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Discussion Starter #1
We are planning a family vacation to Maryland this summer so I would like to get some opinions from people who live there or have vacationed there themselves. What are some must-see places? We are planning to spend a day in Washington, DC and will probably be staying somewhere around the Baltimore area. We would like to take a day to do some hiking, maybe some fishing for my sons....best park for that? We would like to do a little of everything...shopping, outdoor stuff, historical things, etc. so I'd love to hear every suggestion. We have a travel guide from Maryland which has given us some ideas, but it's really hard to tell from brochures what might be great sites to see. We will be there for about 5 days. What do you feel are the highlights of Maryland??
 

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My husband and I were in Baltimore in December. I had to work and he went touring with his sister to visit Hampton (house and grounds). He grew up in Baltimore and never knew this place existed! He said it was definitely worth a visit.

http://www.nps.gov/hamp/index.htm

L
 

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In Baltimore, you want to visit the Harbor area -- including the National Aquarium and the USS Consitution.  You can also tour Ft. McHenry, the Betsy Ross home, and Poe's house.  If the O's are in town, Camden Yards is a great place to take in a ball game.

You can go a bit south and tour Annapolis, which has one of (if not THE) oldest statehouses in the country, not to mention the US Naval Academy and a quaint harbor/old town area.

Find a good crab shack -- preferably right on the water -- and have hard shell crabs -- a Maryland specialty.

You can go west to Frederick County -- home of Barbara Fritchie and various other historic personages.  Francis Scott Key is buried in Mt Olivet Cemetery, Roger Brooke Taney (1st US Chief Justice) is buried in St. John Catholic cemetery, and there's a nice historic downtown area with a very cool River Walk.  North of Frederick is Cunningham Falls state park, west is Gambril State park.  Both have good hiking.  A cheaper baseball experience can be had if the Frederick Keys are in town -- they're a farm team for the O's.  There's an Arts festival the first weekend in June. 

In DC you'll want to see the Smithsonian but, really, you can't do it all in a day.  The mot popular bits are the Air and Space Museum and the American History Museum.  The American Indian museum is also well worth a visit and I'm partial to both Science and Technology and Natural History.  There are multiple memorials and monuments, too as well as Arlington National Cemetery.  If you want another baseball experience, Nationals Stadium is also an excellent place to see a ball game -- and you can maybe say you've seen a team that goes on to the World Series. ;D (Arguably, the O's have a chance this year as well.)

But, I see you only have 5 days. . . . .

So not to be missed:  Ft. McHenry, the Baltimore Harbor area (including USS Constitution), crabs (available at the Harbor but you'll have a more 'native' experience if you can have someone recommend you a 'local' crab shack).

If you only have 1 day in DC -- go to the Smithsonian website and figure out which of the museums most appeal: www.si.edu.  If you get a really early start, you can probably do 2 of them, maybe 3, depending on how efficient you are and whether you also want to just wander to see the other monuments/memorials around the town.
 

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I agree with everything Ann said.  Baltimore’sAquarium is a very good one and great on a hot summer day.  Oriole’s game is an excellent idea, as Camden is a special ball park.  IN DC, the museums are obviously world class. 

You said hiking - you might consider a short drive to Harper’s Ferry, just over the line in West Va.  It’ gorgeous, you can hike or just walk around the town.  Interesting stuff there, but mostly really beautiful.   
 

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You could easily spend five days in Washington! I also am partial to the Natural History and American History museums. Check for docent's tours and take as many as you can, and check the website for special presentations or events.

Besides the stuff already mentioned, I would consider The National Cathedral, if you don't have large cathedrals like that at home:
http://www.nationalcathedral.org/

If you want a nature fix close to Washington, Harper's Ferry is good, but even closer is The Great Falls of the Potomac, only twenty miles northwest of DC. You can walk along the river and the remnants of an old canal project, and see impressive rapids and kayakers doing crazy things. I'm sure there are picnic tables, though don't remember specifically.



One other worthwhile thing in Baltimore is the Baltimore Museum of Industry:
http://www.thebmi.org/

Working exhibits of actual old mechanical machines that make all sorts of stuff. When I was there, I got a personalized tour by a man who ran all the old textile and dressmaking machines and explained how they worked. I didn't try the kid's activities that they mention, but I'll bet they are fun!
 

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Wow.  I grew up in Frederick and never knew that existed!
 

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I've dragged my family there three times now. They just roll their eyes at me. The combination of Civil War and medical stuff is a fascination of mine.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for all the suggestions everyone! We have a nice list of places to check out in addition to what we had before. Looking forward to finding a great place to hike and see the views...looks like the options you all listed above are great choices! With only 5 days in the area we will need to narrow down to what we really want to see the most. I'm sure my daughter could spend the whole time at historical sites, the rest of us not so much. ;D 

Are there tours for seeing the sites in Washington, DC, or is it best to just use the metro to get around on our own and see what things interest us specifically? I've requested some info, but it hasn't arrived yet. Our son was there about 5 years ago on a school trip so we have a little to go on, but he was with a large group so it's a little different.

I may be back asking more questions as we sift through all of the info. Right now I'm trying to figure out what areas are of most interest so we can find a hotel in a nearby city so we don't have to do tons of driving to get places. At this point it looks like the Columbia area is central to a lot of things....opinions on that area?? We've also looked at the White Marsh area as well. It's more out of the way, but maybe that's a good thing? We are somewhat led by where we can find hotels that accomodate 6 people in one room.
 

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Been awhile since I did it, but I have used are two different tour operators in DC. One was Old Town Trolley and the other was Gray Line. I remember being happy with both, but can't be more specific after several years. Google for more information. My recommendation would be to use one of them for a day when you get outside the museum and monument district.  When seeing the Smithsonian and Capitol and White House, I recommend walking and using the Metro, a car is just a nuisance in that area.
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You don't even want to begin to try to drive into downtown DC.  Use a train and then metro.  Besides traffic being significant, you won't know where you're going, there are one way streets and traffic circles, and no place to park for a reasonable price.  Even with multiple metro/train fairs it's just easier.

Columbia is pretty much half way between the two. . .you'll want a hotel that's near a metro/train station or will take you to one as part of the hotel service.
 

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bordercollielady said:
My sister lives in Lutherville - so I have been there a lot.. If its still there - eat at Phillips at the Harbor.. the food there was so good. Also - my sister talks a lot about the Newseum in DC.. its all about the media, with a lot of interactive displays.
See, and I wouldn't recommend Phillips. It's very good, but overpriced in my opinion. Find some little ma and pa crab shack down the bay a bit if you can.

The Newseum is supposed to be good -- I think my son's class went there when he was in HS. Also the Spy Museum is fun. Neither of those are affiliated with the Smithsonian, however, so there will be entry fees.
 

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Ann in Arlington said:
See, and I wouldn't recommend Phillips. It's very good, but overpriced in my opinion. Find some little ma and pa crab shack down the bay a bit if you can.
I agree - it was overpriced but the Crab Imperial was amazing and its the only one I remember (hah!) - other than a little shop in Lutherville where we just bought some fresh oysters in the shell..
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Ann in Arlington said:
You don't even want to begin to try to drive into downtown DC. Use a train and then metro. Besides traffic being significant, you won't know where you're going, there are one way streets and traffic circles, and no place to park for a reasonable price. Even with multiple metro/train fairs it's just easier.

Columbia is pretty much half way between the two. . .you'll want a hotel that's near a metro/train station or will take you to one as part of the hotel service.
Oh heavens no...we would NEVER considering driving in DC!! We were just trying to decide if a guided tour was better to see things as opposed to wandering around ourselves on foot/metro. Our maps/info just arrived today so it will be easier now to get the lay of the land in DC and to see what is exactly where. It's nice to be able to look that stuff up on the internet, but a good old-fashioned map can't be beat.

No worries on the seafood and finding a good crab shack....that is not our thing. I know, it's a shame we'll be in that area and not be able to take advantage of it, but that's just not us, however odd that may be.

My question about Columbia was more about the area...is it a nice area to stay in as far as the town itself?
I thought I saw on one of the maps somewhere that there is parking at the beginning of the metro lines...like for example in Silver Springs, etc. Could we not drive there, park and ride the metro into DC? Or is that not correct?
 

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KindleGirl said:
My question about Columbia was more about the area...is it a nice area to stay in as far as the town itself?
I thought I saw on one of the maps somewhere that there is parking at the beginning of the metro lines...like for example in Silver Springs, etc. Could we not drive there, park and ride the metro into DC? Or is that not correct?
Columbia is a very nice area. Lots of nice places to eat, close to both Baltimore and DC.

If you are more of a BBQ family, Kloby's Smokehouse was just featured on the show United States of Bacon and is just down the road in Laurel. They have very good BBQ with your choice of sauce. In the same shopping center is Facci's, a very nice little Italian place with a very interesting menu.

I would not drive down to Silver Spring to park. Instead, drive to the Greenbelt stop. There is more parking there and it is easier to get to.
 

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Yes, the best approach is to park farther out on the metro as there is more parking and then take it into the city. You'll also need to get one SmarTrip card (which you can get at the metro station) so you pay for parking when you exit unless you are using the metro on weekends when parking is free, then you can just get the paper tickets. Metro is fairly reliable and easy enough to navigate to get around DC.

Just remember if its a weekday and you're using the metro stick to the right side of the escalators so all the commuters can rush past you on the left. :)

As for DC tours I know there is a duck tours and a few others leaving Union Station that can give you a whirlwind tour of the monuments. Union Station is also good if you just want a quick lunch with lots of choices as it has a mega food court downstairs.

Everyone's suggestions pretty much hit the big marks in DC and Baltimore. I also second the suggestion to consider Annapolis, which is a pretty town, though Baltimore has a lot to do in it.

I'm not sure they've been mentioned but consider the Archives to see the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and there are also tours of the capitol at the capitol visitor center, though the tours mostly cover the historic parts of the capital. The capitol visitor center is a relatively recent addition to DC and the museum inside has a good overview of Congressional history. Still with one day you'll really need to focus and most likely the best bet is the mall and hit 2-3 of the Smithsonian museums.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
bce said:
Columbia is a very nice area. Lots of nice places to eat, close to both Baltimore and DC.

If you are more of a BBQ family, Kloby's Smokehouse was just featured on the show United States of Bacon and is just down the road in Laurel. They have very good BBQ with your choice of sauce. In the same shopping center is Facci's, a very nice little Italian place with a very interesting menu.

I would not drive down to Silver Spring to park. Instead, drive to the Greenbelt stop. There is more parking there and it is easier to get to.
Yes, we are more of the BBQ, italian, etc. type of family so this info is great. Thanks for the tip on the Greenbelt stop...just the kind of info I was looking for!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
K. Johnson-Weider said:
Yes, the best approach is to park farther out on the metro as there is more parking and then take it into the city. You'll also need to get one SmarTrip card (which you can get at the metro station) so you pay for parking when you exit unless you are using the metro on weekends when parking is free, then you can just get the paper tickets. Metro is fairly reliable and easy enough to navigate to get around DC.

Just remember if its a weekday and you're using the metro stick to the right side of the escalators so all the commuters can rush past you on the left. :)

As for DC tours I know there is a duck tours and a few others leaving Union Station that can give you a whirlwind tour of the monuments. Union Station is also good if you just want a quick lunch with lots of choices as it has a mega food court downstairs.

Everyone's suggestions pretty much hit the big marks in DC and Baltimore. I also second the suggestion to consider Annapolis, which is a pretty town, though Baltimore has a lot to do in it.

I'm not sure they've been mentioned but consider the Archives to see the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and there are also tours of the capitol at the capitol visitor center, though the tours mostly cover the historic parts of the capital. The capitol visitor center is a relatively recent addition to DC and the museum inside has a good overview of Congressional history. Still with one day you'll really need to focus and most likely the best bet is the mall and hit 2-3 of the Smithsonian museums.
Thanks for the helpful tips! There seems to be an abundance of things to do in the area and we just need to prioritize them to figure out what we will have time to do. We may end up spending more than one day in DC if we find more things we want to see. With 4 teenage kids we have to find something to make them all happy at one time or another. :) Two of them are not excited about the idea of DC, but I'm hoping once they get there it will change.

Is the Naval Academy worth seeing in Annapolis? It sounds like a pretty town. Highlights worth seeing in Annapolis?
 

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Ignore the kids. My son turned his nose up at the thought of Kennedy Space Center in FL and Alcatraz in CA... and ended up loving both of them.  :)
 
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