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Waterfront view of Annaplois

Like the tides, the coastline of Annapolis flows in and out of the country's largest estuary, Chesapeake Bay. Not only is the city the capital of Maryland, but it's also "America's Sailing Capital." In or out of the water, you're in for a nautical experience.

City Dock

Years ago when I sailed into Annapolis on a friend's boat, we tied up at City Dock, like others have done for 300 years. This year I approached it by water taxi (www.cruisesonthebay.com/Annapolis-water-taxi).

The forest of sailboat masts still bobbed on the water and the mass of seafood restaurants and assorted shops still surrounded the square. But this time, a new monument had been added: the Alex Haley Memorial. A group of sculptures depicts the author of the book, Roots, reading to a gathering of children. Haley's ancestor and hero of the book, Kunta Kinte, is said to have landed on City Dock in 1767 off the slave ship, Lord Ligonier.

The Alex Haley Memorial  on City Dock in Annapolis
The Alex Haley Memorial can be found on City Dock. (Photo courtesy of VisitAnnapolis.org)

United States Naval Academy

The US Naval Academy (www.usnabsd.com/for-visitors) helped put Annapolis on the global map. Founded in 1845 as a naval school on ten acres, it became the United States Naval Academy in 1850, and now encompasses 338 acres. The public may visit the grounds and some buildings on guided tours. Our volunteer docent, Wayne Fritz, was a 1957 alumnus, who shared interesting antidotes and facts, such as Wesley Brown, in 1949, was the first African American to graduate from the Academy and Navy's superiority to Army on the football field. He walked us around the "Yard" (or campus). In Lejeune Hall, we viewed the Athletic Hall of Fame that displayed photographs of the Academy's star athletes, like Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys and David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs. We also saw students swimming fully clothed in an Olympic-size pool and jumping from a high diving platform as preparation for abandoning ship. Other buildings of interest are the chapel and the museum.

Noon formation of sailors at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Picture windows depicting african American history in tAnnapolis.
Noon formation takes place at the US Naval Academy. (Photo courtesy of VisitAnnapolis.org) Annapolis black history is depicted in a
colored glass window by African American
artist Loring Cornish of Baltimore.
(Photo by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel)

Be sure to view the noon formation as hundreds of midshipmen (and women) head off to lunch. Since 1905, a military pageantry complete with bagpipes, a marching band, swords, flags and blocks of student formations perform in front of tourists. Of course, they played "Anchors Away" and "The Halls of Montezuma." After the workout, the student body marched into the dining hall.

American history "Must-Sees"

Partially lodged in the former Mt. Moriah AME Church is the Banneker-Douglass Museum (www.bdmuseum.Maryland.gov), Maryland's official museum for African American heritage. It's named after two exceptional black Marylanders: Benjamin Banneker and Frederick Douglass. Others born in the Old Line State who distinguished themselves are also remembered, like Harriet Tubman and Matthew Henson (ancestor of actress Taraji P. Henson). As you enter the modern addition, you'll notice a two-storied colored glass window created by Baltimore artist Loring Cornish. It ties the spirit of the church to Maryland's African American history.

The museum focuses on the positive contributions of African Americans in all contexts in the history of the United States. "Africans coming to America weren't just blank slates," says Dr. Joni Floyd, Executive Director. Lifelike dioramas, exhibits and authentic objects describe their contributions, knowledge and skills. Galleries feature the legacies of slavery, the Underground Railroad, military matters, collegiate sports and more.  One of the interactive objects challenges you to fit yourself into a box the same size as the shipping container Lear Green, a female slave, escaped in. Dr. Floyd demonstrated that feat for me.

Woman fittedinto shipping container at museum in Annapolis
Dr. Joni Floyd, Executive Director of Banneker Douglass Museum, fits herself into a
replica of a shipping container. (Photo by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel)

Beginning December 1, the museum will host a temporary six-month exhibition, "Jumping the Broom." When you go, start with the ten minute video, and plan on spending one and one-half hours at the museum. Admission is free, and 100,000 people visit annually.

During the 1760s, one of Maryland's four Signers of the Declaration of Independence, William Paca, built one of 19th century America's finest homes. Paca sold it in 1780 to another family, but the house eventually fell into many uses – even as a hotel. But careful restoration by Historic Annapolis which began in 1965 has turned it into a National Historic Landmark.

Found on the two-acre city estate is a formal garden whose plantings are authentic to that era. In the rear of the garden is a summerhouse that was painstaking copied from an historic painting discovered inside the house. I crossed a fish-shaped pond to enter the charming little building, and climbed to the top for a spectacular view of the garden. Go to www.Annapolis.org for information on self- and guided tours of the home and the gardens.

paca house and garden in annapolis
Don't miss touring the Paca House and Garden. (Photo by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel)

View the eight-foot statue of famed United States Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall at the Lawyers Mall at the State House. The plaza honors the accomplishments of the first African American appointed to the high court. As an attorney for the NAACP, Marshall fought for equal justice for all. In 1954, he won the case of Brown versus the Board of Education in the Supreme Court. The landmark decision outlawed segregation in America's schools.

Thurgood Marshal memorial at Lawyers Mall in annapolis
View the memorial to Justice Thurgood Marshall at the Lawyers' Mall.
(Photo courtesy of VisitAnnapolis.org)

The figures on the benches within the site represent students who benefitted from the decision, and all around the circle is a chronology of Marshall's extensive achievements.

Crab is king

And I don't mean king crab, but the small blue crabs found in the Chesapeake Bay. Celebrated throughout the Mid-Atlantic States is the Maryland crab cake. Sweet and succulent – fried or broiled -- it's formed with nothing but jumbo lump crabmeat. So where to find a good one in Annapolis? Almost anywhere and everywhere. Of course, each chef incorporates his own special seasonings. I suggest these restaurants which, in addition, may also create other tasty crab dishes.

Boiled Crabs in Annapolis
Maryland blue crabs are Mid-Atlantic favorites. (Photo courtesy of VisitAnnapolis.org)

Galway Bay Irish Pub (www.galwaybaymd.com) serves, not surprisingly, traditional Irish fare, like corned beef and cabbage, but it ventures out with unusual seafood and chicken selections, too. For its crab feast, the pub features Miss Peggy's crab cake dishes. I had the crab cake sandwich for lunch, and it was one of the best I've ever eaten.

Chick and Ruth's Delly (www.chickandruths.com) just marked its 50th anniversary. The second generation owners have continued the tradition of an unbelievably giant-size menu that lists giant-size portions, like a nine pound milkshake. I ate breakfast there, and, even in the morning, crab showed up in omelets and Eggs Benedict. The rest of the day, the deli's motto is: Crab Cake Central. But if you go for breakfast, get there in time to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

For upscale dining, Carrol's Creek Waterfront Restaurant (www.carrolscreek.com) is the place. Housed on a wharf with a view of pleasure crafts docked outside, the ambiance is casually elegant. The menu includes a variety of food options, and I must admit that by this time, I was crabbed-out. So I selected Pan-Seared Scallops (another morsel from Chesapeake Bay). My dinner companion also passed on their tempting crab cakes, and chose instead a landlubber's Grilled Filet Mignon.

Fortunately, you don't have to wait for summer to visit Annapolis, because there's always something going on. Check for happenings at www.VisitAnnapolis.org. 




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