1. Walk the Hill. The Hill Community Project has uncovered one of the most intriguing storylines to emerge from Talbot County in recent memory. Researchers have sifted through genealogical material, land records and even the ground itself to discover that The Hill Community in Easton is one of the nation’s oldest free African American communities still in existence today. Many modern-day residents are direct descendants of the original inhabitants. Archaeologists from the University of Maryland and students from Morgan State University will dig again this summer from June 20 to July 8—and they want you! To get your hands dirty and help uncover history, email firstname.lastname@example.org. An Archaeology on the Hill self-guided walking tour is also available online at www.TourTalbot.org and the Visitor Center at 11 S. Harrison Street in Easton. Guided walking tours can be scheduled by emailing email@example.com.
2. Catch a Starr. This spring, a collection of original paintings returns to the area that inspired them, in Ruth Starr Rose, Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World, an exhibition at the Waterfowl Building in Easton. A white woman who graduated from Vassar and studied at the New York Art Students League before returning to the Shore, Rose created paintings of African American life in the Copperville and Unionville communities through the first half of the 20th century. Her works include scenes of Eastern Shore life and labor, visual depictions of Negro spirituals, and images of military heroes. The show is free and open to the public April 30 through June 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. When it leaves Easton, the show will begin a world tour that runs through 2020 and includes destinations such as Paris. In case you miss this roving exhibition, Rose is also celebrated at the Talbot Historical Society Museum at 30 S. Washington St. in Easton along with other Talbot County notables.
3. Paint Talbot. Artists flock to Talbot County, where inspiration abounds and the settings are serene. It’s a hidden gem with world-class paintings, sculpture and more. Each year, the town of Oxford hosts a juried fine arts show & sale in their Community Center; this year’s event takes place May 21-22. Over in St. Michaels, where art galleries are around every corner, the St. Michaels Art League hosts events each month to support and highlight their creative community—including the annual Labor Day Art Show. And Easton might be the leader of the pack, the cultural epicenter, with large-scale arts events throughout the year. The internationally acclaimed Plein Air Easton Competition and Art Festival is the largest and most prestigious juried outdoor painting competition in the country. From July 9-17, the festival will host 58 juried artists from across the country—and almost 200 more for the “quick draw” competition. Thousands more visitors will come for lectures, workshops, exhibitions and other events throughout Talbot County before the festival’s exhibition and sale.
4. Muster at the Museum. There are museums in Talbot County for just about every interest. Perhaps the area’s biggest—and a nationally renowned one at that—is the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, where visitors explore maritime history and culture. Stay for the day and enjoy a picnic lunch at the water’s edge on the CBMM campus; stroll the grounds and take a peek at the working boatyard to see the Museum’s latest restoration project. The Academy Art Museum in Easton enhances the cultural life on the Eastern Shore through its expanding collection, everchanging exhibitions and an expansive class schedule. The building at 106 South St. is a historic landmark and houses exhibition space, a performing arts auditorium, an outdoor sculpture garden and studios for everything from dance to digital design. All of Talbot County’s smaller museums are open the first Saturday of the month from May through November in addition to their regular hours.
5. Tune in for Live Music. There’s no shortage of arts and culture in Talbot County, which is home to an engaging live music scene. The Historic Avalon Theatre in Easton, including its 60-seat Stoltz Listening Room, plays host to an ever-changing lineup of top talent as well as a series of summer street concerts. The 31st Annual Chamber Music Festival brings classical music to venues all around Easton, June 5-19. And for world-class jazz, check out the annual Monty Alexander Jazz Festival Sept. 2-4 at the Avalon Theatre. In St. Michaels, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum hosts live music at many of its festivals throughout the year, and the town of Oxford offers live performances in the park on the second Sunday of the month throughout the summer.
6. Find a Farmer. From summer squash to sweet corn, our Farmer’s Markets in Easton and St. Michaels are full of great finds—the one in Easton was named Best Farmer’s Market by What’s Up? Eastern Shore magazine! If you want to visit a local farmer straight at the source, check out the produce (and the pumpkin patch, if it’s in season) at Councell Farms just north of Easton on Route 50. To pick your own strawberries and pumpkins, head to Family Affair Farm in the spring or fall. For a creamy-delicious treat, check out the raw milk and pasteurized cheeses, farm fresh yogurts, and more at Chapel’s Country Creamery. Swing by the Wye Grist Mill in the unincorporated community of Wye Mills for freshly ground corn meal or grits.
7. Ride a Historic Skipjack. The sloop-rigged skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark turns 130 years old in 2016. Built in Taylor’s Island, Maryland, in 1886, she’s the oldest skipjack in the Chesapeake Fleet, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2003. Visitors can catch a ride on the Rebecca at her homeport in Tilghman Island’s Dogwood Harbor. Captain Wade Murphy Jr. is an American original who’ll give you a tour you won’t forget (410-829-3976). Looking for more? The Hilda Willing, also on Tilghman Island, offers two-hour tours by appointment (410-924-9975). The authentic working skipjack H.M. Krentz, first launched in 1955, picks up passengers daily in St. Michaels for tours of the Miles River or can be chartered for picnics and cocktail cruises. This summer, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is hosting a series of model skipjack races—and if the timing is right, they may just have a historic skipjack under restoration in their working boatyard.
8. Rally with the Watermen. Waterman’s Appreciation Day is one of the biggest celebrations on the Shore, and this year’s promises to be one of the best yet. Adding to the list of regularly scheduled events, including the docking contest and live music, is a buy boat reunion. Historically, watermen fished so far off the coast that it wasn’t efficient for them to deliver the day’s catch themselves. So-called buy boats would play the middlemen, buying the seafood from the watermen’s boats and delivering it to the shore. Buy boats are out of commission now, but are still historic treasures of the Bay. This year, they’ll reunite in Talbot County, and visitors can tour them and even take a ride. The reunion (Aug. 11-14) coincides with Waterman’s Appreciation Day (Aug. 14). If you can’t make it to the festival, don’t fret: You can catch a ride on the Winnie Estelle from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum anytime.
9. Get Out on the Water. If the Winnie Estelle or the working skipjacks don’t strike your fancy, there are plenty of other ways to get on the water in Talbot County. The Patriot is a two-level, 149-passenger replica of an early 1930s steam ferry. Cruise along the Miles River with all the creature comforts of a modern vessel. If you prefer to sail, The Selina II in St. Michaels offers intimate sunset Champagne cruises, and down the road, The Lady Patty offers classic yacht charters from Tilghman Island. Or board the M/V Sharps Island, also on Tilghman Island, to tour the lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay. The Oxford Bellevue Ferry, America’s oldest privately owned ferry route in operation since 1683, transports passengers, cars and even bikes across the Tred Avon River.
10. Bottoms Up. Talbot County offers the perfect trifecta of tipple tasting: beer, wine and spirits. St. Michaels is home to the St. Michaels Winery (www.st-michaelswinery.com)—their delicious chocolate zinfandel is not to be missed—and just down the street is Eastern Shore Brewing Co., with its distinctive craft beers, and the Lyon Distilling Company, whipping up smallbatch rum and whiskey. In Cordova, Triple Creek Winery offers a scenic space and another assortment of wines. Each year, visitors get the chance to sample wines from all across the region during the WineFest at St. Michaels. The three-day street festival in April is one of the highlights of spring and includes rare and reserve tastings, the opportunity to meet winemakers, VIP experiences, parties, philanthropy and more.
11. Pound the Pavement. There may be no better places to strap on your running shoes than our small towns—and we aren’t the only ones who think so. More than 2,500 runners come out each year to enjoy the scenic, flat trails of the St. Michaels Running Festival. Iron Man competitors even come here to train—the terrain is consistent, and the views can’t be beat. Prefer to run alone? There’s plenty of time and space for that, too. Follow our bike map—we’ll get to those in a minute—or, for something with a little more spunk, check out TriCycle & Run’s monthly 5k in St. Michaels.
12. Bike the Trails. If bicycling is more your speed, we’ve got you covered. We’ve outlined hundreds of miles of paths all around the county—and everything else you could need to know—in our Talbot County Bike Trails brochure. Bikers come out in droves for the annual Chesapeake Bay Tour de Cure in May. And each year, our local riverkeepers host the Ride for Clean Rivers, formerly the Tour de Talbot, which starts in Wye Mills on Sept. 18. If you’re feeling spontaneous, hit the streets from wherever you are and make your own way. The open roads and scenic paths are calling.
13. Paddle Around. If you prefer person-powered watercraft, there are many kayak and stand-up paddleboard rental shops around Talbot County and, with more than 600 miles of shoreline, plenty of waterways to explore. The Office of Tourism has partnered with Talbot County Parks and Recreation and Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources to create water trails maps for both Tilghman Island and St. Michaels, with directions for easy launching spots. Check out the maps and brochures here.
14. Add Some Sizzle. Talbot County is known for its extensive menus of generations-old family seafood recipes and ingredients brought forth from the Chesapeake Bay. But recently in Talbot County we’ve seen a new culinary phenomenon: killer barbecue. In Easton, check out chef Andrew Evans’ award-winning pickin’s at The BBQ Joint, or grab some brisket at Hot Off the Coals (www.hotoffthecoals.com). In St. Michaels, cruise down Talbot Street toward Shore Barbecue & Seafood Company. And in Trappe, check out the newest addition to the barbecue battalion at Talbot Smokehouse.
15. Shop ‘Til You Drop. Don’t let our small town vibe fool you—for those who seek it, there’s plenty of style all around Talbot County. From one-of-a-kind boutiques to lavish jewelry stores, even the most discerning fashionista can get lost in our stylish shops. But fashion is just one tiny part of shopping here—you’ll find plenty for the well-dressed home, too. Home furnishings and antiques stores abound! Stroll through any one of our Main Streets and discover that perfect piece just waiting to brighten your home.
16. Celebrate the Season. There’s no place like Talbot County during the holiday season, with each town boasting its own parades, festivals and traditions galore. The annual Waterfowl Festival, now in its 46th year, kicks off the holiday season the second weekend in November, and the fun continues right through the New Year. From Tilghman Island’s famous lighting of the Great Crab Pot Tree to St. Michaels Midnight Madness where local shops stay open until midnight for holiday shoppers, Talbot County towns know how to celebrate. The party continues with Easton’s Christmas parade, Oxford’s Christmas on the Creek, and Christmas in St. Michaels. Talbot County rings in the New Year with a family-friendly First Night Celebration and Crab Drop in Easton.
This content originally appeared in the 2016 Talbot County Travel Guide. Download the entire guide here.