This quaint harbor town is often called "America's Sailing Capital," but you won't need a brochure to tell you that. On sunny days, sailboats and pleasure craft of every description cruise the Severn River, their occupants celebrating the good ole summertime. In fact, so many fancy watercraft tie up at the Annapolis City Dock that locals affectionately call it Ego Alley.
Don't worry though. You don't need your own boat to join in the fun. The city offers plenty of diversions, from sailing to shopping. That's what makes it such a great place for an end-of-summer getaway.
Historic Inns of Annapolis ($175-$350), a trio of storied houses, gets our stamp of approval for a weekend. Completely redecorated in 2006, these three inns pair the elegance of yesteryear with today's modern amenities.
Note: Annapolis is a popular weekend destination. If you don't plan ahead, you may not get a room at one of the prime downtown or West Street properties. A number of chain hotels line nearby Riva Road, located just a few miles west of downtown. Try Courtyard Annapolis or Doubletree Annapolis.
If this is your first trip to Annapolis, start with a tour of the city. Many companies schedule guided excursions. Capital City Colonials counts a fabulous food-and-history tour among its offerings.
One of our favorites is the sunset tour aboard the schooner Woodwind, which leaves from the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront Hotel across from City Dock at 6:30 p.m. Watermark also offers dozens of excursions, from a 40-minute narrated cruise of Annapolis to a Day on the Bay trip to St. Michaels. Adventuresome souls can learn to chart their own course at Annapolis Sailing School, the country's oldest, or Womanship, which has programs for women and individual couples.
You'll see young midshipmen around town in their dress whites, but the U. S. Naval Academy is also a must-see for visitors. Tour the grounds, see a sample room, and visit the chapel where legendary John Paul Jones's crypt lies. Enter on foot at Gate 1, and show your government-issued ID. During the school year, time your visit to coincide with noon formation, which begins at 12:05 p.m. in front of Bancroft Hall.
Main Street offers the best selection of T-shirts, souvenirs, and gifts with a nautical theme, but you'll also find some real gems here. At Plat du Jour, the colorful tableware and linens are imported from Europe. Even if you're not shopping for art, take time to stroll through McBride Gallery to see exquisite paintings, photographs, and sculptures. Anticipate autumn with a visit to Avoca, an Irish store filled with handwoven blankets, sweaters, and scarves.
On State Circle, watch potters work at The Annapolis Pottery, a pretty store brimming with earthenware created by a wide range of artists. Shop for Fido and Fluffy at Paws pet boutique, where gourmet treats, hand-painted bowls, and fancy collars fill the shelves.
Even the windows at Johnson's "On the Avenue," an old-school haberdashery at the corner of Maryland Avenue and State Circle, are well dressed. Open since 1926, the shop has outfitted generations of naval officers and the city's most stylish men.
Some of the brightest culinary stars can be found along Inner West Street, just off Church Circle. This includes the city's most talked about restaurant, Metropolitan. Try the rich, creamy black truffle-lobster risotto. If the heat is bearable, reserve a table on the rooftop garden.
Nearby Kyma, outfitted in the bold colors of the sea, serves Spanish and Greek tapas. Order the gazpacho followed by a Serrana "pitazza," wood-fired pita bread topped with serrano ham, tomatoes, and manchego cheese.
For a real Maryland crab feast, head to Jimmy Cantler's Riverside Inn and claim a picnic table overlooking lazy Mill Creek. If you're craving a slab of Prime U.S. beef, Lewnes' Steakhouse in Eastport is the place. Pair your filet mignon with a Greek salad, Lyonnaise potatoes, and a bold Cabernet, and you'll think you're in heaven.
Sunday brunch at the Severn Inn, located just across the Naval Academy Bridge, offers a grand view and excellent food. In addition to a raw bar, the menu features favorites such as crab cakes. Got a sweet tooth? It's worth the drive out U.S. 50 East toward the Bay Bridge to sample Caroline's Cakes. Our favorite is the Carrot Delight Cake with caramel icing between the layers.
For more information: Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau, www.visitannapolis.org or (410) 280-0445.
PLAN YOUR TRIP WITH THESE WEBSITES• Annapolis City Dock
• Historic Inns of Annapolis
• Courtyard Annapolis
• Doubletree Annapolis
• Annapolis Marriott Waterfront Hotel
• Capital City Colonials
• Annapolis Sailing School
• U. S. Naval Academy
• Plat du Jour
• McBride Gallery
• The Annapolis Pottery
• Paws pet boutique
• Johnson's "On the Avenue,"
• Jimmy Cantler's Riverside Inn
• Lewnes' Steakhouse
• Severn Inn
• Caroline's Cakes
• Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau
FOR MORE INFO:Plan Your Trip With These Websites
EDITORS' CITY GUIDE:
Get our editors' seasoned picks in these Mid-Atlantic City Guides. It's too easy - just make your selections, print, and go!
• Baltimore, MD
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• Rehoboth Beach, DE
• Virginia Beach, VA
• Richmond, VA
• Virginia's Historic Triangle
"Weekend on the Water" is from the August 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.