If you’re hoping for a summer getaway that’s both close to home and feels like a world away, look no further than Easton, Maryland.
A day of browsing charming stores, visiting a world-class art museum and exploring local history can give way to an evening of elevated dining and renowned performers.
Situated about 70 miles away from downtown D.C., it’s close enough for a day trip. Easton also works as an excursion if you’re taking a long vacation in Ocean City, Maryland, or Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
But how did a small Eastern Shore town get up to Easton’s level?
The Tidewater Inn says it traces its roots back 300 years, and its historic Hunter’s Tavern and chef of 50 years, Raymond Copper, have welcomed Elizabeth Taylor, Bing Crosby and other celebrities.
More recently, a lot of the town’s recent tourist development has been driven by Paul Prager and his company Bluepoint Hospitality Group, which have invested tens of millions in the town. It’s behind numerous restaurants, a bookstore and more.
“When times were difficult, there were a lot of boarded-up storefronts. And then we brought the buildings up to code, and we were very sensitive to the architecture in the period,” Prager said. “And then we needed businesses to put in them. And I thought, why not have fun?”
The Scene’s Tommy McFly headed to Easton to explore a culture-rich area full of history, interesting flavors and surprises on every corner, and found something for visitors of all kinds.
Things to do in Easton, Maryland
Explore the quaint town and stop by antique stores and other unique shops.
At Flying Cloud Bookstore, you can pick up your next read. And next door at Flying Cloud Fine Art Posters, you can browse a collection of truly impressive vintage posters. The 800-poster-strong collection of vintage art includes food and beverage ads, travel posters, and war propaganda pieces, according to Carlie Lindeberg, general manager for the shop.
“We mostly source them from auction, but once in a while, people come to us and say they have posters that they found,” Lindeberg said. “We had a local gentleman that found a couple war posters in his attic, and we sent them to a conservationist to be preserved. It’s just kind of fun.”
Every poster for sale in the shop is an original print run poster, Lindeberg said.
Among Flying Cloud’s offerings this summer: an original printing of Milton Glaser’s psychedelic profile art of Bob Dylan, works by Theophile Steinlen (best known for his famous Chat Noir poster) and pieces by James Montgomery Flagg, who designed the iconic “I Want You” Uncle Sam recruitment ad during World War II.
“When it was done, they’re basically advertisements,” Lindeberg said. “The purpose of the older ones, too, were to be plastered on the streets of Paris. So these were extra that were printed, that weren’t used, that we got to save over time.”
A thriving arts scene includes galleries, the Avalon Foundation — which hosts performances in its historic theater, plus free outdoor concerts — and the Prager Family Center for the Arts, which puts on movie nights and concerts, including by its celebrated artist-in-residence Gabriela Montero.
The Academy Art Museum, which has shown works by Mary Cassatt, Francisco Goya and Rembrandt, is a must-see. This August, visitors can walk through an “immersive, large-scale installation” in which Hoesy Corona explores the impacts of climate change; the work of Pablo Picasso, Jacques Villon and Giorgio Morandi at the “Spatial Reckoning” exhibit (opens Aug. 1) and an exhibition by emerging Eastern Shore artists (opens Aug. 18).
The museum hosts talks, yoga in the galleries and classes for all ages. It’s free and open Tuesdays through Sundays; docent-led tours must be requested two weeks in advance.
As the birthplace of Frederick Douglass, the famed author and abolitionist, Easton is a town brimming with history.
Back in 2011, Easton installed a statue depicting Douglass commemorating his return to Talbot County as a free man. Talbot County also has a series of small museums where visitors can learn more about the region’s heritage and a guide to four self-guided driving tours exploring periods of Douglass’ life.
You can also visit the Talbot Historical Society, which includes Easton’s oldest frame house and a 1-acre garden, for free.
Easton’s festivals and special events make it a good pick for any time of year. Art walks in the summer, a film festival and Waterfowl Festival in the fall, Christmas events and a holiday market in the winter and the Fire and Ice Festival in February are just a few banner events from the town’s calendar.
Where to eat in Easton, Maryland
Eateries offering five-star dining and handmade ice cream have popped up throughout the town, giving locals and visitors a wide range of venues to enjoy.
Family-owned Storm and Daughters Ice Cream is a local favorite for sweet treats, 48 flavors of ice cream and Waffle Wednesdays.
One of Bluepoint Hospitality’s spots, Bonheur Pie & Ice Cream, does an afternoon tea service on Fridays. Or there’s P. Bordier, a French pastry shop serving traditional desserts as well as innovative takes on classics such as galettes and crêpes.
“I always try to focus on flavor because, at the end of the day, things could be beautiful but not tasty,” the shop’s executive chef Thomas Raquel said. However, take it from us: The desserts do look as good as they taste.
The Wardroom, another project dreamed up by Prager, is an upscale market serving seasonal sandwiches, cheeses and charcuterie boards by day, then innovative pasta dishes accompanied by wines at night.
You can even pick up elements for your own impressive charcuterie board.
The Wardroom’s in-house cheesemonger, Red Barnes, maintains a pretty display case and a cheese cave (pronounced “cahv”). The low-humidity, brick-walled room next to the wine cellar keeps the cheeses cold and fresh while ensuring that troublesome microbes stay away.
“You have to care for the cheese, as if it’s a dog or a child, and take care of it,” Barnes said.
Barnes says she keeps up with not just the cheeses that people might like, but also the new products mentioned in high-profile food guides, and sources them for the shop.
“Be on the move about what you know,” she said. “If you see something in the Washington Post or the New York Times, boom, get that product and get it into the shop.”
The Bas Rouge offers a mix of mid-Atlantic and British cuisine in a beautifully crafted, upscale dining room complete with chandeliers, gleaming crystal-and-silver décor and carefully arranged vases and framed paintings.
The menu includes its staple crab Wellington (the epitome of Maryland fine dining?), crispy confit duck and ratatouille pavé. Lunch is a la carte, while dinner tasting menus run $125 for three courses and $150 for four.
Lori Rampani and Samuel Larreal contributed to this report
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