20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Maryland

Jul 22, 2021

Among its notable historical events, Maryland is known as the birthplace of the American Revolution, and home to a number of important landmarks, such as the statue of Christopher Columbus in front of the National Cathedral, and Fort McHenry, birthplace of the National Anthem.

Some of the best attractions and things to do in Maryland include: world-famous beaches, magnificent historic towns and cities, fine museums and impressive educational institutions, abundant parkland and scenic areas, and much more. Learn more about the state of Maryland with this list of the top tourist attractions in Maryland.

Washington Monument

Photo of Washington Monument (Baltimore)
Washington Monument (Baltimore): en.wikipedia.org

The Washington Monument is arguably the best-known of the many spires marking major American cities. Located on the Mall in Washington, DC, it was dedicated in 1885. With four tiers of windows, it is the tallest structure in Washington. It was the tallest building in the city for over a century and also the tallest man-made object until surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931.

Mount Vernon

Photo of Mount Vernon, Maryland
Mount Vernon, Maryland: en.wikipedia.org

Mount Vernon is a 1778 estate and home of George Washington and the oldest national historic landmark in the United States. During Washington's Presidency, he lived in the Mount Vernon House, a brick dwelling that was restored in 1958. The site also includes the mansion and surrounding plantation, built in 1752 and surrounded by a 900-acre park. The Mount Vernon Historic Estate tour presents a rich and detailed study of the house, the social and economic history of its residents, and the resulting transformation of the region. The mansion itself, furnished as Washington lived in it, features period furniture, art, and paintings and costumed guides describe the mansion, the outbuildings, and the grounds. There are also short films featuring Washington's life and a few cannon and musket firings. The estate is open for about 7:30am-5pm daily (except Christmas) and is located 40 miles south of Washington, DC on Route 1.

National Aquarium

Photo of National Aquarium (Baltimore)
National Aquarium (Baltimore): en.wikipedia.org

The National Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 aquatic animals, many of which can be viewed by visitors. Highlights include an aquarium featuring an undersea tunnel that allows visitors to watch large coral reefs and schools of tropical fish, a large underwater viewing window, and interactive exhibits.

One World Observatory

Photo of Lowell Observatory
Lowell Observatory: en.wikipedia.org

One World Observatory is a brand new state-of-the-art observatory designed by world-renowned architects Arata Isozaki and Cesar Pelli, which will open in June 2012. It's also the first of its kind to be located on the grounds of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, across the Potomac River from Washington DC. Located in Maryland, the mountain's masterful architecture reflects the unique role the United States has in space exploration and gives visitors the chance to experience being at the forefront of space exploration. Offering an unmatched vantage point over the city and seashore, the superb starry sky and city lights are stunning. The 60-meter-high observatory also contains exhibitions and a small planetarium.

Brooklyn Bridge

Photo of Brooklyn, Baltimore
Brooklyn, Baltimore: en.wikipedia.org

The Brooklyn Bridge, spanning the wide expanses of the Arthur Kill and New Jersey's Raritan Bay, connects New York's Prospect Park with New Jersey's West Side. Designated an official New York City landmark in 1931, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and one of the most heavily trafficked bridges in the world. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world from 1869 to 1907, and its main spans and approaches are still carrying automobiles, trolleys, buses, and bicycles. Housed in the bridge's southern end is the Museum of the City of New York, which is dedicated to New York City's history and culture. Since 2009, the museum has expanded its focus to include the wider city's cultural history, as well as the bridge's construction and engineering. Although the bridge has been around for over a century, the New York skyline is getting younger as developers turn vacant skyscraper sites into high-rises. Access to the Brooklyn Bridge is controlled by the New York City Police Department and requires a time-honored tradition of paying homage to police officers who died in the line of duty. Visitors have to be interviewed and issued a temporary badge before being allowed to walk across the bridge.

National Harbor

Photo of National Harbor, Maryland
National Harbor, Maryland: en.wikipedia.org

National Harbor is a bustling seaport and city in Prince George's County, Maryland, USA. With more than 100 businesses and 200 residences, the town has a strong economy, and there's a bustling shopping and dining area in the center. Surrounding the city are extensive yacht clubs, great beaches, parks, and the historic Naval Hospital. Visit the Veterans Day Memorial, or you can explore some of the lesser-known sights of Prince George's County, like the surrounding historic parks or drive over to nearby Hyattsville and tour the historic railroad depot. The area is a popular wedding destination.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Photo of St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan)
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan): en.wikipedia.org

St. Patrick's Cathedral is the central parish church for the Archdiocese of Washington. The structure dates back to 1744 and is an outstanding example of Georgian architecture and the town's architectural styles. The building is not only home to a congregation, but also a parish school, a post office, and the offices of the archdiocese. St. Patrick's Cathedral is adjacent to the Mount Olivet Cemetery and is served by the Catonsville-Silver Spring Metrorail stop.

Radio City Music Hall

Photo of Ocean City, Maryland
Ocean City, Maryland: en.wikipedia.org

Located in New York City's Rockefeller Center, the Radio City Music Hall is an American masterpiece of architecture, interior design, acoustics, and engineering. It is an all-encompassing experience, with every inch of the auditorium literally designed and manufactured to achieve a perfect concert experience for a gigantic orchestra, choir, or soloist. It has been voted the second most popular live music venue in America, behind Carnegie Hall. The Music Hall is made up of three separate stages: a proscenium stage, which has a 36-ton, three-story-tall center-stage spotlight; a center-stage stage with stage, orchestra pit, conductor's box, and two smaller balconies; and a center-stage house and center-stage wings. The hall is famous for its acoustics and its vast 3,365-seat capacity (it holds 2,000 people during peak events), making it larger than some sports arenas. To enter, guests line up at the corner of 49th Street and Seventh Avenue to board a narrow, open-air elevator; the ride takes 5.5 seconds, with a one-way ride lasting 12 seconds.

Washington National Cathedral

Photo of Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral: en.wikipedia.org

Washington National Cathedral is known for its Byzantine architecture and interior decoration, while the exterior is Romanesque in style and is one of America's oldest landmarks, dating to 1902. A stone-paved aisle leads visitors around the interior to see the gorgeous stained-glass windows and amazing acoustics that make it one of the world's most renowned places of worship. Inside, the acoustics are amplified, making voices heard that in normal settings would seem to be carried across a vast expanse of air.

Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock Observation Deck

Photo of Fort Tryon Park
Fort Tryon Park: en.wikipedia.org

Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center is America's most popular observatory. It's popular because it is an iconic sight in Manhattan, provides stunning 360-degree views and, once it is open at midday in the summer, gives visitors plenty of time to visit the nearby shops of the Time Warner Center. You'll need a good sense of direction to get to Rockefeller Center on foot as it's located on the Upper East Side, 2 miles north of Grand Central Station. However, the huge glass-and-steel skyscraper of the Time Warner Center lies in the opposite direction from Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center and as such, even if you manage to find the place, you'll need to take the elevator up to its rooftop to get a view of Manhattan. Once at the observatory, you will find that it is an enjoyable experience. For an extra charge, you can enjoy the panoramic views of New York through a glass viewing wall from another viewing area. If you get to visit Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, be sure to visit the TKTS booth in the East Midtown Tunnel (under the crosswalks near the Port Authority Bus Terminal) on the west side of 42nd Street for special discount tickets that you can use to visit Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center and the Time Warner Center. These tickets allow you to use them for free on the same day and are a great value. Note that the best time to visit is around sunset. The Central Park Conservancy hosts free daily sunset tours from the base of the monument.

Baltimore Museum of Art

Photo of Baltimore Museum of Art
Baltimore Museum of Art: en.wikipedia.org

Baltimore Museum of Art is one of the best-known museums in the United States and a favorite for those seeking a cultural institution to visit in the U.S.A. Set in a contemporary building, the collection encompasses more than 20,000 objects including works by great American artists from the 16th to the 20th century. Highlights include the dramatic setting in which Thomas Eakins's The Swimming Hole hangs in its own special room; the vases, sculptures, and paintings of ancient Greece, and the American Romanesque sculpture. The Terman collection of early American furniture, including a beautiful Bertoia modernist chair, is a treat for furniture enthusiasts.

Chesapeake Bay

Photo of Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Chesapeake Bay Bridge: en.wikipedia.org

Just 30 miles across Chesapeake Bay, the picturesque city of Annapolis, Maryland and its state capital, Baltimore, are both very popular attractions with visitors. Both are unique in American history and culture. The state capital was established in 1751 by the British as a colonial outpost at the head of Chesapeake Bay, just across from the city of Williamsburg, Virginia. A famous ceremony in 1783 formally ceded the capital of the newly independent nation to the state of Maryland. Visitors should not miss the enchanting Annapolis Historic District, home to many of the State's great civic buildings, including the beautifully restored Maryland State House and the Mariners' Church, and the William Paca House, which was the residence of the first governor of the state. Baltimore, located on a quiet inlet at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, is renowned for its more modern architecture, notably Frank Gehry's Baltimore Art Museum and a pair of skyscrapers of the late 20th century, including the Empire State Building-sized Johns Hopkins University medical complex. Both Annapolis and Baltimore are within a one-hour drive of Washington, DC, making this an easy weekend trip from the Beltway. The city of Wilmington and the neighboring port of Baltimore are close to the Pennsylvania state line.

Old Town Alexandria

Photo of Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia: en.wikipedia.org

For much of its colonial history, Old Town Alexandria was home to the upper classes. The colonial houses along Main Street are a nice mix of late 18th century townhouses and early 20th century shotgun-style homes. The old homes contain period furniture and many even have original, original molding and doorframes. While main Street is a nice walk in the warm weather, a great place to begin a tour of Old Town is the newish Old Town Art Museum and Historical Center which has recreations of the homes and public spaces of 18th and early 19th century Alexandria, and original art and artifacts from the colonial and federal periods. The world-famous Alexandria Library and its incredible collection of over 1.5 million books is worth checking out as is the gorgeous St. John's Episcopal Church. By day, many buildings are open for self-guided tours; at night, the main square, with its historical fountain, is the site of periodic concerts, plays and special events. In addition to its local history, Old Town is a perfect stop if you are on the way to or from either Washington, D.C., or Baltimore.

Annapolis

Photo of Annapolis, Maryland
Annapolis, Maryland: en.wikipedia.org

One of the earliest settlements in the United States, Annapolis, Maryland has its origins in a Spanish expedition from St. Augustine that arrived in the early 1600s and established a village in 1634. During the colonial period, Annapolis became a capital city of Maryland and the birth place of William Jennings Bryan. Several historic sights worth visiting include the colonial streets, old houses, churches, and the state's U.S. Naval Academy. There are also scenic waterways, a boardwalk with shops, and places for picnicking along the Maryland countryside. Today, the city retains a historic character as well as some reminders of the past, including three-deckers, the town's original homes, the recently renovated Thouron House Museum, and the site of the state's original courthouse. The historic streets of the city center offer a peaceful escape from the car traffic that plagues larger cities. In addition, Annapolis is known for the specialty foods and fine wines that can be found here. If you're looking to learn more about the area's culinary heritage, you can visit the oldest and largest domestic winery, the Thomas Hardy Vineyards and Winery in nearby Frederick, Maryland, as well as other regional wineries.

Tidal Basin

Photo of Bush River (Maryland)
Bush River (Maryland): en.wikipedia.org

The Tidal Basin is a 270-acre park in Washington, DC's Georgetown neighborhood. It is best known as the venue for the 4th annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which begins on the weekend of the 20th and 21st of March. Each year, the Tidal Basin is adorned with cherry trees in the process of flowering. The festival continues for three weeks. At the beginning of the 20th century, Frederick Law Olmsted was inspired to create a series of grassy areas where natural landscape and wildflower can flower. The Tidal Basin was designed as one of these areas, the only one that is natural and not manicured. Other events at the basin, such as parades, concerts, and fireworks display, have a long history. Every summer the National Cherry Blossom Festival (8th to 14th) attracts visitors from all over the world. Some of the park's landmarks are the Japanese Tea Garden and the Museum of History. For those in search of a hotel, the Garden Court Hotel, located at the Tidal Basin, is a favorite of US presidents, celebrities, and royalty. There is also a cabaret at the National Park Inn, and a well-known one at the Cranes' Nest Hotel. The Tidal Basin Visitor Center offers a variety of interesting activities, from yoga to canoeing to scuba diving.

National Museum of American History

Photo of National Museum of African American History and Culture
National Museum of African American History and Culture: en.wikipedia.org

The National Museum of American History is the only museum of its kind in the United States, and in addition to being an invaluable resource on American culture and history, it is one of the country's premier art museums. Located in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Museum is a must for both art and history lovers, as it displays items related to American history such as the boat Speed's first transatlantic race and the Wright Brothers' airplane. Another highlight is the American Art section, featuring the American masterpieces of artists such as John Singer Sargent, Max Weber and Thomas Moran.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

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Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum: en.wikipedia.org

The magnificent Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is located on the waterfront of Lewes, Delaware. The museum is home to the tallest sailing ship in the United States, the 200-foot Chesapeake Bay, which, after being removed from the ocean for preservation, now sits in a marina. When the ship was built at a yard in York, Pennsylvania, it was among the first steel ships ever built. The hull and superstructure are covered in copper plates, which were reportedly discovered lying on the beach near the shipyard, providing the shipyard workers with an extra $15,000 a year to save on lumber. The National Park Service acquired the ship for the museum in 1986, where it has been ever since. In 1992, the ship was certified as a National Historic Landmark, and it is one of only four such ships in the country. Hence, visitors can see the ship's length, 527 feet, first at a museum in Lewes or through a telescopic sight on the yacht harbor in nearby Rehoboth. Additional maritime displays can be found at the museum. Among the items in the museum are a 1942 Liberty ship, a World War II destroyer, and a full-scale ship's bridge, complete with all the lights and navigational equipment.

Fort McHenry

Photo of Fort McHenry
Fort McHenry: en.wikipedia.org

Fort McHenry was first built in 1798 in response to the War of 1812. Nowhere in the US does the presence of a monument speak to the nation's history and stature as proudly as the Baltimore Harbor in Maryland. The battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 helped inspire Francis Scott Key to pen "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its version is now the US National Anthem. As with all historic sites, make reservations in advance to avoid disappointment during the annual visits of Presidents. Best Places to stay: Best Place to eat: Fun Fest on Pier 5 and Vinsetta Shops at Pier 6.

Rock Creek Park

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Rock Creek Park: en.wikipedia.org

Living in Washington DC offers a vast wealth of things to do. However, much of the best of the area is far from the city and is only accessible by car, which is not a good way to discover your surroundings. Luckily, Rock Creek Park is just a short train ride from the city. In a mere 19 square miles (50 square kilometers), there are almost 200 miles (322 kilometers) of hiking trails, 13 lakes and four historic gazebos. Green spaces aside, it's a pleasant area to visit, with a mix of woodland, meadows, ponds, shrubbery and evergreen trees, with the famous row of tuliptrees on the east bank of the Rock Creek. Visitors can even see the little brick arch bridge that was used by Theodore Roosevelt when he was first president, when he stayed in the area, in the late 1800s. The row of tuliptrees seen in the late 1800s in Rock Creek Park

Baltimore Zoo

Photo of The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: en.wikipedia.org

From the outside, Baltimore Zoo, one of the world's most famous zoos, looks more like a city than a zoo, complete with well-maintained high-rise buildings and popular sports teams. Founded in 1871 by philanthropist and businessman John H. Patterson, the zoo now contains more than 3,000 animals, including 500 species from across the world. The Baltimore Zoo's proudest achievement is the Amur Leopard and Amur Tiger breeding center, a joint project with the Sochi National Park in Russia. The breeding program was initiated after two of the Siberian tigers died of natural causes at the Toronto Zoo in 1985, prompting the project's expansion to include four additional tigers. As is the case at many well-known zoos, visitor enjoyment has become secondary to the zoo's research efforts, so attractions have been reduced to a bare minimum. Highlights include the rare opportunity to walk among polar bears, and the Amur Tiger breeding program is a must for children, who are sometimes too young to understand the ethics of captive breeding.