‘Naptown. The (other) city by the bay. Land of thousands of cute Navy midshipmen. To me? It’s home. To you? It could be a great destination when you want a little break from our fair city. I had the occasion to be back that way yesterday. The weather was so unseasonably nice that I took a stroll around downtown (aka “historic” Annapolis, as opposed to the more commercial areas).
I parked at the garage up on West St. and wandered toward Church Circle. For those unfamiliar with the area, downtown is centered around two nearly adjoining circles — Church Circle, which goes around a beautiful old church, and State Circle, which rings the state house — from which little side streets wind this way or that down to the water by way of cute boutique shops or antique townhouses. Making my way around the circle to Main St. (the primary commercial street, down which one has a breathtaking view of the Bay), I stopped at Starbucks for some tea. Before you inquire as to why I would pick the chain store over the local coffeeshops, let me say this isn’t just *any* cookie-cutter Starbucks. Built about two years ago, it’s in the basement of the Maryland Inn. With low ceilings, exposed brick walls, eclectic artwork, dim lighting, and plush sofas, it’s wine cellar meets ski chalet. Very charming and always a necessary stop for me.
Sufficiently warmed and mildly caffeinated, I headed down Main St. This part of town, like the Annapolis Mall and route 2 shopping plazas, has undergone a bit of an overhaul in recent years. There are more cute boutique stores and fewer, well, “old lady sweater” stores. Shopping along the way, I eventually ended up at City Dock. More than the Georgetown waterfront or Baltimore’s inner harbor, sitting on the water in Annapolis evokes the tantilizing promise of escape that hopping a boat and sailing around aimlessly offers. Really, there’s no way to quite describe it except to say the water, boating, etc., is a way of life in Annapolis while it seems like there just sort of happens to be water near those other cities. One can definitely sense the difference. With the boats sailing by, one’s feet hanging off the dock, and the breeze blowing off the glistening water, it’s impossible to feel anything but peaceful.
After sufficiently soaking up the sun, I wandered through back streets up to Maryland Ave. Because it comes off the far side of State Circle and doesn’t connect with Main St., it’s easy to miss, but it actually has some of my favorite downtown stores. Definitely worth the walk over. I concluded my adventures at Chick & Ruths — arguably the most well-known and appreciated little restaurant among locals. It’s been there for decades, only took cash until recently, is always insanely busy and crowded, but the food is amazingly good. Also, they have sandwiches named after Maryland legislators. Silly but true, it’s a huge deal when they unveil the new lineup of sandwiches (detailed on colorful plaques above the counter) after an election. There are plenty of great restaurants in town, but this is my usual stop when I all too infrequently happen to make it downtown.
On the way out of town, I stopped by the recently opened shopping plaza at the corner of West St. and route 2. The anchor store is a Target (it’s about time we got one!) but the highlight is Anthropologie. My version of heaven is this store. Not any old one in the chain, but this particular location. It’s huge, the layout is beautiful, and the merchandise selection (not just clothes, but especially home stuff like dishes, tea cups, etc.) is far and away the best of any I’ve been to. There are a couple other upscale shops here and when taken with the mall right down the street, which almost doubled in size with the renovation last year, I think the area is definitely on par with any other in the DC metro region when it comes to being a shopping destination. Not at all something I would have said when I was growing up there.
Whether one is going for the shopping, the history, or the breathtakingly scenic water views, it’s a great escape for being only an hour away.