The Very Best of Maryland

Did you know that Maryland has the reputation of being “America in miniature?” Excluding the desert, almost every naturally occurring feature can be found somewhere in Maryland. Because of this, there truly is something to peak everyone’s interests when visiting the Old Line State.

Note that if you do plan to visit each of the cities/towns I’m mentioning in this Best of Maryland post, it is best to rent a car or drive your own. They are about 1-3 hours away from each other, and the public transportation options aren’t the greatest. You can save yourself a huge headache by driving yourself.

ocean city pier

Ocean City

Days 1-3

I’m a big fan of starting slow on vacations, so my first recommendation is spending three days in Ocean City. Many of my summer (and even winter!) nights and days were spent in Ocean City with family and friends. While the beach is great–and rest assured that you can always find a spot of sand–the real fun is on the boardwalk.

There is nothing better than cruising the boardwalk on a summer night with a tub of hot and delicious Thrasher’s boardwalk fries in your hand. It is absolutely vital to stop at one of their three locations every time you visit Ocean City. Trust me, when you smell them cooking, your nose will guide you right over anyway!

Aside from having easygoing restaurants and kitschy but cute stores, the boardwalk also has two areas for rides and carnival style games, both of which are located near the inlet. Trimper’s Rides is very family friendly, with all of the indoor rides and games geared toward smaller kids. Just a few yards away are the outside rides meant for bigger kids and adults, although there are some kiddie rides too. Riders can purchase single tickets (75 cents), sheets of tickets ($23/sheet), or wristbands ($28) which allow unlimited indoor and outdoor rides for the day of their visit. Jolly Roger at the Pier, located just a few steps away, keeps thrillseekers on their toes with even more rides and games. Here too little kids and big kids alike can hop on rides to their hearts’ content, and catch some great views of the ocean while they’re at it. Jolly Roger at the Pier offers guests various points packages that allow riders to board rides that cost $26.99-$145.99.

You’ll also want to check out Jolly Roger at its 30th St. location. Here you’ll find more rides for riders of all ages, carnival games, fun mini golf courses, and Splash Mountain, Jolly Roger’s water park. With a ton of huge water slides, a water playground, lazy river, wave pool, and the Splash Mountain mermaids, you are sure to find a million fun ways to beat the summer heat.

And after you’ve had enough of the sun and sand, head out in the evening to Seacrets for a lively night out. Located right on the water, you can hang out inside for the live music and dance floors, or move the party outside to their beach stage.

Staying in one of the hotels right on the beach is ideal, although it will be more expensive. Hotels on the bayside and just outside Ocean City proper will be your best options if you are looking for something more affordable.



Day 4

The 4th day of your trip will take you away from Ocean City to just over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to spend some time in Maryland’s capital.

One of the biggest draws of Annapolis is the US Naval Academy. Visitors can take a public guided tour of the academy’s grounds, gain insights into the training midshipmen receive at the Academy, and visit the USNA Museum.

Just outside the Naval Academy is Ego Alley, a marina filled with docked boats. I’ve noticed during past visits that owners are so eager to talk about their boats. If you’ve ever wondered about anything boat-related, Ego Alley is definitely the place to get your questions answered. This area is also a prime location for people watching, grabbing a bite to eat from one of the many restaurants, or shopping for some Annapolis gear in one of the boutique shops.

After you’ve eaten, take some time to appreciate the cobblestone streets and colonial buildings surrounding you. Then, make your way to the Maryland State House (pictured above), where you will take a self-guided tour to see the assembly room for both houses as well as the room where George Washington delivered his final speech as President. So much incredible history is tucked away in the exhibits! (Fun fact: For a brief moment in our history, the Maryland State House was the nation’s capital.)



Days 5-7

For me, Baltimore feels like a cozy city. Each neighborhood has its own unique vibe. To really get a feel for how interesting Baltimore can be, I strongly recommend making the American Visionary Art Museum one of your first stops. It is easily identifiable on Key Highway by its mirrored facade, the mirrored tree (pictured above) next to it, and a mosaic school bus parked alongside its entrance. While it features works of artists from all over the world, the environment “feels” very Baltimore. Each artist featured in the AVAM is self-taught, and walking in with this knowledge makes you appreciate the talent behind their pieces.

There is also a slew of other interesting museums located in or near the inner harbor including the Maryland Science Center, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the historic ships, the Baltimore Civil War Museum, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, and the National Aquarium. Each is worth taking the time to visit.

After museum hopping, head over to Fell’s Point for more cobblestone streets and trendy restaurants and bars. Cute boutiques can be found in this area too, if you’re looking to do some shopping. You could even opt to do a ghost tour if you’re feeling up for something spooky.

Nightowls looking for somewhere to socialize and experience the city can head to Power Plant Live!, an area where they will find a wide variety of bars, restaurants, comedy clubs, and night clubs. And if you’re still not ready to head home after last call, you could always head over to the Horseshoe Casino to try your luck.

Maryland has so much more to offer

. . . but if you only have one week to spend here, these three stops are your absolute musts. If you haven’t already visited Maryland, I hope this sparked your interest!

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Author bio:


Elaine is a lifestyle blogger passionate about helping people live their best lives on a budget. She currently lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband, two cats Poppie and Jelly, and two dogs Kimchi and Shrimp.



Elaine Maryland has sparked my interest for sure! I would love to visit there someday!

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The Very Best of New Jersey


The Very Best of New Jersey

Yes, you read that title correct.  This post is all about the very best of New Jersey.  I know many of you will scoff at that. New Jersey has long been the butt of jokes in this country.  Those yahoos on “Jersey Shore” didn’t help matters. I’m here to tell you that New Jersey is more than loud Italtians in wife beaters and big hair.

I have lived in New Jersey all of my life. I grew up in the shadow of the capitol, Trenton and currently live near the Pine Barrens. I love my state and really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  But, I’m aware that New Jersey isn’t your first thought when planning a vacation.

I get it, really. All you ever hear about are the bad parts of this state.  But, New Jersey has so much to offer. Let me show you.

  • The Shore

The Shore. The Beach. Whatever you call it, New Jersey has 141 miles of it.  I’m going to tell you my favorite beach in the state. But, first, there are some things you need to know when visiting the Shore.

  1. Most towns require you to purchase a beach tag to use their beaches. These range in price, but usually are around $5-$10/day per adult. Children are usually free, but I advise you to check before you go.  The tags can be purchased at the entrance to the beach or on the boardwalk. If you are caught without a tag, there is a fine of a few hundred dollars. So, just get a beach tag. It helps keep our beaches clean. Beach tags are not needed in the off season (before Memorial Day or after Labor Day).
  2. Parking is hard to find.  If you are going for the day, you will either have to hunt for a metered parking spot or pay a premium to park in a lot.  If I know I’m going to be there for more than a couple hours, I will splurge for the parking lot. FYI, off season (before Memorial Day or after Labor Day) you can usually find free street parking.
  3. The seagulls are quite aggressive and will steal food from your hands.  You’ve been warned.

Ocean City is my absolute favorite beach town.  It is perfect for families with small children. There is a large Boardwalk with rides, mini golf, and arcades. There are lots of great restaurants.  The beach is beautiful and clean, and beach tags aren’t too expensive.

One caveat, Ocean City is a dry town.  You can not purchase alcohol anywhere in town. But, don’t worry there are liquor stores strategically located on either end of the island, just over the town line. However, because it is a dry town, you don’t have the loud, obnoxious tourists like you do in other beach towns. Ocean City is not a party town.  It is a family destination.

So, grab some Jilly Fries, a Kohr’s ice cream cone, and settle down for a relaxing day at the beach.

  • Amusement Parks

For a small state, NJ has a lot of great Amusement Parks.  Not only does every boardwalk have rides and attractions, but we also have theme parks for every age group.

image1 (2)

By Storybook Land –, FAL,

Storybook Land is the best place to take toddlers and preschoolers for a day of fun. The park is celebrating its 60th year and it easy to see why it has been in business for so long.  The park is clean and never too crowded (except during holidays and special events). There is plenty of shade and cool down areas.  And, the theming is charming and nostalgic. The park looks very much like it did when it opened back 60 years ago.

I’ve been taking my son here since he was a little over a year old. Even at that young age, he could go on just about every ride.  There aren’t any big rollercoasters or thrill rides here. The scariest ride they have is the little caterpillar kiddie coaster. Everything else is perfect for the littlest rider.  

Parking is free and you can bring your own food and drinks if you don’t want to eat the park food.  Like all amusement parks in NJ, they are open from Spring to Fall, though hours are limited to weekends during non-summer months.

If you have a truck lover between the ages for 3 and 10, Diggerland USA is a must.  My 4yo and I visited fort he first time recently and he loved it. I’m glad I got a membership because we are going to be there a lot.

Diggerland USA has a very simple theme, trucks.  Construction trucks to be exact. And, lots of them.  Every ride features some sort of truck or moving vehicle. There are trucks that you child can drive (they may have to sit in your lap to do it, but it doesn’t hinder the fun).  There are trucks they can dig with (diggers, duh). They even have a truck themed carousel.

We spent 4 hours there and my son was planning his next visit before we even left the parking lot.  Confession, this place is really just for the truck lovers. It is definitely not someplace I would choose to go if I didn’t have a little boy.

Parking is free, but you can’t bring outside food into the park.  There also is no shade anywhere in this park. And, since most of the rides require kids under 48” to be lap riders, single parents of multiple children will want to bring a friend or family member to help out.

The king of the theme parks in NJ is Great Adventure. Perfect for older kids, teens, and adults, GA (as we locals call it.  Or maybe is was just my friends) has lots of thrills and entertainment. Not only does Six Flags have some of the best rides in the world, it also features a Safari and water park.

I must confess that I have not been to Great Adventure in years. I’m not a fan of big coasters and thrill rides in general.  Plus, my son really isn’t old enough for those types of rides, yet. However, I spent a lot of time in this park as a kid and I know a lot of people who still love it.  It needs to be on the list of anyone who loves amusement parks.

Park is not free and cost about $25 at the time this post was written. Food is available throughout the park but you may not bring in outside food.

Great Adventure is a little like Disney, you want to do some research before you visit so you can get the most out of your day.

These are just a few things that New Jersey has to offer.  For more info, check out VisitNJ.

About the Author:

Pamela Thompson
I am a Stay-at-home Boymom and blogger at I love to share activities, crafts, recipes, reviews, as well as, my personal experiences as a mom.
You can find me at


Pamela thank you for sharing New Jersey with us! I really want to visit The Shore sometime and Six Flags! I bet my two nephews would love that Diggerland! Super excited to share it with my sister!

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