Road trip! 5 cities to check out from Baltimore
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Before the coronavirus pandemic, Baltimore residents had plenty of options for long-distance trips, thanks to a port that serves two cruise lines, along with direct and indirect international flights out of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). As Maryland, like many other states, gets back to normal this summer, you may want to get away — but a ship still isn’t an option, and you might not be ready for a long-distance plane trip. The answer then for a great summer getaway? A road trip!
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It would be easy to just do road trips to cities including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia or New York City and call it a day. The good news is that thanks to Baltimore’s central location on the East Coast, there are plenty of places to visit, including beaches, historical sites, wineries and more. Below are five of my favorite destinations, along with which credit cards to pack to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Related reading: 10 tips for anyone taking a road trip right now
Best road trip cards
Citi unveiled changes — including an updated rewards structure and an added annual hotel credit — to the Citi Premier® Card in April 2020. They were supposed to go into effect on Aug. 23, 2020, but Citi moved them up to June 2, 2020. Cardholders now earn 3x per dollar on air travel, hotels, gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants (including takeout). This makes the Citi Premier a great card to pay for expenses on your trips away from Baltimore.
Another solid option is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Because it earns 2x miles on spending, you don’t have to worry about miles per dollar spent on different categories. And, you can redeem the miles you earn on the Venture on future travel purchases made on the card during a road trip.
Currently, you’ll earn up to 100,000 bonus miles after spending $20,000 in the first 12 months of account opening. If that’s too rich for your blood, you can still earn 50,000 miles when spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. Either way, this is a fantastic tiered sign-up bonus that can result in endless travel redemptions. Plus, you’ll get an up-to-$100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck fee rebate every four years, in addition to no foreign exchange fees – all for an annual fee of $95.
Related reading: Going on road trips this summer? Consider using these credit cards
Distance from Baltimore: About 1 hour and 30 minutes
This city on the Choptank River — a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay — was founded in 1684, making it one of the oldest in the U.S. It was originally a seaport town with a rich maritime heritage. Author James Michener was inspired by Cambridge when he was researching his novel “Chesapeake” and modeled his fictional city Patamoke after Cambridge.
What to do: Visit the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument and Scenic Byway, where you can understand the woman who guided nearly 70 slaves to freedom in the north via exhibits, an audio-visual program, a museum store, a research library and seasonal programs. Take a cruise on an authentic skipjack, Nathan of Dorchester, an oyster dredging vessel or check out Native-American Chicone Village at Handsell, an authentic replica of a single-family homestead built with materials and techniques used in the 1600s.
Where to stay: The family-friendly Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa & Marina sits on 342 acres near the Chesapeake Bay. Amenities include an 18-hole golf course, a 150-slip marina and a full-service spa. There’s also an activity pool and slide, drive-in movies, the chance to kayak or paddleboard on the Choptank River, take a nature walk, play games or do crafts.
What to eat and drink: Seafood is the thing to eat in Cambridge, since this town is near the bountiful Chesapeake Bay. Jimmie & Sook’s, on the Maryland Crab and Oyster Trail, is known for its Maryland blue crab, Southern-style barbecue and craft cocktails. Get samples of Maryland microbrews at RAR Brewing, known for its ales and upscale pub food. And, Portside Seafood is home to popular Maryland food, including crab balls, rockfish bites and fresh oysters from the Chesapeake Bay.
Distance from Baltimore: About 1 hour and 30 minutes
The city sits at the center of Pennsylvania Dutch Country and is home to a large Amish population. There’s plenty to do for all ages and it’s a great place for those who want to go at a slower pace. Enjoy farmers markets, covered bridges, museums and Amish buggy rides.
What to do: Check out the Wolf Sanctuary of PA, a haven for displaced wolves and wolf-dogs where you can learn about wolf conservation and biology. The Amish Experience is a center that studies culture and heritage that offers a multimedia theater, a tour of an Amish House & School and guided bus tours of local farms. Or take the kids to the Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park, with more than 35 rides, a water play area and live entertainment.
Where to stay: If you’re looking for an upscale experience in Lancaster, stay at the Eden Resort & Suites, near all the city’s top attractions. The resort’s 301 guest rooms include one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, some with full kitchens. There are indoor and outdoor pools, two restaurants, a lounge, fitness center with a sauna, tennis, basketball and shuffleboard courts. You may want to consider staying at an Amish bed and breakfast or guesthouse, which offers a different experience in a simple setting.
What to eat and drink: Because I’m a dessert type of person, the first place I’m visiting is Dutch Haven, home of the Shoo-Fly Pie (like a pecan pie without the pecans). There are also cookies, fruit pies, jams, jellies and canned goods, along with Amish arts and crafts. For locally sourced food from Amish farms and farmers markets, check out Plough, an upscale bistro that features local microbrews and craft cocktails. If you want more casual, consider Lancaster Central Market, the oldest continuously operating farmer’s market in the U.S. Enjoy sandwiches, soups, baked goods and ethnic foods, among other things.
Related reading: 5 epic road trips across America
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Distance from Baltimore: About 4 hours and 30 minutes
White Sulphur Springs, in the southwest part of the state, is famous for The Greenbrier — “America’s Resort” since 1778. But, it’s also home to more than 80 local attractions, including world-class golf courses, spas, museums, craft spirits and outdoor recreation.
What to do: Play golf on one of the town’s courses, including five at the Greenbrier. Go hiking and biking on 13 miles of trails at Greenbrier State Forest or visit Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company for craft beers and Smooth Ambler Spirits to taste regional bourbons. Or relax at a local spa.
Where to stay: If you want to splurge, it would only make sense to choose The Greenbrier resort, where you can stay in rooms or legacy cottages and enjoy amenities, including the world-famous mineral spa. If the resort is too rich for your blood, there are other options, including the Greenbrier River Campground & Cabins, the Old Victorian Inn B&B and chain hotels ranging from Hampton Inn to Fairfield Inn & Suites.
What to eat and drink: If you can’t afford to stay at the Greenbrier, consider eating at the resort’s historic Main Dining Room, which features upscale Southern food from produce harvested from the resort’s 43-acre chef’s garden. There’s also The French Goat, a bistro that serves classic French dishes, the Edgarton Cafe and Bakery and the Washington Street Pub for local beers and bar food.
Related reading: Route 66 road trip planner: The best stops along the way
Lambertville, New Jersey
Distance from Baltimore: About 2 hours and 20 minutes
This charming town, founded in 1705, was named one of the top 15 prettiest in the U.S. by Forbes magazine. It sits beside the Delaware River and is connected to historic New Hope, Pennsylvania by a walkable bridge. Enjoy historic bars, restaurants, spas and salons, vintage shops and stunning Victorian architecture.
What to do: Known as “The Antiques Capital of New Jersey,” go shopping at the Golden Nugget Antique Flea Market, which is open three days a week, or other local antique spots. Catch new and classic plays at The Bucks County Playhouse. Or, spend time in Peddler’s Village, a shopping, dining, lodging and family entertainment facility with 60-plus retail shops, five restaurants, the Golden Plough Inn and Giggleberry Fair, an indoor family entertainment center.
Where to stay: The Lambertville Station Restaurant and Inn is inside a historic 19th-century train station that was converted into an elegant hotel and restaurant that has rooms and suites with river views. Cross the bridge to New Hope, Pennsylvania, for a stay at the AAA three-diamond Aaron Burr House Inn, with eight guest rooms decorated with antiques, breakfast in bed a pool and tennis courts. Inn of The Hawke in Lambertville has six rooms and an on-site pub.
What to eat and drink: Lambertville Station’s restaurant features craft cocktails, microbrews, a wine cellar, along with a menu that focuses on New American cuisine. While you’re exploring Peddler’s Village, consider having a meal at the Peddler’s Pub, where you can dine on sandwiches, salads and appetizers, plus enjoy a full bar. El Tule serves authentic Mexican and Peruvian food and has outdoor seating.
Related reading: 5 American road trips to take with the family this summer
Bethany Beach, Delaware
Distance from Baltimore: About 2 hours and 30 minutes
When it comes to beaches that are popular with Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area residents, the top ones are Ocean City, Maryland, and Rehoboth, Delaware. Both have boardwalks, miles of shoreline, restaurants, shops, amusements and plenty of places to stay. But for me, Bethany Beach is a lesser-known gem that you should consider. Although it’s oriented more toward families, my group of college friends chose this as our annual beach destination. It’s quiet and serene, giving us time to reconnect with each other on the beach or in our condo’s spacious pool and deck. If we decide we need more excitement, both Ocean City and Rehoboth Beach are an easy drive away.
What to do: One of our favorite things to do is play a few rounds of putt-putt at Captain Jacks Pirate Golf. You can also play 18 holes at the Salt Pond Golf Club. Rent a bike at Ocean Cycles and ride along the boardwalk or the bay side of Bethany or hit a few balls at Bethany Club Tennis. One of the highlights of my stays is renting a catamaran, Jet Ski or paddleboard from Island Watersports in nearby Fenwick Island, Delaware, and go for a ride in the ocean or on the Isle of Wight Bay side of Bethany.
Where to stay: We usually stay in Sea Colony, one of the many two- or three-bedroom condominium units for rent along the ocean or bayside. It has 12 pools, tennis courts, fitness centers and the Beach Shoppe. Addy Sea Bed & Breakfast, with 13 rooms right on the ocean, offers guests a full gourmet breakfast and afternoon tea. If you’re more comfortable in a hotel, consider staying at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in nearby Rehoboth Beach.
What to eat and drink: It’s not a good visit to Bethany until I dine at Fager’s Island Restaurant and Bar, where I can enjoy a nice cocktail and a mix of American and Pacific Rim cuisine, served on an outdoor deck with fantastic views of the Isle of Wight Bay. You can’t go to the beach without having Maryland blue crabs, and my favorite place to get them is Phillips Crab House down the road in Ocean City. Enjoy a hearty breakfast at the Bethany Diner — the crabmeat omelet is not to be missed!
Even if we’re not getting on a plane, it doesn’t mean that my family and I can’t still enjoy a great, easy road trip summer vacation. These are five of my favorites, but there are dozens more places you can visit that are a day drive away from Baltimore. They include Charlottesville, Virginia, home of the University of Virginia and a growing wine industry; Chautauqua, New York, a lake and resort town that’s home to the Chautauqua Institute; the Outer Banks of North Carolina for beachcombers; and Mystic, Connecticut, home to the Mystic Seaport.
So take advantage of these drives and visit somewhere new during the summer. You may discover some real gems that you would have missed if you went on your normal vacation that includes a flight.
Featured photo by Prostock-studio/Shutterstock
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