Monday, July 7, 2008

Calvert Marine Museum

Having grown up in Utah, I never had any sort of special fondness for the sea. I went to the ocean a few times during junior high and high school - but it never was much of a draw. How things have changed for me since I moved to Maryland. I LOVE the Bay. I feel like it belongs to me as much as it does to any other Marylander. I love any activities that let me be near it, so being able to spend a week a year down on the Bay with my family every year is a real treat.

The Calvert Marine Museum is one that we've never tried - which is strange, since when I finally found the directions it was only 45 minutes from where we've stayed the last two years. We stay in St. Mary's county and this place is in Calvert county (in Solomons Island). To get there, you get to cross this (info found here):

Your real adventure, however, begins even before you reach the island when your route takes you over Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge on Rt. 4. This bridge, connecting Calvert and St. Mary's County, is over 140 feet high with only a jersey wall separating you from the 120 foot deep Patuxant River below.

I must say - I have no fear of heights, but this one actually made my hands sweat :)

This museum is fantastic for adults AND kids - something I am always on the prowl for. It's right on the water - they've got a marsh walk and a huge boat exhibit outside. My boys could not get enough of those boats - some of them are really old and it was a great place to run around anyway :)

SO. You first walk in and there is a big exhibit all about STING RAYS!! My kids were so thrilled because we had just seen sting rays out in the open the days before and the docents were so friendly and helpful. They had a big tank with some smaller rays and skates swimming around.

Next down the hall was one of the greatest museum discovery rooms I've ever been to - and I've been to a lot. Here's what they had:

*A big touch tank with nice ladies to help you touch the different animals - they even had a TERRAPIN!! GO TERPS!! Of course I had to give him a lucky pat, as did all of my future Terps :)

*A boat!! They had hats and lifejackets for the kids to put on and a nice docent even taught Xavier how to lower and raise the sails. The sailor talk I heard was hilarious. The boys, especially, loved that

*A lighthouse and keeper house with dress up clothes and you could walk up little stairs to turn on the lighthouse light

*a replica of the Calvert Cliffs with a big sand pit full of fossils! Sharks teeth, mostly, but the kids could sift and dig through it and pick one to take home. They had a big chart with all kids of sharks teeth and what they looked like, and you got to fill out a sheet identifying your tooth. Sheely really liked that part.

*ropes where you could practice rope tying

*upstairs they had books, puzzles, legos and bean bags to explore and chill. I had to drag my kids out

The rest of the museum the kids just walked through - there were some fish and animals to see, as well as a miniature model of the city of Solomons and several huge boats. There was so much to read and see! I actually snuck around by myself and read while the boys were playing in the discovery room with my sister. There was a lot to learn about Solomon's Island and the role of Calvert County in the sea trade in the past.

And outside, besides what I already mentioned, there are otters!!! Such playful and fun guys I have never seen. The boys were doing the happy screaming at their antics. We also got to take a self-guided tour of the Drum Point Lighthouse which they moved right to the campus of the museum and the tour was included in the admission price. It's a "screwpile, cottage-type light" and the keeper lived right there in the light house. It was such a neat, circular home, I can imagine a younger Corinne having day dreams about living in a place like that. The kids and I climbed right up the swirly stairs to the top and got a great, if cramped, view.

If you are ever in Maryland, this museum is worth seeing. It's probably an hour and a half from downtown DC - but really, a world away.

cross posted at the Summer Adventure Challenge blog

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