National Geographic Traveler columnist Christopher Elliott recently visited the Washington area with his family. His three-part series, Inside-Out With Kids, explores the DC region from different perspectives. Today they make a detour to Annapolis, Md. Here’s the previous story.
Every morning in Annapolis should start like this: You drop by Chick & Ruth’s Delly at around 8 a.m., order the crab omelet, and then watch a who’s who of Maryland politicians, lobbyists and Naval officers say the pledge of allegiance, which is a longtime tradition here. Then you walk down Main Street and get on with your day.
Annapolis may look like just another quiet state capital, but today we would experience this historic town as never before. Which is saying a lot: We used to live just across the creek, in Eastport, years ago, and we thought we knew Annapolis. We didn’t.
With three kids in tow, we headed to the US Naval Academy Museum
on the Naval Academy yard. It’s a collection of exhibits on the history and traditions of the Navy, from its founding to the Space Age.
Fortunately, we have two boys, both of whom love anything combustible.
They headed straight to the rocket display, dragging their baby sister along.
Turns out the museum was too big to see everything in the short time we had, and after admiring the model ships and antique maps, we headed to the visitors center to connect with a tour of the Academy.
The tour was led by an affable retired Navy Captain who used to be the Academy’s director of admissions. The academy is a fascinating institution, rich in history and tradition, but young kids have a limited appreciation for these things.
On the day of our visit, we were experiencing record heat and the kids were starting to feel a little crabby. Good thing we ducked into some of the air-conditioned buildings, which, in addition to being impressive, were significantly cooler. The boys — Class of ’18 and Class of ’20, I joked with the Captain — were mesmerized by anything that goes boom, which there were plenty of, including a World War II torpedo on display.
The other interesting thing you’ll see on the yard during the summer are the Plebes, which are the equivalent of college freshmen, who are being introduced to the Navy way of life. That means being run around in the oppressive heat, standing in formation and, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, doing a lot of yelling.
After a quick boat taxi ride across the river, we had lunch at the new Boatyard Bar and Grill which features even more seafood as well as the omnipresent crab dishes that we had come to expect from Annapolis. Then we caught a sightseeing tour of Annapolis Harbor on the Harbor Queen which offered a narrated cruise of historic Annapolis Harbor and the banks of the U.S. Naval Academy. We had done this tour before, years ago, but never with kids, and never completely sober. I liked it this way much better.
Our whirlwind tour terminated at the William Paca House and Garden late in the afternoon. By this time, the kids had reached their maximum crabbiness, from being shown around town all day, so we were not the best-behaved guests. Still, we managed to get a few smiles from the kids (see picture, above) at this beautifully-restored historical landmark, which includes a fully-restored 18th Century home and an immaculate English garden.
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If you’ve ever been curious about how people lived in colonial days, the Paca House is definitely worth seeing. My oldest son, Aren, and I toured the house while our two youngest kids, Iden and Erysee, played in the garden under their mother’s watchful eye. Then we dropped by the Federal House Bar & Grille for a bite to eat before returning to Washington.
Within a few hours of getting back to our hotel, the kids’ crabbiness had worn off, but the adults we were trying to process what had just happened.
We’d seen a town we thought we knew from a completely different perspective — that of a well-informed tourist, thanks in no small part to the sage advice of our friends at Convention & Visitors Bureau. We wanted to come back the next day, but alas, we already had plans.
Next time, we’ll give ourselves more than a day.
Photo: Chris Elliott