Despite the name, and the slogan: "Once the Metropolis of Maryland," St. Mary's City is less of a city than a collection of outdoor and indoor historical exhibits around the historic sites of this former pioneer town—plus a small public liberal arts college at St. Mary's College. The former institution, the Historic St. Mary's City Museum, is a satisfying historical destination that is kid-friendly as well, with interpretational exhibits with costumed staff. St. Mary's College is a nice visit as well for its pretty grounds and waterfront. Perhaps the biggest draw, however, even more than the historic museum, is the waterfront Brome Howard Inn just to the south—considered by Washingtonian Magazine to be one of the D.C. metro area's top 10 inns.
Founded in 1632, St. Mary's City is the fourth oldest permanent settlement in British North America and the first state capital of Maryland. It was also the first Catholic community in North America allowed to practice openly, a major milestone in the story of America's embrace of religious freedom. The original colonists came on to the mainland from St. Clement's Island and moved into dwellings in a Yaocomaco village before building there settlement here. St. Mary's City grew over the years and became home to the first public buildings of Maryland, serving the provincial capital of the Maryland colony until 1708, when it was moved to Annapolis. Nonetheless, the St. Mary's City center never really caught on, as the local population was dispersed among the surrounding tobacco plantations.
St. Mary's City is best visited by car, as it is far from major public transportation routes. From the D.C. Beltway/I-95, follow exits for MD-5 South, which you can follow all the way straight to St. Mary's City, just make sure to bear right at Harpers Corner.
You can easily walk St. Mary's City, but exploring the surrounding area in St. Mary's County will generally require a car. Alternatively, bring a bike and pedal your way around the historic town center and off into the surrounding countryside.
- Historic St. Mary's City Museum, 18751 Hogaboom Ln, ☏ , toll-free: . 11 March-15 June: T-Sa 10AM-5PM, 16 June-30 November: W-Su 10AM-5PM. Attractions include full-scale recreations of a 17th century tobacco plantation, the "Dove" (a ship that accompanied Lord Baltimore on his Maryland Expedition), a recreated Yaocomaco village, and the reconstructed (and restored) town center itself. Exhibits are staffed by "historical interpreters" in period costume. $10, discounts for seniors, students, and children.
- St. Mary's College, 18952 E Fisher Rd, ☏ . Founded in 1840 as a female seminary, today a small but pleasantly scenic public liberal arts college of about 2000 students.
- 1 Trinity Episcopal Church, 47477 Trinity Church Rd, ☏ . A beautiful old historic church. It was built in the 19th century with recycled bricks from the 17th century and underwent renovations in the 20th century.
St. Mary's City, apart from the open-air museum, is a quiet place—if you're looking for an activity-filled weekend, you might want to look elsewhere. Bicyclists will find plenty to do, however, just pedalling around the county roads along the waterfront, and down to Point Lookout.
You might want to check the Historic Museum's website for events, which range from special events for kids to archaeological digs to mock combat with the St. Maries City Militia.
- River Concert Series, St. Mary's College. most weekends in June–July, all shows starting 7PM. Chamber music, orchestra, and jazz concerts by the riverfront at St. Mary's College are a positively delightful way to spend a summer evening in Maryland. Free.
- The Shop at Farthing's Ordinary, 18751 Hogaboom Ln, ☏ . Tu-Su 10AM-5PM (Spring/Fall), W-Su 10AM-5PM (Summer). Museum shop.
- Brome Howard Inn, ☏ . Th-Sa 5:30PM-9PM, Su 11AM-2PM. Fine dining.
- Quizno's, 18952 E Fisher Rd (at St. Mary's College), ☏ . National chain sub-shop.
- There's a pub on the college campus where you can buy simple fare like pizza, calzones, or nachos.
The Brome Howard Inn has a full bar, but aside from that, you'll have to drive elsewhere for a beer. Nearby Solomons is definitely your best bet. Local options include the local and college favorite The Green Door (18098 Point Lookout Rd) and St. James Pub (19343 Three Notch Road).
For your caffeine fix, there's a coffee shop (and convenience store) called "The Daily Grind" on the lower floor of the campus center of St. Mary's College.
- Just south along MD-5 is Point Lookout State Park, which is the southern tip of Southern Maryland, at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. It's a worthwhile and quick excursion for the watery views, an old lighthouse, and some the remains of some Civil War fortifications.
- Solomons Island is a small historic resort town, just across the Patuxent River on MD-4.
- Past Solomons along MD-4 is Calvert Cliffs State Park, which is a nice place for hiking, or beach-combing for shark teeth, in addition to admiring the cliffs themselves. A little further north from Calvert Cliffs is a nice sandy beach at Flag Ponds Nature Park.