Eastern Shore with Kids

Old Oct 13th, 2009, 08:41 PM
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Eastern Shore with Kids

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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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 05:09 PM
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Are there other kid-friendly restaurants or places to visit on the Eastern Shore?
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 09:29 AM
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I don't know if you've seen this, but the Maryland DNR is looking for comments and suggestions about the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Byway that is in the planning stages. Here's the link to their survey.


As for other kid friendly places on the Eastern Shore - Tuckahoe State Park has a lake with a nice picnic area and a large playground. You can rent canoes and do an easy paddle up Tuckahoe Creek. It's very pretty. In some places the trees along the banks reach across the creek and create a shady canopy. You'll see lots of turtles and birds. The park also has a Frisbee golf course.

Tuckahoe and it's sister park, Martinak, are surprisingly beautiful in the fall when the leaves turn colorful.
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 10:19 AM
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Here's some more information about the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway project:



It's being developed by a coalition including the Maryland Office of Tourism Development and the State Highway Administration (not the MD DNR, sorry).
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Old Oct 17th, 2009, 07:42 PM
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Thanks for forwarding information about the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway project. The survey was closed. I think it might make sense to install more displays in the Visitor Center at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. That seems to be a major focus for visitors in the Cambridge, MD area and is relatively close to the Brodess Farm in Bucktown where she lived (and was allegedly born).

We'll try Tuckahoe State Park. Also, I read about Pickering Creek Audubon Center (about 9 miles north of Easton). Is that worth a stopover for the kids? How about Chestertown or other towns in the northern part of the Delmarva peninsula?
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Old Oct 18th, 2009, 03:14 PM
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We picked up a flier about the survey on Labor Day weekend and my husband filled it out on line a few days later. So it might not be too late to send your suggestions to them via email. These were my husband's suggestions (although most of them are probably what the planners already have in mind):

1. guided canoe/hiking trips following the routes escaping slaves would have taken.
2. occasional programs with reenactors in period costumes (like Annapolis and Williamsburg)
3. brochures for self-guided hiking and waterway trails
4. convenient pullover stops with signage along roadways

I've never been to Pickering Creek Audobon Center. It looks interesting. We'll have to check it out sometime.

Kids usually love crabbing. It's too late in the season now, but next summer you can take them to crab off the piers at Matapeake State Park or Romancoke on Kent Island.

One other thing your family might enjoy that we did last summer is the Maryland DNR Park Quest. It's specifically for families. We completed easy quests at Maryland parks thoughout the state. In August, the DNR held a big picnic with additional challenges and prizes for all the families that successfuly completed at least eight out of the 14 quests. They require at least one child from every family to participate in each challenge so everyone has a good chance to win. We had a great time.

Here's last year's website:
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