Maryland INVITES EXPLORATION, RELAXATION

Article excerpt

A trip to Maryland is like a visit to a lifelong friend -- exciting, enlightening and exceptionally relaxing. From its western mountains to its coastal reaches, the Old Line State extends a warm and genuine welcome, with a dazzling variety of visitor delights.

a trip through Maryland is a trip through time, for much of the nation's history unfolded here. The Treaty of Patis ending the Revolutionary War was ratified at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, and for a brief time the building served as the capitol of the United States. The nation's national anthem was penned by Maryland native Francis Scott Key in 1814. Harriet Tubman, courageous conductor of the Underground Railroad, was born in Dorchester County, and pivotal Civil War battles were fought within the state's boundaries.

Maryland covers 10,577 square miles, and 15 percent of its area is inland water. The Chesapeake Bay divides the state into Eastern and Western shores, and gives it 3,600 miles of water frontage. Another 31 miles of coastline borders the Atlantic Ocean. Maritime museums, blue crab and oyster feasts, festivals, boat tours and hundreds of seafood restaurants celebrate this close connection with the bay and sea.

Maryland's historic, cultural and natural attractions are all within easy reach of one another, making the state even more appealing as a destination, whether for a quick weekend escape or an extended vacation. In addition to its network of highways, all of Maryland is accessible from Baltimore/Washington International Airport. Accommodations are plentiful, from charming bed and breakfast inns to luxury hotels.

Maryland truly welcomes visitors at every turn, with welcome centers, free visitor guides, suggested itineraries, special events calendars and tourism Web sites to help travelers of every age and interest design an ideal trip.

WESTERN TRANQUILITY

Garrett, Allegany and Washington, the counties of Western Maryland, are connected by history as well as Interstate 68. Garrett County, at the state's western border, claims the state's highest point, 3,360-foot Backbone Mountain, plus more than 70,000 acres of parks, forests and wildlife areas. The Deep Creek Lake resort area offers year-round recreation. Allegany County's C&O Canal is a national park popular with hikers, bikers and history lovers. Near Sharpsburg in Washington County is the site of the Antietam National Battlefield.

CAPITAL CULTURE AND VARIETY

Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George's counties form Maryland's Capital Region. Though Washington, D.C. is conveniently nearby, this region has an outstanding array of destinations all its own. Montgomery County is especially notable for its authentic ethnic cuisine, spectacular gardens and museums. Prince George's County offers a mix of old and new--from the restored Montpelier Mansion in Laurel to the Space Flight Visitor Center at NASA/Goddard.

One of Maryland's newest places for discovering history is The National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick. Because of its proximity to major battle sites including Antietam, South Mountain and Monocacy, Frederick became a center for treating wounded soldiers. Exhibits interpret the medical aspects of the war using period artifacts, manuscripts, photographs, books and other materials. The story of resourceful, dedicated physicians and caregivers is told, along with the stories of courage displayed on both sides of the conflict.

The reconstructed home of Barbara Fritchie is now the Barbara Fritchie House & Museum. Fritchie was immortalized in John Greenleaf Whittier's poem for her defiant display of the American flag when Confederate troops passed her home. Another Frederick connection to the national symbol can be found in Mount Olivet Cemetery, where a bronze and marble memorial honors "The Star-Spangled Banner" author Francis Scott Key. The Schifferstadt Museum offers a glimpse of the lives of Frederick's earliest settlers, as does The Beatty Cramer Architectural Museum. …