Washington DC

The Most Beautiful Places To Visit in Maryland

Get some fresh air.

Jon Bilous/Shutterstock
Jon Bilous/Shutterstock
Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Maryland, my Maryland-the state is practically surrounded by natural beauty and wonder-from the far reaches of the Eastern Shore to the peaks and valleys of the Catoctin Mountains, and pretty much everywhere in between. As people who grew up here know, it’s easy to take America’s ninth smallest state for granted. But after spending quite a few trips on the road, and yes, even stuck in our fair share of Bay Bridge traffic, it’s easy to see why Maryland, while small, is mighty in its beautiful places, some of which you probably didn’t know even existed. Here are 16 photo-worthy sights that have us coming back again and again.

Ladew Topiary Gardens
Ladew Topiary Gardens
Ladew Topiary Gardens

Ladew Topiary Gardens

Monkton
Looking for a secret garden? Come April, there’s plenty to marvel at within the 22 acres of the Ladew Topiary Garden, which was established by 1930s hard-partying huntsman Harvey S. Ladew. The grounds contain 15 garden spaces, as well as countless detailed topiaries (one depicting an entire fox hunt scene). But the biggest stunner might be the serene space of the Iris Garden, with 770 plants of iris varieties from around the world, a koi pond filled with vibrant fish and delicate lilies, and a giant recreation of a Chinese sailing ship.

Photo by Jack Boucher
Photo by Jack Boucher
Photo by Jack Boucher

National Park Seminary

Silver Spring
This hidden oasis literally feels as if you’re traveling the world. From Japanese pagodas to Roman statues to a ballroom out of Bavaria, this scenic spot, which is now partially a residential development, has been an all-girls prep school, a U.S. Army annex, and a vacation retreat for Washington DC elite.

M.R. Ducks
M.R. Ducks
M.R. Ducks

M.R. Ducks

Ocean City
Of course, you’ve been to Seacrets, danced at Fager’s Island, and had one too many buckets-of-booze at Macky’s, but the quintessential bar in all of Ocean City is M.R. Ducks, an original harbor bar that doesn’t need 1980s cover bands to attract a clientele. You’re here for the sunsets, Orange Crushes, and yes, the chug-a-duck-an Amaretto cocktail that comes served to you in a hollowed-out wooden duck. Tails up and cheers to the gorgeous water view!

LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES/Shutterstock
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES/Shutterstock
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES/Shutterstock

Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower

Baltimore 
Have you climbed the highest clock tower in Baltimore? Not only will you get your steps in, but every floor of this narrow building also happens to be artists’ enclaves for painting and drawing. You can make an offer on the spot for an original work of art, or you can climb higher to learn about Bromo Seltzer, a company that made America’s most favorite hangover cure. When you reach the top, there are not only some impressive views of Charm City, but also a four-dial gravity clock that was the largest in the world-even bigger than Big Ben.

Suicide Bridge Restaurant
Suicide Bridge Restaurant
Suicide Bridge Restaurant

Suicide Bridge Restaruant

Hurlock
Picking crabs is a rite of passage in Maryland’s summertime season by the Bay. But there’s an often-overlooked crab deck that shines brightest on the Eastern Shore-even if it has a not-so-appealing name-Suicide Bridge Restaurant. Not only will you find the freshest crab imperial or blue crabs steamed and doused in Old Bay, but you’ll also find an 80-foot turn-of-the-century paddle wheeler boat that cruises down the Choptank River and serves an all-you-can-eat buffet of Maryland crab.

Black Walnut Point Inn B&B
Black Walnut Point Inn B&B
Black Walnut Point Inn B&B

Black Walnut Point

Tilghman Island
Tilghman Island is a tiny fishing village, surrounded by Chesapeake Bay. Visiting here feels as if you’ve reached the end of the world, where it’s possible to take in sunrise and sunset on the same day. The furthermost point south on the island is Black Walnut Point, a popular spot for fishing rockfish and or netting a few crabs. At the end of the road, you’ll find a scenic and quaint B&B called the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Hawkeye Aerial Imaging/Shutterstock
Hawkeye Aerial Imaging/Shutterstock
Hawkeye Aerial Imaging/Shutterstock

Casselman River Bridge

Grantsville
Is this Maryland or the road to King’s Landing? This 80-foot, stone bridge seems like it was built in Medieval Times when in reality it’s been around for about 200 years. When it was completed in 1814, it was the largest arch bridge in the state and helped fuel the prospects of western expansion, filled frequently with heavy traffic, that included horse-drawn wagons carrying upwards of 10-ton loads.

Glenstone Museum
Glenstone Museum
Glenstone Museum

Glenstone

Potomac
Reopening on March 4, Glenstone is a museum of modern and contemporary art in Montgomery County that integrates nearly 300 acres of gently rolling pasture and unspoiled woodland, less than 15 miles from DC. Whether you’re looking for contemplation or socially distanced space for experiencing some iconic works of art-this is the spot to take in the natural environment at the intersections of modern art and architecture.

Instagram/jeltown
Instagram/jeltown
Instagram/jeltown

Great Falls of the Potomac River

Potomac
The Potomac River acts as the border between Maryland and Virginia, but its greatest site, the Great Falls, is located 14 miles upstream from DC and belongs to the Old Line State. The best views of the series of 20ft falls are offered on the bank of the C&O Canal parkland, on the Billy Goat Trail on Bear Island, and at vantage points on Olmsted Island. Watch out for the adventurous folks using the falls to kayak, whitewater raft, rock climb, and hike along.

Flickr/TrailVoice
Flickr/TrailVoice
Flickr/TrailVoice

Peak of Sugarloaf Mountain

Dickerson
Find this mountain and park just 10 miles South of Frederick and take the 5.5-mile Blue Trail Loop for some amazing year-round views. Even amateur hikers can make it to white rocks, where views of rolling hills change color depending on the season. Bonus: there is a winery for reward at the base of the mountain.

Flickr/Forsaken Fotos
Flickr/Forsaken Fotos
Flickr/Forsaken Fotos

Cylburn Arboretum

Baltimore
The entirety of the 207-acre Baltimore city park known as the Cylburn Arboretum is beautiful- with its magnolias, oaks, greenhouses, and various gardens. But the real showstoppers are the famed Japanese maples with arterial branches that seem to curl and tangle in all directions at once. The grounds at Cylburn are open, but there is no access to bathrooms. Keep social distancing and mask-wearing in mind while on the premesis.

Andrey Vishin/Shutterstock
Andrey Vishin/Shutterstock
Andrey Vishin/Shutterstock

Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island
Camping on an island at the beach with wild ponies? It sounds like a straight-up fairytale, but it’s real on Assateague Island. Camping spots during peak season go quick, so be sure to plan ahead and book with the National Park Service to secure your spot this summer. While the beaches are currently open, there are no lifeguards on duty and NPS requires that visitors observe all safety social distancing guidelines.

Flickr/Forsaken Fotos
Flickr/Forsaken Fotos
Flickr/Forsaken Fotos

Calvert Cliffs

Lusby
Located in the Southern Maryland town of Lusby are 24 miles of expansive, jagged cliffs that frame the West side of the Chesapeake Bay. While the cliffs are popular for birdwatching, fishing, and hiking, the reason most people flock to them is to dig for 15 million-year-old fossils on the shoreline. Teeth from the massive Megalodon shark are one of the most sought-after items.

Flickr/bobu
Flickr/bobu
Flickr/bobu

Muddy Creek Falls

Oakland
Located in Swallow Falls State Park in Western Maryland is what clocks in as Maryland’s highest free-falling waterfall. Muddy Creek Falls encompasses nearly 60ft of river water that plunges into the Pottsville Formation. The roaring falls have provided such great inspiration through history that famous innovators Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone all camped by the falls together in July 1921.

Christian Hinkle/Shutterstock
Christian Hinkle/Shutterstock
Christian Hinkle/Shutterstock

Carroll Creek

Frederick
Baker Park is a 44-acre linear park that slices through Downtown Frederick and in the heart of it is Carroll Creek. Walking alongside the lily pad-laden water with its fountains, colorful flowers, and stone bridges gives the illusion of being inside an Impressionist painting instead of a bustling Western Maryland metropolis.

The Old Major/Shutterstock
The Old Major/Shutterstock
The Old Major/Shutterstock

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Cambridge 
Bikers, kayakers, and bird nuts will want to flock to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s refuge, which offers solitude, serenity, as well as a dose of history too. The land was established in 1933 as a waterfowl sanctuary for birds migrating along the critical migration highway, also known as the Atlantic Flyway. Aside from it being an ideal birding site, it has waterways for kayaking and miles of flat roadways for road biking. Plus, it’s the site of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument – where you can learn about the valued contributions of this American abolitionist.

Flickr/Chris Connelly
Flickr/Chris Connelly
Flickr/Chris Connelly

Chesapeake City Bridge

Chesapeake City
Okay, so while there is another bridge in the state of Maryland that gets all the attention, we like the more charming structure in the tiny town of Chesapeake City in Northeast Maryland — with a population of just over 600. The simple arched bridge looms over the C&D Canal and looks particularly lovely during sunsets.

Jon Bilous/Shutterstock
Jon Bilous/Shutterstock
Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Maryland Heights

Harpers Ferry
The town of Harpers Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers where Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet. The states, more or less, share the beautiful historic site, and some of the best vistas are from Maryland Heights and the Appalachian Trail on the Maryland side, where you can spot Amtrak trains shooting in and out of the mountainside. Please observe all social distancing guidelines while on your hike.

Jon Bilous/Shutterstock
Jon Bilous/Shutterstock
Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Rawlings Conservatory

Baltimore
Hard to determine what’s more beautiful: the inside or the outside of the Rawlings Conservatory in Druid Hill Park. The giant glass structure is surrounded by botanical gardens with vibrant tulips and inside there are five distinct rooms with individual climates-some full of cacti and others full of orchids and palm trees. Visitors are asked to wear a mask and keep proper social distance from one another.

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Washington DC

The Eight Most Exciting Suburbs Outside DC

You could use a little space.

Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock

When people say Washington, DC, it’s hard to tell if they’re talking about The District proper, or the sprawling metro area that is sometimes nicknamed the DMV: The District, Maryland, and Virginia. The fact is that DC is made whole by its vibrant suburbs, whether you’re looking for a shopping center dedicated almost entirely to Vietnamese cuisine, a rock climbing wall in-you guessed it-Rockville, or a wetland preserve that’s wide open for hiking and fresh air.

The DC suburbs practically have it all, and you can reach many of these neighborhoods by bike, public transit, or a set of four wheels. Here are eight great suburban destinations that you may find yourself visiting soon. We won’t judge you if you want to stay.

Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville

Rockville

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Many people will inevitably cruise Rockville Pike, aka 355, for all of its big-box delights, since this retail corridor has always been a sprawly place to shop for decades. But more recently, Rockville has become something entirely different. It’s walkable and bikeable, thanks to the Pike & Rose development. And it remains a destination for some of the best Chinese soup dumplings in the DMV at A&J Restaurant and Bob’s Shanghai 66. Rockville is also, fittingly, home to the best rock climbing wall attracting serious spelunkers and climbing newbies alike. And it remains a place for family-run restaurants, many of which are run by immigrants. For a small taste of the magic of this Montgomery County suburb, visit Bombay Bistro for Chef K.N.Vinod and Surfy Rahman’s take on Indian fare from the country’s southern region. Like many of the best eateries in Rockville, this restaurant is tucked away in a shopping strip. When you find it, you’ll be rewarded with mouth-watering dosas, biryani, and vindaloo.

Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette

Bethesda

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
Anyone who grew up near Bethesda has probably spent their early teenage years loitering at the Bethesda’s Regal Cinema or by The Barnes & Noble water fountain. Now, both of those legendary spots of yesteryear have been transformed into a suburban-style city with sidewalk cafes, trendy shopping, and an upgraded Capital Crescent Trail-a longtime favorite with joggers and bikers. Bethesda is also home to a world of flavors: Fresh Baguette for Parisian-style pastries, Pesca Deli for Portuguese, Taqueria El Jalapeño for tasty tacos, and Passage to India just to name a few. To reach all of these places, you can hop aboard the Bethesda Circulator, a free shuttle service that picks you up at the Bethesda Metro station and takes you in a loop around town.

Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks

Wheaton

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
There is absolutely no beating Wheaton when a food craving hits, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This Maryland suburb, just north of DC on Metro’s red line, has one of the best diners in the region, Nick’s Diner, owned and operated by Nick Markopoulos and his Greek family. For lunch, Wheaton is home to a handful of pupuserias that are indicative of this neighborhood’s Salvadoran community. Pupuseria La Familiar, Los Chorros, and Irene’s Pupusas are three great options. Finally, for dinner, Peruvian chicken at El Pollo Rico or Bolivian fare, and specifically the beef silpancho, at Kantuta’s are hearty and tasty offerings. Finish your day of dining on a high note with a cannoli or rainbow cookie from Filippo’s Deli. After a day of eating, you’ll need to walk off all those carbs. Go for a leisurely stroll around the pond at Wheaton Regional Park’s Brookside Gardens. The park is a five-minute drive north of Wheaton’s retail corridor, and it’s free and open to the public year-round.

Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.

Hyattsville

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
A brewery tour is a safe bet when visiting Hyattsville, Maryland-a community with a small-town vibe, located in Prince George’s County, just across The District line. A primary reason why beer nerds flock here is Franklins, a brewpub that last year opened a tiki-themed bar in its parking lot to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more than a dozen beers on tap, plus Franklins makes its own root beer if you prefer some nonalcoholic suds. That’s in addition to a historic hardware shop that’s been converted into a bottle shop, with a wide collection of craft beer and local wine. Nearby on Route 1, find a local brewery that specializes in outdoor drinking. Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. opened two years ago and is named in homage to the 82 Streetcar line which ran by the brewery’s site from 1888 to 1957. This converted auto garage now serves hop-forward beers and has bike rack parking and picnic tables, perfect for a Sunday Funday. For more craft beers from around the country paired with wood-fired pizza, Pizzeria Paradiso is a top-notch eater across the street, and cap off your crawl by swinging by Maryland Meadworks, which serves a range of meads from sweet to semi-sweet to dry.

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary

Upper Marlboro

Distance from DC: 45 minutes
Fulfill your childhood wonder and delight at the greatest playground in the DMV. Watkins Regional Park is great for kids (or the kid at heart) looking to romp around themed playgrounds. The first is a horse-racing-themed playground, part of Maryland’s legacy as a horse racing capital. Meanwhile, the second option is the stuff of fairy tales-a Wizard of Oz-inspired playground, complete with a yellow brick road, a ruby slippers slide, and an Emerald City climbing wall. Grownups and kids alike will also enjoy the hiking options at nearby Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, an expansive preserve that’s part of the tidal reaches of the Patuxent River. There are more than 1,700 acres of unique freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, creeks, meadows, pines and sand barrens, plus fields and park areas for an afternoon picnic. If you’d rather fuel up than bring-your-own food, Upper Marlboro’s Main Street Coffee & Treats is where the community gathers for coffee, pastries, fresh-pressed juices, and vegan cupcakes at all hours of the day.

Photo Courtesy of Ada's on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River

Old Town Alexandria

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
With waterfront views, historic homes along cobblestone streets, and a trolley that goes up and down King Street for free, it’s hard not to imagine why Old Town Alexandria wouldn’t be on our suburban list. You might come for the charm, but there’s a lot more to this city than just Instagram-worthy streetscapes. The Torpedo Factory is a burgeoning artist enclave for purchasing one-of-a-kind sculptures and artwork. Those who prefer a pleasure cruise down the Potomac can take the Potomac River Water Taxi to or from the city. And outdoor eating by the water offers plenty of space and social distance. The food and outdoor surroundings at Ada’s on the River and King & Rye, two of Alexandria’s latest eatery additions, are great places to book a weekend brunch.

Eden Center
Eden Center
Eden Center

Falls Church

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Most people know Falls Church as the home of Eden Center-a shopping center with dozens of Vietnamese businesses and restaurants. This might be the biggest draw for Falls Church food lovers. However, there are several more reasons to make this Northern Virginia suburb a part of your food bucket list. Start at Takumi, a popular Japanese sushi spot, serving quality grade sashimi, sake, and sushi tastings. Got a craving for cavatelli? Then book it to Thomspon Italian. Chef Gabe Thompson and Pastry Chef Katherine Thompson are a husband and wife team who make this spot feel more like home. While the dining room remains closed, Thompson is offering several of its top dishes, including housemade pasta and gelatos, for pickup.

Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap

Tysons Corner

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
When you visit Tysons Corner, you’re probably here to do one thing-shop until you drop. Tysons is home to two malls, sometimes nicknamed Tysons I (Tysons Corner Center) and Tysons II (Tysons Galleria). The former is pretty typical while the latter leans more upscale. Not surprisingly, Tysons II also has good taste in food. Find the Urbanspace Food Hall, home to Donburi DC and Andy’s Pizza, plus an upscale pastry shop called Lady M. Aside from the shopping and dining, another good reason to visit Tysons this summer might be for a concert. The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts recently announced its outdoor summer concert lineup, which could start as soon as the end of May. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

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Tim Ebner is a contributor for Thrillist. 

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