Weekend adventure: Havre de Grace

The Baltimore Sun
Take a weekend escape from Baltimore and check out the calming waters of Havre de Grace.

Havre de Grace is a quintessential coastal Maryland town: all blue skies, calming water views and laid-back atmosphere.

Meander through the quaint downtown area and see why Netflix chose it as a shooting location for "House of Cards." Stroll along the Havre de Grace promenade to soak up breezy summer weather next to the water. Relax in the shade of Tydings Park and munch on a picnic lunch.

The city has a rich history that includes General Lafayette, the War of 1812, horse racing, boating and the Underground Railroad. Today, it's still quaint and scenic but also filled with family-friendly activities, unique shopping and enough outdoor activities to make weekday office drones dance for joy.

The town speaks for itself. But we have a few recommendations to make your visit a true weekend adventure.

Attractions

Maritime Museum: Havre de Grace's location by the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay has led to a colorful maritime history. The Maritime Museum explores this past in its exhibits and will expand its offerings in the fall with an environmental center designed to bring that history into modern ecological context. Don't miss the display of rock carvings, taken from the Susquehanna River, which date back 500 to 1,000 years. 100 Lafayette St. $3-$7 suggested donation. hdgmaritimemuseum.org.

Decoy Museum: Decoy ducks are simple wood carvings designed to lure waterfowl toward a hunter. Ginnie Timmins, a Columbia resident, traveled to the Decoy Museum recently to see whether any of her great-grandfather's carvings were on exhibit. A Rock Hill native, her grandfather carved many decoys over his lifetime. Though she didn't see any of his work in the exhibited items, Timmins said she plans to donate a few to the museum, which houses more than 2,000 decoys from roughly 300 regional crafters. 215 Giles St. $3-$5, ages 8 and younger are free (tours are $3-$4 a person). decoymuseum.com.

Concord Point LighthouseThe Concord Point Lighthouse once played a vital role in upper-bay water traffic. The squat, white-painted structure offers views of the water and nearby Havre de Grace promenade. Visitors are welcome inside on weekends from April to October, weather permitting. On Aug. 7, Concord Point celebrates National Lighthouse Day, with the tower and keeper's house open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., live music and activities for children. Corner of Concord and Lafayette streets. Free (donations accepted). concordpointlighthouse.org.

Shopping

Arts by the Bay Gallery: Local artists' works line the walls of this gallery, ranging from paintings of the bay to creative mosaic designs. On any given day, you may be buying the artwork directly from its creator. 307 St. John St. artsbythebaygallery.com.

Joseph's Department Store: Since 1937, family-owned Joseph's has been providing Havre de Grace with all of its clothing needs. The store stocks clothing, shoes and designer items and boasts a large selection of board games for kids. 122 N. Washington St. josephsdepartmentstore.com.

Washington Street Books & Music: Opened originally as a photography store, Washington Street Books & Music has grown to include a mishmash of items ranging from books and comics to collector's items and music, "We've been purchasing and collecting for 23 years," said owner John Klisavage, "and it's grown into this store. Don't miss the life-size movie character statues , movie paraphernalia, the Buddha section or the extensive vinyl collection. 131 N. Washington St. washingtonstreetbooksandmusic.com.

Antique stores: If you're hunting for a unique piece of statement furniture, Havre de Grace offers a number of antique stores to peruse. Traveling south along the bay, you can hit them in a row. Try Bahoukas Antique Mall (408 N. Union Ave.; bahoukas.com) and nearby Andy & Bill's Collectables (324 N. Union Ave), then Bayside Antiques (232 N. Washington St.) and Seneca Cannery Antiques (201 St. John St.), before your last stop at Investment Antiques (123 Market St).

Eats and drinks

Tidewater Grille: For classic Eastern Shore views, there's no place better than Tidewater. It's right on the water, and has a range of seafood options including lobster, crab and shrimp bruschetta and crab dip. Try the crab cakes. 300 Franklin St. thetidewatergrille.com.

Bomboy's Home Made Candy: After visiting Bomboy's on a previous visit to Havre de Grace without his fiancee, North East resident Kim Beal knew he had to bring her when they returned. "I knew she'd love the fudge, and this place is so cool. I knew she'd die if we didn't come," he said. The candy store is stocked with homemade delicacies, including truffles and fudge. Head across the street for even more sugar at their ice cream store. 329 Market St. bomboyscandy.com.

MacGregor's: For a tavern with a view, MacGregor's, located just up the street from Tidewater Grille, is the place to go. The patio in the back offers outdoor seating with an elevated sightline of the water and occasionally features live music. The happy hour, which offers half-priced house wine, rail liquor and domestic beer in bottles and draft, is something visitors shouldn't miss, said Richmond resident Jill Fahrbach, who visits Havre de Grace about once a month. "My boyfriend and I try to visit the happy hour at least once when I visit and it's nice out," she said. "It's got good deals and great views." 331 St. John St. macgregorsrestaurant.com.

Vineyard Wine Bar/Laurrapin Grille: For fancier establishments, head downtown for a night out at the Vineyard Wine Bar (142 N. Washington St.; vineyardwinebar.com) and Laurrapin Grille (209 N. Washington St.; laurrapin.com), both of which are must-experiences for the gastronomically inclined. Laurrapin Grille was voted best chef and best overall restaurant in Harford Magazine's 2014 Best of Dining Contest. Meanwhile, the Vineyard Wine Bar is a great spot for a romantic date, with over 300 bottles on its wine list.

Outdoor activities

Havre de Grace promenade: The promenade, which stretches along the coastline between the City Marina and Concord Point Lighthouse, makes for a beautiful walk along the water. Begin at Millard Tydings Memorial Park (south of Commerce Street) or Concord Point Lighthouse.

Tydings Park: This 22-acre waterfront park includes a playground, marina, gazebos, a fishing pier, open space and room for recreation. Julia Akers, a lifelong Harford County resident who now lives in Aberdeen, said the park is a great spot for a picnic with the family. "[It's] a nice, peaceful area that's just beautiful," she said.

North Park Trail: Beginning at the Susquehanna Museum of Havre de Grace at the Lock House (817 Conesto St.), this roughly 1.5 mile trail loops past some of the town's highlights, spotlighting both nature and history. Grab a brochure from the visitors' center (450 Pennington Ave.) or Susquehanna Museum before setting out.

Susquehanna State Park: Just three miles northwest of Havre de Grace, Susquehanna State Park (4122 Wilkinson Road) offers a nearby escape into the wilderness for outdoor activities including mountain biking, fishing, boating, camping and hiking. Over 15 miles of marked trails wind through the park's river valley.

Family activities

Thursday night sailboat races at the Tidewater Marina: Grab a blanket and picnic basket to experience sailboat races presented by the Havre de Grace Yacht Club. The races begin at 6 p.m. Thursdays during the summer. Tidewater Marina is at 100 Bourbon St. tidewatermarina.com.

Kids' Summer Story Time: The Maritime Museum offers summertime story times for kids every Thursday at 10:15 a.m. through Aug. 20. Afterward, explore more of the museum or go down the street to check out the water's edge.

Children's Arts Festival: For the 27th year, Havre de Grace will host a free arts festival on Sept. 12 designed for ages 3 to 10 at Tydings Park from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Accommodations

Spencer-Silver Mansion: This Victorian mansion, which dates to 1896, was restored into a bed and breakfast with flair. With multiple parlors, a garden and luxurious rooms, it offers a spacious vacation setting. Rates range from $80-$160, depending on the time of year. 200 S. Union Ave. spencersilvermansion.com.

Vandiver Inn: Another Victorian accommodation, the Vandiver Inn is a complex of homes from 1886. It's also located about five blocks from the water. Rates start at $145. 301 S. Union Ave. vandiverinn.com.

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Weekend adventure series

Our look at Havre de Grace is the first in our new periodic travel destinations series highlighting exciting and affordable trips in the Baltimore area. Check back in upcoming months as we explore more locales.

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