A classy getaway on the west side of the Delmarva Peninsula, Easton is set inland, but linked to the Chesapeake Bay by a tangle of rivers and creeks.
The town was officially founded in 1710, but goes back further, as you’ll see at the Third Haven Friends Meeting House, standing since the 1680s and still a place of worship on Sundays.
The old center of town is leafy and quaint, with 200-year-old houses, fine dining, an art museum of national standing, plush boutiques and a steady flow of events all year.
One is the November’s Waterfowl Festival, an art-oriented event coinciding with the arrival of many thousands of geese, ducks and other wintering waterfowl to local tributaries.
1. Downtown Easton
Easton’s historic commercial core is somewhere to discover at leisure, to make sure you don’t miss anything.
There’s an overwhelming amount of Colonial and 19th-century architecture, chic galleries, antique stores, classy home design boutiques and little surprises like a hidden garden maintained by the Talbot Historical Society.
Try to be here for the First Friday of the month, when there’s a buzz about downtown and local business have extended hours.
Easton’s food scene has gained national attention, and if you want an overview you can always take the Eating Easton tour on Saturdays, sampling the highlights, with behind-the-scenes access.
You’ve got volumes of history to uncover, and the city has published the informative Historic Easton Walking Tour to ensure you leave no stone unturned.
One sight to ponder is the Talbot County Courthouse (1794), where the abolitionist and renowned orator Frederick Douglass (c. 1817-1895) was held in jail after an attempt to escape slavery in 1836.
2. Academy Art Museum
The organization behind this exceptional museum was founded in 1958 by a group of artists spearheaded by sculptor Lee Lawrie (1877-1963), who is remembered in particular for “Atlas” at the Rockefeller Center.
The Academy Art Museum moved to its present home, an 1820 schoolhouse, a couple of years later and has since amassed a collection of more than 1,500 works, with an emphasis on works on paper.
There are pieces by Goya, Cézanne, Picasso, Joan Miró, Mary Cassatt, Man Ray, and an important inventory of late 20th-century art by the likes of Larry Rivers, Judy Chicago, Robert Rauschenburg, Anne Truitt, Kiki Smith and Richard Diebenkorn.
The museum hosts important traveling exhibitions, and art by Mark Rothko, Rubens, Van Dyck, Bill Viola and Norma Morgan has appeared over the last decade.
Among the landmark annual shows is the nation juried, New Photography, presenting some of the most compelling voices in the photography world today.
3. Avalon Theatre
No expense was spared on this lavish vaudeville stage and movie house when it arrived as the New Theatre in 1921.
For the first half of the 20th century, this was known as the Showplace of the Eastern Shore, presenting three world premieres, including The First Kiss (1928), starring Gary Cooper. An Art Deco makeover followed in 1934, and the current name was adopted a couple of years later.
The Avalon Theatre closed in the mid-1980s, but was soon reborn as a performing arts venue and purchased by the city in 1992.
Now this is the leading venue for live arts in the region, with an exciting menu of classical concerts, touring music artists, dramatic theater, musicals, dance, festivals and other community events.
4. Waterfowl Festival
In late fall, waterfowl flock to the Delmarva Peninsula to shelter and forage along the maze of creeks and rivers all around Easton.
There’s another mass migration at this time of year, when tens of thousands of people head to Easton on the second weekend of November for the Waterfowl Festival.
Now running for more than half a century, this three-day event is a showcase for hundreds of the world’s finest wildlife artists, exhibiting painting, sculpture, photography, carving and other crafts at 18 locations around Easton.
There’s ample opportunity to participate, at talks, discussions, master classes, hunting demonstrations, duck and goose calling contests. Since its inception the Waterfowl Festival has raised millions of dollars for local conservation efforts.
5. Talbot Historical Society
Founded in 1954, shortly after the Chesapeake Bay Bridgetied the Eastern Shore to the Capital Region, the Talbot Historical Society documents the rich history of the county and region.
The society is headquartered downtown at the handsome Mary Jenkins House (c. 1783), thought to be the oldest frame house in Easton.
This is the main exhibit space, with beautifully presented shows that have covered topics like the African American experience in Talbot County, historic decoys, working boats, trains, canning, historic homes, farm life, healthcare and individual towns and neighborhoods.
The society also owns the James Neall House (c. 1804) a few steps away but closed to the public at the time of writing.
But the award-winning gardens here are open, and free to the public, endowed with fruit and flowering trees, mature boxwood, herb garden, a terraced shade garden and perennial beds.
6. Easton Farmers’ Market
With its fertile farmland and maze of waterways feeding the Chesapeake Bay, this patch of the Eastern Shore has a long history of self-sufficiency.
That tradition chimes well with revived concepts like farm-to-table dining, food provenance and local small businesses.
Taking place on Saturday mornings rain or shine, mid-April to mid-December, the Easton Farmers’ Market is in a parking lot downtown. The sheer number of vendors may catch you off guard.
Think local and seasonal fruit and vegetables, local blue crab, fresh roasted coffee, pastured meats, honey, cut flowers, bulbs, homemade sauces, cheeses, breads, pies, preserves and a wide choice of handmade crafts. There’s normally live music every week, starting at 10:30.
7. Pickering Creek Audubon Center
The best location for birdwatching is in the north of Easton, on the banks of Pickering Peek.
The 400-acre Audubon Center here comprises a whole tapestry of habitats, with more than a mile of shoreline along the creek, as well as pine forest, hardwood forest (100 acres), brackish marshlands, crop fields, meadows, successional scrub/shrub and tidal and non-tidal wetlands (120 acres).
There are over four miles of trails, served by hides and viewing platforms. The main creekside observation area is a scenic vantage point, with a pier and waterman’s shanty, and a canoe/kayak launch close by if you have your own vessel.
The species at Pickering Creek fluctuate by season, with wood ducks in spring; nesting coot, ducks, snipe and songbirds in summer; dazzling monarch butterflies in fall, and a marvelous display of waterfowl foraging along the shore in winter.
8. Idlewild Park
Easton’s community park is a short way south along Washington St from downtown and is a hub for recreation, on 15 acres.
The highlight for parents is the enormous playground, which was built by the community, and features all kinds of safe equipment for toddlers up to 12 year olds.
For sports amenities Idlewild Park has a basketball court, a short track, two baseball fields and three tennis courts with a rubberized surface.
When it comes to gentler pursuits there are several picnic tables, grills, a gazebo and delightful flower gardens.
9. Easton Point
Now accessible on foot or by bicycle, Easton’s gateway to the Chesapeake Bay is just a mile west of downtown, in a picturesque spot on the Tred Avon River.
There’s a boat ramp here, and you can come just to enjoy the views in the summer, while this is a fine place to spot bald eagles in winter.
Next to the boat ramp is the small Easton Point Marina, offering a range of services for boaters, from repairs to hauling and land storage.
You can rent kayaks from the marina, and this service is also offered by Easton Cycle & Sport, renting out kayaks and paddleboards, for as little as half-day or as long as a week.
10. Easton Amish Market
At the Easton Plaza shopping center, a little way north of downtown there’s an Amish Market home to more than 20 vendors.
The Easton Amish Market opened in 2007 and houses a number of Amish vendors from Central Pennsylvania, but also several small businesses from Easton.
What you’ll find is expertly crafted Amish furniture, fresh fresh fruit and vegetables, and a tempting array of Amish prepared food and ingredients.
This might be smoked brisket, cheeses, cakes, pies, pasture-raised meats, soft pretzels, chocolate-dipped fruits, BBQ, the list goes on. Local vendors specialize in handmade gifts, home decor, fragrances, cosmetics, artisan jewelry and hand-carved writing implements.
11. The Third Haven Friends Meeting House
Quakers have been part of the community on the Eastern Shore since the middle of the 17th century.
Attesting to this longevity is the Third Haven Friends Meeting House, which has been in continuous use since it was built in the 1680s, and could be the oldest frame place of worship in the United States.
This also makes it the oldest-surviving Friends meeting house of the Religious Society of Friends. The name comes from the Third Haven River, nown known as the Tred Avon.
The main structure was modified in the late 18th century, and an additional brick Meeting House was added in 1880. Beyond that and a clutch of cottages, little has changed at this spot for some 340 years.
12. Hog Neck Golf Course
Dubbed the “premier public golf course on the Eastern Shore”, Hog Neck Golf Course is just past the airport in the north of Easton. In 255 gently undulating acres, there’s a par 72 championship course, matched with a par 32 executive course.
The 18-hole course has an interesting contrast between its front nine, on open, breezy ground, strewn with bunkers and water hazards, and a back nine walled by a dense forest of loblolly pines.
The 9-hole executive course is perfect if you want to work on your approach play, while practice facilities include a large putting green and a driving range with both grass and synthetic hitting stations.
13. Easton Rails-to-Trails
Always growing, there’s a multi-use trail running north to south through Easton for more than three miles.
Easton Rails-to-Trails is on an abandoned railroad right-of-way, and you’ll pass a beautiful preserved station along the trail, a few blocks east of downtown off Goldsborough St.
The original stretch of trail was between the A. James Clark Sports Complex in the north and Dutchmans Ln by Idlewild Park in the south, but there have been extensions south between Wayside Ave and Walnut Ln, and west, all the way to Easton Point.
14. Tuckahoe Steam and Gas Association
This all-volunteer organization was founded in 1973 and is based at a 70-acre site five miles north of Easton.
The Tuckahoe Steam and Gas Association collects, restores, exhibits, and operates a wealth of historic agricultural equipment and industrial machinery.
Among them are big stationary steam engines, gas & oil engines, horse-drawn & antique farm machinery, a functioning saw mill, narrow-gauge & miniature railroads, as well as miscellaneous early 20th-century Eastern Shore items presented at the Rural Life Museum.
The grounds are opened to the public for a variety of events each year. But the big one is the four-day annual show in July.
This festival has been going for half a century now, and features spectacular live demonstrations, flea markets, crafts, an auction and live music.
15. Old Tyme Fourth of July
Every year in Easton there’s a big Fourth of July celebration, with fun rides, carnival food, live music and a fireworks show.
With rides and games for all the family, the carnival arrives ten days before the event, setting up by the Target at the corner of St. Michael’s Rd and Easton Pkwy and open 6 pm to 10 pm every evening.
Then on the big day the carnival opens a little earlier, at 4 pm, and the musical entertainment begins at 7 pm. This all builds up to the breathtaking fireworks show, around 9 pm, and rescheduled for the next day in case of rain.