By Erin Caine
If you live in Maryland, you don’t have to go very far at all to entertain yourself this summer. The waterfront shops and various holes-in-the-wall of downtown Annapolis and the trendy markets and museums of Washington, D.C. provide plenty of excitement and exploration. For those who have never been to either city and for those who have been but are only familiar with the tourist traps, here’s a list of unique locations, both popular and off-the-radar, to spend a sunny day:
1. Botanic Garden (D.C.). This United States Botanic Garden is located in a familiar place, just on the grounds of the Capitol Building. It’s open every day of the year, so you don’t have to worry about when to go for a visit, and is the oldest continually operating garden in the country. If you visit, you’re treated to a variety of over 10,000 plants, some of them over 165 years old, and a number of unique habitats. There are rare and endangered plants, medicinal plants, and even desert species, among others. If you visit with friends, you can take in the colorful sights together and snap some artsy photos while you’re at it. A place to look out for is the Orchid House, which hosts all shades and shapes of striking orchid flowers.
2. Eastern Market (D.C.). Completed in 1873, the Eastern Market is situated in the neighborhood of Capitol Hill. It has a vast indoor market as well as one of the nation’s most diverse flea markets just outside. The vendors line 7th street every Sunday, selling everything from art, photography, and handmade jewelry to clothing, antiques, and furniture. For those looking for a rich and vibrant experience in the nation’s capital, this is one of the places to explore. While you’re there, you can also check out the lovely used book store at the top of C Street, Capitol Hill Books, and then hit up an Eastern Market favorite, “The Freshmobile,” which serves their own special brand of smoothie.
3. Maryland Avenue (Annapolis). Though most spend their visit walking up and down Main Street, on the other side of the State House is Maryland Avenue, lined by charming and nostalgic-looking shops and restaurants. All in one place is a boutique, a record store, antiques, a flower shop, a pub, a café, and two bookstores. The Annapolis Bookstore has a mixed assortment of new, used, and antique books, and all kinds of unusual sections to explore, such as its extensive collection of nautical books, or its philosophy section. The next block over is Old Fox Books, a hidden gem with a serene atmosphere, both a bookstore and a café in one. Down the spiral staircase into the lower level, you’ll find even more books.
4. Chick & Ruth’s Delly (Annapolis). It’s hard to miss a bright orange sign on Main Street, and it’s even harder to miss the sight of customers ordering milkshakes bigger than their heads. Ever since the diner first opened in 1965, locals have considered it, like the spire of the Maryland State House, an indispensable part of the town’s scenery and culture. In addition to serving all sorts of handmade pies (24 available daily) and “super-duper colossal” cheeseburgers, the joint is famous for its six-pound milkshakes (the perfect thing to order when you have a group of friends together.) Chick & Ruth’s menu is so legendary even Man v. Food’s Adam Richman had to pay the diner a visit.