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The historical towns and villages that surround Washington often call city-dwellers out to play and whether you reside in DC or are just visiting, a fun day trip loaded with shopping, eating, and history might be just what you’re looking for. Use this guide to plan your DC day trip to historic Ellicott City and Maryland’s capitol city, Annapolis.
Check out our DC Tourism Guide, with budget advice, travel guides, and information about local Washington DC attractions.
Located in Howard County, Ellicott City is just a mere 30 miles outside of Washington. To get there take I-495 headed E. Take exit 30A fir US-29 N toward Columbia. Take exit 24A for US-40 E. Continue and follow signs for historic Ellicott City.
Two hour street parking is available on Main Street as well as various parking lots, both free and fee based. Parking on Main Street near the Howard County Tourism and Promotion Welcome Center will allow you bathroom access as well as a display on the railroad and milling history of the town.
For railroad enthusiasts, the B&O Railroad Museum, located at 2711 Maryland Ave., has a lot to offer, as the Ellicott City railroad station is the oldest surviving in America. The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday from 11:00am-4:00pm; admission is $8 for adults, $6 for children (2-12) and $7 for seniors (60+).
For the outdoorsman/woman Patapsco Valley State Park extends along 32 miles of the Patapsco River and offers hiking, fishing, canoeing, camping, mountain bike and horseback trails. The park is located at 8020 Baltimore National Pike and is open from 9:00am to sunset. (This might sound familiar if you’re a Serial fan!)
If you’d rather shop, you’re in luck! Eclectic boutiques line historic Main Street and are packed with handmade house-wares, vintage-chic clothing, assorted jewelry, candles, and items that are just fun to look at. You can find hand-painted signs and crafted tables at Shoemaker Country, and bohemian dresses and cowboy boots at Vintage Bliss Boutique. Housed in an old department store, Sweet Elizabeth Jane offers vintage like kitchen goods, wall hangings, clothes, jewelry and an assortment of trinkets. Ellicott also boasts a number of antique stores where you’ll find a wide range of vintage items in addition to beautifully restored furniture. Wind your way through stores like A Journey from Junk and Joan Eve or read about each piece on the descriptive handwritten price tags at Cottage Antiques.
Take a step back in time with Tea on the Tiber. This Victorian tea parlor complete with a sunroom and library gives visitors a chance to imagine themselves in a bygone era while sipping on English tea and nibbling scones with clotted cream and lemon curd. Book an afternoon tea ($22) here. Open Thursday- through Sunday from 11:00am-5:00pm; reservations fill far in advance. Whether you’re in town for brunch or dinner, there are a variety of culinary delights that await you in Ellicott. Sample cutting-edge Italian at Portalli’s, have a romantic dinner at Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant or try a taste of the south with crab dip and Cajun alligator sautéed Creole style at Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.
A handful of fine drinking establishments also dot Main Street in Ellicott City. Taste the hand-crafted ales at Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. or study the large assortment of crafted drafts and handpicked Scotches at the divey and comfortable Judge’s Bench. Visit the Wine Bin to stock up on a bottle to take home. With nearly 500 wines to choose from and 200 under $20, you’re bound to walk away with a sweet (or dry) selection that won’t break the bank.
From Ellicott City take MD-100 E to exit 13A-B for I-97 S towards Annapolis and continue on to exit 13A. After 13 miles, use the left two lanes to take the US-50 E/US 301 N exit and keep left. Take exit 24 for MD-70/Rowe Blvd toward Annapolis. From Ellicott City the drive is about 40 minutes, traffic pending. Metered street parking is available in multiple locations throughout Annapolis in addition to a few fee-based parking garages.
It’s easy to spend a long weekend exploring the beautiful Annapolis but if you only have a day or a few hours here are a few highlights.
You can also take our Self Guided Historic Annapolis Tour. If you’d rather take a guided tour, Urban Adventures Explore the Heart of Annapolis offers a 1.5 hour guided tour on an electric scooter through the nooks and side street of this historic city.
The United State Naval Academy, established in 1845, offers historical tours of its campus where visitors will typically see the Main Chapel, crypt of John Paul Jones, and the exterior of Bancroft Hall among other locations. Start off in the visitors center open from 9:00am-5:00pm March through December and 9:00am-4:00pm in January and February. Parking on the grounds is not possible so it’s best to park off street or in a parking garage. If you are 18 years or older be sure to have your Government issued ID with you. Tickets are $10.50 for adults, $9.50 for seniors (62+), and $8.50 for children (1st-12th grade).
One of the four Marylanders to sign the Declaration of Independence, William Paca’s House and Gardens is available to tour in Annapolis. This colonial-era home is located at 186 Prince George Street and is open weekends in March and daily late March-December, Monday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm and Sunday from 12:00pm-5:00pm. A 40-minute guided house tour and self-guided garden tour is available for $10.
Not to be missed is the Maryland State House—the oldest state capitol still in continuous use as well as the only state house to be used as the nation’s capitol. This state house is where the Treaty of Paris was ratified, marking the official end to the Revolutionary War and is the location George Washington came in front of Congress to resign his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. The state house is open daily from 9:00am-5:00pm and is located at 100 State Circle.
If you find yourself in Annapolis on a Wednesday night from April-August do not miss the Wednesday night sailing races, where more than 125 yachts compete in the midweek activities that typically begin just after 6:00pm.
Where to eat in Annapolis
There is a plethora of dining establishments in Annapolis so you’ll have a lot to choose from. Some of our favorites include the famed Chick and Ruth’s Delly who serve up everything from patty melts to crab cakes to milkshakes and stops all service at 8:30am each weekday to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Carol’s Creek Café located just across Spa Creek offers fine dining and a beautiful view of the waterfront. For those of you who like to check out old taverns, don’t miss Middleton Tavern, established in 1750 and one of the oldest continuously operating taverns in the country, serving up regional sea-fare like clams, crab cakes, rockfish and oysters.
You can also take a 2 hour Seafood Crawl of Annapolis! You’ll try out some local specialites and fresh crab in Annapolis and the neighboring town of Eastport.
This guest post was written by Kris & Lauren at Scuttabout – Tour guides talking about tours, travel and our experiences living on the road.