is densely packed with history, culture and spectacle. To celebrate the anniversary of statehood, we have compiled a Maryland "bucket list" full of things you should experience in Maryland at least once.

  1. Watch a live fire demonstration at the Antietam National Battlefield, the site of the bloodiest single-day battle in the Civil War. Any time of year is good to visit the scenic national park, but the excitement is taken to a new level during the anniversary weekend in the middle of September.
  2. Indulge with a Berger Cookie, the fudge-covered shortbread delights that have been named “best cookie” by the Baltimore City Paper. It's an uncomplicated experience, as far as food goes, but chocolate lovers need to check them out.
  3. Cheer on the horses at the Preakness Stakes. The atmosphere in the stands harkens back to an earlier era, and if you’re not interested in horses, InfieldFest, a music festival that takes place at Preakness on the day of the race, usually draws some big name musical acts. The overall atmosphere in the infield could be generously described as “rowdy," so those with families might want to stay away.
  4. Hit the water in a kayak at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center. Water is a big part of the Maryland experience, and on the Chesapeake and in a kayak is the way to do it. The water trails get you close to waterfowl like ospreys, and you can both learn about the watershed and help in restoration efforts.
  5. Visit Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. An unidentified admirer once left three roses and half of a bottle of cognac at the site every year on his birthday — Jan. 19, but that tradition ended in 2010. The cognac is optional.
  6. "Honfest" goes beyond a term of endearment, it's a fashion and lifestyle. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dorret/4693649287)
  7. Coif your hair and head to Honfest in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. "Hon" is more than a casual term of endearment in Baltimore — it's part of city history, it’s a style, it’s an institution. Think leopard print and beehive haircuts. You can attend this year’s Honfest June 14-15.
  8. Tailgate a Baltimore Ravens game at M&T Bank Stadium. Marylanders love their Ravens, and rightfully so, as the team has two Super Bowl victories and four AFC North titles to their name since the team relocated from Cleveland in 1996. Those interested in some pre-game food and festivities might want to head to Lot O — one of the bigger public surface lots where there will be plenty of pre-game food and activities.
  9. Soak up the tradition at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, which was founded in 1845. You can visit the final resting place of Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones or just take a tour of the historic campus.
  10. Watch a sunrise and a sunset in the same day in Ocean City. The barrier island is thin enough that you can head to the beach to catch a sunrise over the Atlantic in the morning and watch the sunset on bayside in the evening. Bonus points if you do it with a bucket of Fisher's popcorn in your hand.
  11. Go to opening day at Camden Yards. It’s too late to cross this one off this year, since the season started March 31, but it's not too late to play hooky from work and catch a day game in the fresh spring air.
  12. Visit the first Washington Monument in Middletown. Just about everybody has been to D.C.’s Washington Monument, but the citizens of Boonsboro, Md., erected the original monument to the first president in 1827 — more than 50 years before the one on the National Mall. It's located along the Appalachian Trail, so there are lots of areas nearby for a picnic or a hike.
  13. Go sailing out of Annapolis — “the Sailing Capital of the World.” Of course if sailing is out of your price range or boats make you seasick, you can always watch others hit the waves from City Dock.
  14. Dress up for the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Even if you forget your pantaloons, there's lots of fun to be had in the wooded festival site in Crownsville. Eat a turkey leg, grab a horn of mead, or watch a joust.
  15. Try and out-shuck the country's best at the St. Mary's County Oyster Festival from Oct. 18-19. Come for the shucking, stay for the oysters, served raw, scalded, grilled, on bread, in the half shell and any other way you can imagine.
  16. Take in Main Street in "America's Coolest Small Town." Much of the focus in the D.C. region is on its urban centers, but it was little Berlin that recently received props from the website BudgetTravel.com. You can take a horse-drawn carriage down Main Street to soak up the flavor. Or take a walk and admire the town's historic architecture — 47 individual structures in Berlin are on the National Register of Historic Places.
  17. Cheer on a crab at Crisfield's annual Hard Crab Derby. It's exactly what it sounds like. More than 400 especially feisty blue crabs are brought to the Somers Cove Marina to race in front of hundreds of Labor Day spectators.
  18. Shoot a home movie in Seneca Creek State Park, where most of the 90s cult horror film "The Blair Witch Project" was shot. The film nominally takes place in and near historic Burkittsville, Md., but most of it was shot in the forests of Seneca Creek, near where director Eduardo Sanchez grew up.
  19. Take a ferry ride through history on the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, believed to be the oldest privately-operated ferry service in the country. The trip is short at less than 10 minutes, but the connection between Oxford and Bellevue has a history going back to 1683.
  20. Explore the universe with a visit to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. To actually see a launch, you'll have to head to nearby Wallops Island in Virginia, but the Goddard Space Flight Center has a number of cool exhibits, including their own moon rock.
  21. Commune with spirits on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Few places in the D.C. region more closely resemble their historic counterparts than the small towns that sprung up along the Chesapeake. What better way to take in the region's history than on a guided nighttime tour through a graveyard?
  22. Set foot on Smith Island before it sinks. This one has a time limit on it. Accessible only by boat, Smith Island has lost more than 3,300 acres of wetlands to erosion over the last century and a half and faces dire prospects from rising sea levels. The singular island community is known for many things, including both its cake and a local dialect that retains some of its original Welsh character.
  23. Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park has plenty of pawpaws for the pickings come fall. (Flickr/Naomi Van Tol)
  24. Take a bite out of a pawpaw. Despite being native to the temperate climate of North America, pawpaws remain a mystery to most in the D.C. region. Metro Connection's Rebecca Sheir described them as "sort of mango-meets-the-banana... with a little hint of melon." You can find them in a number of different places in Maryland, but they are known to grow on Billy Goat Trail along the C&O Canal in late September.
  25. Watch a flick at AFI Silver Theatre. It's not just any old movie theater, of course. The throwback Silver Theater was a mainstay of Silver Spring when it was built in 1938. It was later rescued from the wrecking ball by Montgomery County in 1998, and reopened its doors as AFI Silver in 2003. It's now at the center of Silver Spring's art district and is a great place to take a date.
  26. Enjoy a show under the stars at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Located on a hill in Symphony Woods in Columbia, the outdoor venue is routinely named one of the country's top amphitheaters. Hosting musical acts in genres from jazz to country to classic rock, Merriweather Post Pavilion shines because it can accommodate just about any kind of crowd. To illustrate the point, this year's schedule includes surf crooner Jack Johnson,  country singer Brad Paisley, and hard rock legends ZZ Top.
  27. Take a trip under the earth at Crystal Grottoes Caverns in Boonsboro. Operated by the same family for more than 90 years, the Crystal Grottoes Caverns offers a 40-minute walking tour through some of the best-preserved cave formations accessible in the state of Maryland.
  28. Pick a side in one of the most enduring rivalries in sports. The inter-service football game between Army, based in West Point, N.Y., and Navy, out of Annapolis, Md., is a tradition that goes back to 1890. The game, which most often takes place in between the two schools in Philadelphia, is scheduled for Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium twice in the next two years. The pre-game festivities include the march-on with cadets from both services.
  29. Check in on lawmakers at the Maryland State House. Even by the D.C. region's high standards for historic buildings, the Maryland's capitol is impressive — it's the oldest continuously used state house in the country and once housed the Continental Congress. Take a tour or walk the grounds and you'll find lots of historic art and monuments.
  30. Pour on the Old Bay with a bucket of steamed Maryland blue crabs. They're in season from May through November, but tend to be better later in the season, from September through November. As long as you're sitting at a table covered in heavy brown paper with a mallet in your hand a few minute's drive from the water, you're probably in the right place. National Bohemian (better known as "Natty Boh") is generally the Maryland beverage of choice, but an Old Bay Summer Ale from Flying Dog in Frederick would be an acceptable replacement.

What is missing from the list? Share your bucket list items in the comments.


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