Rural Anne Arundel County in Maryland, which includes the maritime villages of Deale, Galesville, and Mayo, takes visitors back to a simpler time. The people, the pace of life, and the waterways, with their 533 miles of shoreline, comprise the heart of this charming destination.
There’s plenty to do in Annapolis, the county seat, but the rural and outlying cities provide a bounty of activities as well. Enjoy shopping, historical sites, water activities, ornamental gardens, and the rural countryside in Anne Arundel County.
1. Walk The Trails At The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Research meets public education at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). Walk the trails to immerse yourself in nature and learn about the coastal ecosystems and how SERC research can lead to sustainability. In addition to 15 miles of protected shoreline, you’ll discover marshes, wetlands, and forests in the 2,650-acre site.
SERC programs are designed to emphasize the practices of science and to educate through hands-on learning experiences. Watch a science talk, discover nature during a science hike, take a guided hike or canoe expedition, learn about blue crabs, and more.
Pro Tip: Although the trails are currently closed, you can still take an interactive virtual field trip.
2. Spend A Day At Sandy Point State Park
Grab a picnic lunch and a fishing permit and head to Sandy Point State Park for a day of fishing or swimming on the mile-long public swimming beach. Enjoy views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge while swimming, or you can rent a boat at the marina and get onto the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. If you have your own kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard, there’s a small craft launch ramp available in addition to the 22 public boat ramps.
3. Hit The Farmers Markets For Local Bounty
Seven farmers markets (PDF) throughout the county offer market lovers the chance to load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh-baked bread, cheese, and jams (perfect for a picnic at Sandy Point State Park!). I seek out the farmers markets in every area I visit because they’re an intimate way to meet local growers, sample what’s in season in the area, and support local farmers. Plus farmers markets are ideal places to get food that’s fresh and tasty.
4. Tour Historic London Town And The Gardens
Historic London Town is a “lost” colonial town and garden sanctuary located on the South River. Enjoy the scenic gardens, including the Woodland Gardens, which is filled with stunning dogwoods, magnolias, and camellias. There are also ornamental gardens with flowers such as crepe myrtles and hydrangeas. Located on 23 acres, the buildings include the circa 1760 National Historic Landmark William Brown House, the Lord Mayor’s Tenement, and a reconstructed carpenter’s shop. In 2019, Historic London Town and Gardens was designated as a Site of Memory Associated with the Slave Route. Apparently, at least eight slave ships arrived in London between 1708 and 1760, and hundreds (possibly thousands) of slaves were sold there.
Be sure and check out some of the unique events held at the site, such as Colonial Cocktails, which invites you to make and drink historic cocktails, such as Fish House Punch and Mint Julip. Or kids can take a punched tin workshop and learn about tin-punched lanterns and even make their own tin-punched (aluminum) plate. The variety of events presents great experiential ways to step back in time and learn about this historic period and place.
5. Hike At Quiet Waters Park
This 340-acre county park is a great place to hike the scenic paved trails, located between the South River and Harness Creek. Quiet Waters Park is one of eight regional parks you may want to visit for some outdoor time. The trail at Quiet Waters Park takes you on a 5.1-mile loop on what is considered an easy paved trail. If you want to exert yourself a bit more, there are numerous miles of unpaved offshoot trails to explore.
6. Take In A Live Show
The newly opened Live! Casino and Hotel, located in Hanover, is a 4,000-seat concert venue. Catch some of the best touring acts. In 2021, shows are planned with entertainers such as Jerry Seinfeld, Air Supply, and Patti Labelle.
After the show, visit the casino, the third-largest commercial casino in the U.S., or spend the night in the luxury hotel with 52 suites, a spa, fitness center, and fine dining.
7. Visit One Of The Top Three Shopping Attractions In The Nation
While you’re nearby, adjacent to Live! Casino and Hotel is the Arundel Mills Mall. Shop to your heart’s content at more than 200 stores in the 1.3-million-square-foot shopping and entertainment complex. The outlet mall has many of the stores you’d expect, such as Coach Factory Store, The Disney Store Outlet, Ralph Lauren Factory Store, and more, plus plenty of dining and entertainment options. There’s even a Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament where you can see the knights and wenches and watch medieval-style games with jousting and sword fighting while you eat dinner. Huzzah!
8. Tour An Operational Guinness Brewery
Just over the county line, take a tour at Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrell House in Halethorpe (a town in southern Baltimore County) to learn about the history of Guinness and the brewery, plus sample authentic Guinness. Located on the site of the old Calvert Distillery, which was originally the Maryland Distilling Company — the first Maryland distillery to open after Prohibition — the brewery opened in 2018. If unique, barrel-aged beers or a taste of Ireland are on your must-try list, be sure and stop by the brewery for a taste.
9. Dine At A Waterfront Restaurant
South County, as the locals refer to southern Anne Arundel County, is home to three noteworthy restaurants along the water: Pirates Cove in Galesville, Happy Harbor in Deale, and Skipper’s Pier, also in Deale.
Sit outside at the dock bar at Pirates Cove Restaurant and Dock Bar (weekends bring live entertainment on the dock) to enjoy the view. This is Maryland, so start with the Maryland crab soup and the beautiful beet salad — red beets, goat cheese, pecans, mandarin orange slices, and greens, all tossed in a vinaigrette dressing. Or, if you’re really craving blue crab, order the Crab Imperial. You’ll get fresh blue crab alongside a baked potato and vegetables. In addition to the dock bar, there’s an inn and marina on-site if you’d like to stay overnight.
At Happy Harbor, try one of their seafood baskets — clam, fish and chips, shrimp, and oyster are a few favorites. My personal favorite is the hand-breaded and then fried oysters served with french fries and coleslaw.
The third waterfront option, Skipper’s Pier, delivers seafood delights created by co-owner and executive chef Jessica Rosage. Taste a variety of Southern flavors with The Southern Charmer Snack Board. It’s loaded with pimento cheese spread, Cajun red pepper hummus, tasso ham, vegetables, pickles, candied pecans, and olives, all served with everything crackers. There’s a luscious cream of crab soup and a lighter vegetable crab soup. Or go for the Deale’s Dynamic Duo, a mix of the two soups topped with even more crab.
10. Bicycle The Baltimore And Annapolis Bike Trail
While riding the train near Baltimore, I wound up chatting with three gentlemen in their 60s. They were dressed in riding gear and backpacks and had their bicycles on the train. They were enthusiastically planning the bicycle trip they were about to begin. While I don’t remember which trail they had planned to tour, I do remember them commenting that the area is perfect for bicycling and that there are lovely trails in the area.
The Baltimore and Annapolis bike trail follows the route of the old Baltimore and Annapolis Railroad for 13.3 miles. The trail is paved, and you’ll find historical markers along the route teaching you about the area.
Pro Tip: Rent a bicycle if you don’t have one with you, or enjoy walking the trail, which is wheelchair accessible.
11. Watch Airplanes Land At The Airport
Airplane enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the Thomas Dixon Aircraft Observation Area, where you can relax and watch the planes land and take off from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). There’s a playground for the kids and also the BWI Trail, a 12.5-mile loop trail to walk or bicycle. The trail takes you around the entire airport, allowing for views of the airplanes from all angles.