Winter offers opportunities to visit parks and refuges with relative solitude and the chance to see spectacular flocks of swans, geese and other waterfowl around the region. But some blustery days may temper the desire to venture onto trails or kayaks. Nonetheless, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about Chesapeake region's history and heritage without getting much of a chill. Here are some museums that offer something for everyone:
Annapolis Maritime Museum
The Annapolis (MD) Maritime Museum seeks to connect youths and adults with the richness of the maritime heritage and culture of Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay. The museum operates from a waterside campus on the shores of Back Creek, with views of Annapolis Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay. Its campus is the site of the last remaining oyster-packing plant in the area, the McNasby's Oyster Packing Company. Its signature exhibit is "Oysters on the Half Shell." A weekly winter lecture series runs Thursdays from Jan. 17 to March 14.
Winter hours: noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Winter admission: Free. Donations welcomed. http://amaritime.org, 410-295-0104.
Calvert Marine Museum
The Calvert Marine Museum, in Solomons, MD, interprets regional paleontology, estuarine biology and maritime history. It includes the state's largest Miocene fossil collection, which features the 38-foot skeleton of an extinct giant great white shark; a 15-tank aquarium; live river otters; and river cruises on the historic buyboat
Wm. B. Tennison. The museum's three permanent exhibit halls, library/archives, small craft collection, boat-building center, woodshop/model-making shop, Drum Point Lighthouse and J. C. Lore Oyster House are found on the grounds. There is also a display of the Cove Point Lighthouse.
Winter hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Closed Christmas & New Year's Day.
Admission: $7/adults, $6/ages 55+ or active-duty military; $2/ages 5—12. Ages 4 & younger are free. www.calvertmarinemuseum.com, 410-326-2042.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD, is dedicated to sharing the stories of the Chesapeake and the people who have shaped their lives around it. With 18 waterfront acres in the historic town of St. Michaels, the museum offers changing exhibits, demonstrations, boat rides on the Miles River and annual festivals that celebrate Chesapeake Bay culture, boats, seafood and history.
Special Winter Exhibits: "Push and Pull: Life on Chesapeake Bay Tugboats" continues through 2014.
Winter hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
Admission: $13/adults; $10/seniors; $6/ages 6—17. Ages 5 & younger and members are free. www.cbmm.org, 410-745-2916.
Havre de Grace Maritime Museum
The museum in Havre de Grace, MD, features two areas with different exhibits. One exhibit, "Jamestown: Life 400 Years Ago," focuses on the Chesapeake Bay journey of discovery by John Smith and his crew during their two-month voyage in 1608. The other gallery space highlights watermen of the Upper Chesapeake Bay.
Winter hours: 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday; 1—5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday & Tuesday.
Admission: free; donations encouraged. www.hdgmaritimemuseum.org, 410-939-4800.
The Mariners' Museum
The more than 60,000 square-feet of gallery space in The Mariners Museum in Newport News, VA, features rare figureheads, handcrafted ship models and other artifacts and images documenting nearly 3,000 years of mankind's experiences on the seas and waterways of the world. Its Chesapeake Bay gallery interprets the Bay's early history, watermen, shipbuilding and military complexes, navigation, commerce and recreation. The USS Monitor Center exhibits historical artifacts and interactive displays that let visitors experience the fear, awe and excitement of living during the Civil War.
Special winter exhibits:
- "Abandon Ship - Stories of Survival" runs through 2013. Visitors are immersed in the experience of being cast adrift and the drama of rescue at sea.
- "The Enemy's in Sight: Clash of Navies in the War of 1812." Tongue-in-cheek time line on the War of 1812.
- "A Rebel Ensign: Confederate Flags at Sea" is an exhibit of three Confederate naval flags from 1861—63.
Winter hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Admission: $12/adults; $11/AAA members, military and ages 65+; $10/ages 13+; $7/ages 6-12. Ages 5 & younger are free. Prices are subject to change. www.MarinersMuseum.org, 1-800-581-SAIL (7254) or 757-596-2222.
Nauticus, in Norfolk, VA, is a maritime science museum that features hands-on exhibits, interactive theaters, educational films, Navy exhibits, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, Battleship Wisconsin, The Half Moone Cruise & Celebration Center; and the Victory Rover, which offers seaport cruises. The exhibit, "Our Mighty Seaport," explores the ins and outs of Hampton Roads waterways. Admission includes both the museum and Battleship Wisconsin.
Winter hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Admission: $13.95/adults; $12.95/seniors, AAA members, those on active-duty military; $9.50/ages 4—12. Ages 3 & younger are free. There is an additional fee for guided tours of the battleship's interior spaces. http://nauticus.org, 757-664-1000.
Virginia Living Museum
The state's natural heritage is the star at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. Visitors can see red wolves, bald eagles, a loggerhead sea turtle, otters and frogs that change colors. Living exhibits depict Virginia's natural heritage from the mountains to the sea, including a cypress swamp, mountain cove and cave. The museum also included hands-on activities, an observatory, state-of-the-art digital planetarium, outdoor boardwalk, green living demonstration house, and native plant and conservation gardens.
Special winter exhibit: "Through the Eyes of the Eagle," runs Feb. 23 to April 28, and features 65 original watercolors of Native American scenes and colorful characters illustrating health and diabetes prevention messages for children.
Winter hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Dec. 24 & 25 and Jan. 1.
Admission: $17/adults; $13/ages 3—12. Ages 2 & younger are free. thevlm.org, 757-595-1900.
Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art
The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, MD, was named in honor of Stephen and Lemuel Ward, whose vision and artistry in carving decoys pioneered the transition of the decoy from a working tool to an expressive wildfowl sculpture. The 12,000-square feet of exhibition space showcases contributions of artists from around the world who have carved birds both as tools for the hunt and as objects of artistic enjoyment.
Winter hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Winter admission: $7/adults; $5/senior citizens; $3/school-age children. Preschoolers and members free are free. www.wardmuseum.org, 410-742-4988 x120.