What is Maryland known for?

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When the ideas of what freedom truly meant in America were challenged, Maryland formed the dividing line between the country’s destined future and the struggles of the past. Only 35 years after the words of the national anthem were written during the Battle of Baltimore, Harriet Tubman crossed over the Mason-Dixon line on the northern border, ready to turn back to show others the path to freedom. Separating the country like the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland stood teetering on the line during the bloodiest days of the Civil War, not knowing the days of a new revolution were soon to come.

As industry boomed, so did Maryland’s cities. Baltimore’s thriving port expanded allowing more seafood and goods from overseas to enter the country, soon to be shipped west on the first passenger and freight railroad in America. From Ocean City to the Appalachian Mountains, Maryland still holds a treasure trove of stunning natural beauty. Covered in diverse landscapes, the state is often referred to as ‘America in Miniature’ containing all types of terrains found throughout the country, minus the desert.

Like the first settlers to the state, the residents still fish and hunt in the same waters their ancestors did, and enjoy the fruits of their labour by dining on delicious blue crabs or fresh duck dinners. On Maryland’s soil legends were born, from Babe Ruth’s first swings at the bat, to Seabiscuit edging our War Admiral at Pimlico Race Course almost a century ago. Now let’s take a closer look at what Maryland is known for.

What Is Maryland Known For?

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1- Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake bay bridge photographed from Sandy Point State Park.
Chesapeake Bay is what Maryland is most known for. A photo of Chesapeake Bay Bridge from Sandy Point State Park.

Situated near the heart of Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay divides the mainland of the state into two regions and serves as a major wildlife habitat for over 2,700 species of plants and 300 species of animals.

Composed of half freshwater and half saltwater, it forms the largest estuary in the country, fed by over 150 rivers and streams from a watershed that stretches from Cooperstown, New York to Norfolk, Virginia.

At its deepest point, Chesapeake Bay reaches depths of 53 metres, but the majority of the 280,000 ha is rather shallow, at only two metres deep.

The total shoreline of the bay, including the tributaries, stretches over an astounding 18,000 metres.

The name Chesapeake comes from the Alggonquain tribe which called it Chesepiook, meaning ‘Great Shellfish Bay’, because of the abundance of crabs, oysters, and clams.

For many of Maryland’s residents, the bay provides a picturesque area for outdoor recreation, especially when it comes to water sports such as swimming, kayaking, sailing and fishing.

2- Baltimore

Downtown Baltimore City Skyline Cityscape Of Maryland
Baltimore is the city Maryland is most known for.

The majority of Maryland’s history and culture centres around the vibrant city of Baltimore, from the battles that shaped America’s future, to the anthem citizens sing with pride at many events to this day.

Named after Lord Baltimore, the first colonial ruler of Maryland, the city served as a hub of shipping and trade, because of the large harbour and port which is protected from the harsh weather coming off the Atlantic Ocean.

An inner harbour moonlight cruise on a classic ship is a fantastic experience and there are other types of sightseeing cruises that include brunch, lunch or dinner.

Despite containing the highest population city in the state, Baltimore is not the capital.

The design of the city began in 1729, and it was not until 1796 that it became a thriving metropolis. At that point, Annapolis had already been the capital for over 100 years.

Some famous local attractions in the city include the Baltimore Aquarium which houses over 20,000 species of animals, and the Historic Ship in Baltimore with one of the most impressive collections of military vessels in the world.

3- The National Anthem

Americans take great pride in their independence and freedom, and the national anthem exemplifies the triumphant steps they took to defend it over two centuries ago.

While detained on a British ship in 1814, Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, a turning point in the War of 1812.

Captivated by the bombs bursting, and rockets flying through the air, he wrote a poem which would inspire the words of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, describing the stars and stripes of the nation’s flag and the relief he felt to see it still flying after a failed British attack.

For many years, the poem was printed in national newspapers and soon after the words were set to music. As the song’s popularity rose throughout the country, President Woodrow Wilson announced in 1931 that it would become the national anthem, to be played at all official events.

4- Mason-Dixon Line

maryland highlighted in yellow on USA map
What is Maryland famous for?

As slavery sharply divided the nation in the 1820s and later during the Civil War, the northern portion of the Mason-Dixon Line between Maryland and Pennsylvania became the definitive border between the northern free states and the southern slave states which fought against abolition.

Long before the war, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon created the line to resolve a border dispute between several colonies.

From 1763 to 1767 they surveyed the land and created a demarcation line separating what would become four U.S. states.

Everything below the Mason-Dixon line became known as the South during the early 1800s.

This led to the forming of the Confederate States which aimed to secede from the Union, sparking the Civil War.

More than just a physical boundary, it separated the ideologies of two very distinct cultures in the United States.

Figuratively, the line still exists in the minds of many today, dividing the country on many political and social issues.

5- Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman stamp
Harriet Tubman is a person Maryland is known for in history.

Born into slavery on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1822, Harriet Tubman managed to escape North with the help of her husband, John Tubman, a free African-American man at the age of 27.

She vowed to spend the rest of her life helping others escape the oppression.

As the Underground Railroad’s most famous ‘conductor’ she is believed to have made 13 trips across the border in 10 years, successfully escorting around 70 enslaved people to freedom.

Her relentless efforts formed pathways for hundreds more and overall she is credited with helping over 300 slaves safely reach the North.

During the Civil War, she served as a spy, scout, soldier, nurse and cook for the Union Army.

As a leading abolitionist, she knew Fredrick Douglass, the most significant figure in the abolishment of slavery and had close ties with other famous New England intellectuals.

Her efforts continued even after the abolishment of slavery, as a humanitarian and civil rights activist, campaigning to end women’s suffrage until the very end.

6- Blue Crabs

Steamed Maryland Blue Crabs
Blue crabs is what seafood Maryland is known for.

Serving as the centrepiece of many of Maryland’s famous dishes, blue crabs are found along the shoreline in crab shacks and seafood restaurants and also are a key ingredient in the state’s delicious crab cakes.

The majority of these tasty crustaceans are harvested from various locations in the Chesapeake Bay, from the mouth to the tidal fresh waters up into the tributaries.

Weighing in at just over a half kilogram, blue crabs have a lifespan of 1-3 years, a blotchy brown shell, radiant blue claws, and typically measure 23 cm by 10 cm.

Boiled in water flavoured with Old Bay seasoning (a spice created in Baltimore in 1939) these crustaceans are chosen for their delicate white meat and sweet and distinct briny ocean flavour.

Served with loads of butter and paired with a Natty Boh (National Bohemian, a local beer produced in Baltimore) the end result is the perfect Maryland meal.

7- Thoroughbred Horses

The Best Place For Thoroughbred Horses
Thoroughbred horses are what Maryland is known for.

Maryland is no stranger to horse racing and when it comes to the finest thoroughbreds, the state contains some of the most famous breeders in the country.

Since 1873, the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, functions as the 2nd leg of the elusive Triple Crown, where the best three-year-old thoroughbreds compete for the national title.

The event takes place two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes, drawing crowds of over 100,000 to see the races.

The owner of the Pimlico Race Track, the Maryland Jockey Club, was founded in 1743 and is chartered as the oldest sporting organization in North America.

Thoroughbred horses are specifically raised for racing, with the ability to maintain speeds over 65 km/h for extended distances.

Legendary horses like Secretariat, Seabiscuit, and War Admiral all owe their fame to the horse-raising traditions found in Maryland.

8- Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth is a famous baseballer Maryland is best known for.

Baseball runs deep in American history, dating back to the early 1800s, and the first baseball legend and perhaps the greatest to ever swing the bat was Babe Ruth, born in the Pigtown district of Baltimore in 1895.

Known as the ‘Bambino’ and the ‘Sultan of Swat’, Ruth scored 714 home runs during his 22-year professional athletic career and held the record for nearly 40 years until Hank Aaron took away the crown in 1974.

Despite only playing for one season as a Baltimore Oriole before joining the Red Sox in 1914, the city still pays great tribute to this legend of the sport, with an enormous bronze statue outside of Camden Yards.

Just two blocks away from the stadium, Ruth’s childhood home still stands and now houses the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum which contains many artefacts owned by the player along with many championship trophies.

9- Pit Beef

Every state in the U.S. claims its barbeque meats are the best, and Maryland is no exception.

Pit Beef’s origins date back to the 1970s, when restaurants offered the sandwich along the Pulaski Highway on Baltimore’s east side.

The dish is created by cooking top or bottom round beef cuts over a charcoal fire pit.

After roasting for many hours, the rare and thinly sliced roast beef is placed on a Kaiser roll along with Horseradish sauce, sometimes mayo (creating tiger sauce), and sliced onion.

This savoury sandwich comes with hints of charcoal and smoke, and the crispy edges on the outside provide huge blasts of flavour from the very first bite.

The tenderness of the beef combined with fresh ingredients creates a truly unforgettable culinary experience.

Most restaurants offer typical Southern side dishes like hand-cut fries, baked beans, green beans, or potato salad, adding to the wholesomeness of the meal.

10- Ocean City

Ocean City boardwalk in Maryland arch
Ocean City is a place Maryland is known for.

in the northeastern part of Maryland on a long and narrow barrier island next to the Atlantic, Ocean City dates back to 1869, when several fishermen and their families decided to move to the area, eager to profit from local seafood.

Decades later, beachfront hotels started popping up in the 1920s, and shortly after World War II, it became known as the number one beach resort city in the state.

With more than 16 km of white sandy beaches, Ocean City offers the residents of Maryland a wonderful place to enjoy swimming, surfing, and kayaking, and the long boardwalks provide loads of family-friendly entertainment day and night.

Hailed at the ‘White Marlin Capital of the World’ the city also draws thousands of visitors eager to reel in the next big catch on chartered fishing boats.

Just south of Ocean City is Assateague Island, where wild horses roam the beaches, often intermingling with astonished beachgoers during the warmer months

11- Renaissance Festival

Spanning nine weekends from August through October, the Maryland Renaissance Festival draws over 300,000 people annually to take a fun-filled journey back into the days of knights and kings.

The festival takes place in Crownsville, where guests are treated to over 200 performers on 10 different stages, with period actors wandering the village streets and entertaining patrons at the local taverns.

The highlights Maryland Renaissance Festival include authentic combat jousting in the 3,000-seat arena, and magician shows from some of the top performers in the country. In the previous years, audiences were dazzled by Penn and Teller, and the Flying Karamazov Brothers.

Unlike many other Renaissance festivals, this immersive event incorporates a storyline into the program schedule, following the life of King Henry III during his reign.

Over 140 merchants present an assortment of handcrafted goods for sale during the festival, and on-site food vendors offer hearty meals, including turkey legs fit for a king.

12- Duck Decoys

Decoy Duck
Decoys are what Maryland is known for.

Avid hunters pull out all the stops when it comes to luring waterfowl, and by creating the most realistic and lifelike duck decoys, the better chance they have at drawing wild game closer for an easy shot.

Known for being the ‘Decoy Capital of the World’ the city of Havre de Grace in the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay carved the first decoys around the early 1900s. Migratory birds often stopped in this part of Maryland during the change of seasons.

On the banks of the Susquehanna River in the Chesapeake Bay, the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum contains some of the finest examples of working and decorative duck decoys, from the oldest primitive models to the most detailed modern versions.

Because of the intricate designs and creativity it takes to make a decoy, they are viewed as North American folk art, with collections found along the entire East Coast.

13- Fishing

Fisherman In Maryland
Fishing is what Maryland is known for.

With both freshwater and saltwater covering more than 20% of the state, Maryland is known as a premier destination for fishing on the East Coast of the U.S.

More than just a pastime, fishing started in Maryland in the early 16th century, and it was an important driver of the local economy, providing food and jobs for the colony’s earliest residents.

In the Chesapeake Bay, and the vast number of tributaries, anglers hunt for their own secret spot or ‘honey hole’ in hopes of catching a prize-winning striped bass, bluefish, tuna, or flounder.

When it comes to catching a freshwater fish like bass or rainbow trout, many head to Deep Creek Lake close to the state’s western border. Covering over 450 ha, it’s the largest freshwater lake in Maryland.

The most endangered however is the Maryland Darter, one of the rarest freshwater fish in the world, and so far it has only ever been found in Hartford County.

14- Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe’s poems and short stories have brought chills, horror, and suspense to readers since the mid-1800s, and despite growing up in Virginia, his deep roots lie in Maryland, as the state’s most famous author.

After a dispute with his foster father and a tumultuous career in the military, Poe headed to Baltimore in 1832 to live with his aunt. A year later, Poe’s writing career took hold after winning a short story contest sponsored by the local newspaper with a piece entitled ‘MS. Found in a Bottle’.

Perhaps the greatest mystery he left behind came with his death in 1849, when he was discovered pale and covered in perspiration. Many believe alcohol played a significant role, while others pointed to suicide, murder or ailments.

Paying homage to the Macabre poet, the Baltimore Ravens NFL football team took their name from his more prolific work, called ‘The Raven’.

15- Calvert Cliffs State Park

Named after George Calvert who received a royal charter for the land to form the colony in 1632, the Calvert Cliffs State Park opens a window into the past and provides wonderful opportunities to explore nature on over 20 km of hiking trails.

For thousands of years, the Atlantic Ocean washed against the coast of Maryland, slowly revealing the remains of the prehistoric animals that lived on the planet over 10 million years ago. Over 600 known species of fossils have been discovered in the 400-ha park.

Below the towering orange cliffs on the coast, a small strip of sandy beach presents an endless amount of hidden treasures, including prehistoric remains such as shark teeth, and bones from whales and giant seabirds the size of small planes.

A relatively easy 3.2 km trail takes visitors directly from the parking area to the beach, where you can also swim during the warmer months.

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Grant Doremus is a freelance writer from the United States, eager to share his travel experiences and knowledge about some of the best destinations in the world. He grew up in a small town in New Hampshire, and after a successful career in finance, he decided to chase his dreams of becoming a digital nomad. As an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast he went on a road trip across the U.S. visiting 26 states, exploring most of the country's national parks, and climbing some of the highest peaks in the country. After a year on the road, he headed to Europe where he backpacked through 10 countries before finally settling in Spain. Grant loves to write about Spanish culture, its rich history, and traditions. His favourite destination so far is Mallorca, but he hasn’t finished his travels just yet!