In Harford County, Aberdeen is a growing city at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, close to where the Susquehanna River enters the bay.
The scenery around Aberdeen might be some of the most beautiful on the Eastern Seaboard, especially when the sun comes up over the bay.
The endearing little town of Havre de Grace is less than ten minutes away and a delight for its boardwalk, lighthouse and an assortment of museums steeped in the culture of the Chesapeake Bay.
Aberdeen meanwhile is the hometown of Orioles Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken, Jr., who purchased a Minor League baseball team for the city in 2002.
A big local employer is the Aberdeen Proving Ground, a U.S. Army Facility dating back to 1917, and with a story told by the Aberdeen Historical Museum.
1. Ripken Stadium
Aberdeen is the hometown of baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr, his brother Billy Ripken and their father Cal Ripken, Sr (1935-1999).
All three are practically synonymous with the Baltimore Orioles, as players or coach/general manager in Cal Ripken, Sr’s case.
In 2002 Cal Ripken, Jr purchased the Utica Blue Sox and relocated them to Aberdeen as the IronBirds, constructing the 6,000 Ripken Stadium in time for the 2002 season.
Playing in MiLB’s South Atlantic League, this is an affiliate of the Orioles, counting all stars like Manny Machado and Nick Markakis in its list of alumni.
The stadium was designed to evoke Camden Yards, down to a replica of the famous B&O Warehouse. Next to the stadium is a baseball park used by the Ripken Experience for youth players, with yet more replicas of MLB landmarks like Wrigley Field.
2. Downtown Aberdeen
Green and spacious, downtown Aberdeen springs to life for big public events like Second Saturday in summer, Christmas Street and Earth Day in spring.
The venue for any big outdoor gathering is Festival Park, which we’ll talk about next. If you’re taking a look around, downtown Aberdeen is gradually adding to its collection of local shops, services and restaurants.
For dining, the big trio is Scoops Corner Cafe & Deli (34 W. Bel Air Ave), Frank’s Pizza (37 W Bel Air Ave) and Prost German Restaurant (102 N Rogers St).
The latter is a real destination for the area, with an authentic menu that includes schnitzel, gulasch and a variety of German sausage, including Weisswurst, Knackwurst, Weisswurst and even the popular street-food, Currywurst. There’s also a long list of German beers on tap, from Lagers to Weissbier.
3. Festival Park
Next to Aberdeen City Hall and city departments like the police and public library, Festival Park is an attractive town green for Aberdeen.
Edged by a tree-shaded path, the park has an expansive oval-shaped grassy space for outdoor events, with a large stage/pavilion at the southeastern end. Close to the pavilion is Aberdeen’s 9/11 memorial, with a piece of steel recovered from the World Trade Center.
On the north side there’s a series of tree-shaded picnic tables, as well as the park’s two children’s playgrounds.
Festival Park is the setting for numerous events all year, in particular Second Saturday, which we’ll talk about in more detail below. Parking shouldn’t be a problem, as there are spaces along all four sides.
4. Havre de Grace
Aberdeen is five minutes from one of the most scenic places in Maryland, with great seafood, intriguing history and a string of marinas along the shore.
On the little nub of land at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace has a lot to offer.
If you’re here for the views, there’s a boardwalk promenade curling round from Tydings Park to the lighthouse at Concord Point.
There are five superb museums in Havre de Grace, and two to prioritize are the acclaimed Decoy Museum, celebrating a cherished Chesapeake Bay artform, and the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, recording hundreds of years of local history, including a sacking during the War of 1812.
5. Concord Point Lighthouse
The symbol of Havre de Grace is a 36-foot lighthouse that has overlooked the mouth of the Susquehanna River since 1827.
This is the northernmost lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay, and the second-oldest surviving lighthouse in Maryland. Concord Point is significant for being the site of a cannon battery that defended Havre de Grace during the attack by the British in the War of 1812.
The light was a navigation aid for 148 years until it was decommissioned in the 1970s, and, along with its quaint Keeper’s House, is now preserved as a visitor attraction along the Havre de grace promenade.
You can look around on weekends from April to October, and regular educational tours are given by volunteer keepers.
6. Aberdeen Second Saturdays
May through October, Festival Park is the place to be on the second Saturday of the month when there’s a schedule of events, beginning in the afternoon and continuing after dark.
Second Saturday begins with a farmers’ market, for local fresh produce and unique arts and crafts.
You’re encouraged to bring a picnic blanket or lawn chair, because the market is followed by live music at the pavilion.
Then at dusk you can settle down to a movie under the stars, presented by Horizon Cinemas, which also provides the popcorn.
7. Susquehanna State Park
A large patch of the lower Susquehanna River Valley is preserved as a Maryland State Park, no more than 15 minutes from Aberdeen.
Susquehanna State Park is on more than 2,750 acres, over rugged terrain littered with rocky outcroppings, under deep hardwood forest.
This is a thrilling place for active recreation, with some of the best mountain biking terrain in the state, hiking trails (15 miles), and fishing and boating on the riverbank.
There’s interesting history too, at sites like the Rock Run Grist Mill (1794), the 1804 Carter-Archer Mansion, where the mill-owner lived, the Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal (1836) and the Jersey Toll House (c. 1817).
The privately-run Steppingstone Farm Museum is also in the park boundaries and documents rural skills and livelihoods from the turn of the 20th century.
Finally, there’s a beautiful and shaded campground, with primitive and electric sites, and a well-maintained shower building.
8. Aberdeen Historical Museum
Also next to Festival Park in downtown Aberdeen, a cute one-story commercial building houses the local history museum.
Volunteer-run this is normally open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and chronicling many aspects of Aberdeen’s past.
The main permanent exhibition delves into topics like the railroads, canning, prominent local people, historic businesses, sports and the century-long story of the Aberdeen Proving Ground.
One area of specialty is baseball, with a trove of memorabilia for the IronBirds and the Ripken family. In summer, the museum has special extended hours during Second Saturdays.
9. Bulle Rock Golf Course
Havre de Grace is home to a public golf course often ranked as the best in the state, just five minutes from downtown Aberdeen.
Opened in 1998, Bulle Rock was laid out by the celebrated course designer, Pete Dye (1925-2020) and hosted the Women’s PGA Championship for five years between 2005 and 2009.
The course has a magnificent hilltop setting, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, on what used to be the Blenheim Stud Farm. The name comes from Bulle Rock, the first thoroughbred racehorse brought to America in the 18th century.
This is a long track, at 7,37 yards from the tips, and some notable holes are the 483-yard uphill 5th (par 4), 665-yard 11th (par 5) and 18th (par 3), with a fairway and green framed by water.
10. Lohr’s Orchard
This family farm has been in business since 1928, and relocated to its current spot a few minutes from Aberdeen in Churchville in 1974.
Lohr’s Orchard has a farm stand that stays open throughout the fruit and vegetable season, but also past Christmas.
In summer and fall you can visit to pick your own strawberries, peaches, cherries, apples and pumpkins, with a hayride included.
The farm stand sells excellent fresh produce, and partners with a number of local farms, offering cheeses, jams, jellies, ice cream, granola, craft sodas and much more.
Fresh pressed apple cider has been a Lohr’s specialty since the 1960s, and people travel for miles for the apple cider and pumpkin donuts.
11. Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery
On high ground with sweeping views of the Chesapeake Bay, Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery is based at a stunning brick manor house from the 1830s.
The setting is primed for making great wine, with fertile, well-drained soils, breezes off the bay and plentiful sunshine on the south-facing slopes.
Mount Felix produces a range of dry blends, like Mitchell’s Manor (Viognier/Chardonnay) and RedFish (Cabernet Sauvignon/Chambourcin/Merlot), as well as several sweet fruit wines. Visiting the tasting room, you can wander outside with your glass and enjoy the views.
12. Aberdeen Family Swim Center
There’s a community pool, just off Paradise Rd in the north of Aberdeen. Perfect if you need ideas during the school summer break, the Aberdeen Family Swim Center is touted as the most affordable facility of its kind in the region.
The main attraction is an Olympic-size 50 meter pool, which has a large shallow area starting at 3 ft, so younger and less-experienced swimmers will feel safe.
For smaller children there’s a separate kiddie pool, and plenty of space on the sides for parents to relax. Season membership is available to non-residents, or you can pay a walk-in fee for a one-off visit.
13. Eagles on Main
In winter, Aberdeen’s shoreline becomes an important habitat for bald eagles, with hundreds of eagles recorded each year around the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG).
This species has rebounded exponentially from just one nesting pair in the 1970s. Aside from the DDT ban 1972, the main cause is thought to be the absence of human development at the APG.
Aberdeen’s eagle connection is celebrated downtown with a scavenger hunt, ideal for families visiting downtown.
All around the center of the city there are ten rocks painted with bald eagles. To find them you have to solve a series of clues, and these can be downloaded from Aberdeen city website.
14. Horizon Cinemas Aberdeen
Aberdeen’s local multiplex opened in a former supermarket at the Aberdeen MarketPlace in 2020.
Horizon is a Maryland-specific chain, with five locations when we made this list. The Aberdeen branch has eight screens, all with a choice of comfortable rocker or recliner seating, and high-end sound and picture quality.
There’s also a bar, which is something you don’t find at many movie theaters, and a range of hot food, from apps like mozzarella sticks, soft pretzels, nachos and chicken tenders, to flatbread pizza and treats like funnel cake fries.
15. Legends of the Fog
One of the region’s top haunted attractions is out in Aberdeen’s countryside, open on weekend evenings throughout October and into early November.
Legends of the Fog is an indoor-outdoor experience, famous for its long haunted hayride, widely considered the best in the state and themed as an evacuation from zombie hordes.
Another annual feature is the haunted corn maze, which gets larger with each season, and the haunted house, packed with imaginatively conceived horrors, with 70 doors to open.
A new addition when we wrote this article was the Slaughterhouse, directly after the corn maze and inhabited by mutant butchers. On its final weekend, in early November, Legends of the Fog operates in almost total darkness, for an extra level of fear.