Three Top Things to Do in Annapolis Maryland

Annapolis is designated as a national historic landmark district. Its roots date back to 1649 when a group of Puritans from Virginia established a settlement. The historic district is a living recreation of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Like old town Alexandria, Virginia, visitors can tour historic homes and gain an appreciation of America's early days.

Annapolis is a relatively small city and the key sites are very walkable. Maryland's capital ranks among the most charming destinations in the mid-Atlantic.

Take a Walking Tour of the Waterfront

The Annapolis waterfront is situated directly on the harbor and offers striking river and bay views. The self-proclaimed Sailing Capital of the World is filled with boats coming from Chesapeake Bay. Ego Alley is a waterway leading to Spa Creek. It is dubbed Ego Alley because this is where luxury yachts come in from the water to show off. The waterfront which surrounds the city dock is one of the best preserved in the country.

We spent two and one half hours with Steve Carr on one of his exceptional walking tours. The free tour is one where you pay by tip. The tour covers two miles, starting and ending at the Annapolis waterfront by the Alex Haley Memorial. As an Annapolis native, Steve is able to tell personal stories about present day Annapolis, as well its recent past providing stories about some of the key political, environmental and social issues that have shaped today's Annapolis.

Alex Haley has stated that the most emotional moment of his life occurred on September 29, 1967, when he stood at the Annapolis site where his ancestor (Kunta Kinte) had arrived from Africa in chains exactly 200 years before. Dedicated in 2002, the memorial depicts Haley reading a story to young children gathered at his feet. Steve explains how the monument came to pass after many discussions with Annapolis' African-American community.

Steve also pointed out how Annapolis has the highest concentration of eighteenth century Georgian-style buildings in the nation. Four of these buildings were the homes of Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence. We particularly enjoyed his stories of how the Annapolis community came to preserve the William Paca House and Gardens when it was slated to be demolished to make way for a hotel and how that campaign led to the preservation of other houses in Annapolis. The Paca House was built in 1763-1765 and was the estate of the Maryland governor William Paca, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Maryland State House (100 State Circle)

We did a self-guided tour of the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use. Construction on the building began in 1772 and finished in 1779. It is the only state house to have served as the nation's capital, serving as the country's first peacetime capitol in 1783 and 1784. Of the many statutes, plaques, rooms and memorials, we found most interesting the Old Senate Chamber where George Washington resigned his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army in 1783. The most significant event here took place in 1784 when the Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris officially ending the American Revolution. Several rooms have colorful Tiffany glass skylights.

There is no fee to tour the building. The building is open to the public daily, except for a few holidays.

U.S. Naval Academy (Access on Randall and Prince George Streets)

We entered the Academy through the Commodore John Barry Gate. We took the historical guided walking tour led by a retired Navy officer. The fee-based tours are offered daily and begin in the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center. The Visitor Center also shows the short film The Call to Serve.

Covering 338 acres on the south side of the Severn River, the Academy is the undergraduate college of the United States Navy. The Academy was established in 1845 when the Army turned over Fort Severn to the Navy. There are few colleges as old and illustrious as the Naval Academy.

As we walked, our guide told us extensive information about the training, life and career options of midshipmen. We learned how twenty-five percent of them are allowed placement into the Marine Corps upon graduation. For us, one of the highlights was watching the daily Noon formation outside Bancroft Hall. This tradition began in 1905. In their starched uniforms, the midshipmen assemble in the courtyard outside Bancroft Hall. Several are holding swords. We watched the brigade assemble and march in for lunch after the color guard arrived. The plebes are in white and the upperclassmen and women are in brown uniforms. This ceremony reminded us of the changing of the guards in foreign capitals, with its military precision and order.

Bancroft Hall is one of the largest student dormitories in the world. This European style building was designed in the Beaux-Arts style with a central rotunda and eight wings of five stories each.

We were able to tour the rotunda, Memorial Hall and a mock dorm room. Memorial Hall contains beautiful nautical frescoes, crystal chandeliers, the honor roll list of naval alumni who have died in military operations and many naval memorial pieces.

The U.S. Navy Chapel is particularly beautiful non-denominational Christian chapel. The Chapel is a popular wedding venue for military weddings,with as many as six weddings in a single day. The iconic dome and architecture is a famous fixture in the Annapolis skyline. The Chapel was built in two sections. The original section accommodated 1600 and was in the shape of a Greek cross with four equal transepts. Construction was completed in 1908. When the Nave was added in 1940, it changed the shape of the Chapel to that of a Latin cross and that increased the capacity to 2500. There are two colorful stain glass windows which facing the alter that portray the ideals and beacons of naval service. These windows shine with shades of yellow, blue and green. Additional stain glass windows are placed along the sides of the Chapel. In the back, between the pipes of the organ, the replica of a boat hangs above a large statute of Jesus.

Beneath the Chapel lies the marble and steel crypt of John Paul Jones, the revolutionary war naval hero. Jones is considered to be America's first naval hero. He never lost a naval engagement. He died in France in 1792, but his body was returned to America in 1905 and interred in this magnificent crypt after a ceremony president over by President Theodore Roosevelt.

If You Go

Relaxing with a Coffee Break
City Dock Coffee at 18 Market Space is a great spot for an afternoon break. This cozy coffee shop is located right near the water, the Naval Academy and Main Street. In addition to the coffee and tea there are some good bakery items, including cookies and pastries. The shop has both indoor and outdoor seating areas and a friendly staff. We stopped by twice for a break from the hustle and bustle of the downtown crowds. There are several other City Dock locations in Annapolis. Brown Mustache Coffee is contained within Old Fox Books at 35 Maryland Avenue. The quaint cafe has a selection of pastries from local makers, along with the coffee and tea selections. There is a little patio and indoor seating. The downtown location is placed right inside a good old fashioned independent book store. Maryland Avenue also features plenty of conventional shopping, several antique stores, gift shops and the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmer's Market and Restaurant.

Eating our Way through Annapolis
We ate two meals at Chick and Ruth's Delly at 165 Main Street. The menu is extensive and includes all that we look for in a deli, including stuffed sandwiches, sliced pickles on the table and matzo ball soup. The tables are cramped but the service was efficient. Although no longer family owned, many of the restaurant's employees have worked there for years. A bed and breakfast with ten rooms called Scoutlaur Inn sits over the deli and provides breakfast from the restaurant. We enjoyed one dinner at Mangia Italian Grill and Sports Bar at 81 Main Street. Located within the waterfront area, this casual restaurant sits on the second floor overlooking the downtown. The menu is largely traditional Italian fare, featuring pasta and pizza. Middleton Tavern at 2 Market Space is situated in the heart of the waterfront area. With a general American menu and reasonable prices, this colonial style restaurant first opened in 1750 and hosted the nation's most revered leaders during the period after the American Revolution. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were numbered among its prominent patrons. The menu features regional seafood. Middleton is one of the oldest continuously operating taverns in the United States. There is both indoor and outdoor seating.

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn located at 174 West Street. This new hotel within the arts district is about a fifteen minute walk from the Annapolis waterfront. The rooms were comfortable and the 24 hour gym was above average, with both cardio equipment and weights. A small onsite restaurant is right in the lobby. Valet parking is available.

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Saul Schwartz lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife Fern. He loves to travel throughout the world and share his experiences through stories and pictures. Saul has published many articles, but most focus upon his passion to travel.

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