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Trip Report Eastern Shore with Kids

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This is a trip report with highlights from an October 10-12th visit to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My wife, two sons (4 years old; 2 years old), and I travelled to St. Michaels, Cambridge, and Easton.

1. Chesapeake Maritime Museum - this nice outdoor museum provided several kid-friendly options for the boys. They played in the mini-skipjack (oystering boat), climbed the stairs to the lighthouse, and enjoyed looking over the pier to see little sea nettles (baby jellyfish) in the water. I found the description of African-American beaches on the 2nd floor of the main exhibit space to be very interesting. Also, it's a great place to learn about the history of oystering in the region. We spent nearly 2 hours here because the boys were having fun exploring.

2. St. Michaels - very quaint town that's a bit touristy. Ava's Pizzeria looked delicious and was packed at 1pm. We had to do a "McD's" pit stop and rest room break on the way to the museum, but would have stopped at Ava's Pizzeria otherwise.

3. Oxford-Bellevue Ferry - this short 15-20 minute trip on the ferry was a highlight for the boys. They enjoyed watching the birds flying near the water. Only 6 cars can fit on the boat, but you can get out of the car to admire the scenery. It's especially scenic to approach Oxford. Lots of bicycle riders on the ferry (biking is popular in the area because of the flat terrain).

4. Cambridge - stayed at the Hyatt Chesapeake Resort, which is a great deal ($99 to $149) if you can find a package (use SALE99). Otherwise, the rooms can be a bit expensive at full price ($300 per night). Kids enjoyed s'mores at the outdoor hearth, swimming in the indoor pool (which is beautiful and full of huge windows that let in lots of sunlight), playing mini-golf, and walking by the marina. Rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated. Restaurants are expensive, but I noticed some families had breakfast in the foyer after purchasing muffins at the Bay Shore "market store". This is a very kid-friendly resort and you don't have to spend too much if you go outside for meals.

5. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge - well worth the drive from the Hyatt resort to experience the calm waters and observe schools of fish and eagle's nests. I liked the stopover at the Harriet Tubman birthplace (Brodess estate), but it would be great if a museum at that site could be dedicated to the Underground Railroad. The museum and educational center in downtown Cambridge is very nice (wonderful staff!), but they need funding to attract more visitors. I think the history of Harriet Tubman should be presented in a more accessible way.

6. Hoopers Island - this was a long, out of the way, but scenic drive. It was beautiful to see the water and stop by Old Salty's for a snack, but I'm not sure the long drive was worth it. Food at Old Salty's was decent, nothing great.

7. Easton - we accidentally discovered a fantastic kid's playground at Idylwild Park (on S. Washington Street near the Third Haven Meeting House). It has a spongy surface for kids to enjoy and a great array of things for kids to climb on. Our boys spent about an hour here and were sad to leave. Went to lunch at Mason's, which surprisingly had a kid's menu. Delicious stop, but we were nervous about the boys going berserk in a confined space. Fortunately, the hour spent at the playground calmed them somewhat. We did see other kids eating at the Legal Spirits Tavern. Had coffee and a snack at the Coffee Bar on Goldsborough St. Nice space and casual setting - we enjoyed a few minutes of peace before our 2 yr. old began his "pre-meltdown" fit of restlessness.

I think the Eastern Shore of MD has several great attractions that are kid-friendly. Would definitely stay at the Hyatt Resort again if a package deal comes up. Cambridge is a real "diamond in the rough" and likely to become more developed in a few years. It's well worth a visit to see this down-to-earth town before the process of gentrification accelerates. Personally, I hope the Harriet Tubman foundation receives additional state and federal funding to produce a world-class museum!

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