At first glance, Easton looks like many Colonial cities on the East Coast. Fog off the water diffuses the early-morning sun. Federal-style and Italianate building line tidy streets. Neighbors say hello as they walk fluffy, vest-clad dogs. But look a little closer, and you’ll find a town in the midst of a design, cultural and culinary renaissance.
Easton has topped several “best small towns” lists over the past decade, with good reason. Like most of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, it’s is a hotspot for birding, boating, and cycling, as well as for a range of cultural activities, from walking tours to visual art and live performance. In part thanks to Bluepoint Hospitality, Easton is packed with restaurant and retail concepts, many in historic buildings that are stunning examples of adaptive reuse.
Here’s how to spend a perfect weekend experiencing the best of Easton, MD.
How to Get There
Fly into Baltimore and pick up a rental car for the hour-and-10-minute drive. It’s a slightly longer trip — about 1.5 hours — from DC.
Where to Stay
Easton is teeming with small, scenic inns. Top choices include the Hummingbird Inn, a large, turreted Queen Anne Victorian with private gardens flush with blooms and a stately magnolia tree. Relax with a book and a cup of tea in the guest parlor, or sip a glass of wine on the wraparound porch as the sun sets.
Along a tree-lined street, Bishop’s House Bed & Breakfast, open April through December, boasts rooms with whirlpool tubs and working fireplaces, plus complimentary bicycles. Their breakfasts, including specialty omelettes and Puffed Blueberry Pancakes, plus fresh baked goods and fruit platters, are hearty and come with a choice of eight fruit juices.
Meanwhile, the Tidewater Inn, only a block or so from the downtown, retains many of its 1874 features, such as plaster moldings, a hand-carved staircase, tile foyer and glass-walled sunroom. The inn has just six rooms and suites, all decked out with antique and vintage reproduction furniture, plus an on-premise restaurant, bar and spa.
What to Do
Located along the Tred Avon River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, the country’s largest estuary, Easton is a popular spot for boating, as well as fishing for rockfish, oysters and blue crab. Or explore the waters at a more leisurely pace by renting a kayak or SUP.
For a land-based adventure, head to Pickering Creek Audubon Center, a 410-acre working farm with of walking and canoeing trails. You might spot bald eagles, bobolinks, great blue herons or wood thrushes and warblers. The annual fall Waterfowl Festival, which takes place all around town, draws 18,000 people for a 3-day celebration of wildlife paintings, sculpture, carving, photography, decoys and more. To date, it has raised more than $3.7 million for conservation projects.
Running for nearly 3 miles through town, Easton Rails-to-Trails is a great spot for walking, jogging and cycling. Hop on and off the trail to visit shops and parks.
Combine outdoor exploration with culture in guided or self-guided walking tours, which stop at landmarks like the Third Haven Meeting House, built in 1684 as a Quaker gathering place. For a spookier experience, book a haunted walking tour, where you’ll learn about the town’s old jail and orphanage — and the specters that roam the landscape today.
From April through December, the monthly First Friday Arts Walk gives premier access to exhibit openings, trunk shows, happy-hour food and drink specials, and more around the town’s many galleries, shops and studios. Academy Art Museum is a small but mighty venue for thought-provoking permanent and rotating collections, especially from regional artists. They also host art talks, performances and workshops.
Easton has two excellent performing arts theaters. Almost smack-dab in the center of town, the Art Deco Avalon Theater mounts more than 100 concerts and plays each year. Meanwhile, at the intimate Ebenezer Theater, lauded pianist-composer Gabriela Montero brings international performers like Joshua Bell and Paquito D’Rivera to the stage. Tickets sell out quickly, so buy yours early.
What Easton lacks in size — it’s a little under 12 square miles, with a population of about 15,000 — it more than makes up for in creative boutiques and shops. Among the best are Flying Cloud Booksellers, which stocks a mix of current best-sellers, classics, quirky cookbooks and a large children’s collection. Sister showroom Flying Cloud Fine Art Posters sells a spectacular collection of more than 2,000 vintage advertising, war propaganda and film posters. Don’t have enough room in your suitcase? Flying Cloud will ship to your home.
Inside interior design boutique Dwelling & Design, find home décor and gifts from around the world. At the Amish Market, pick up fresh foods, as well as handcrafted home décor, crafts and heirloom-quality furniture. Euro-influenced Marc|Randall offers sophisticated casual wear for men and women, from brands like Crea, Blanque and Sarah Pacini. For luxury shopping, stop in The Benjamin, where you’ll find a curated selection of fine crystal, porcelain and silver, plus fine jewelry.
Where to Eat and Drink
Easton’s culinary scene is on fire, with more than three dozen restaurants and cafes to choose from. Splurge at Bas Rouge, a white-tablecloth European restaurant featuring precisely prepared entrees and a decadent dessert cart, or The Stewart, an intimate bar and lounge that boasts a $1 million collection of rare single-malt Scotch and vintage champagne. The Wardroom, a combination restaurant and epicurean market, is The Stewart’s casual counterpart. It has superb house-made pasta, a mind-bending cheese selection and innovative wall-mounted dispensers where you can sample 1/3, 1/2 and full pours of unusual wines.
Other popular spots include Out of the Fire, a wine bar that serves pizza and contemporary seafood favorites, and Vietnamese outpost Pho Van. The latter might be located in a less-than-inspiring strip mall, but it’s beloved for its noodle bowls, stir-fries, banh mi and bubble tea.
At Bonheur — French for “happiness” — the ambience is Parisian-inspired fantasy, with hand-painted wallpaper from century-old design house Gracie Studio, encaustic tile floors and brass-and-fabric light fixtures. Reserve a spot at afternoon high tea, or snack on sweet and savory pies and more than fifteen flavors of handcrafted ice cream. Don’t miss the decadent sherry affogato, rich vanilla ice cream topped with 1955 Bodegas Toro Albalá Don Px Convento Selección, which should be designated a Portuguese national treasure.
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