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The elegant 19th-century homes lining Cambridge's shaded streets hail from a time when the town was an economic and social center—a heritage also proudly preserved in its maritime museum. Today, renovated downtown buildings house chic new shops and galleries as the city undergoes an exciting rebirth.
The Visitor Center at Sailwinds Park East has brochures to acquaint you with the city. The Dorchester Center for the Arts, now located in the old Nathan Furniture Store on High Street, showcases visual and performing arts. The Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center explores the life of the fomer slave known as "the Moses of her people" (open by appointment; guided tours of related sites also available. Call 410-228-0401 for information).
Other guided tours acquaint visitors with different aspects of this growing town: the anecdote-filled Cambridge Historic Tours (Saturdays at 10 a.m., April-October) and a behind-the-scenes look at J.M. Clayton Company's waterfront crab and seafood operations (for groups of 10 or more).
Maritime history is lovingly preserved in Cambridge. The Richardson Maritime Museum, named for boatbuilder and Dorchester County native son "Mr. Jim" Richarson, honors wooden boats of the Bay and their builders. The original museum building on High Street offers a collection of boatbuilders' tools and watermen's artifacts that show how boats were constructed and the history of their use. At its Ruark Boatworks waterfront site overlooking Cambridge Creek, visitors are welcome to watch or help build and restore traditional wooden boats.
The skipjack Nathan of Dorchester lies moored at Long Wharf. Visitors can see and sail aboard this latest addition to the Bay's skipjack fleet, built by local craftsmen to document the techniques required to produce these traditional workboats of the Bay.
Kayakers and cyclists can rent equipment or arrange for guided tours from Blackwater Paddle & Pedal Adventures www.blackwaterpaddleandpedal.com). A short trolley ride takes visitors to the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay golf course.
The business district, easily reached on foot from the waterfront, is infused with old-time charm. Its many galleries and shops offering antiques, home decor, jewelry, art, books and gifts make for pleasant browsing on a summer afternoon.
Foodstuffs are readily available. At A Few of My Favorite Things, you can stock up on wines and cheeses from around the world as well as coffee beans and teas. Fresh produce is available at Center Market, a neighborhood grocery, or at the Farmers Market (Tuesday and Friday mornings in season) at Governors Hall. Another Farmers Market is open in late afternoon on Thursdays at the corner of Academy and Muir streets. Buy fresh-from-the-boat live crabs, steamed crabs and packed crabmeat at J.M. Clayton Company (ice available, bring a container) or pick up fresh or packaged seafood at Kool Ice & Seafood. Convenience stores are close at hand, but for extensive grocery shopping take public transportation to the Super Fresh or Wal-Mart stores on Route 50.
Cambridge harbor was once thick with oystermen's boats, a seafood heritage still reflected in many restaurants. Portside, just above the Cambridge Creek bridge, and Snappers Waterfront Cafe both offer seafood and dockage for diners. A walk up HIgh Street brings you to several enticing restaurants and coffee shops. The Hyatt Regency, above the Route 50 bridge, offers dockage for its four dining locations, all open to the public: Blue Point Provision Company (Eastern Shore cuisine), Water's Edge Grill, Dock's Poolside (light fare) and Eagle's Nest Bar and Grille.
On Second Saturdays, shops extend their hours while museums and galleries host special openings. Local heritage figures in many of Cambridge's annual events, which include the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Day, the Groove City Jazz and Blues Fest, Taste of Cambridge Crab Cook-Off, the Cambridge Classic Powerboat Regatta (hydroplane and flat-bottom boat races, photo above), the Peach Festival and Seafood Feast-I-Val. In September, the Dorchester Showcase features juried artworks. Interspersed with the city's busy calendar are concerts, events and festivals at Sailwinds Park East.
Information: Dorchester County Department of Tourism, 800-522-TOUR; www.tourdorchester.org. Cambridge Main Street, ww.cambridgemainstreet.com.