Make your own Maryland travel resolutions
Looking ahead to places to see and things to do in Maryland during 2012, two historical commemorations figure prominently: the bicentennial of the War of 1812 begins in June and events that mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War continue throughout the year.
"The commemorations are headliners," says Margot Amelia, executive director of the Maryland Office of Tourism. "And, they are gateways for experiencing more of what the state has to offer. Visitors who tour the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, for instance, will be in an area that's home to a cluster of wineries in Frederick and Carroll counties. They could also see the 'Bridges of Washington County' - 22 stone-arch bridges and aqueducts that are close to or in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
"This is an opportune time to consider the variety of destinations available in our state," Amelia adds. "We encourage residents and visitors, alike, to enjoy authentic Maryland experiences throughout the upcoming year."
Each month, the state's tourism office spotlights a single travel theme. Here is a list of travel suggestions that reflect the variety of destinations and events that will be highlighted on a month-by-month basis in 2012:
January (winter fun) - Embrace winter with a trip to a state park in Western Maryland. Parts of this area, namely Garrett County, get nearly twice as much snow as Fairbanks, Alaska. The parks - Deep Creek Lake, Herrington Manor, New Germany and Swallow Falls - offer cross-country and downhill skiing, and other winter recreation.
February (inns and bed and breakfasts) - Spend a night at a bed and breakfast in Southern Maryland. Back Creek Inn Bed & Breakfast is in Solomons, a waterfront village where the Patuxent River merges into the Chesapeake Bay. The Southern Maryland peninsula - Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties - offers historic sites, scenic byways and a bay-infused lifestyle. Beyond the inns here, there are more than 200 bed and breakfasts in Maryland - from Ocean City across the state into Western Maryland.
March ("March Madness") - Celebrate the "madness" of the month with an excursion to destinations beyond your normal expectations. Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort offers spa packages and golf vacations amid the mountains of Western Maryland, seven miles from Cumberland (Allegany County). The state's only Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course is here. Western Maryland Adventures customizes outdoor-adventure packages with accommodations at Rocky Gap.
April (gardens) - Enjoy the warmer weather with a visit to Adkins Arboretum in Tuckahoe State Park (Caroline County). You'll find the Delmarva region's largest collection of native plants - 600 species of shrubs, trees, wildflowers and grasses. Follow the four miles of pathways here to pass through 400 acres of woods, meadows, streams, wetlands and gardens. Maryland has a collection of gardens that reveal the state's history and individual artistry.
May (horses) - Maryland's equine heritage is in the spotlight at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course for the 137th Preakness Stakes, May 19. The race is the middle jewel of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown and the culmination of a week's worth of events at the track and around town. Sunrise tours of Pimlico, or "Old Hilltop," run May 16-18. In 1873, Pimlico's infield was the site of the first-recognized steeplechase race.
June (Flag Month) - Star-Spangled Sailabration - an international maritime festival, June 13-19, at Baltimore's Inner Harbor - launches the three-year Maryland War of 1812 bicentennial period. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels - making their first Baltimore appearance - jet across the skies over Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in the Star-Spangled Air Show, June 16-17.
July (buy local) - Howard County's Farm2Table Summer Restaurant Weeks offers diners a chance to try pre-fixe menus that feature locally grown products at a variety of independent restaurants in the county. Also in July, Maryland's Buy Local Challenge encourages visitors and residents to eat at least one thing from a local farm during the Challenge week. "Pick your own" at one of Maryland's more than 100 farmers' markets. The Tacoma Park Farmers Market in Montgomery County, for instance, is open Sundays, year-round.
August (family fun) - Take the family to a baseball game. The Baltimore Orioles are an obvious choice. Maryland has six minor-league teams, too. The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, for instance, play in Waldorf (Charles County) at Regency Furniture Stadium. Oriole legend Brooks Robinson is a co-owner of the team. Other teams play in Hagerstown, Frederick, Bowie, Aberdeen and Salisbury.
September ("Land of the Free") - Maryland, My Maryland - a re-enactment of the 1862 battles of South Mountain and Antietam with more than 3,000 volunteer re-enactors - takes place in Boonsboro (Washington County), Sept. 8-9, in tribute to the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War's Maryland Campaign. September was also the month in which the Battle of Baltimore (War of 1812) occurred.
October (spirits of Maryland) - Pub crawls, ghost tours or combinations of the two offer spirited Halloween fun. Haunted Pub Crawl of Historic Annapolis is a two-hour walking tour. Similar strolls are available in two storied sections of Baltimore - Fell's Point and Mt. Vernon. And, in Howard County, the Spirits of Ellicott City Ghost Tours run monthly.
November (Chesapeake Bay art) - The annual Waterfowl Festival, held in and around Easton (Talbot County), Nov. 9-11, celebrates wildlife and the Chesapeake Bay lifestyle with an exposition of bay-inspired artwork - paintings, sculpture, carvings and photography - and collectible decoys and sporting gear. Proceeds benefit wildlife conservation. The festival is a signature event for the exhibition of Chesapeake Bay art.
December (Maryland in lights) - Lights of the season run the gamut from the annual memorial illumination at Antietam National Battlefield to candlelight tours to holiday light displays. Two yearly lighted boat parades are in Rock Hall (Kent County) and Annapolis. You can also add a visit to a lighthouse. Maryland has two dozen of them.
For more information, VisitMaryland.org.