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Maryland Travel Guide

Maryland has a bit of everything, whether it’s the excitement of metropolitan life in the Baltimore-Washington DC area, the relaxing escape of rural and country life in the central and south, the lush and crisp refresher provided by the forested mountains of the west, or the temperate and sandy beaches of the Atlantic. But the crown jewel of Maryland, perhaps, is its Chesapeake Bay which cuts the state into two pieces on its eastern side. This is the largest estuary in the world, once dubbed the “protein basket” of America for its endless supply of shrimp, fish, clams, oysters, and blue crabs. Unfortunately, the bay has suffered from overfishing and pollution over the years, and is in the midst of preservation programs designed to replenish marine life and improve water quality. Nevertheless, the Chesapeake still brings in the seafood Maryland is famous for and also provides the setting for outdoor fun; the bay is popular for boating and sailing excursions, fishing and hunting trips, hiking and camping, and dolphin and bird-watching.

In addition to outdoor activities, Maryland also offers the thrill of horse-racing. Baltimore hosts the Preakness Stakes, one of the Triple Crown thoroughbred races held annually at Pimlico Race Course. The mid-October Maryland Million Classic, on the other hand, is held alternately at Pimlico and the Laurel Race Course.

Maryland is also abound with historical sites. The Maryland Civil War Trails include the Potomac crossed by General Robert Lee, the Antietam Campaign battlefields of the South Mountains, and the prisoner-of-war camp at Point Lookout. You can also tour the escape route to Washington used by John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated Abraham Lincoln, or the Chesapeake Bay sites originally explored by Captain John Smith, who founded Jamestown more than 400 years ago and whose life was allegedly saved by Pocahontas.

Indeed, Maryland is a great place to vacation, a land of history, nature, and sports. It has just about everything for everyone; no wonder admirers have dubbed it a “miniature of America”.

Maryland has been settled since at least 1500 BC by Native Americans. They set up villages, and initially hunted and gathered the rich food sources of the area. Eventually, they embraced agriculture as well. The first European to explore the region was Italian explorer, John Cabot, in 1498. It was next visited by Italian Giovannia da Verrazzano, followed by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1572, before Captain John Smith landed in 1608. When John Smith made contact, he encountered Algonquian-speaking tribes including the Susquehanna, Nanticoke, Powhatan, and the Shawnee. All of the tribes were pushed out of the state by European settlers by the early 18th century.

The first settlement in Maryland was in 1634 by the British when Calvert founded St. Mary’s City. Between the Seven Years War between the British and French, the American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War, many battles were waged on Maryland soil. The Civil War, in particular, saw several major and bloody battles take place at Antietam.

During the Industrial Revolution, Maryland cultivated tobacco and set up factories and mills. Today, the state concentrates on agriculture, growing staples like corn, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes and cash crops like tobacco. Its mountainous west is engaged in mining of gold. And its Atlantic region has a strong commercial fishing industry. The Baltimore and Washington DC area is packed with medical research institutions, aerospace and defense companies, and bio-technology laboratories. Among the states, Maryland is one of the wealthier ones, boasting the fifth highest per capita income in the country.

Maryland is divided into five tourist regions: the west, central, south, east, and the capital region. The west is very mountainous and features the state’s highest peaks, all of them part of the Appalachian chain. The region is popular for various outdoor sports, including skiing, ice fishing, whitewater rafting along the Youghiogheny River, and hiking, especially along the Appalachian Trail. In Washington County, you’ll find historical sites like at the Antietam National Battlefield where the bloodiest battle of the Civil War on September 17, 1862 took place. Also of interest are the various historical museums and tours related to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, both used in the 19th century to transport passengers to the west.

The central region of Maryland is the state’s most populous. You’ll find the state capital of Annapolis and the largest city, Baltimore. The waterfront facing the Chesapeake Bay is lined with mill towns and villages where fishing is the way of life and fine seafood restaurants abound. Annapolis features historic government buildings that are open to the public for tours while Baltimore provides a bevy of metropolitan attractions including aquariums, art, maritime, and science museums, and the performing arts highlighted by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Sports is also big in Baltimore, from horse-racing at Pimlico, to football at PSINet Stadium, to baseball at Camden Yards.

The south is dominated by St. Mary’s City. You’ll find historic landmarks and sites, including the prehistoric fossils found at Calvert Cliffs and the archaeological finds displayed at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. There are also Civil War sites like Point Lookout, where prisoners-of-war captured by the Union were detained. The south also features the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay where myriad outdoor activities can be enjoyed.

The east is very picturesque, a scene of country roads, creeks and rivers, and romantic inlets and bays with harbors of boats. The best seafood – oysters, crabs, and fresh fish – are found here. You’ll also find maritime museums like the Brannock Maritime Museum and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum as well as heritage museums like the Harriet Tubman Museum. As a former slave, Harriet Tubman escaped and conducted an underground railroad to help others do the same. The highlight of the region is Ocean City, a summer resort town with a famous boardwalk, fishing pier, and Ferris Wheel. Miles of sandy beaches stretch along the coast, served by food stands, restaurants, and shops. The city is packed with various amusement parks, water parks, golf courses, shopping malls, and scenic trails – all designed to attract tourists.

The capital region of Maryland is located near Washington, DC. The cities and suburbs in this area bustle as centers of high-technology, computers, telecommunications, and medical research. In Frederick County, you’ll find a number of historical museums as well as Civil War sites like the Monocacy National Battlefield, which was a key battle that saw the Union successfully defend Washington, D.C. You’ll also find historic attractions in Montgomery County like the Stonestreet Medical Museum in Rockville, which depicts life in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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