Visit the Eastern Shore town of Cambridge and you’re bound to encounter an unmatched level of history and a complementary level of laid-back entertainment that runs just as deep.
After all, the Dorchester County town is the birthplace of the legendary Harriet Tubman, the 19th-century abolitionist and former slave who led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom by way of the Underground Railroad. Her influence is seen and felt through Cambridge’s many murals, landmarks, and museums, including the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, which has attracted history enthusiasts from around the country to learn more about her legacy. And with the historic undertones that seem to be embedded in every main street, it’s hard not to reflect or take on a new level of appreciation of the freedom that abounds here with every artisan beer indulged and every calming coastal stroll taken.
And despite some nearby competition — Talbot County’s St. Michaels, less than an hour away, similarly serves as a popular cruise destination and weekend getaway — this small maritime town confidently holds its own with its quirky shops, lively events and restaurant scenes, which largely stay true to its Eastern Shore roots with local and regional ingredients and fare.
“It’s a cool vibe for a small town,” said Jamie Summers, co-owner of Black Water Bakery. “It’s not like we can’t entertain.”
Here’s a rundown of some of the highlights Cambridge has to offer for your weekend stay.
Eats & Drinks
Black Water Bakery
Start your day at this endearing bakery and cafe with dozens of homemade pastries to choose from, freshly baked bread, and an array of breakfast entrees, including omelettes and waffles. Wash it all down with tea or locally roasted coffee whipped up your way, with a smorgasbord of flavored syrups, milks and coffee ice cubes to keep your java just as cold and robust as the first sip. Or stop by for their “lunch-ish” menu, which includes a variety of sandwiches and salads -- all made with fresh ingredients. “It can be as healthy or fattening as you want,” said Summers, who crafts some of her favorite dishes from her travels at breakfast places around the country. And if you’re feeling festive, imbibe in-house with spiked coffees, boozy cereal, mimosas or orange or grapefruit crushes, all made with freshly squeezed juices. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. 429 Race St. black-water-bakery.com.
This white tablecloth restaurant brings French flair to Cambridge’s Main Street, with a seasonal menu that boasts American contemporary dishes fused with Mediterranean and Asian flavors, using all of the best ingredients produced across the Eastern Shore. The restaurant has also recently expanded its tapas menu, allowing guests to share in and savor the moment. Opens at 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday. 535 Poplar St. bistropoplar.com.
This lively local microbrewery offers one of the most lauded artisan beer selections in the state, featuring favorites like the Nanticoke Nectar and the pucker-worthy “Out of Order” blueberry sour beer, which are brewed on-site and served in their taproom. The laid-back atmosphere, which drips out into the main street when the bar windows are open, is also alluring, as are the bar bites, which include the drunken tots — a toothsome pile of fried tater tots topped with mozzarella, bacon, sour cream, and scallions, with the option of adding crab or pork. Noon-9 p.m. Monday; noon-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday through Saturday; and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. 504 Poplar St. rarbrewing.com.
The Wine Bar
Choose from more than 200 bottles of small-batch wines to take home, or stay for awhile and indulge in vino (free tastings are held the first and second Saturday of every month), artisan beers, and top-shelf spirits. If you get hungry, order small bites from the menu, or stop by the Artisan Gourmet shop next door, which features a wide range of artisan treats, cheeses, sauces, chocolates and more. The Wine Bar, 414 Race St., and Artisan Gourmet, 412 Race St., are open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. facebook.com/ArtisanGourmetCambridgeMD; facebook.com/chocolate.cheese.wine.
The High Spot Gastropub
Offering a blend of comfort and high-quality cuisine, the gastropub serves up creative takes on foodie favorites like chicken skin nachos, duck fat burgers, blackened mahi-mahi served with chorizo grits, and chicken and waffles a la Maryland, which is complemented with a rum, scrapple and banana gravy. And it wouldn’t be a pub without its selection of craft and imported beers and daily happy hour specials. 11 a.m.-midnight daily. 305 High St. thehighspotgastropub.com.
Snappers Waterfront Cafe
Head to Cambridge Creek by land or by water for a waterfront restaurant and bar that offers more than just a delicious selection of bar bites, seafood, southwestern fare and beer. The restaurant, a fixture in the town for more than a decade, uses all fresh ingredients from the hand-cut fries to the simple syrup and mint used in the mojitos, and boasts “the best crab cake” in Maryland — fresh, broiled and with no filler — according to co-owner Laura Sydnor. And the vibe is so welcoming, some guests even bring their homes with them. Guests can dock their boats at one of Snappers’ three slips and make way to the outdoor seating, which features a patio area, a cabana for private parties and special reservations, a fully serviced tiki bar when weather permits, and live music. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. 112 Commerce St. snapperswaterfrontcafe.com.
Born from a pop-up shop, this spacious and chic boutique features flirty and feminine threads for women, including a variety of flowy dresses with pockets; clothing for children; and a variety of accessories, including hats, scarves, and bralettes that will have you stepping out in style. And if you want to make sure you’re feeling good from the inside out, the boutique also hosts reiki sessions, billed to heal energy, as well as spray-tanning by appointment. The shop also features a 24-hour tanning booth, available with a membership. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. 406 Race St. facebook.com/shopcalistaboutique.
A bright fixture of Cambridge for more than 13 years, this shop features women’s clothing, unique jewelry, accessories and various items and artworks that pay homage to Cambridge and the greater state of Maryland. What makes them an even better souvenir -- the owner, Heidi Griebel, hand-picks all items, ensuring that most are American-made, fair-trade, or environmentally friendly. 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. daily. 500 Poplar St. sunnysideshop.com.
Take a piece of Cambridge home with you to remember at this home, gifts and kids clothing shop, which features a variety of handpicked souvenirs — from handmade soaps and scrubs, to sea glass and bottle art made by local artists. Hours change during the season. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. 510 Poplar St. facebook.com/shopbutterflyboutique.
Jewelry by Cottage Studio
The jewelry and accessory store, run by silversmiths John and Maryetta Dynan, features custom-made jewelry, incorporating unique gemstones, silver and gold at your request, and hosts the work of other artists and crafters, including Dennis Napolitan, of Malina Custom Leather, who works in-shop to create custom leather pieces such as bags, slings and guitar cases. The shop also offers classes in jewelry making and more. 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and by appointment. 410 Race St. jewelrybycottagestudio.com.
Fishing Creek Barber & Honey Bee Trading Co.
Visit this one-chair retro barbershop for a mesh of service and indulgence. The front of the store — Honey Bee Trading Co. — is filled with an assortment of bee products, including natural honey and honey infused with flavors ranging from habanero and sour cherry to chocolate, and honey sticks for a sweet treat. In the back, owner and sole barber Amy Taylor can be found snipping away to create the perfect cut. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. 432 Race St. Visit Facebook for more info.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center
The life of Tubman comes alive in this permanent exhibit, which features the stories, anecdotes and images of Tubman from her beginnings as an enslaved child to one of the most legendary abolitionists and Americans. The visitor center also features a museum store, an information desk, a research library, a nature trail and a short documentary that brings you deeper into Tubman’s story. 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily. 4068 Golden Hill Road, Church Creek. Free. nps.org.
Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center
Stop into this small downtown museum, which displays a range of portraits and paintings, shows a brief documentary about Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, and serves as a resource for tours and a guide to other Tubman landmarks in the area. Noon-3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; and noon-4 p.m. Saturday. 424 Race St. Free. harriettubmanorganization.org.
The park welcomes newcomers and locals alike with a visitor center with information that will help you map out your trip as well as picnic areas, a playground, restrooms, a mile-long boardwalk and a small beach area to dip your feet in. The visitor center is open from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. 2 Rose Hill Place. visitdorchester.org.
Wander past the many docked boats on the calming waters and make your way to the lighthouse, a 2012 replica of the historic lighthouse that guided mariners on the Choptank River for more than a century. Inside, the lighthouse includes exhibits on the history of the original lighthouse and local maritime heritage. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through Oct. 31. High and Water streets. Free. visitdorchester.org/choptank-river-lighthouse.
Chesapeake Ghost Walk
Explore the darker side of historic Cambridge with this nighttime ghost walk that revels in the myths, mysteries and forlorn spirits of High Street, billed as one of Maryland’s most haunted streets. Select dates available. $15-$20. chesapeakeghostwalks.com/cambridge.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Embark on an outdoor adventure at this wildlife refuge, which includes a third of Maryland’s tidal wetlands and a sanctuary for birds like the bald eagle and other animals like the Delmarva squirrel. The refuge also offers visitors hiking, cycling, paddleboarding, fishing and hunting in designated areas. Open from dusk to dawn daily. The visitor center is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends. 2145 Key Wallace Drive. $1-$3. fws.gov.
Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park
Named after reporter and fisherman Bill Burton, who chronicled outdoor Maryland activities, the park adjoins Talbot and Dorchester counties and features lighted piers that provide ample space to find a serene place to bird-watch, crab, or throw the hook into the water to fish for a variety of perch, striped bass, croakers, sea trout, and catfish. The half-mile portion of the park that is in Dorchester is open 24 hours a day, year-round. 6 Choptank River Bridge, Trappe. dnr.maryland.gov.
Cambridge Farmers’ Market
Wander along the waterfront near Long Wharf Park where fresh produce, flowers, meats, baked goods and crafts await at this annually anticipated farmers’ market. 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Thursdays, May through mid-October. High and Water streets. facebook.com/CambFarmMarket.
Taste of Cambridge Crab Cook-off & Festival
The 13th annual crab cook-off and street festival features live music and performances, arts and crafts, street vendors, and all things crab, with the participation of around a dozen local restaurants who are aiming to cook up the best crab dishes for your taste buds. 5 p.m.-10 p.m. July 14. 500 block of Poplar St. and the 400 block of Race St. Free access to the street festival. $20-$25 for advance tickets to crab cook-off. downtowncambridge.org.
Head to downtown Cambridge’s Main Street for a festival full of soul, funk, jazz and the blues, paired perfectly with beer and barbecue. 500 block of Poplar St. and the 400 block of Race St. 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sept. 15. $5. visitdorchester.org.
Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race
Cambridge’s ambassador skipjack, Nathan of Dorchester, hosts one of the two most lively fishing boat races on the Chesapeake, with several boats competing on the Choptank River. A race festival begins at 8:30 a.m. with a parade of boats at 9 a.m. Race begins around 10 a.m. Sept. 22. The best views are from Long Wharf Park, High and Water streets. skipjack-nathan.org.
Dorchester Center for the Arts Showcase
Check out Dorchester County’s arts scene at this street festival with paintings, sculptures, jewelry, woodworking, blacksmithing, model boat building, interactive art projects and other works of 75 artists and vendors on display. Live performances will also take place, along with free first-come, first-serve skipjack rides, and Eastern Shore cuisine offerings. Noon-5 p.m. Sept. 23. 321 High St. Free. dorchesterarts.org.
Sport your best lederhosen or dirndl at this Eastern Shore-Octoberfest hybrid celebration, which overflows with seafood delights, craft and artisan German and American beers and fare, and family-friendly entertainment, including contests, a car show, face painting and more. 3 p.m.-9 p.m. Oct. 6. Governor’s Hall at Sailwinds Park, 200 Byrn St. $5-$10. visitdorchester.org.
Kite Festival at Sailwinds Park
A windy day along the Choptank River will be well spent as dozens fly kites of all shapes and sizes. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own kites, or you can buy one at the event. But if observing is more your style, be sure to check out the additional entertainment, which includes food, music, face painting, and bungee bounces. Noon-4 p.m. Oct. 28. Amphitheater at Sailwinds Park, 2 Rose Hill Place. facebook.com/sailwinds.
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa & Marina
This hotel makes for the ultimate getaway because technically you never have to leave the location for an eventful stay. Rest up in one of the hotel’s luxury rooms. Rejuvenate and indulge at one of its many eateries, and pick your favorite form of relaxation -- whether it be getting a massage at the hotel’s Sago Salon Spa, playing a few rounds at the River Marsh Golf Course, or unwinding by the indoor or outdoor pools. The hotel also features a fitness center and complimentary yoga for those who like to stay active, programs to keep the kids entertained, and 150 slips on the marina for those sailing in for a good time. And luckily, if you’re looking for attractions beyond the Hyatt, the hotel concierge will assist you on finding your nearby adventure. 100 Heron Blvd. at U.S. 50. Rates vary. Visit hyatt.com for more details.
Cambridge House Bed and Breakfast
Situated in Cambridge’s dreamlike historic district, this 1847 sea captain’s manor features six guest rooms, each with a private bathroom and period-style furnishings. Though antiquated, the home features several modern amenities, including a hot tub, free wi-fi, and a garden pond, where guests will enjoy breakfast, and it’s just a short walk from restaurants and local shopping areas. And if you’re looking to make the stay extra special, add-on packages, including a picnic at the park and a romantic date, are available starting at $60. A Harriet Tubman-themed package, available for a limited time, includes vouchers and discounts for local shops, historical sites, and restaurants. 112 High St. $170-$190 plus tax. cambridgehousebandb.com.
Mill Street Inn Bed & Breakfast
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Stay the night in one of three suites in this restored Victorian home, and wake up to a gourmet breakfast. It is just a short walk or bike ride from local shops and sites, including the Long Wharf, the Choptank Lighthouse and the marina. Bikes are available to borrow or rent. 114 Mill St. $149-$239. millstinn.com.