Havre de Grace's broad avenues and quiet streets exude old-fashioned charm, the kind inspired by grand Victorian homes with sweeping porches and shops fronting beautifully preserved buildings. Quality museums, art galleries, specialty shops and restaurants whose cuisines range from sophisticated to down-home make any cruise here worth the trip. But be prepared to walk. The town stretches along the shoreline at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, so it is long and narrow, with attractions at either end.
Museums and parks are an integral part of the city. Northern-most is Susquehanna Museum of Havre de Grace, housed in a restored locktender's house along the old Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal. Only vestiges of the canal remain, but its story is recounted at the museum through special events and in guided tours. Prominent on the town's southern perimeter is Concord Point Lighthouse (1827), the John O'Neill House (the restored home of the lighthouse keeper, across the street from the lighthouse) and the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum (the museum's recreation of a fishing shanty is pictured in the photo, next page), where photographs, artifacts and wooden boat projects help preserve the region's past. Nearby, the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum's extensive collections and imaginative displays celebrate the traditional art of decoy carving.
Not far from the museums, a wooden promenade provides expansive views of the Susquehanna and glimpses of wildlife. At the promenade's southern end sits Tydings Park, an oasis that includes a launch ramp, pavilion, snack bar, picnic grounds (with grills) and a colorful playground.
The Visitors Center offers guide maps to help you explore the historic district's many sights and easily locate restaurants and shops. Activities abound. Enjoy a cruise aboard the skipjack Martha Lewis or the Lantern Queen, a replica Mississippi riverboat (public dinner cruises); attend a production by the Tidewater Players; parasail above the city; arrange for a taxi (410-939-0900) to one of five nearby public golf courses, including Bulle Rock, home of the LPGA championship; go for a kayak tour of the Susquehanna Flats offered by Chesapeake Cycle & Sport (410-939-TREK) or have them deliver a rental bike to your boat; Biller's Bikes (443-502-2377) makes bike deliveries as well.
Establishments of all kinds line the architecturally diverse business district, including several grand Vistorians that now serve as B&Bs (www.bedandbreakfast.com). The Save-a-Lot supermarket is walking distance from the waterfront, as is the Saturday morning farmers' market (May-October). For sweets, try Goll's Bakery.
The variety of dining in Havre de Grace is as wide as the mansion-lined streets in the city's historic neighborhoods. Whether you're sitting down to a traditional crab feast at Price's Seafood or grabbing a savory snack in one of the neighborhood bars, you're sure to find your surroundings as pleasing as your meal. The Tidewater Grille is the only downtown restaurant with dockage for diners, but an assortment of dining options are within easy walking distance of any town marina. For a special treat, stop by Bomboy's Home Made Candy store or ice cream shop, where visitors can savor hand-dipped chocolates and home-made ice cream.
Beginning in May, local businesses stay open until 8 p.m. on the first Friday of the month, and downtown bustles with activities and music. The beat continues at the Friday Concert in the Park series held during July and August in Tydings Park, or tune in to acoustic performers at the Maritime Museum on Monday nights in July.
Many events on Havre de Grace's busy calendar reflect the arts and the city's heritage. Among the calendar's highlights are the city-wide Decoy and Wildlife Art Festival in May; an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration (parade, carnival and fireworks); in August, the city's Seafood Festival and the Maritime Museum's Mari-Fest (living history displays, boat building, music and the nearly-famous Crab Soup Cook-off); and in September, the Decoy Museum's Duck Fair (artists, carvers, and retriever dog demonstrations).
Information: Havre de Grace Office of Tourism & Visitor Center, 800-851-7756 or 410-939-2100, www.hdgtourism.com; Harford County Office of Tourism, 888-544-4695, www.harfordmd.com.