Fantastic Road Trip Series (2 of 3): Destinations within 50 miles of Laurel

roadtrip50Looking for something to do in driving distance. There are many day trips within 50 miles of Laurel. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day on the beach, an educational trip or an adventurous day of boating hiking, you can find something to please everyone. See how many you can cross off your list!

Beaching it:
Sandy Point State Park
Sandy Point State Park is a 786-acre Maryland State Park overlooking the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. Located in Anne Arundel County, the park sits along the northwestern shore of the Chesapeake Bay near the Bay Bridge. The park opened in the 1950s and offered an array of activities including lifeguarded beaches, swimming, picnicking, fishing, crabbing, boating, and hiking. A marina is on the property offering boat rentals or boat ramps for easy access if you tow your boat. The park is home to the historic Sandy Point Farmhouse, a 1700s mansion that can be seen from the main road but is currently closed to the public. A few things to keep in mind when planning your visit, the park is a ‘Trash Free’ park so plan to take your trash with you, the park fills to capacity often on the summer weekends, the park has a snack center and shower facilities and there is a charge of $3-$7 per person to enter the park. Sandy Point State Park is home to many festivals and events like the Special Olympics Polar Bear Plunge and the Maryland Seafood Festival.

Chesapeake Beach
Chesapeake Beach is a bayside community in Calvert County offering outstanding scenic views of the Chesapeake Bay. There’s something for everyone; you’ll find secluded beaches for the beach lover, marinas to launch your boat, charter a fishing boat or boat rentals for the boating enthusiasts and a water park for the adventure seeking. Enjoy waterfront dining and some of Maryland’s best seafood, the Rod N Reel is a must. Stop by the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum and take in a little history. As a thriving resort destination in the 1900s, the train station that once brought vacationers to the area remains open as a museum.

Gunpowder Falls State Park
Enjoy the sounds of rolling water, beautiful scenery and breathtaking waterfalls. Located in Harford and Baltimore Counties, Gunpowder Falls State Park is one of Maryland’s largest state parks. The park is divided into six areas each offering a different experience. The Hereford area offers hiking, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. The Torrey C Brown Trail and Central area are a favorite among hikers, as is the Sweet Air area which also offers horseback riding along with hiking. The Hammerman area is perfect if you are looking for a place to relax. There you will find a lifeguarded beach with swimming, various playgrounds, and pavilions for picnicking. Keep in mind this is a highly visited area during summer weekends, and they often reach capacity so plan appropriately. The Dundee Creek area is home to the Dundee Creek Marina where you can launch your boat or rent a boat. There is also a fishing area and archery range. A few additional highlights are the historic Jerusalem Mill, the quaint Mill Pond Cottage and local tubing and bike rentals. With more than 120 miles of trails, streams, and wildlands, Gunpowder Falls State Park will keep you coming back for more. Entry fees vary according to the area of the park, see their website for more information.

Mount Vernon Trail
The Mount Vernon Trail is an 18-mile trail located along the scenic Potomac River. The trail runs from the historic Theodore Roosevelt Island in Arlington. The trail is paved making it popular with bikers and skaters along with hikers, walkers, and runners. The trail takes you through Old Town Alexandria. This quaint little town is home to some of the best waterfront dining and shopping. Take a self-guided tour of George Washington’s historic 18th-century plantation in Mount Vernon. Explore the gardens, the distillery, family tombs and the beautifully restored mansion. Get your history fill with the on-site museum, education center, and theater. At the other end of the trail is the Theodore Roosevelt Island. This island has been restored to resemble the 1930s landscape that once covered the island and is a memorial to the 26th President of the United States.

Arts and Museums:
Torpedo Factory Art Center
Torpedo Factory Art Center has been a landmark in Alexandria for over 40 years. Housed in an old munitions plant on the Potomac riverfront you will find an array of artwork. This is an inspirational and educational experience for the art lover as the collection is one of the nation’s largest under one roof. Everyone will find something they love as the collection includes photography, ceramics, painting, sculpture, stained glass and many more types of artwork. Take a stab at it yourself by signing up for one of their art classes or workshops. Who knows, maybe you’re the next Picasso! Torpedo Factory Art Center is open to the public and entry is free. Visit their website for more information and to see a list of artists on display.

Babe Ruth Birth Place and Museum
Babe Ruth Birth Place and Museum will entice baseball fans and all other sports fans alike. Babe Ruth is a baseball legend and what better place to house his museum than the tiny Baltimore row house that served as his birthplace. The museum is located three blocks from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. A group of Baltimore history buffs and local Babe Ruth fanatics saved the row home from demolition in the 1960s and by 1974 the non-profit Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation opened the doors to the museum. Over the years the museum has grown to include memorabilia from the Baltimore Orioles, the Baltimore Colts, NFL quarterback legend Johnny Unitas, the Maryland Collegiate Hall of Fame just to name a few. The 60 baseballs painted on the sidewalk from the Babe Ruth statue at the ballpark to the Museum will lead the way. Admission ranges from $4-$7.

National Air and Space Museum Steven Udvar-Hazy Center
You may have already visited the Air and Space Museum in DC but have you been to the Steven Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia? The sister facility to the museum on the National Mall opened its doors in 2003. With two large hangars, the museum displays thousands of air and space artifacts. Some of the highlights of the collection are the Space Shuttle Discovery, a Concorde supersonic airliner, the Enola Gay Boeing B-29 which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. There is an observation tower that gives you a bird’s-eye view of Dulles International Airport and an IMAX theater. Ever wonder how they restore and preserve collections like this, see for yourself as you gaze into the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar and watch as they work on the many National Air and Space Museum’s collections. Open every day except December 25th and admission is free.