Annapolis is often referred to as America’s Sailing Capital, and is home to the U.S. Naval Academy. In addition, the Severn River and the Chesapeake Bay provide all the advantages of boating, sailing, and some of the best seafood in the country.
Founded in 1649 by a small band of Puritans, Annapolis proved to be ideal for tobacco growers. By 1695, Annapolis was made the new capital of Maryland. The state house here holds the recognition of being the oldest state house in the nation to remain in continuous operation.
There are dozens of ways to enjoy Annapolis, depending on your interests, but we’ll talk about some that I think anyone would enjoy – from seniors to their grandchildren.
U.S. Naval Academy
Going to Annapolis without seeing the U.S. Naval Academy is sort of like going to Arizona and missing the Grand Canyon. You just don’t do that. Annapolis is not huge like the other academies, but it is without a doubt, the most beautiful and the most storied. The academy takes up 348 acres along the water’s edge.
Amazing to me was the freedom visitors have to wander the entire campus. With or without a guide, you are free to meander through just about every building, unescorted. The dormitories are basically the only buildings off-limits.
U.S. Naval Academy
Begun in 1845, the school started with 50 students and seven faculty members. Today, the academy is home to 4,000+ midshipmen (of which 22% are now females.) Famous graduates of the academy number in the hundreds, but sports fans will easily recognize the names of Heisman trophy winners Roger Staubach and Joe Bellino.
U.S. Naval Academy
Walking around the fabulous grounds of the academy, one can’t help but admire the French Renaissance architecture of the buildings, which was the handiwork of architect Ernest Flagg. Famous for his Beaux-Arts style, Flagg’s major triumph might be the Naval Academy Chapel with the crypt of John Paul Jones. Around the campus, you’ll also find a fascinating collection of former naval relics such as these battleship canons.
The Most Beautiful Door in America
Walking the streets of Annapolis can be an adventure in history all by itself. With more 18th century brick buildings than any other US city, you can also find the Hammond-Harwood house, with The Most Beautiful Door in America.
With all the water around, you really need to take a tour on the 42-year old classic Harbor Queen to see the city as sailors see it. Able to easily handle 283 passengers, this is a comfortable and educational way to see the harbor and adjoining areas on either a 40 or 90 minute cruise. Operated by Watermark, they also offer “Day on the Bay Cruise to St. Michaels” and bay lighthouse cruises. There are many cruises daily and tickets can be purchased right on the pier.
St. Mary's Church
If you are looking for a quiet moment of profound beauty, walk a couple blocks off the main drag and stop in to see the interior of St. Mary’s Church. Established in 1853 by the Redemptorists, it replaced a Jesuit mission which had been in existence since 1704. The interior is a wonderful example of rib vaulted ceilings with a Gothic Revival hand-carved altar.
Discover Annapolis Trolley
Another tour certainly worth your while is the Discover Annapolis Trolley. Available in both the 40 and 60 minute versions, the trolley is a comfortable way to get up close to many of the 1,300 buildings in Annapolis that are over 300 years old. See the backstreets, learn the history and get out and stretch at a scenic overlook. This is a fun trip, peppered with interesting historical tidbits.
Be sure to see my other article about where to sleep and eat in Annapolis. I discovered some places that just can’t be beat.