- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Coney Island. Atlantic City. Ocean City. Chesapeake Beach.
Chesapeake Beach? The cozy little town in Southern Maryland? What's it doing on such a list?
Families can find out for themselves if they include the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum during a day trip to Calvert County. Calvert is one of the fastest-growing counties in Maryland, according to the Census Bureau, and has tripled its population since 1970.
Even families that haven't relocated to Calvert County have found it a perfect spot for day trips and weekend getaways, so much so that the region is rapidly shedding its reputation as the "boondocks" of Maryland.
"I remember when Southern Maryland used to be the end of the world," says Harriet Stout, curator at the Railway Museum, "but the last five to 10 years, all three counties [in Southern Maryland] have done a better job at promoting themselves. Now it's a nice day trip. There are a lot of families from the Washington area that find it's a nice way to spend three or four hours a day."
Herman Schieke, a spokesman for the Calvert County Department of Economic Development, says the area is marketing heavily toward children under a new slogan, "Calvert is for kids."
"I know you have the 'C' and the 'K,' so it probably sounds better than it looks," Mr. Schieke says with a laugh, "but we really do get feedback from parents about how overwhelming it is to them that there is this much history and heritage and things to do, and that they can bring their kids and have so much fun. And so much of it is free."
The Railway Museum is one of several child-friendly attractions in Calvert County. The museum building served as the original railroad station from 1900 to 1935, Chesapeake Beach's heyday. Otto Mears, a Colorado railroad builder, spearheaded construction of the railroad from Washington to Chesapeake Beach, envisioning the area as another Atlantic City or Coney Island.
For 30 years, Chesapeake Beach came close to realizing that vision. It had a roller coaster, dance hall, boardwalk and a pier for steamboat passengers from Baltimore. But the railroad folded in 1935, and the station became a storage facility until the 1970s, when area residents started the museum and got the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
These days, Ms. Stout holds children's summer programs every Thursday morning through Aug. 10. Younger children play games and enjoy poems, songs and stories that celebrate railroading and early resort life in Chesapeake Beach. Older children can learn more about the history of the area and see swimsuits from the early 1900s.
"A lot of visitors have their own personal memories and their own pieces of history when they come in the door," Ms. Stout says. "That's sort of fun."
A short walk away from the museum is the Chesapeake Beach Water Park, which has eight slides, children's and infants' pools, beach areas, waterfalls and geysers.
A few miles down Route 2/4, families can learn more Southern Maryland history at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons. The museum has a special room for children with hands-on exhibits, fossils, costumes and microscopes. The history of Solomons Island from the War of 1812, the Colonial era and even as far back as the Miocene Era (10 million to 12 million years ago) is covered at the museum.
Also, families can see and climb up inside the Drum Point Lighthouse, one of only three remaining screw-pile, cottage-style lighthouses that served the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1900s.
Budding paleontologists who can't get enough of fossils at the museum might be interested in nearby Calvert Cliffs State Park, where the cliffs contain more than 600 species of fossils. The cliffs themselves are closed because of landslide activity, but much of the beach area is open for fossil hunting.

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