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A Star-Spangled State Maryland, by Alice Gregory
by Alice Gregory

The distance between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. is less than 150 miles, and it is perhaps tempting to hop on I-95 and rush from one to the other but that would mean passing up the numerous treasures that are found in the state of Maryland.

Three centuries of history and landmarks that represent the Revolution, Civil War, the War of 1812, and the birthplace of our national anthem are all found in this compact state.

Maryland incorporates an area of just 10,000 square miles and extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains. With the magnificent Chesapeake Bay at its heart and the Atlantic Ocean its eastern boundary, Maryland is all about water. Baltimore is a major port, Annapolis is home to the U.S. Naval Academy and the Chesapeake (which comes from a Native American word meaning great shellfish bay) provides the ingredients for Marylands world-famous crab cakes

A stop in Baltimore is a must. The area is filled with history and there are great sights throughout the city, but its Inner Harbor is the best place to begin any visit to Maryland's largest city. Once a collection of ramshackle warehouses and abandoned factories symbolic of urban decay, Baltimore's Inner Harbor is now a showplace of urban renewal.

The Inner Harbor hosts many great attractions, restaurants and shops. A highlight for visitors is the Showcase of Nations, which offers colorful ethnic festivals each weekend from June to October. A favorite stop is the National Aquarium, a five-story structure which houses an Atlantic coral reef in a 335,000-gallon tank, a South American rain forest in a glass pyramid, the Open Ocean where visitors can get an up-close look at several species of sharks, and a 1.2-million-gallon dolphin habit.

At Pier 1 is the USS Constellation, the last Civil War vessel still afloat and the last all-sail warship built by the Navy. Many artifacts are displayed and visitors can try their hand at turning the capstan and setting the sails.

For a personal look at the people who have made Baltimore their home, groups can take a walking tour through the charming neighborhoods of Little Italy, Union Square, or Federal Hill, where 4,000 residents gathered to celebrate the ratification of the Constitution in 1788.

From the Inner Harbor you can reach Fort McHenry, which guards the entry to Baltimore's harbor, by boat (or by motorcoach). This is where Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the War of 1812.

A flag of a different color flies at Pimlico Race Course on race days. Home of the Preakness, this is the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown. Pimlico is the second oldest race course in the United States.

Another 19th-century event has evolved into the Baltimore & Ohio Railway Museum. Started as a tradeshow exhibit for a major Baltimore railroad, the museum has evolved into the best collection in the world of American railroad rolling stock and railway memorabilia. Now a National Historic Landmark and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, visitors gain a sense of both the importance of the railway in Americas expansion and also the elegance of railway travel in its heyday.

In Columbia, groups are in for a treat at Tobys Dinner Theatre. Now in its 27th season, this award-winning regional theatre offers groups Broadway-style entertainment in an intimate setting.

This article is sponsored by: www.grouptravelblog.com

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