Most people know Annapolis, MD is home to the US Naval Academy. Founded in 1845, the Naval Academy is an undergraduate college that prepares men and women to become officers in the Navy.
Overflowing with history, the Academy has a beautiful, free walking tour available. Open 9 am to 5 pm daily; the Academy also has a gift shop, an extensive collection of model ships, and Davy Jones’ tomb.
Though it’s the most famous tourist sight in Annapolis, the Academy is far from the only thing to do in Annapolis. This historic small city is home to a treasure trove of museums, parks, and memorials!
Here is our list of cool things to do in Annapolis:
Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse
Called one of the world’s most beautiful lighthouses, the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is a one of a kind lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay. Few”screw pile” type lighthouses are left in the world, but the Thomas Point Shoal stands tall in the middle of the bay at the mouth of the South River. The lighthouse is only accessible by boat.
If you don’t own a boat, cruises are available for purchase at the City Dock. If you don’t want a close-up look, drive over to the Thomas Point neighborhood where you can get a good view of the bay and the lighthouse from land.
A National Historic Landmark, the architecture creates stunning photo ops at sunrise and sunset.
Charles Carroll House
Open Sat & Sun 12 pm to 4 pm. Free.
The historic home of three generations of the Charles Carroll family. The Carrolls were Catholic and faced religious persecution but helped secure political and religious freedom for all Americans when Charles Carroll–the only Catholic–signed the Declaration of Independence.
He was the last survivor of all 56 signers dying in 1832 at age 96.
The home is currently under restoration, so the inside is empty. The house depicts the structure and architecture of the 18th century. There are lovely views of the Severn River.
There are guides, but handouts are available for a self-guided tour if that’s more to your liking.
The house is behind St Mary’s Catholic Church on Duke of Gloucester Steet. Public tours are available only on the weekends from May through October. Parking is available behind the church.
The Kunte Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial
Alex Haley’s mini-series Roots debuted on January 23, 1977. The series immediately caught the American imagination and scored several Emmys and Golden Globe awards.
Located at the City Dock, this site is reportedly where Kunte Kinte came ashore as a slave more than 200 years ago. Annapolis was a significant slave auction site for the Mid-Atlantic region. There is a lifesize statue of Alex Haley and with plenty of places to relax in the shade make this a great place to watch boats and feed the ducks.
Maryland World War II Memorial
Open M-F 8:30 am to 3 pm Saturday 8:30 am to 10 am. Free.
Just a 5-minute drive from historic Annapolis. Located on a hill overlooking the Naval Academy across the Severn River, the Maryland World War II Memorial is beautifully presented with columns and tablets listing the names of fallen Marylanders in the great war. The history of Maryland’s involvement in the war is also showcased. Located next to Gold Star Family Memorial, there is free parking available.
Open Sat-Sun 12 pm to 4 pm March through December. Free. Donations welcome.
This is a Revolutionary war home in Annapolis (the one time Capital of the US). The home portrays the working-class lifestyle and demonstrates craftsmen’s tools and techniques used in the colonial era.
This little house shows what a typical family would have lived like. You can touch and handle all of the historical items (cups, dishes, furs, tools, etc.,). Costumed reenactors help tell the story and entertain kids.
Maryland Federation of Art
Open daily from 11 am to 5 pm. Free.
For something more modern, head over to the Maryland Federation of Art.
From their website: Founded in 1963, MFA is the oldest artist-run organization in Maryland, dedicated to expanding artistic expression and appreciation. Our 450+ members organize 20 to 25 juried and non-juried exhibitions each year, featuring the work of local and national artists.
A recent review had this to say: This is a great example of local art, highlighted by a great gallery where history meets creativity. The flow for viewing is great from the time you walk in the entranceway gates until you finish, and the natural light from the windows is warm and welcoming. This is a great little gem and should not be missed.
Historic Annapolis Museum and Store
Open Mon-Sat 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Free. Accepts donations.
This is a fun, and Historic Annapolis centered gift shop on the main floor paired with an exciting museum upstairs. If you are looking for something for yourself or as a gift, you will find an excellent array of well-priced and unique items.
Walk upstairs to find a small but wonderful museum about the history of slaves in the 18th Century. Great for children!
Quiet Waters Park
Open till dusk. $6 fee. Free for military, vets and disabled persons.
For those who want some exercise, Quiet Waters Park offers a peaceful area to bike, hike, and kayak. There is also an off-leash dog park as well as plenty of spaces for picnics and trail walking.
The park has lots of charming fountains, small pools (not for swimming), gazebos, walking bridges, and trails. You may particularly enjoy the butterfly garden with a cute little birdhouse library.
If you go further back, you’ll reach the South River where you’ll see lots of boats (depending on the season).
There are no concession stands, so bring a picnic basket of goodies as you watch your kids play on the playground!
Sandy Point State Park
Open 6 am to dusk. $4 fee per person. Kids under five free.
If you are looking to hit a beach this summer and don’t want to drive to Virginia Beach, this is a great alternative and a fun place to explore. Great view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge!
The beach has a long, gentle slope for adults and taller children to stand in the water. Being in the bay means no crashing waves and fun for weaker swimmers. There are lifeguards just in case.
There are shaded picnic tables, a concession stand, a playground and bathrooms with showers.
This park also has a boat launch with plenty of slips and parking for your trailer. Restrooms are located next to the launch. Very convenient if you are going to fish near the Bay Bridge.
A tip for seniors: For $10 you can get a lifetime Golden Age Pass which gets you free admission to any Maryland State Park. You do not have to be a Maryland resident to qualify. Also, you can go to the park office with your Golden Age Pass and get a swipe card pass so you can enter before the main gate opens.
Helen Avalynne Tawes Garden
Open Mon-Fri 9 am to 3 pm. Free.
These lovely acres are meant to illustrate the flora of the five different areas of Maryland. The variety of trees & rocks are beautiful. Walking through the woods, viewing the pool with its fountain, sculptures & occasional informative signs is a pleasant getaway from traffic and crowds. It’s truly an oasis away from downtown Annapolis.
Slightly hard to find, the garden is located across from the Naval Academy field on Taylor Avenue. Once you get inside, however, it’s hard to imagine that this sanctuary is situated so close to busy streets!
For more ideas on carefree getaways from DC, see our blog.