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The 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2014

From country music to herbal cocktails to horseshoe crabs to Rodin, our third annual list takes you to cultural gems worth mining

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12. Havre de Grace, MD

(City of Havre de Grace Office of Marketing and Tourism)

Located at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, between Wilmington and Baltimore, is Havre de Grace, a world that predates the Revolutionary War. When General Marquis de Lafayette visited the seaport several times in the 1700s, he remarked at how the town reminded him of the French town Le Havre; in 1785, inspired by these comments, the town was incorporated as Havre de Grace.

Mornings in Havre de Grace (pronounced: Have-ruh duh Grayce) should be spent meandering along the town’s boardwalk, which runs from Tydings Park to the Concord Point Lighthouse. Where the Susquehanna River joins into the Chesapeake Bay at Concord Point, visitors can see beautiful sunrises (if they arrive early enough). The lighthouse is the oldest in Maryland, built in 1827. Visitors can climb the lighthouse and explore the grounds, which include the keeper’s house. Nearby, the Maritime Museum and the Decoy Museum explore Havre de Grace's maritime history. The Maritime Museum has permanent exhibits that take visitors back in time 400 years, to pre-colonial American life.

Just up the waterfront, Java by the Bay, in Havre de Grace's Main Street District, features home-blended coffee that pays homage to the town's history and environment: grab a cup of Susquehanna River or Bulle Rock blends. Things open a little late in the small town, around 10 or 11 in the morning, but the Main Street District offers the best shopping in town.

But shopping in Havre de Grace isn’t limited to Main Street. "Be sure not miss working your way down St. John Street and Franklin Street. En route you will come across Doodads, a fair-trade store with many unique items, Courtyard Redux, a bookstore that has been in Havre de Grace for 20 years and Distinctive Décor, the most beautiful shop with which to decorate your home," says Brigitte Peters, manager of the city's Office of Marketing and Tourism.

To the northeast of the city sits the North Park trail, a moderate hike that allows visitors to explore the marshes and the natural water line of the Susquehanna River. Along the river also sits the Susquehanna Lockhouse Museum, which features a War of 1812 battle reenactment every year.

- NG

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