The city of Annapolis is the capital of Maryland and the county seat of Anne Arundel County. Its position right at the mouth of the Severn River and on the Chesapeake Bay earned it nicknames like America’s Sailing Capital and Sailing Capital of the World. The city is home to around 40,000 people, which is a decent size.
Annapolis is known for its Historic District and the United States Naval Academy. However, the city has more to offer besides these two. As one of the oldest cities in the country, it also has its share of exciting spots to visit like the Maryland State House and the Annapolis Maritime Museum.
Annapolis Historic District
Annapolis’ historic district showcases the city’s long history. The city’s original construction dates back to colonial times, and it follows an interesting circular and radiating layout. Thanks to all the forward-thinking planning, Annapolis has the highest number of surviving 18th-century buildings among American cities. The district itself showcases these buildings, and visitors can walk around and view them. Some are even open to the public so people can step in and view the insides. In addition, Annapolis is a National Historic Landmark District and was one of the first to become one fifty years ago.
United States Naval Academy
The United States Naval Academy has a long and celebrated history as the second-oldest of the five US service academies. Founded in 1845 on Fort Severn’s former location, the Academy is both a historical site and a place of learning. The campus covers over 320 acres, a considerable improvement from the original nine acres. One thousand two hundred plebes enter the Academy every year, while around 1,000 midshipmen graduate to become ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps. The Academy also has impressive alumni, including fifty astronauts and former President Jimmy Carter.
The Maryland State House
Maryland was one of the founding colonies and held an interesting position during that part of the country’s history. Before the White House, the State House serves as the US capital. Builders finished the main building in 1779. It does have an interesting architectural feature in the form of its prominent wooden dome, which is the oldest and largest in the United States. The statehouse has the distinction of being the site of the Continental Congress from 1783 to 1784. It saw the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, which freed the United States.
Kunta Kinte – Alex Haley Memorial
The smash-hit miniseries Roots had people talking when it debuted back in the 1970s. Based on the Pulitzer-prize-winning book by the author Alex Haley, the book tracked the history of a black family from an enslaved person captured in Africa to modern times. Annapolis played a pivotal part in the story because Kunta Kinte arrived in America at the port. This memorial recognizes that history, along with Alex Haley’s skill as a storyteller. It is the only marker of an enslaved person’s arrival to the New World, along with their name.
William Paca House and Garden
William Paca’s name is not a household one, but he did sign the Declaration of Independence. As the Governor of Maryland, he was a prominent part of local society. He completed his Georgian-style mansion in 1765. It stayed standing all these years, but not always as a home. It once served as a hotel, but this historic mansion is now open to the public after some significant restoration. The main feature is its two-acre garden with several topiaries, plants, and more. Additionally, it highlights the history of Maryland in the house tours, even the ugly parts like slavery.
Quiet Waters Park
An excellent location for some peace and quiet, Quiet Waters Park lives up to its name. It is relatively new and only opened its doors in 1990. The park occupies 340 acres, and the original plan by developers was to build luxury homes. However, the neighboring communities disagreed with the construction and asked the government to purchase the land. It cost the government $12 million to fully develop, but the amenities are worth it. There are footpaths for walks, a boat launch near Harness Creek, and even an indoor banquet hall.
The Annapolis Maritime Museum
Annapolis is a city with connections to the water. Whether it is the freshwater rivers and creeks or the saltwater sea and ocean, there is a lot of history there. The Annapolis Maritime Museum remembers a lot of that history. Housed inside the building of the last oyster packing plant in the area, the museum focuses on the two maritime industries that fueled the city’s growth. One was the shipbuilding business, and the other was the oyster harvesting. It is not only historical artifacts. The museum also showcases the environment of the local oyster reef.
Fort Meade NSA Cryptologic Museum
Annapolis is also home to a unique museum run by the National Security Agency. The Cryptologic Museum is the first museum that features the US Intelligence community. Located only two blocks from NSA headquarters, this museum first opened its doors in 1993. It now receives around 50,000 visitors every year. Many of the displays here are about the history of codes and cryptography. It includes machines that coded and decoded messages across the years. It even has a research library for those who want to dive deeper into the history of cryptography.
Historic London Town and Gardens
A few miles out of the city is the Historic London Town and Gardens. It is a small 23-acre park that preserves structures that date back to the 1700s. Funded by Anne Arundel County and the London Town Foundation, it is a living museum that allows people to step back into the past. There are three main focuses for the Gardens. One is history preserved in the buildings and museums. Additionally, there is horticulture which the gardens focus on, trying to keep the natural flora of pre-colonial times alive. Finally, archeology as it looks back into the past.
Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers’ Market
An interesting spot to visit would be the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers’ Market. Known locally as the Amish Market, it primarily showcases goods from Amish farmers. It occupies 290,000 square feet in the Annapolis Harbor Center. All of the goods come directly from the heart of Amish country, which is in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Amish produce is all chemical-free and organic, while the food uses family recipes that have been in Amish families for generations. There is even a full-service sit-down restaurant for those who want to experience authentic Amish cuisine.
The Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis Harbor
A true highlight of Annapolis is its location on the Chesapeake Bay. The bay is a beautiful spot for sailing, and it is a waste not to enjoy it. Fortunately, Annapolis Harbor is there to accommodate those who want to go into the water. It is an excellent place to learn to sail. The bay is calm enough, and several rental boats can help out. Besides the experience of sailing, the Harbor holds regular boat shows so water lovers can see the bay filled with beautiful boats. The National Sailing Hall of Fame is also here.
St. Anne’s Parish
St. Anne’s Parish is an Annapolis landmark. The current building is in its third iteration since its founding in 1704. Rebuilding happened in 1772 to expand it, and in 1858 after a major fire. The church’s location is right in the center of the Church Circle, which sits at the convergence of the city’s main streets. The church looks grand with stained glass windows and needle-point kneelers. It even has a silver communion service, a gift from King William back in 1696.
African-American history is a complex topic at times but still significant. The Banneker-Douglas Museum highlights this with its collection that chronicles the African-American experience in Maryland, starting from the first enslaved person arriving in 1663. Formerly a church building, the museum has dedicated exhibits that focus on various Maryland natives like Frederick Douglass and Benjamin Banneker. One highlight is listening to the dramatized speeches of Douglass. Other important personalities honored here are Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, and Harriet Tubman, the legendary slave liberator. Completing the experience is a library and research center.
Sandy Point State Park
Annapolis’ natural beauty is the focus of Sandy Point State Park. The Chesapeake Bay is a prominent sight, and people can walk along the sandy beaches. The park developed the area well, and it has a complete set of services from lifeguards, concessions, and beach supplies. There are even boat rentals for those who want to go out into the water. The real draw of the park is for birdwatchers. It is right on the Eastern Flyway, a migratory path for many birds. An entire day of birdwatching here can be gratifying.
The historic Hammond-Harwood House is a perfectly-preserved example of late colonial architecture. The legendary William Buckland designed it, and it became a reality in 1774. The most notable features are its Roccoco-style moldings and carvings. Besides the architecture and design, the house also has great pieces of art dating back to the colonial era.