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Annapolis: where history, fun unite

It's easy to sneak in a little learning as you explore Maryland's capital

August 08, 2002|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

One slave who arrived in Annapolis in 1767 was Kunta Kinte, an ancestor of the late author Alex Haley. While you're on the dock, show your children the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial, the centerpiece of which is a sculpture of the author reading to three children.

The sculpture, installed by the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation in 1997, honors the author for his groundbreaking 1976 book, Roots, which detailed the history of Haley's family.

After whetting the kids' appetite for African-American history, be sure to take them to the Banneker-Douglass Museum at 84 Franklin St. This small, free museum features artifacts from Africa and art from local artists, as well as historical information about Maryland natives, including Benjamin Banneker and Frederick Douglass.

Banneker, born in 1731, was an inventor, mathematician and architect. He is best known for re-creating from memory the design of Washington, D.C., after the original architect, Pierre L'Enfant, was dismissed from the project. Douglass, born a slave, was one of the most important leaders of the abolitionist movement.

The brown brick building that houses the museum was built in 1874 as the Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church. Its stained-glass windows are a highlight of its elegant design.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 410-216-6180.

Go, Navy!

Of course, Annapolis is probably best known to the rest of the country as the home of the U.S. Naval Academy. The Naval School, as it was originally called, had 50 students and a 10-acre campus when it was founded in 1845. Five years later, it became the Naval Academy, the undergraduate college of the U.S. Navy. It now has about 4,000 students and a beautiful 338-acre waterfront campus.

Tours of the campus are available year-round, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. The fee is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for students in grades one through 12. Call the visitor center at 410-263-6933 for more information.

Even if you skip the tour, don't miss the academy's museum, at 118 Maryland Ave. on the campus. The museum includes uniforms and artifacts highlighting the Navy's role in armed conflicts, the Cold War and even the space race. The Gallery of Ship Models on the ground floor is considered one of the world's finest collections of ship models, and is sure to be of interest to children.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. It is closed Thanksgiving Day, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Admission is free.

Also be sure to visit the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, built in 1904. It has a beautiful copper dome and is adorned with stained-glass windows designed by Tiffany Studios.

Older kids might like to see the crypt of John Paul Jones, who famously said, "I have not yet begun to fight" when his ship was sinking and ablaze during a fierce Revolutionary War battle. Jones managed to prevail, and is considered the first hero of the Navy.

Visiting hours for the Naval Academy are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or sunset, whichever is later. For more information about the Naval Academy, call the visitor center at 410-263-6933 or visit the academy's Web site at www.usna.edu.

Speaking of the Navy reminds us of boats, and that makes us think of boat tours, which are wonderful ways to see the city and learn about its history. Walk along the City Dock and choose the boat tour that strikes your fancy. Watermark offers several, including both 90- and 40-minute tours that take several routes. The 90-minute tours are $14 for adults and $7 for kids 3 to 11, while the 40-minute tours are $7 for adults and $4 for kids 3 to 11. For more information, call 410-768-7600, or check out the Web site at www .watermarkcruises.com.

While you're on the dock, you might want to grab lunch from the Market House, a collection of restaurants and food stalls that includes a bakery, fish market, pizzeria and farmers' market. There has been a Market House at the dock in one form or another since 1788.

A mozzarella and tomato sandwich from the Big Cheese is fresh and filling. It costs about $5.

Another lunch option is Aromi d'Italia, at 8 Dock St. It offers a lunchtime buffet that features veggies, meat, pasta, fruit and more. The cost is $7.95 for adults and $3.95 for kids 10 and under. The cafe also serves sandwiches, soups and salads, as well as gelato for dessert.

Tour companies

For parents who want professional help with all that history, several tour companies operate in Annapolis. For information about Annapolis Walkabout, call 410-263-8253. For Three Centuries Tours of Annapolis, call 410-263-5401. For a bus tour, try Discover Annapolis; 410-626-6000.

Though tours can provide a lot of valuable information, it can be fun to explore the city at your own pace with your children. Because Annapolis is compact, it's easy to walk from one end to the other.

No matter how you decide to see Annapolis, you and your kids are sure to learn some fascinating history as you explore. Not a bad way to get ready for school.

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