Fairies, Gnomes, Otters and Rays: It’s Family Day In Solomons
By Lani Gering
This month our Road Trip to Solomons is taking a little bit of a turn. Instead of highlighting the cool bars and restaurants and the fun shops and waters sport activities we normally do when writing about this little Oasis, we focused on two amazing family oriented destinations in Southern Maryland – Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center and the Calvert Marine Museum. We thought this would be fitting since we celebrate Mom this month and Mom means Family.
Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center
Annmarie is most certainly a magical place even when the Fairy House and Gnome Home exhibits are gone. Fortunately for you, however, they will be on display during the month of May throughout the ¼ mile walking path that meanders through the woods on this 30 acre property. There are both adult and children’s creations set up in various sections. In addition to these whimsical exhibits, there are some very impressive sculptures in several mediums. Some of the sculptures are permanent while others are on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art. Currently there are 30 pieces on loan featuring the works of Antonio Tobias Mendez, Barbara Hepworth, Cesar, Robert Engman, Jean Arp, Kenneth Snelson and Francisco Zuniga.
The Arts Building is virtually a rotating exhibit space with an Art Lab for children to create in and a very eclectic gift shop and a sunny patio. Classes for all ages and abilities are offered in the Studio School. Everything from pottery to dance is taught by professional artists and educators. Be sure to check their website for the many events and classes that are offered. This is also where you check in and pick up your map for the walk.
I was fortunate to be able to visit for a few minutes with Jaimie Jeffrey who has been at the Gardens for several years and I asked if having things “back to normal” this year after the strains of the pandemic and she told me that the Gardens didn’t really suffer since the main attraction is all out of doors with plenty of room for social distancing. She told me they actually picked up a new membership base since there were so many new people looking for something to do and when they discovered the Gardens they were smitten. Memberships are an integral part of the support for the Gardens. Admission is free to members and a $5 donation is suggested by all others. Well worth the donation. The Gardens is a 501 c 3 non-profit entity.
Calvert Marine Museum
Anyone who knows me very well knows that I’m not exactly the first person to want to go to a museum. However, this is one I could visit a couple of times a month if I lived closer. Why?? Because of the resident otters Chessie Grace, Chumley and Calvert. These three entertainers are river otters so they are different than most of the ones you see in those cute Facebook posts. Those are most often sea otters who are two to three times the size of river otters and are the ones who float on their backs when at the water surface. River otters swim belly down and remain in that position when they are at the surface. These guys put on a show in their outdoor “pool” on a daily basis and worth the trip alone.
While it’s hard to beat the Otter Show, my other favorite spot in the museum is the “Secret of the Mermaid’s Purse: Skates & Rays of the Mid-Atlantic” exhibit. Located directly to the left of the check in desk, you can see these “flattened” cousins of the shark that are found in local waters. If you behave yourself, you will be able to touch them at the discretion of the staff. The main difference between skates and rays is how they make babies. Rays give live birth while skates lay egg-like pods referred to as a ‘mermaids purse’. You can follow the development of these eggs in a live exhibit as well.
I’m kinda wigged out about sharks – Jaws and all – so the shark exhibit is one I breeze through. However, everyone I’ve ever been to the museum with is in awe of the Paleontology Gallery. There are some prehistoric fossils that include a replica of a massive 35 foot skeleton of the extinct Mioene giant white shark aka Otodus megladon. There is also a new shark exhibit on the 2nd floor above the Maritime exhibits. If you are really interested in these types of things you can join the Fossil Club. Check out the specifics on their website.
The Maritime History Gallery is also pretty interesting. The exhibits take you time, starting with the “Pawtuxunt” Indians who lived in the area when Captain John Smith arrived. The War of 1812 made its mark in the region and artifacts from the Battle of St. Leonard’s Creek that have been pulled from the river bottom are on display. This gallery takes you through history and brings you to today with a look at the importance of fishing and the environmental impact that real estate development has made for this sensitive environment.
This is just a portion of what awaits you and this museum. The Drum Point Lighthouse that sits to the left as you enter the main building is fun to tour and there are one hour river cruises on the Wm. B. Tennison Wednesdays through Sundays at 2 pm. “What a better way to say thanks to mom (or that special someone) than with a cruise on board the historic Wm. B. Tennision. Book early. These cruises are a hit every year,” Melissa McCormick, Events & Facilities Coordinator, relays.
There is an extensive Museum Store that tempts me every time I visit. I was actually surprised that I got out of there empty handed when I was doing the R&D for this column.
They have many events throughout the year and May is a busy month. Best to consult their website for details. Admission is required for the museum.
There are several dining options serving a wide variety of cuisine in and around Solomons. There is on the water dining as well as fast food options and areas to set up a picnic if you so desire.
Solomons is located in Calvert County where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay. Getting to these venues from Old Town Alexandria is easy. From the Beltway, take Route 4 South and stay the course through Prince Frederick toward Solomons. Annmarie Gardens is a left turn (watch for a large flag pole on the left) and an exit that says Dowell Road and make that turn. Proceed through the intersection and the Gardens will be on the left. You can’t miss the gate. The Marine Museum is located closer to Solomons proper and the route is to stay on Route 4 and take the Solomons Island exit to the right. Follow the exit and you will find the entrance to the Museum right in front of you. Plan
Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center
13470 Dowell Road
Calvert Marine Museum
14200 Solomons Island Road