Aerial view of Cumberland, Maryland.

8 Underappreciated Towns To Visit In Maryland

Maryland is a dynamic northeastern state that is underappreciated outside of Baltimore. Few people can name other Maryland communities despite the vast majority of its population living in those non-Baltimore haunts. Beyond vibrant residents, Maryland's unknown (and mostly unincorporated) towns harbor amazing food, festivals, shops, wineries, breweries, beaches, parks, forests, rivers, lakes, mountains, trails, and historic sites. Discover eight such places to visit during your next trip through Maryland.

North Beach

Homes on the Chesapeake Bay, in North Beach, Maryland.
Homes on the Chesapeake Bay in North Beach, Maryland.

Described as an Ocean City for people who live in Baltimore or Washington, North Beach has a beach, boardwalk, and bustling businesses—only it straddles the Chesapeake Bay rather than the Atlantic Ocean. Appropriately, it is nicknamed the "The Jewel of the Chesapeake Bay," and tourists can mine morsels from Ketch 22, mementos from Sisters Corner, and memories from the Mark R. Frazer Sunrise Garden. Although summer is the obvious season to visit this scenic seaside settlement, North Beach blossoms in winter for Christmas at the Beach, a month-long festival featuring bright lights, big displays, campfires, a market, a parade, a Santa meet-and-greet, and a ride on Santa's sleigh (golf cart).


The old town of Brunswick, Maryland
The old town of Brunswick, Maryland. Editorial credit: Kosoff /

Boasting around 8,000 residents, Brunswick is not as underseen as many other Maryland communities, but it is hamstrung by its backwoods location and backward reputation. However, both distinctions are changing due to an influx of hip residents, employers, and developers. Having all been established in the early to late 2000s, Beans in the Belfry, Potomac Street Grill, and Smoketown Brewing Station helped Brunswick's population grow over 30 percent between 2010 and 2020.

And, although it is tucked away in west-central Maryland, Brunswick's position on the Potomac River gives tourists access to iconic natural and historic sites like the Appalachian Trail, Gathland State Park, and Harpers Ferry. Lastly, this small city hosts several yearly festivals, including Springfest/Summerfest, Pride Pool Party, and Brunswick Railroad Days. Choo-choo-choose Brunswick for your next vacation.


More details An image of St. John's United Methodist Church in Hampstead, Maryland
The St. John's United Methodist Church in Hampstead, Maryland. Image credit: Preservation Maryland via Wikimedia Commons.

Speaking of "hamstrung," Hampstead is also limited by its location. This 6,000ish-person town is nestled in north-central Maryland, which keeps it off the main Maryland drag and makes it perfect for a scenic retreat. Naturally, tourists would be wise to visit Prettyboy Reservoir, a 1,500-acre manmade lake centering a 7,380-acre naturemade preserve. Baltimore owns the Prettyboy Reservoir Cooperative Wildlife Management Area that offers fishing, hunting, paddling, rowing, boating, hiking, biking, birding, photographing, and horseback riding. After getting wild at Prettyboy, get mild at quaint in-town haunts like Maison Greene, Snickerdoodles, Pipe The Side Brewing Company, and the Outlaw BBQ Smokehouse.


Loys Station Covered Bridge in Thurmont, Maryland
Loys Station Covered Bridge in Thurmont, Maryland.

Thurmont is another secluded community in northern Maryland. Just over 6,000 townsfolk are flanked by gorgeous greenery, which contains such attractions as Catoctin Mountain Park, Cunningham Falls State Park, Catoctin Wildlife Preserve, Catoctin Mountain Orchard, and the Roddy Road Covered Bridge. They bring smatterings of tourists to Thurmont, who refuel at Simply Asia and Thurmont Kountry Kitchen. Though Thurmont is over 90 percent White and has a KKKomplicated history, it welcomes people and artwork of all colors for Catoctin Colorfest, a multi-day arts and crafts show with hundreds of vendors. It runs in October and garners about 100,000 guests.


Cumberland, Maryland, with bridges over the Western Potomac River.
Cumberland, Maryland, with bridges over the Western Potomac River.

The largest community on this list but second-deepest in the boonies, Cumberland has around 19,000 residents and is mashed into the Maryland panhandle. Of course, that does not mean tourists should ignore it. Rather, embrace Cumberland for its serenity and scenery. Appalachian attractions like Wills Mountain State Park and Rocky Gap State Park surround the town, while inside the town are scenic, historic haunts built when Cumberland was one of the largest and most productive communities in the state.

Although its population has nearly halved since the 1940s, its charm has doubled thanks to time's toil on the Cumberland Visitor Center, 1812 Brewery, George Washington's Headquarters, and Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, among many others.

North East

Houses in North East, Maryland.
Houses in North East, Maryland.

North East sits on the North East River in the northeastern corner of Maryland. The North East River is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, so the town has maritime history and activities. One can tour St. Mary Anne's Episcopal Church (c. 1743) and the Turkey Point Lighthouse (c. 1833) before dipping their hooks, oars, and feet into the tidal river. Dry off at the Chesapeake Bay Coffee Co., Pier 1 Restaurant, Snatcher's Creekside, 5 & 10 Antique Market, Steak & Main, Woody's Tacos & Tequila, and/or Woody's Crab House.

From there (if you're not too stuffed), forge ahead into the Elk Neck State Forest, a 3,500-ish-acre preserve for hunting, hiking, shooting, horseback riding, mountain biking, and nature viewing. The neighboring riverside town of Charlestown offers more nature and nutrition.


Western Maryland Railroad in Frostburg, Maryland
Western Maryland Railroad in Frostburg, Maryland. Editorial credit: Malachi Jacobs /

A boon for the Maryland boonies, Frostburg sits even farther west than Cumberland but is arguably the most vibrant community in the Maryland panhandle. Despite its remote location and small population (~7,000), Frostburg hosts a thriving college, Frostburg State University, which adds nearly 5,000 more residents and 5,000 more perspectives to Appalachia.

In addition to touring the unique, 2,000-foot-high university, visitors can check out Main Street Books, The Toasted Goat Winery, the Frostburg Depot of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, and Deep Creek Lake State Park. But the most interesting spot to stop in the Frostburg area is God's Ark of Safety, a supposedly God-willed modern ark left incomplete by human error and hubris. Its skeleton stands off the I-68.

Snow Hill

Bates Memorial United Methodist Church in Snow Hill, Maryland.
Bates Memorial United Methodist Church in Snow Hill, Maryland. Editorial credit: Anthony Frisina /

Although it is tempting to call Maryland's entire Eastern Shore underappreciated, several of its communities, including St. Michaels, Chestertown, and Berlin, are routinely voted some of the coolest towns in America. One Eastern Shore town that does not get voted the coolest is, ironically, Snow Hill. Yes, it is cool in winter, but its coolness gets neglected in summer despite its sprawling nature, striking historic buildings, quaint businesses, and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. A tourist can poke around the Pocomoke State Forest, burn bright at the Furnace Town Historic Site, get oaked at Oaked 110 - Whiskey & Wine Bar, and find their sea legs at nearby Ocean City. Snow Hill is a pile of fun.

Most Marylanders live outside of Baltimore, but that big city gets almost all the attention. To correct that disparity ever so slightly (and see the best beaches, parks, and businesses that the state has to offer), visit North Beach, Brunswick, Hampstead, Thurmont, Cumberland, North East, Frostburg, and Snow Hill. There is much more than Baltimore in the merry land of Maryland.

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