On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Salisbury is the Wicomico County seat and the commercial and cultural powerhouse of the Delmarva Peninsula.
Between 2018 and 2022 the city was the venue for the roving National Folk Festival, which has helped bring about a cultural and physical renewal of the city’s downtown area.
This is perfect for an idle visit, strolling along the Wicomico riverfront, doing some shopping, grabbing some food and maybe catching some live music in the evening.
Salisbury is also the setting for some unusual events, like the Sea Gull Century, a famous 100-mile bicycle ride known across the country, and Delmarva Bike Week, the largest motorcycle rally on the East Coast.
1. The Salisbury Zoological Park
A joy for families in Salisbury is this small but beautifully presented zoo specializing in animals from North and South America and Australia.
Free to visit, The Salisbury Zoological Park first opened in 1954 and was transformed in the 1970s with groundbreaking enclosures that mimic the species natural habitats.
Some of the animals you can expect to see here include American alligators, wallabies, jaguars, two-toed sloths, North American river otters, llamas, ocelots, capybaras and cotton-top tamarins.
The zoo can be found within the lovely City Park, set on both banks of the east prong of the Wicomico River.
2. Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art
In an appropriate setting on picturesque Schumaker Pond there’s a museum with the largest collection of wildfowl art in the world.
These works vary from historic duck lures to contemporary, hyper-realistic decoys, to carvings by Lem (1897–1984) and Steve Ward (1895–1976) from Crisfield, MD.
The brothers are credited with elevating the craft of decoy making into an artform, and today their carvings regularly fetch upwards of $100,000 at auction.
At the permanent exhibit you can trace the brothers’ progress, discover the decoy carving traditions of North America, and see some of the winners from the annual Ward World Championship Carving Competition, which is the museum’s premier annual event in April.
3. Downtown Salisbury
Allow plenty of time for a wander around downtown Salisbury, which is rich with history and public art, and also stages regular public events like 3rd Friday.
You can traverse this area on foot with no trouble, and can make your way along the banks of the Wicomico via the picturesque Salisbury Riverwalk.
Much of the local commerce is found along Main Street and interesting Division Street, where you’ll happen upon antique shops, galleries and an eclectic choice of bars and restaurants, whether you want sushi, Maryland-style crab and oysters, pub food, Mexican, pizza or easygoing American grub.
The Downtown Salisbury visitor center is on Division Street, and has leaflets for self-guided art and architecture tours, which are also available online as pdfs.
4. Delmarva Shorebirds
Maryland’s Eastern Shore has produced a rare amount of baseball talent, from Harold Baines to early 20th-century legends like Judy Johnson, Home Run Baker and Jimmie Foxx.
It’s only right that the region should have a professional team, and this arrived in 1996 when the Albany Polecats relocated to Salisbury.
Playing at the 5,200-capacity Perdue Stadium, the Delmarva Shorebirds are the Low-A East affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and have claimed two league titles in their time.
Perdue Stadium is a nostalgic treat, with a three-level brick concourse and the Eastern Shore hall of fame for historians of America’s pastime.
If the game isn’t entertaining enough there are all kinds of activities and contests between innings, as well special promotion nights and post-game fireworks.
5. Poplar Hill Mansion
There are plenty of opportunities to dip into Salisbury’s long rich history, and one is this historic house museum in a grand Federal residence begun in 1795.
After a delay and change of owner, Poplar Hill Mansion was finally completed by Dr. John Huston in 1805.
Complete with furnishings from the turn of the 19th century, the museum studies the lives of the people who lived here at that time. Medical history is prominent, as Dr. John Huston was Salisbury’s first surgeon, so Poplar Hill was essentially the city’s first hospital.
You’ll also find out about the 18 enslaved people who lived and worked at Poplar Hill; the names of two, Levin Huston and Solomon Huston, are known today.
6. Pemberton Historical Park
Just down the Wicomico River there’s 262 acres of pristine nature, owned by the county and set on a former plantation.
Pemberton Historical Park is set around the hall of the same name, built by one of Salisbury’s founders (more below).
There’s a building at the parking lot where you can pick up an informative brochure, with trail guides, event listings and details about the park’s habitats and wildlife.
There are 4.5 miles of trails running through or next to a tapestry of ecosystems, including meadows, hardwood forest, upland pines, ponds and tidal and freshwater wetlands.
Among the many events there’s Music & Arts on Fridays in May, with live music, food and a range of art & craft vendors.
7. Pemberton Hall
The beautiful old house at the center of Pemberton Historical Park is the oldest surviving dwelling in the Salisbury area, and is open for tours.
Built in 1741 by Col. Isaac Handy (d. 1762), Pemberton Hall is composed of Flemish bond brick with glazed headers, under a gambrel roof.
The interior has many interesting original appointments, including paneling, balustrade, cabinet and pilasters.
In the upper story there’s an unusual passage allowing private access to each chamber, while the southeast chamber has a rare drop tester frame in the ceiling for hanging bed linens.
The house was derelict by the 1960s, when the Pemberton Hall Foundation intervened, restoring the building and decorating it with period appropriate furnishings.
On a tour you can learn about some of the interesting characters who have resided here, like the Southern sympathizer Allison Parsons, who would fire a cannon here after receiving news of each Confederate victory in the Civil War.
8. Salisbury University Art Galleries (SUAG)
In Salisbury you can experience world-class contemporary art thanks to the University Art Galleries (SUAG), which has three locations, two on campus and one downtown.
SUAG maintains the university’s considerable art collection, composed of 1,4000 items including painting, sculpture, prints, folk art and photographs.
First off, The University Gallery can be found at Fulton Hall, and holds exhibitions for renowned national and international artists, along with regular faculty and student exhibitions.
Also on campus, The Electronic Gallery is at the Teacher Education & Technology Center, and is dedicated to new media art. Then there’s the Downtown Campus, tying the university to the community with exciting year-round programming.
9. Evolution Craft Brewing
This trailblazing craft brewery was founded 2009, and relocated to a former ice factory in Salisbury in 2012, incorporating a tasting room and full-service restaurant. Evolution’s beers use traditional ale templates, but are constantly improved to give them their own personality.
A few of the year-round brews are Primal Pale Ale, Delmarva Pure Pils, Exile Red Ale, Lucky 7 Porter and Stalker Hefeweizen, and there’s always a choice of exciting specialty beers on tap.
Food-wise, you’ve got an eclectic choice of handhelds, shareable bites and plates, designed to complement those beers. Given the location the crab dip, crab cake and fresh local oysters are a must.
10. Sea Gull Century
One annual event that gains national attention in Salisbury is this long-distance bicycle ride around the Lower Eastern Shore, beginning and ending on the Salisbury University campus.
Named among the top ten rides in America by Bicycling magazine, the Sea Gull Century takes place on a Saturday in early October and attracts thousands of riders, for the gorgeous scenery, challenge and sense of togetherness.
The first ride took place in 1988, and today is made possible through the dedication of hundreds of volunteers.
You can choose from three routes: The Assateague Century (100 miles), Snow Hill Century (100 miles) and the Princess Anne Metric (65 miles). The main century takes you out to Assateague Island on the coast, famed for its herds of wild Chincoteague ponies.
11. Wicomico County Fair
Wicomico County has a close-knit farming community, and this is celebrated with a fair that goes back eight decades. It all goes down on the third weekend of August, and the venue is WinterPlace Park, just past Shorebirds Stadium.
There’s a lot going on at the fair, but for a taster you’ve got a schedule of live music, tractor pulls, demonstrations, a 5k run, carnival rides and amusements, livestock exhibits, tractor pulls, all kinds of competitions, fireworks and lots of local vendors.
There are also some quirky attractions that have been around for years, like the five-foot frying pan, if you’re in the mood for some fried chicken.
12. Wicomico Civic Center
On the east side of City Park is a multipurpose arena with a total 40,000 square feet of space for conventions, concerts, sports events, comedy shows, Broadway productions, dog shows, festivals and much more.
The Wicomico Civic Center opened in 1980 after its predecessor burned down, and came through a long-term program of renovations in 2017.
There are around 400 events at the center every year, with a capacity of crowds of up to 6,000 for concerts. Among the prestigious list of past performers are Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, David Lee Roth, Linda Ronstadt, Trace Adkins and Kelsea Ballerini.
13. Nutters Crossing Golf Club
On lush, gently sloping terrain in the south of Salisbury there’s a highly-rated, not to mention challenging, public golf course to check out.
Nutters Crossing has very distinct front and back nines. The front side is open and relatively straight for big drives, while things get a lot more technical on the wooded back side.
Water comes into play on 12 holes, and is almost ever-present on the back nine, while the course is laced with more than 50 bunkers.
At the heart of an affluent residential community, there’s an upscale feel to the course, epitomized by the brick Colonial-style clubhouse.
14. Coco’s Funhouse
A stone’s throw from Salisbury Zoological Park is an attraction perfect for parents with toddlers or smaller children.
Coco’s Funhouse combines a variety of attractions across 7,500 square feet, including giant inflatables, a huge soft play jungle gym, an interactive floor, foam blocks and an arcade.
For birthday inspiration there are two party rooms here, while the Play Café has a menu of comfort food like wings, sliders, tacos, hot dogs and battered shrimp.
There are open bounce sessions daily, and all kinds of specials throughout the week, like Toddler Thursdays and Family Fridays.
15. Delmarva Bike Week
For a week in mid-September the Delmarva Peninsula is taken over by the largest motorcycle rally on the east coast, bringing some 150,000 bikers to the lower Eastern Shore.
Salisbury hosts Delmarva Bike Week, which coincides with the Ocean City BikeFest, and there’s plenty going on in both cities.
Delmarva Bike Week’s HQ in Salisbury is usually Shorebirds Stadium, with vendors, food, beverages, motorcycle demos, stunt shows and a bill of live music across five days. There’s always free bike parking during the event.