Whether you call it the Old Line state, the Free State or America in Miniature, the state of Maryland is known (and notable) for so many things — including the historic, geographic and epicurean.
One of the most unusually shaped states in the union, Maryland’s borders were determined by natural barriers — like the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay — as well as man-made ones, like the Mason-Dixon line. While you might suppose that these “old lines” are the reference in Maryland’s most popular nickname, it was actually George Washington who bestowed Maryland’s Old Line moniker, owing to its Revolutionary War “line troops.”
Maryland has also been known as the Free State since 1864, when slavery was officially abolished within its borders. The pivotal Civil War Battle of Antietam was fought in Sharpsburg, Maryland, in 1862.
But the state is known as America in Miniature because it packs so much of the country’s vast terrain within its modest 250-mile span, from rolling hills and valleys to the rocky crests of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the eastern shoreline, which is one of the longest in the country.
What’s more, Maryland introduced America to a number of modern essentials that we might not be at all modern without — the linotype, the refrigerator, the U.S. railroad (Baltimore puts the B in the B&O!) and the first telegraph transmissions sent from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore by Samuel Morse. So, the next time you find yourself texting on a train with a newspaper in one hand and an unspoiled sandwich in the other, your message should read, “What would we do without the state of Maryland?!”
Given Old Liners’ penchant for invention, it’s no surprise that Maryland is truly a cultural bastion. If the Georgian architecture hasn’t hooked you at first sight, the seafood certainly will. If there’s one thing that can unite Marylanders, it’s that you can never have enough crab cakes. (Pass us a lemon wedge?)
Adding to Maryland’s allure, there are more museums and historic landmarks here than you could appreciate in one lifetime.
With all of this to recommend it, it’s hard to think of why you wouldn’t want to move to Maryland.
Moving to Maryland – Pros and Cons
There are lots of reasons to move to Maryland — if you can afford it. At the index of 124(1), the cost of living in Maryland is higher than both the national average and in neighboring states. But the median home income in 2020 was over $87,000 — considerably higher than the national level.
The state currently has a strong job market and low unemployment (4% in September 2022); over 59,300 jobs were gained since the beginning of 2022. That’s welcome news for those considering moving to Maryland.
Maryland’s educational system, diverse scenery and proximity to major metropolitan areas like D.C. are other big lures for people moving to Maryland. The Old Line state is ranked #10 in education nationally, according to the World Population Review. More than 90% of Marylanders have graduated from high school, and an impressive 40% have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
In higher education, Johns Hopkins University tops the list (notable especially for its medical programs), and the University of Maryland in College Park and the University of Maryland in Baltimore County are both well-respected public institutions. Annapolis, of course, is home to the U.S. Naval Academy, where all students serve as midshipmen on active duty in the Navy. The state also launches the careers of top creatives from MICA, the Maryland Institute College of Art, which is a national leader in art and design education. Of course, Maryland also offers easy access to top universities in and around D.C., like Georgetown University, Howard University, American University, George Washington University (GW) and George Mason University.
Plus, Maryland has a wealth of cultural resources, from family-friendly diversions like the Ocean City Boardwalk and Jolly Roger’s Amusement Park to art museums and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. History buffs will never be bored in the Old Line state either— you can hardly move a mile in Maryland without bumping into battlegrounds, monuments or other history buffs. (See below for more details.)
But most simply, Maryland is a beautiful place to call home. You can tuck yourself into the cozy bluffs of the Blue Ridge mountains, sprawl along the sandy beaches of Chesapeake Bay or bask in the cultural riches of the state’s urban centers. Wherever you choose to move in Maryland, none of these are far from reach.
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Weather the Move to Maryland
Depending on your preferences, the weather in Maryland can be something of a draw. The state has four distinct seasons: mild springs and falls, hot and humid summers and cold, snowy winters.
Because of its unusual shape, the state really has two distinct climates: The mountainous west is cooler and drier, while the eastern seaboard is warmer and wetter. In the west, expect averages of 65 F in the summertime and 28 F in the wintertime. In the east, the humid air raises averages to 75 F and 35 F in January. Temperatures in both regions can drop below zero.
If you’re living in Maryland, you can expect to experience some epic summer thunderstorms (some thanks to hurricanes moving up the Atlantic), and a growing number of nor’easters in winter, making blizzards common.
The weather is best from May to September, so if you’re moving to Maryland, summer is a great time to do it. Overall, the temperate climate brings with it the best of the seasons—spring blooms, balmy summers, crisp fall leaves and blankets of beautiful snow.
Best Places to Live in Maryland
Baltimore, the largest city in Maryland, is home to 576,498 residents (ahem, we mean Orioles fans!). But over the last 10 years, the population of the city has declined by about 7%. The greater Baltimore-Columbia-Towson area tells a slightly different story. This metro area population is much higher — over two million people call it home.
At $167,300, the median house price in Baltimore is far below the national average, and rents average $1,094 per month. The median household income of $52,164 is more than $10K below the U.S. average, despite the fact that the poverty rate is more than 8 percentage points higher. Still, there are many reasons to love Charm City, which was ranked #84 on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of best places to live.
First, the museums in Baltimore are world-class. The African Art Museum of Maryland, located in Columbia, is one of only three museums of its kind in the U.S. The Baltimore Museum of Art has the world’s largest collection of works by Matisse. And, in the Walters Art Museum, you’ll find over 36,000 objects from the ancient world to the present day.
The Port of Baltimore has long been one of America’s critical shipping ports. Its deep waters are what gave it an edge over Annapolis. But — living up to its moniker as Maryland’s “Knowledge Capital” — business here has diversified greatly since Baltimore’s early days in the tobacco trade. Six Fortune 1000 companies call the city home, including spice giant McCormick, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Under Armour, Black & Decker and T. Rowe Price. Johns Hopkins, the first research university in America, is also in Baltimore, which draws academics from around the world and makes healthcare a major industry and service in the city.
In Annapolis, the state capital, the diverse population of 40,687 has held steady over the past 10 years, gaining just over 2,000 new residents.
Housing prices in the picturesque, bayside city of Anne Arundel County are eye-popping. The average cost of a home is $414,000 and the median gross rent is $1,491 — above the state average and greatly exceeding national averages, as well. The average household income is $87,897. Meanwhile, the high school graduation rate of 88.8% is just above the national average, but the number of college graduates is far higher — half of the adult population in Annapolis has earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
If you move to the city, you’ll find that things are maritime all the time in Annapolis. Except when they’re historical. Or, better yet, when they’re historically nautical. Families will enjoy a trip to the Annapolis Maritime Museum, which has interactive exhibits and offers sailing tours on a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack. You really shouldn’t leave Annapolis without at least one sailing excursion. You can even take classes at the Annapolis Sailing School. The U.S. Naval Academy Museum welcomes over 100,000 visitors a year who can see centuries-old artifacts and learn about how the history of the academy and the Navy is shaping the service today. One of the city’s best-kept secrets is the National Cryptologic Museum, where you’ll learn all about the history of code-making and code-breaking.
The northwest suburbs of Washington, D.C., are population hotspots in Maryland’s Montgomery County, including Gaithersburg, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Rockville and Silver Spring. The area population is over one million, and housing is spendy—you can expect to pay, on average, nearly $500,000 for a home here.
The proximity to D.C. is the obvious advantage — you can reach the city easily on the metro lines, which can get you from home to every museum on the National Mall, the U.S. Capitol and the White House in an hour or less. The area also has an incredible connected trail system for pedestrians and cyclists — you can follow the Potomac from the nation’s capital to the ‘burbs.
If you are looking for access to city life without actually living it, Frederick, Maryland, may be the city for you. A well-populated suburb in north central Maryland with a small-town feel, Frederick has a growing population of 79,588 — a gain of nearly 15,000 residents since 2010.
Housing in Frederick is still above the national average but below the state’s. The median housing price is $277,300 and the average rent is $1,378.
Frederick prides itself on being both hip and historic, and it’s hard to deny the area’s charm. One of the city’s major historic sites is the National Museum of Civil War Medicine downtown, which offers an in-depth look at battlefield medicinal practices through hundreds of historical medical and surgical artifacts. You will think very little of a skinned knee after a visit here.
But there are dozens of other (shall we say, less grisly?) historic sites in Frederick County, from the beautiful stonework of the Catoctin Aqueduct to the illuminating Museum of the American Iron Worker. Downtown bustles with residents at Christmastime, when the town is aglow with holiday lights. Weary shoppers can dine in any number of fine restaurants — or lift their spirits at one of the city’s wineries or distilleries. At McClintock’s, you’ll have to make some hard choices — do you want that old fashioned with Bootjack Rye or Matchstick Bourbon? Your G&T with Forager Gin or Gardener’s Gin? Maybe the best idea is a simple shot of Epiphany Vodka.
Known as the Capital of the Eastern Shore, Salisbury is one of the most affordable cities in the entire state. With the median housing price at $167,800 and rents averaging just over $1,000, it’s no wonder the city’s modest population of 32,930 has been growing strong over the past decade, gaining over 2,000 people.
Salisbury, located just west of Ocean City, also made the U.S. News & World Report’s list of “Best Places to Live.” The city is a designated Main Street Maryland community and has loads of small-town charm. Its lively downtown area is filled with public art and gorgeous architecture (you can take tours of both, by the way).
You can also see the city by kayak (there’s a public boat launch at the riverfront) or by trolley. This city — known for its kindness — welcomes visitors from all over to its numerous attractions, including the Salisbury National Folk Festival, its new summertime Riverfest, as well as its art galleries and food scene.
Things You Can Only See and Do in Maryland
Historic sites in Maryland abound — there are 18 public lands managed by the National Park Service in the state. Fort McHenry, the site of the Battle of Baltimore will have you singing in the key of F…Francis Scott Key, that is. The military defense mounted here inspired the balladeer to pen the Star-Spangled Banner.
Antietam National Battlefield marks the site of the bloodiest battle in U.S. history — over 23,000 lives were lost, and the fight led President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park in Cambridge, Maryland, commemorates the heroic woman who risked her life to ferry enslaved citizens to freedom.
On the Assateague Island National Seashore — a 37-mile-long barrier island of pristine beach — you can go camping, clamming and kayaking. You might even be accompanied by some of the island’s resident wild horses.
Also of note, Maryland is the midway point of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,194-mile footpath that takes you through the glorious Appalachian Mountains in the western half of the state. (Only 1,000 more miles before you reach Maine!)
Part of Maryland’s 3,100 miles of shoreline is the ever-popular Ocean City. The Ocean City Boardwalk has all the expected delights (and a few unexpected treasures, too). Trimper’s carousel has been in continuous operation since 1902 — longer than any other in the country. Jolly’ Roger’s Amusement Park has a 360° looping water slide, a “cart coaster” called the Cyclone and a monster truck “shaker” experience. There’s also all the saltwater taffy, French fries and Maryland crab cakes you can handle. Oh, and there’s an actual ocean at Ocean City! With all the other amusements, you might forget that there are 10 miles of sandy beaches to explore on this part of Maryland’s eastern shore.
Marylanders love their state parks—21.5 million people visited them in 2020 alone. No matter what outdoor activity is your go-to—hiking, boating, fishing, picnicking, birdwatching, biking or camping (okay, “cabining”), there is a Maryland state park for you.
Gunpowder Falls State Park is one of the largest, featuring incredible waterfalls along with tidal wetlands and historic sites. Deep Creek Lake State Park in Swanton has 20 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary is a birder’s paradise—more than 220 species have been spotted at this park, all drawn by the diverse terrain surrounding the Patuxent River. South Mountain State Park, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, stretches from the Potomac River to Pennsylvania. Hikers and rock climbers are rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the Cumberland Valley.
Other Unique Attractions and Activities
You can really take in Maryland’s natural beauty — and a trip back in time — aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Specialty cars outfitted in Art Deco décor offer classic cocktail service and in-the-round views of the countryside. The more adventuresome set will delight in the “Open Air Car,” which promises you will get dirty (and quite possibly wet) and will absolutely smell the (very loud!) locomotive. Fares are substantially lower for this, um, less predictable experience.
Maryland bookworms should run — not inch — their way to The Book Thing of Baltimore, where all books are free. Open to the public just one deliciously nerdy day a month. Visitors may not take more than the daily limit of 150,000 books. Curses! Bookish Baltimoreans will also enjoy a stop at Poe Baltimore—the house where acclaimed author Edgar Allan Poe penned some of his most famous works. Just remember it’s best not to look too carefully under the floorboards or behind brick walls.
Artsy types will find their flock at Artscape, the largest free arts festival in the U.S. This annual event has been drawing crowds since 1982, offering art exhibitions, live concerts, literary conversations, amazing food and more.
Where Maryland Locals Eat
If the state of Maryland is known for anything, it’s seafood — specifically blue crabs. You’ll find the tender critters boiled, broiled, fried, caked, baked, stuffed, steamed, creamed, dipped, picked and often seasoned with Old Bay, a proprietary spice blend invented in Baltimore by German immigrant Gustav Brunn. But where are the best crabs? Well, how much time do you have?
Schultz’s Crab House in Essex has been serving up Chesapeake-style Maryland crab since 1969 and its friendly, no-frills environment hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years either. The Crab Claw, located on a marina at Navy Point in St. Michaels, is only open seasonally (March-October) but offers waterfront views where you can actually watch the catch being brought in by fishermen while you eat. The crab imperial — a helping of lump crab meat seasoned with a creamy sauce and baked until unforgettable — is a local favorite. Along the Patapsco River in Linthicum Heights, treat yourself to the best crab cakes in Maryland at G&M Restaurant. Its jumbo lump beauties are served with a juicy lemon wedge and an unbeatable view. In Charlestown, the Wellwood Restaurant offers a cozy, upscale atmosphere (and remarkably reasonable prices), making it a popular spot for special events.
Can we let you in on a lesser-known slice of Maryland history? Sink your teeth into the eight luscious layers of a Smith Island Cake. These confections were first made in the 1800s, but you can still order them from the Smith Island Baking Company in an assortment of delicious flavors, from classic yellow cake with chocolate fudge to Old Bay buttercream. Marylanders are seriously serious about that spice mix!
One of Maryland’s most popular food exports is fast-casual chain CAVA, which will satisfy all your Mediterranean cravings with creative greens & grains bowls, wraps and sides. Pro-tip: You will have no regrets ordering everything with the “crazy feta.”
On the flipside of the casual coin is Bonnie’s at the Red Byrd, a mom-and-pop diner that used to be attached to a motor lodge near the Antietam Battlefield. On Wednesdays, Bonnie’s treats guests to all-you-can-eat fried chicken, but you can get its famous red velvet cake every day of the week. Maybe it’s a good thing this gem is tucked away in tiny Keedysville.
If that’s not old-school enough, turn that horse you came on toward Fell’s Point (Baltimore), where you’ll find The Horse You Came in on Saloon. “The Horse” is the country’s oldest saloon, and it continued operating even during Prohibition. It’s believed that Edgar Allan Poe took his last drink here before dying, and you can even sit in his spot — or, as the case may be, avoid it.
Relocating to Maryland Soon? Let Mayflower Get You There
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