Come Sail Away to a Museum without Walls where four centuries of architecture embraces 21st-century living, where every step along the brick lined streets is a reminder of what has been and what could be. Here, all roads lead to the water and a nautical heritage that runs as deep as the Chesapeake Bay is wide.
Alive With History
It’s no wonder the National Trust for Historic Preservation has named Annapolis a National Treasure. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, Annapolis was founded as Anne Arundel Town in 1649. It became the capital of Maryland in 1695 and was the nation’s first peacetime capital in 1783. Today, Annapolis boasts more 18th-century brick buildings than any other city in the country and the oldest State House in continuous legislative use in the nation. The homes of all four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence have been preserved here, and three of them are open to the public. William Paca’s home features the only two-acre reconstructed 18th-century pleasure garden of its kind in Maryland.
Wind in Your Hair
A bustling port town in the 18th century, Annapolis is world-renowned as America’s Sailing Capital. The first thing you’re likely to see is sail and power boats strutting their stuff along the stretch of City Dock fondly known as Ego Alley. That could be you! Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay offer countless possibilities for getting out on the water. From forty-minute cruises around Annapolis Harbor, to Day on the Bay journeys to the Eastern Shore, Annapolis is your gateway to North America’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay.
Want to get out on the water but don’t know where to begin? The professionals at our world-class sailing and powerboat schools can get you started. Sound like too much work? Then relax on a two-hour cruise aboard a 74-foot wooden schooner, charter a boat for the day, or unwind on a boat and breakfast getaway. If fishing floats your boat, charter with a seasoned captain or strike out on your own. Or, take a different tack and explore the Bay by canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, grab a seat at one of our many waterside restaurants and drink in the excitement of more than 130 sailboats competing in our Wednesday Night Sailing Races from April through the first week in September.
Stop for some homemade ice cream at the Annapolis Ice Cream Company, where you can enjoy handmade ice cream produced on site and purchase a souvenir penguin for the road. No visit to Annapolis is complete without a trolley or walking tour of the city. Tour guides in colonial attire will fill you in on the gossip of the centuries as you wind your way along the brick-lined streets of the Historic District. Along the way, don’t miss the Most Beautiful Doorway in America at the Hammond-Harwood House. Treat the young sailors in tow to a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy or to a swashbuckling adventure aboard the Sea Gypsy with Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake. Our Ghosts of Annapolis Tours introduces you to haunted houses, restless spirits, and scary tales year-round.
Opened in 1984 in the building that once housed the Mt. Moriah AME Church, the Banneker-Douglass Museum serves as Maryland’s official repository for African-American material culture. A massive expansion doubled the size of the museum in 2005. The attraction is named after Benjamin Banneker, the Maryland-born mathematician who helped survey and lay out the District of Columbia, and Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who became a leader in the abolition movement. The museum houses changing and permanent exhibits that depict the African-American experience from the days of slavery through the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1767, Kunta Kinte from Gambia, West Africa arrived in Annapolis aboard the slave ship, the Lord Ligonier. A nearby plaque at City Dock marks his arrival, and bronze storyboards tell the tale made famous by Alex Haley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Roots.
Thurgood Marshall was one of the 20th century’s leaders in the struggle for equal rights under the law. A native of Baltimore, he was the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. His most important achievement was Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1954. The Supreme Court decision required the desegregation of schools across America. Dedicated in October 1996, the Thurgood Marshall Memorial at Lawyers Mall in Annapolis includes an 8-foot statue of Marshall along with the words, “Equal Justice under the Law.” Facing him are two benches. On one sits the figure of Donald Gaines Murray whose entrance into the University of Maryland’s Law School marked Marshall’s first important victory in his struggle for school integration. Seated on the second bench are the figures of two children, who represent Marshall’s achievement in Brown v. the Board of Education. Within the circle of the plaza is a chronology of the important events in Marshall’s long career.
Learn about the African-American experience in Anne Arundel County through Watermark’s African-American Heritage tour. In partnership with the Kunta Kinte – Alex Haley Foundation, Watermark guides retell the stories of slave and free African Americans who helped change the course of America’s history.
Off The Beaten Trail
Today, as in the past, the rhythm of life in the Annapolis countryside moves to the tides and the seasons. Maritime villages including Deale, Galesville, and Mayo invite you to escape to a simpler time. Experience the life of a 19th-century waterman at the Captain Avery Museum in Shady Side. Enjoy the quiet of Galesville’s Quaker Burying Ground before wandering past Victorian houses on Main Street en route to the Heritage Museum. Visit Historic London Town and Gardens in Edgewater to view the permanent exhibit, Discover London Town. History comes alive as visitors navigate 5,000 square feet of exhibit area spanning 13,000 (yes 13,000!) years of regional history. The $650,000 project brings individuals face to face with the people, buildings, and landscape of the past through archaeological artifacts, maps, paintings, illustrations, and educational and interactive displays including a virtual 3D colonial tavern and transatlantic ship that are accessible on touch screen computer monitors that retell the story of the lost town of London.
The Annapolis-Baltimore region of Anne Arundel County has its appeal as well. Located near the county’s BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, the Benson-Hammond House features an international collection of nearly 400 dolls, and the nearby National Cryptologic Museum provides a peek at the world of secret codes from the 1500s to the present day. From telegraph and radio to radar and satellites, the National Electronics Museum offers visitors access to the electronic marvels that have helped shape our nation and our world.
We Do Shopping
Shop ‘til you drop at Arundel Mills Mall. Located just a half hour’s drive from Historic Annapolis near BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, it’s ranked among the top three shopping attractions in the nation. The 1.3 million square foot shopper-tainment complex boasts more than 200 stores. Adjacent to the Mall stands Maryland Live! Casino, the third largest commercial casino in the nation. Westfield Annapolis Mall, Annapolis Harbour Center, and the new Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole offer a host of shopping possibilities.
If one-of-a-kind boutiques, galleries, and specialty shops are more your style, stroll through Historic Annapolis where Maryland Avenue, Main and West Streets have earned worldwide reputations as shopping hot spots. Witness lumps of clay transformed before your eyes at Annapolis Pottery before visiting the studios of local artisans at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. If you have the time, be sure to check out the specialty shops in the hidden gem of West Annapolis.
Art is alive and well in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. In downtown Annapolis alone, two dozen galleries and studios beckon art enthusiasts to feast their eyes on the work of local, regional and national artists. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 2012 and dedicated to bringing art of world renown to Annapolis, the Elizabeth Myers Mitchell Gallery at St. John’s College attracts more than 10,000 visitors a year to its museum-quality exhibits.
Dining by the Bay
Amidst four centuries of architecture, Annapolis is a thriving, upbeat, contemporary city. Dozens of restaurants feature worldwide cuisine in settings ranging from simple to sublime. Restaurant Row in Eastport is a dining hotspot lined with well-known restaurants, including the Boatyard Bar and Grill, ranked among the Top 12 Sailing Bars in the World by Sail Magazine. Our Irish Pubs are as authentic as the Emerald Isle itself.
Most people remember the place where they ate their first steamed crab. It’s the start of a Chesapeake Bay tradition that is faithfully repeated at family gatherings that span a lifetime. If you haven’t yet treated yourself to the experience, what better place to first indulge in Maryland’s famous blue crabs? Restaurants serving up nature’s bounty dot the more than 400 miles of shoreline that weaves its way throughout Anne Arundel County. Favorites, including Mike’s Restaurant and Crab House, Cantler’s Riverside Inn and others, help contribute to the claim that some 3.9 million crabs are cracked here each year. Whether you choose roll-out-the-paper and roll-up-your sleeves outdoor dining where you can watch the watermen bring in the catch, or an elegant indoor setting with a window’s view to Spa Creek, the Severn River, South River, or the Chesapeake Bay, chances are you’ll decide to come back again and again.
Be Our Guest
With dozens of bed and breakfasts in Annapolis and more than 11,000 hotel rooms throughout the county, it’s easy to find accommodations that are right for you. For more information about ways to enjoy the beauties and bounties of Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay, contact the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau at 888-302-2852 or 410-280-0445 or visit our website at www.visitannapolis.org.