Monday, November 19, 2012

Massachusetts – Where I’ve Been

I’ve been to Massachusetts twice.  I’ve seen the Boston area in the east, the central small villages/townships, and Springfield area in the west.

My first visit was back in October 2007 on a New England road trip with three other women (mentioned in my Connecticut and Maine Blog Posts).  During that trip, we didn’t realize how close all the states were.  We got from Providence, Rhode Island to Boston in 45 minutes and that was with traffic!  So, we learned we could cover a lot of ground during this trip.  If you’re physically able, the best thing to do in Boston to see all the sites is to walk the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail. 
You can get more information at the visitor center at Boston Commons, where the trail begins.  Before leaving home, be sure to download the free audio tour for each stop along the freedom trail.  It’ll provide you a lot of great background about each stop.  You can pay for an actual dressed up tour guide; however, it’s very simple to go on a self-guided tour of the trail.  All you have to do is follow the red line that is painted on the roads and sidewalks.  You’ll see sights such as Quincy Market, Old North Church, King’s Chapel, USS Constitution, Bunker Hill, the old State House, and the new State House, Benjamin Franklin’s tombstone, and Paul Revere’s house and tombstone. 
The Old State House on the left and the new State House on the right.

Paul Revere's tombstone and house. 

 Old North Church
Some of these sites have great impact on not only Massachusetts history but also the history of the United States and the freedom we gained from defeating the British.  Before the trip, we came up with a list of things we wanted to see in Boston (historical and new), and even the places that weren’t technically part of the Freedom Trail tour were ALL along this trail.  The strange thing about Boston is that all these places were in the midst of a big city, and it looked totally out of place in the middle of skyscrapers.  The downside to the Freedom Trail is figuring out where to park your car if you drove in.  Sorry, I have no good answers.  We just backtracked.  It’s a trail – not a loop.  At the end of the 2.5 mile trail, you have to walk to where you left your car.

Spending the night in a hotel in Boston can be expensive (around $200 a night easily depending on the season) and because we were driving to Maine the next day, we decided to go north of Boston to look for a hotel.  We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Peabody.  After waking up in Connecticut, and exploring both Providence, Rhode Island and Boston all in one day, it was nice to relax in the hotel pool after a long day of traveling by car and foot.  That’s just how we roll - wake up early, see EVERYTHING, and then relax in a Jacuzzi/pool.

While on this road trip, we drove through 10 states from Maryland to Maine and back.  On the way back through Massachusetts, we drove from Vermont into the western half of the state along I-91.  We love candles so of course we HAD to stop in Deerfield and check out the Yankee Candle Company Flagship Store.  There were all kinds of scents, candles, home décor items, etc.  The store boasts on their website that you’ll find 400,000 candles in over 200 different famous Yankee scents!  We had to make room in the trunk because all four of us got a huge stash of candles and with so many different scents, they couldn’t have gone in the car with us.
A row of candles and Lori and I at Yankee Candle
Our next stop was the Dr. Seuss Memorial Park in Springfield.  It was adorable!  We stopped and posed for some pictures and checked out the gift store where they had everything related to Seuss.  From there, our next stop was my apartment in Maryland.

My friend Lori is in these pictures.
During this road trip, we realized very quickly that New Englanders are ADDICTED to Dunkin Doughnuts.  They’re everywhere!  It’s like Starbucks in Seattle.  We saw like 10 Dunkins just in downtown Boston alone.  There were drive thru ones, big ones, small ones, etc.  We even saw two across the street from each other.  During this trip, one of the girls with us, Bethany, who was from Seattle, had her first cup of Dunkin Coffee.  She wasn’t impressed.  I love Dunkin so because it was in the fall, I got their delicious pumpkin spiced coffee.  So, don’t worry about trying to find good coffee while traveling in Massachusetts or a good doughnut for that matter.  Just look for DD!

My work sent me to the middle of Massachusetts in the summer of 2011 for two weeks of training.  We drove through the area only DAYS after they had been surprised by tornados that destroyed so much.  Not many would believe before that summer that Massachusetts of all places could get tornados.  Being we were in training for long days, I didn’t get to do any of the touristy stuff, but the hotel had a shuttle guy that hooked us up with great restaurants to try every night and coupons for them!  Check with your hotel, in the local newspaper, or on the restaurant/store’s website for coupons.  Most of them in this area had coupons somewhere.  We ate out a lot over the course of two weeks, but here are some places you should definitely visit:

Dresser Hill’s Clambox Ice Cream Shop in Charlton has AMAZING ice cream.  It’s in the middle of all these farms so I’m glad the shuttle guy knew where he was taking us.  They have 45 flavors of ice cream.  I had this yummy maple flavor ice cream!

Publick House (historic inn, country lodge, bakery, tavern, and restaurant) in Sturbridge had AWESOME Yankee cuisine!  The Inn opened in 1771 and has a quaint, old look.  The restaurant’s menu has yummy items such as roasted duck, lobster pie, and Yankee pot roast.  Be sure to get some of their amazing sausage-cornbread stuffing.  After our meal, our host told us we should take a walk around the property.  We were able to see that one of the tornados had gone right behind the restaurant taking out all the trees but not touching any of the building.  WOW!
Publick House
Picture found online
Enrico’s Brick Oven Pizzeria in Sturbridge was great!  Now, they advertise as having a great brick oven pizza and the pizza is GOOD!  But, try their mussels too!  It’s a huge portion so be nice and share the appetizer or have it as an entree.  They were so good.  We went to that restaurant three times during the course of two weeks.

Rovezzi’s in Sturbridge was another restaurant we went three times during the course of two weeks.  I loved the bruschetta, the mussels, the cannelloni, and the pescatore al tomasso, which had a lot of HUGE shrimp, scallops, mussels, and calamari in some pomodoro sauce on top of linguini.  It’s so yummy!
Picture found online
While in Sturbridge, check out the Yankee Candle Seconds Shop on Rt. 20.  Yes, they have a Seconds Shop full of the last season’s candles (for example, selling winter candles in spring) for really good prices.  We heard about this place from our shuttle driver.  I tried looking online for the address, but I only saw reviews.  So, you’ll have to ask the locals.  There is a regular Yankee Candle store in Sturbridge so we price checked and we found some things were cheaper at the regular store so you should visit both stores if you have time.

In my next post, I’ll list those places that I’d like to go see on my next trip to Massachusetts.
**The picture with me in it was taken by a friend on the New England Road Trip of 2007, all others were taken by me if not noted.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

20 States!

We've reached the 20th State - Maryland!

Just 30 more to go!

If you're just starting to read the blog, no worries. Check out the post called "Why Start a Blog?" to see why I'm even writing this blog in the first place. Then, go back and read all that's great about the first 20 states - Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, and Maryland. Links are on the right side of your screen.

If you've been keeping up with me, what has been your favorite discovery about these states thus far? I'd love to hear from you - just comment below.

I'd like to thank the editors again for helping the blog get this far. My friends, Lori H. and Rob R. have been reviewing the blog posts since the beginning of December 2011 when I started preparing to start this blog and they're still going strong. THANKS SO MUCH for making sure the blog look its best!

Well, onto the next state, Massachusetts!

**This Post Was Not Edited By Lori and Rob**

Maryland – Wish List – Part 2

During my last post, I shared the 1st half of my top 10 wish list of places I still want to check out in Maryland (in no particular order).  Today’s post is part two.

6.  Bengies is a drive-in in northeast Baltimore that I’ve really wanted to go to.  It opened in 1956 and they have the biggest theatre screen in the USA!  They are open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and show two to three movies each of those nights.  Admission varies between $5 and $9 per person depending on the movies playing that weekend.  Drive-in movie theaters are almost gone and I’ve never been to one so I think it would be fun to visit.
7.  Lexington Market in Baltimore (just blocks from the Inner Harbor) is the world’s largest continuously running market (established in 1782).  The market houses over 100 merchants selling fresh produce, delicatessens/bakery items, fresh fish/poultry/other meats, candy, international cuisine, and general merchandise.  With that kind of history and that amount of vendors, I definitely want to check it out one day. 

8.  The “Top of the World” is located on the 27th floor of the World Trade Center building at the Inner Harbor of Baltimore.  The World Trade Center is the world’s tallest pentagonal building and from the “Top of the World,” you’re able to get a 360-degree view of Baltimore’s skyline.  I see this building every time I go down to the Inner Harbor, however, for some reason I’ve never made it to the top.

9.  Also in Baltimore, there is the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum.  The B&O Railroad was America’s first commercial long-distance railroad and is so famous that it is one of the stops on the Monopoly game board.  Today, the museum is on 40-acres of land and is the oldest, most comprehensive American railroad collection in the world.  They have all shapes and sizes of artifacts displaying railroad history from 1830 to the present day.  The museum is located in the same neighborhood where back in 1829 they set about building the B&O Railroad. 
10.  Patterson Park is called the “Best Back Yard in Baltimore.”  This 155-acre city park in southeast Baltimore turned 100-years-old recently and offers visitors space for playing, festivals, dog walking, sledding, fishing, picnicking, and swimming.  There are basketball and tennis courts, ball fields, and a rec center.  But, most of all, I want to see the Victorian Pagoda and the 19-century Marble Fountain.

These are just the places I visited or would like to go and visit in Maryland.  If you know of anywhere else in Maryland we should check out, please leave a comment below.  Next, we’ll explore what’s just round the corner in Massachusetts.

* Pictures found online.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Maryland - Wish List - Part 1

In my last two posts, I’ve shared with you my favorite places to visit and some good things to know before you visit Maryland.  In today’s post, I’d like to share the 1st half of my top 10 wish list of places I still want to check out (in no particular order).

1.  I haven’t explored western Maryland at all.  One way of seeing the far west would be to take the Historic National Road (Maryland Post #2) to Cumberland and take a ride on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.  They have various excursions that take you through the spectacular scenery of the Allegheny Mountains and provide you with information about the scenery, history, and culture along the trip.  The regular excursion even provides you with a 1 ½ hour layover in Historic Frostburg (the town turns 200 years old this year) for you to explore that town’s Main Street area before the return trip to Cumberland.
2.  While in western Maryland, I’d like to visit Oakland and the Swallow Falls State Park because I love waterfalls and these aren’t that far away from the Washington, DC metro area.  Within the Swallow Falls Park, there are four waterfalls, of which the Muddy Creek Falls at 53-foot tall is the tallest (great pictures that are copyrighted).  Aren’t they beautiful?

3.  Back in May, I had plans to visit one place on my wish list, Catoctin Mountain, while exploring three of the Maryland Covered Bridges (Maryland post #2).  However, I quickly discovered that the United States Presidential Retreat, Camp David, was located in the Catoctin Mountain Park and they had shut down the entire park because of an international summit being held at Camp David that weekend.  Thus, it remains on my wish list.  I had plans to drive along the Catoctin Mountain National Scenic Byway, which is a 38.5 mile road that takes you from the Virginia boarder to the Pennsylvania boarder through quaint little historic towns, and past museums, memorials, and even the Monocacy Battlefield (Maryland Post #2).

One state park I’d like to visit within the picturesque Catoctin Mountains is the Cunningham Falls State Park.  Within the park, you can swim, hunt, hike, fish, canoe, and camp.  But, I would be there to see the 78-foot Cunningham Falls (or McAfee Falls as some may call it), which is the largest cascading waterfall in the state. 

The park’s trails vary in distance and look very serene.  So, if you’re ever headed up to Catoctin Mountain, you might want to check ahead and see what the President of the United States is up to that weekend.  He might be planning a relaxing weekend in the mountains just like you!

4.  South Mountain is a 40-mile long state park along the South Mountain Ridge from the Pennsylvania line to the Potomac River.  The Maryland’s portion of the Appalachian Trail is situated along this ridge and it’s beautiful.  This area features several impressive scenic vistas, including: 
Annapolis Rock
High Rock

 Weverton Cliffs 
5.  While Maryland has 28 lighthouses/light stations/lightships on the Chesapeake Bay, I have a few favorites that I’d like to visit more than others.
The Concord Point Lighthouse is at the entrance to the Susquehanna River in Havre de Grace and was in service from November 1827 until it’s decommissioning in 1975.  It is one of the oldest lighthouses in continuous operation on the East Coast.  It is open to the public on weekends from April to October.  I think it looks so well kept and pretty.  Plus, my grandmother spent a few years in Havre de Grace growing up so I’d like to see what the town is like.

Thomas Point Lighthouse is 1 ½ miles offshore in the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the South River.  The lighthouse was completed and commissioned in 1875 and was manned until 1986 when it was automated.  It is one of nine lighthouses in the country that are designated as a National Historic Landmark.  It seems to be a popular lighthouse and arguably the most recognized Maryland lighthouse amongst Marylanders; however, not many have been to it because of its location.  The Annapolis Maritime Museum’s Barge House offers just a few boat tours out to the lighthouse each summer.  These three-hour tours are said to involve “physical exertion” because you’ll need to climb up a steep ladder and through a small hatch on the lighthouse deck.  Also, there are no toilet facilities on the tour.  So, please be sure to get more information before planning this trip.
Blackistone Lighthouse is on St. Clement’s Island, which is the site of Maryland’s birthplace.  In 1634, 140 English settlers landed here to establish America’s fourth British colony.  The 40-acre island offers not only tours of the Blackistone Lighthouse, but also pier and docking facilities, a sandy beach, and picnic areas.  You can take a water taxi over to the island from the St. Clement’s Island Museum in Colton’s Point.
Today’s post is just half of my top 10 wish list of places I still want to check out in Maryland.  Come back soon for part 2.

* Pictures found online.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Maryland – Places I’ve Been – Part 2

During my last post, I shared the 1st half of my favorite places to visit and some good things to know before you visit the historic state of Maryland.  Here is part two.

Located southwest of Baltimore, Patapsco Valley State Park is Maryland’s oldest state park (established in 1907).  A few years back, two of my friends (Anna and Rob) and I hiked a very small portion of the 70 miles of their maintained trails.  You can also fish, camp, canoe, mountain bike, and horseback within the park.  We stuck to the Avalon/Orange Grove/Glen Artney areas of the park.  Trail maps are available on information boards located throughout the park or for purchase online, at the visitor center, or at the park’s headquarters.  We walked past the Bloede’s Dam and walked across the swinging bridge.  You can walk at Patapsco Park a lot and still not see the same thing twice.  Perfect.
I spent many weeks as a kid on the New Jersey shore boardwalks.  So when my friend, Ketina, took me to the Ocean City Boardwalk a few years ago, I was reminded of my summers as a kid – food, sand, food, people watching, ocean smells and sounds, food, walking along the boardwalk, did I mention the food?  Ocean City Boardwalk isn’t as long as some of the ones in Jersey that I grew up with but it’s still nice.  It’s the traditional boardwalk with popcorn (my friend Ketina likes Fisher’s popcorn), pizza, ice cream/frozen custard (Kohr Brothers is yummy), rides/games, tourist souvenir shops, etc, but Ocean City also has Maryland crab cakes and Thrasher’s Fries, which are great.  Here’s a list of 100 free Ocean City activities you might want to check out if you plan to visit there.

Every state has beautiful back roads, and Maryland is no exception.  One of those roads is the Historic National Road, which was the nation’s first federally funded interstate highway going from Baltimore, MD to the mighty Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri.  It traverses 824 miles through six states, including 170 miles within Maryland.  I drove along the eastern Maryland section (Baltimore to Hagerstown) back in May and it was beautiful.  This section parallels I-70 and takes you through all the small towns you would normally bypass, such as Ellicott City, which I spoke of in my last post.  It makes for a great lazy Sunday afternoon drive.
Maryland has some beautiful Civil War Battlefields such as Monocacy and Antietam, both of which I visited for the first time this past May.  Monocacy Battlefield is located two miles south of Frederick and it’s the battle that saved Washington, DC in the summer of 1864.  It has a small visitor center that shows a great timeline of all the events before and after the battle.  Before leaving the visitor center, be sure to pick up a helpful free self-guided auto tour brochure.  The route totals approximately 6 miles round-trip.  If you have kids, be sure to bring along a copy of the scavenger hunt for them to complete on your visit to keep them entertained. 

The Battle of Antietam is said to be the bloodiest one-day battle in American history having 23,000 soldiers killed, wounded, or missing after only 12 hours of combat back in 1862.  You should take the self-guided 8 ½ mile 11 stop auto tour through the battlefield. 

My two favorite stops along the tour were climbing to the top of the tower on Bloody Lane and visiting the Burnside Bridge. 

Whether you’re into the Civil War or not, I highly recommend the walking trails along both of the battlefields’ self-guided auto tours.  They make great places to get out of the car, get some fresh air, and get some exercise.

I love covered bridges and I found out this past May that Maryland has two Covered Bridges Trails.  I drove along the Frederick County Covered Bridge Trail that has three bridges (Utica Mills, Roddy Road, and Loys Station), and it was neat to explore some of the beautiful back roads, rolling hills, and history of that part of Maryland.

As I mentioned in the Delaware Blog Post, if you’ll be traveling through the Mid-Atlantic area (Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey), you might want to look into getting an EZ Pass for the toll booths.  In Maryland, there are tolls on I-95 at the Baltimore/Delaware boarder area as well as crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis.  If you pay cash for those tolls, you’ll be in a long line, however, the EZ Pass lines run much faster.  Also, when traveling on I-95 north of Baltimore, you should stop at the Maryland House.  It’s a great, clean, and well-light rest area with restaurants, restrooms, a convenience store, and a gas station.
I’ve shared with you my favorite places to visit and some good things to know before you visit Maryland.  In my next post, I’ll share the wish list of places I still want to check out in my state of Maryland.

* Photos taken by Me

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Maryland – Places I’ve Been – Part 1

I’ve lived in Maryland for the past 10 years so it was hard to recommend just a few places in Maryland, but here are some of my favorite places to visit and some good things to know before you visit the historic state of Maryland.

If you don't already, you should know that Maryland is known for its Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs and crab cakes.  One place I’ve gotten some good crabmeat and loved the view is at Captain Billy’s Crab House in Newburg along the Potomac River. 
My friend, Ketina, took me there and I’ll admit it’s out in the middle of NOWHERE, but it was so peaceful, and the food was good.  Maryland is also known for its Old Bay Seasoning and they use it with EVERYTHING from steamed shrimp to crabmeat to even cookies.  I prefer to keep it on my shrimp, crabmeat, and on my french fries, but not sure about cookies.

The Annapolis Dock is the perfect place to see old-fashioned Maryland. 
It’s awesome because of its quaint boutiques, narrow cobblestone roads, the Naval Academy, and beautiful old taverns, such as Middleton Tavern.  Middleton Tavern, established in 1750, is right at the dock and has outdoor seating to give you a great place to people watch, boat watch, and eat a yummy Chesapeake Bay crab cake.  While in Annapolis, visit our state capitol building.  On their free tour, you can see parts of the old capitol building they’ve left untouched.
Right outside of Annapolis and along the Chesapeake Bay, I like to visit South Beach at Sandy Point State Park.  I go to swim, people watch, and boat watch, but they also offer fishing, crabbing, boating, and camping.  Being on the bay, you’ll see a lot of boat and ship traffic coming in and going out of Baltimore Harbor.  South Beach is also near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which takes you to the Eastern Shore area of Maryland.

Pictures taken by my friend Anna

Baltimore (or “Bawlmer” as the locals say) is another quintessential Maryland spot.  You can walk along the inner harbor area, see all the fancy boats, and check out the restaurants, shops and fudge place in the Harbor Place Mall.  My favorite restaurant in Harbor Place is a yummy and truly Irish pub called Tir Na Nog, but if seafood is what you want, we also have Phillips Seafood Restaurant.  If you want a great view and picture of the harbor, I suggest a walk up Federal Hill, but you had better have some sneakers on because there are quite a lot of steps up to the top.  However, it’s worth it.

My friend, Ketina, has recently introduced me to another cute Baltimore neighborhood along the waterfront, Fells Point.  She became a fan of Fells Point neighborhood because of her favorite tv show, Homicide, which was filmed in Fells Point. 
Fells Point Pier
Photo from friend Ketina
Fells Point has kept its historic atmosphere with cobblestone roads and many buildings on the National Register list, one of which is the oldest saloon in America, The Horse You Came In On, which was established in 1775.  While we were there, we had breakfast at the Blue Moon Café, which has been on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives TV Show for their famous Captain Crunch French Toast.  I instead had their AMAZING seasonal sweet potato pancakes with spiced apples on top.  Yummy!  The café isn’t that big so you might want to get there really early to beat the rush.

Hampden is an interesting Baltimore neighborhood that I discovered with some friends at Christmas time a few years ago.  During the month of December, Hamden’s 34th Street hosts an awesome and outrageous Christmas lights display.  You probably can see it from the sky!

Hampden is also famous for the Honfest.  It’s a pretty interesting and fun festival to visit.  Hon, is Bawlmerese’s (name of the local dialect) term of endearment bestowed upon by historic working women of Baltimore.  Honfest is an annual celebration in honor of these women.  The women who want to become the Best Hon are women of ALL ages with beehive hairdos, bright blue eye shadow, spandex pants and anything with leopard print! 
Picture from Honfest's Website
If you go and are feeling left out, you can even pay someone to give you the hon hairdo.  If you can’t visit during Honfest, check out the Hon Bar and Café Hon open year round.

Before leaving Baltimore, everyone should visit Fort McHenry.  The defense of this fort in the Battle of Baltimore (September 1814) inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  It has a very well done movie in the visitor center that all should see.

Ellicott City is a great place to go to stroll, window shop at the boutiques, listen to bands on the street, have a fancy meal, or just to watch Baltimore Ravens football and Orioles baseball, or simply “the O’s,” on tv at one of the bars.  Ellicott City is also home to the oldest surviving railroad station in America (completed in 1830) and the original terminus of the first 13 miles of commercial track ever constructed in America.  In the 1970's, the Ellicott City Train Station was restored as a museum and a second restoration in 1999 returned the building to its 1857 appearance.

Today’s post is just half of my favorite places to visit and some good things to know before you visit Maryland.  Come back soon for part 2.

*Pictures taken by me unless noted