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7 Unique Things to Do in Maryland and the Hotels that Offer Them

From becoming certified to sail to indoor ice tubing under falling snow, these are the 7 most unique things to do in Maryland at hotels across the state

There are thousands of hotel rooms available in Maryland – home to beloved beaches, historic countryside, and bustling Baltimore. However, when you’re searching for a weekend getaway with extra special stays, your list of options grows considerably shorter.

We’ve searched the state for the most unusual and specific experiences you can have across “The Free State,” and compiled this list of 7 unique things to do in Maryland on your next weekend adventure, plus the quirkiest and coolest places to stay while you’re there.

Live in a Christmas Village on the Potomac River

If you’re a fan of those adorable Christmas villages that have been decorating mantles and windowsills for centuries, here’s your chance to live in one for a few days. The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center is more than just a massive hotel (with 2,000 guest rooms and 95 meeting rooms, it’s actually the largest non-gaming hotel on the entire East Coast) – it’s an entire indoor town.

Enclosed by a 19-story glass atrium overlooking the Potomac River, the hotel’s indoor village is full of winding alleyways, terraces, and gardens surrounding full-scale “houses” that are home to seven restaurants, among other attractions.

Perfect for families, the village hosts exciting events year-round, but there’s never a better time to check in than winter, when the village goes total North Pole. If you’re into Christmas, it’s especially magical here this time of year, with a life-size Christmas village-within-the- village, towering decorations suspended from above and strewn on every surface, gingerbread house decorating, photos with Santa, and more.

The winter fun goes far beyond the holiday. Go ice skating on the indoor pond, try ice tubing and ice sliding on indoor runs, and dine “al fresco” under indoor snowfall without requiring mittens or a scarf.

Regardless of when you time your visit, you’ll want to make an appointment at the property’s Relâche Spa. One of the largest and most well-appointed in the region, the 20,000-square-foot facility is a sweet escape for one-off treatments. However, it’s best enjoyed as a full day of bliss, either with a themed package of pampering or just peacefully melting away in the hot tub, sauna, and steam room, far from the bustling village “outside.”

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

National Harbor
8.2 Very good (1420 reviews)

Get in Bed with Washington in the Inner Harbor

“George Washington slept here” is one of the most famous phrases in American historical tourism. But among the country’s remaining treasures that can make this claim, few can also invite you to sleep over, too. Rachael’s Dowry is one of them.

In 1798, a prominent brick baron hosted both George and Martha Washington at his stately home on what is now known as Washington Boulevard in the coveted Inner Harbor neighborhood. When you check in to this bed and breakfast today, more than 200 years later, you’ll have your choice of six guestrooms – each distinctively decorated with period furnishings and décor that reflect a good bit of 18th-century authenticity that Washington himself would recognize.

The public rooms reflect more of the Federal style that match the timing of Washington’s visit, while the guestrooms tend to veer more into Colonial charm. Grab a book and sink into an overstuffed chair in the library, or sip wine on the brick garden terrace while slipping into the past, imagining what Washington thought as he sat here one year after passing on the presidency of his new nation.

For a further comparison of styles and a better understanding of this pivotal time in the nation’s history, head ten minutes across town to the Star Spangled Banner Flag House. This house museum more directly reflects the Federal period timing of Washington’s visit to the Rachel’s Dowry house, and helps illustrate the shifting culture and politics that followed his departure from leadership.

Rachael's Dowry

Top rated
Baltimore
9.6 Excellent (248 reviews)

Swim the Harbor in Baltimore

You should absolutely not swim in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor—it’s not fit for humans and, at some times of the year, even exposure to splashes from the famously filthy harbor could be hazardous to your health. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t swim along the harbor.

Sagamore Pendry, Baltimore’s hottest hotel, is home to the city’s best, and most popular, swimming pool. Perched at the very end of Recreation Pier, the zero-entry, handicap-accessible infinity pool overlooks the harbor and the marina with skyline views behind and beyond. It’s the closest you’ll get to swimming in the harbor, but it’s equally enjoyable even if you don’t want to change into a swimsuit.

Seasonally, both the bar and outdoor grill are worth sampling (try the Sagamore Crush, a rye drink with blood orange and orgeat, and a Maryland Blue Crab Cake to embrace the local spirit). The pool is unique and desirable enough that it sells out of its limited $100 day passes, so take advantage of the opportunity to indulge for free as a guest. You deserve it!

If you’re trying to stay out of the sun, or visiting in a colder time of year, you’ll find plenty of chic events inside the hotel too – particularly at the end of the week. The lounge fills with jazz and craft cocktails every Thursday, and the unlimited Prosecco brunch presents a three-course afternoon with bottomless drinks every Saturday and Sunday. Everything about this property oozes glam, so feel free to dress up, pop a bottle from the Moët & Chandon vending machine in the courtyard, and have the Instagram photo fest of your most paparazzi-fueled dreams before you leave.

Sagamore Pendry Baltimore

Baltimore
9.3 Excellent (1019 reviews)

Get Your Nerd On and Craft an Epic Poem in Mount Vernon

One of Baltimore’s most famous sons is Edgar Allan Poe, and the Hotel Indigo Baltimore Downtown takes full of advantage of the city’s poe-etic legacy. Although the spooky author only lived here for a few years in the 1830s, the Mount Vernon neighborhood that surrounds this hotel remains a hotbed of Baltimore arts and culture, seeing important jazz, film, and literary names converging here for decades.

The hotel’s guestrooms feature literary-themed murals over the beds, so you may wake up with tons of new ideas for your next novel or sonnet after a night of vivid dreams. But don’t worry—they’re not Poe-style illustrations, so you’ll dream sweetly.

If you still need more inspiration to get your creative juices flowing, pop into the hotel library and borrow some classics to learn from the masters. Browse in the library itself, or take your picks back to your room or a nearby park – it’s free. Pro Tip: there are a few quaint outdoor spots closer the hotel, but take the ten-minute drive north to Druid Hill Park to read and write among the sprawling grounds of one of the country’s first public parks. It’s worth the extra few minutes to get there.

If neither the art and literature of the hotel, nor the history and vivacity of the neighborhood’s museums and landmarks have pulled a poem from you yet, you can always turn to the muse of so many authors and artists through history: a drink (or two, or three). Head to the hotel’s Poets Modern Cocktails & Eats, pull up a seat at the bar, and start with the Hemingway Daiquiri.

Hotel Indigo Baltimore Downtown - an IHG hotel

Top rated
Baltimore
8.9 Excellent (1569 reviews)

Re-learn Civil War History with Four-State Views

Civil rights and racial injustice have taken a prominent place at the forefront of national conversation very few times throughout American history, but now is one of those times. If you’re among the many seeking to re-educate yourself right now, Antietam Overlook Farm offers an ideal base for historical rediscovery in the heart of Civil War territory and a stunningly bucolic location for serene introspection.

The six guest rooms of this historic inn may be found within in a large country manor house, but they each provide more of an intimate mountain cabin feel. With 19th-century period touches throughout the property, you’ll find it a comfortable middle ground between the past and present, perfect for diving back into history without forgetting the current climate.

Outside, explore pivotal moments from the U.S. Civil War at Antietam National Battlefield, site of the bloodiest single day of battle on U.S. soil in history. Visit Harpers Ferry, where abolitionist John Brown famously attempted to incite a revolt, and Gettysburg, a turning point in the war and site of Lincoln’s later Gettysburg Address. Take time to more carefully examine exhibits at the area museums and battlefields as you consider what was truly at stake.

Back at Antietam Overlook Farm, high above these thought-provoking landmarks, sit quietly with your new ideas and feelings as you take in sweeping views of four states in the hills and valleys surrounding your perch on the porch. Sunset here is well worth scheduling into your itinerary. The scenery is both humbling and inspiring any time of year, but particularly vibrant in fall as the foliage of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania erupts in a vivid display.

Antietam Overlook Farm

Sharpsburg
9.4 Excellent (179 reviews)

Wedding Crash with the Best of Them on the Miles River

You won’t find access to many estates as elegant and almost impossibly picturesque as the Inn at Perry Cabin, with its Colonial mansion and gardens set on 26 acres along the Miles River, which is surely why it’s a popular location for upscale weddings. So popular, in fact, that this is where the ceremony in Wedding Crashers was shot. Please don’t actually crash a wedding here, but feel free to reenact your favorite scenes from the film when no one’s looking.

With both the Miles River and the Chesapeake Bay within sight, boating is a top pastime here. Watch sailboats glide by from your guestroom window or take to the water yourself on one of the hotel’s three daysailers. You can join a group tour, but if you’re living in supreme style on this getaway, you’ll want a private outing with meals and unforgettable sunset cocktails. If you find yourself hooked by the lifestyle, you can even get certified through the Inn’s Sailing Academy. Motorboats, kayaks, and paddle boards are also available.

Back on land, you’ll find an impressive golf course, tennis courts, and plenty of lawn games to pass an idyllic afternoon country-style. Take advantage of one of the property’s more unique offerings and book a tour with the Inn’s horticulturist. She’ll give you a behind-the-scenes look at the gardens and orchards supplying the property with fresh flowers for the rooms and ingredients for the restaurants.

Inn at Perry Cabin

Top rated
Saint Michaels
9.2 Excellent (526 reviews)

Go to Jail in Frostburg

Opened to great fanfare with a New Year’s Day gala in 1897, Hotel Gunter has a long and colorful history in Frostburg, Maryland, which has had its own share of ups and downs since the hotel’s arrival. In its early days, the hotel was one of the most famous in Western Maryland, attracting prominent businessmen and the politically powerful to its refined ambiance and technological modern amenities. Curiously for such an elegant hotel, there was also a petting zoo, but that’s hardly the only unique feature this property has seen through its 130+ years.

During Prohibition, both a speakeasy and a cockfighting ring were available to select hotel guests, adding to its popularity. However, this particularly criminal activity isn’t what makes it most famous today. A comfortable stay for lawmen transporting prisoners along Route 40, Hotel Gladstone (as it was known then), built a basement jail to securely house convicts overnight. Check out the jail for yourself during your stay; now more than a century old, it’s still there, along with some exhibits on the history of the hotel and the town.

Today, the hotel once again finds itself in the center of Frostburg culture as the hub of the city’s revitalized arts district, making it an ideal stay if you’re looking to be surrounded by galleries, shops, film, and theater (and who isn’t?). There’s always been an opportunity to get into a little cultural mischief in or around Hotel Gunter, but that ever-present jail should keep you from going too far.

Gunter Hotel

Top rated
Frostburg
8.5 Excellent (300 reviews)