My Hometown Through The Eyes of A Visitor
In Maryland, where the mouth of the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay, rests the small city of Havre de Grace. This city of about 14,000 people was incorporated in 1785. Full of history and charm, Havre de Grace was given the honor of being one of Smithsonian Magazine’s 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2014.
I was blessed to have been born and raised in Havre de Grace. After growing up in this small city, I decided to raise my own children here. Knowing that my children are growing up in the same area as I did, and having similar experiences makes me thankful and happy. For them, Havre de Grace is a small city where they have lots of opportunities to experience all that life has to give. Having experienced all that this city has to offer every day for my entire life, it is easy to take it for granted. Everything from knowing most of your neighbors, to having wonderful weather, to being on a first name basis with city leaders. I decided to truly start my journey of travel, writing, and blogging in my own hometown. But I needed to see it with new eyes. So I decided to explore the city as a tourist or visitor would. I would see the sites, visit the museums, and dine at the local restaurants.
Initial decent down Maryland Route 155 into Havre de Grace.
Havre de Grace is actually very simple to find, located about 45 minutes east of Baltimore, Maryland in the northeastern part of Maryland. If you are arriving via Interstate 95, as you descend the first hill towards the city, you are greeted by a wonderful view of the Chesapeake Bay.
Havre de Grace is a very friendly city and it loves to boast about its place at the tip of the Chesapeake Bay and the mouth of the Susquehanna River. Throughout the city, you will find murals painted by local artists.
At the local Visitor’s Center, you are welcomed by friendly volunteers who are quite knowledgeable about the city. A diorama of what the town looked like in the early years is on display along with a model replica of local building known as the Livery.
There is just so much to do in Havre de Grace, that it could very easily make for a fun filled weekend. During the warmer months, there seems to be an event or festival going on just about every single weekend. So it is worth your time to find out just what is going on throughout the year. There are museums, historical tours, haunted tours, hiking and biking trials, parks, live concerts, and much more.
THE LAFAYETTE TRAIL
Being as I had never actually done it, I decided to walk the Lafayette Trail. The Lafayette Trail is a self-guided walking tour that takes you to museums, historic buildings, parks, marinas, and other points of interest. The trail is approximately 3 miles long and is marked by a blue line painted on the sidewalk. In front of each property denoted to be part of the tour, you will also find a blue medallion embedded in the sidewalk. The city’s tourism website also has a guide that tells you some of the facts of each location on the route.
THE DECOY MUSEUM
The Havre de Grace Decoy Museum is dedicated to the local tradition of duck hunting and decoy carving. The exhibits and displays house items from the early days of duck hunting to the modern day decorative decoys. Decoys were originally simple wooden items used to lure in the ducks and geese for the hunters. It eventually evolved into more of a decorative carving for display in a home or store front.
Some of the greatest decoy carvers in the world have come from Havre de Grace and the surrounding area. Carvings from masters such as R. Madison Mitchel, Bob McGaw, and the Ward Brothers are on display.
THE MARITIME MUSEUM
The Maritime Museum tells the history and story of the maritime heritage of the area. The exhibits show the progression from the early Native Americans, to the adventures of John Smith around the Chesapeake, to ice harvesting at the end of the 19th century, to modern day commercial fishing.
At the mouth of the river stands Concord Point Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses on the East Coast in continual operation. It was built in 1827 and its first Keeper was the hero from the War of 1812, John O’Neill. You’ll find it at the end of Lafayette Street, half a block away from the Maritime Museum.
The grounds in front of the lighthouse are a popular spot for couples to hold their wedding ceremonies during the warm months. It is also part of the city’s Promenade boardwalk, which is a wooden and concrete walkway that follow’s the shoreline from Concord Point to Tydings Memorial Park.
HISTORICAL DOWNTOWN DISTRICT
The oldest area of the city is the Historical Downtown District. Here your will find small local shops and businesses. Everything from small knick-knack stores, to bridal gown stores, to a local department store, to antiques. You’ll also find the majority of the local restaurants and bars here in downtown.
I have eaten in just about every restaurant and bar in town, but a few stick out that I’d like to mention. The first is a new little spot called The Vintage Café. The Vintage Café is owned by a local mother and daughter and serves breakfast and lunch as well as hand made sodas, milkshakes, and floats. My family and I are slowly becoming regulars and love the friendly staff and atmosphere.
Another one of my favorites is the Laurrapin. The Laurrapin is a local restaurant that specializes in local and seasonal foods. They are committed to using local and sustainable foods in their dishes and it shows. If you want good food and drinks, then stop by and I promise you’ll be hooked on the quality of the food.
THE SURROUNDING AREA
In addition to what Havre de Grace has in the city, the nearby area has more for one to explore. The Susquehanna State Park is filled with hiking and biking trails, historic buildings, and beautiful scenery all the way up to the Conowingo Dam in Darlington, Maryland.
Just inside the Park is Steppingstone Farm Museum. Steppingstone Farm Museum displays the rural arts and crafts of the late 1800 and early 1900 of the Harford County area. With exhibits showing the tools and trades of blacksmith, joiner, woodwright, cooper, potter, wheelwright, dairy farmer, spinner and weaver.
All in all, Havre de Grace truly is a wonderful place to visit. With all that it has to offer, it is no wonder that I continue to call it my home. With everything from history, to recreation, to education, to fine dining, why wouldn’t someone want to come here and experience it. Hopefully, this will get you to go out and explore your own town or city. Sometimes you have to remind yourself just why you live there.