Looking ahead to places to see and things to do in Maryland during 2012, two historical commemorations figure prominently: the bicentennial of the War of 1812 begins in June and events that mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War continue throughout the year.
"The commemorations are headliners," says Margot Amelia, executive director of the Maryland Office of Tourism. "And, they are gateways for experiencing more of what the state has to offer". Visitors who tour the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, for instance, will be in an area that's home to a cluster of wineries in Frederick and Carroll counties. They could also see the 'Bridges of Washington County' - 22 stone-arch bridges and aqueducts that are close to or in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
"This is an opportune time to consider the variety of destinations available in our state," Amelia adds. "We encourage residents and visitors, alike, to enjoy authentic Maryland experiences throughout the upcoming year."
Each month, the state's tourism office spotlights a single travel theme. Here is a list of travel suggestions that reflect the variety of destinations and events that will be highlighted on a month-by-month basis in 2012:
May (horses) - Maryland's equine heritage is in the spotlight at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course for the 137th Preakness Stakes, May 19. The race is the middle jewel of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown and the culmination of a week's worth of events at the track and around town. Sunrise tours of Pimlico, or "Old Hilltop," run May 16-18. In 1873, Pimlico's infield was the site of the first-recognized steeplechase race.
June (Flag Month) - Star-Spangled Sailabration - an international maritime festival, June 13-19, at Baltimore's Inner Harbor - launches the three-year Maryland War of 1812 bicentennial period. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels - making their first Baltimore appearance - jet across the skies over Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in the Star-Spangled Air Show, June 16-17.
July (buy local) - Howard County's Farm2Table Summer Restaurant Weeks offers diners a chance to try pre-fixe menus that feature locally grown products at a variety of independent restaurants in the county. Also in July, Maryland's Buy Local Challenge encourages visitors and residents to eat at least one thing from a local farm during the Challenge week. "Pick your own" at one of Maryland's more than 100 farmers' markets. The Tacoma Park Farmers Market in Montgomery County, for instance, is open Sundays, year-round.
August (family fun) - Take the family to a baseball game. The Baltimore Orioles are an obvious choice. Maryland has six minor-league teams, too. The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, for instance, play in Waldorf (Charles County) at Regency Furniture Stadium. Oriole legend Brooks Robinson is a co-owner of the team. Other teams play in Hagerstown, Frederick, Bowie, Aberdeen and Salisbury.
September ("Land of the Free") - Maryland, My Maryland - a re-enactment of the 1862 battles of South Mountain and Antietam with more than 3,000 volunteer re-enactors - takes place in Boonsboro (Washington County), Sept. 8-9, in tribute to the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War's Maryland Campaign. September was also the month in which the Battle of Baltimore (War of 1812) occurred.
October (spirits of Maryland) - Pub crawls, ghost tours or combinations of the two offer spirited Halloween fun. Haunted Pub Crawl of Historic Annapolis is a two-hour walking tour. Similar strolls are available in two storied sections of Baltimore - Fell's Point and Mt. Vernon. And, in Howard County, the Spirits of Ellicott City Ghost Tours run monthly.
November (Chesapeake Bay art) - The annual Waterfowl Festival, held in and around Easton (Talbot County), Nov. 9-11, celebrates wildlife and the Chesapeake Bay lifestyle with an exposition of bay-inspired artwork - paintings, sculpture, carvings and photography - and collectible decoys and sporting gear. Proceeds benefit wildlife conservation. The festival is a signature event for the exhibition of Chesapeake Bay art.
December (Maryland in lights) - Lights of the season run the gamut from the annual memorial illumination at Antietam National Battlefield to candlelight tours to holiday light displays. Two yearly lighted boat parades are in Rock Hall (Kent County) and Annapolis. You can also add a visit to a lighthouse. Maryland has two dozen of them.
To receive free Maryland travel information - Destination Maryland, Maryland Calendar of Events and a state highway map - by mail, call 800-719-5900. More information is available on the tourism office's web site, VisitMaryland.org.
About Maryland tourism
The Maryland Office of Tourism is an agency of the Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts within the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Recently reported visitor data shows that the state welcomed more than 32 million visitors in 2010. In 2009, visitors spent nearly $13.7 billion on travel-related expenses - generating close to $1.6 billion in state and local taxes and providing 134,000 jobs to Maryland residents.