The Mid-Atlantic States of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia offer a wealth of activities and attractions, all within a short distance from each other. Atlantic City is known for its casinos and glam, big cities Baltimore and Philadelphia offer a multicultural buzz, plenty of concerts, good food and cultural riches, and Ocean City bustles with its busy boardwalk and modern sky-rises.
On the other end of the spectrum the area is graced with rolling valleys, a staggering number of Civil War battlefields and monuments, car-less and quiet biking trails, Appalachian Mountain paths, pristine beaches, and free-roaming ponies on Assateague Island. There is also quiet Amish County where horse and buggy is the main mode of transportation and beautiful Brandywine Valley with its relaxed pace and plethora of historic monuments and old mansions.
The area is also home to Thomas Jefferson’s home and plantation, Monticello, where visitors can learn about this Founding Father and third president of the United States, American slavery, and the complex issues of the time. There are also many beautiful gardens, groves, and orchards on the premises.
The Mid-Atlantic States offer something for everyone. The region’s memorials, museums, monuments and battlefields are thought-provoking, its natural features inspire introspection and provide tranquil city escapes, and its big cities teem with history, arts and attractions, and a sometimes chaotic yet undeniably authentic glimpse into modern east coast urban American culture.
The population of the Mid-Atlantic States is multicultural and diverse. There are people from nearly everywhere in the world, with pockets of ethnic neighborhoods in all of the large cities and in communities across the region. The Amish people of Lancaster County (Pennsylvania) live in rural communities and generally practice a quiet, simple, self-sustaining lifestyle centered on agriculture.
Agriculture has long been an important part of the economy of these states. Much of the industry has been industrialized, though important products from the region today include fruit, vegetables, wheat, livestock and dairy products as well as seafood such as Maryland crab, oysters, lobster, clams, and more. Fishing is an important part of life in coastal areas and in the Chesapeake Bay.
There are also many important universities, educational institutions, and hospitals in the region.
The Mid-Atlantic States are not necessarily associated with ‘healthy’ and ‘light’ cuisine, though farmer’s markets and locally sourced foods continue to rise in popularity across the United States. Typical food of the region and some of the best sought after specialties are filling, cheap, fast-food indulgences such as the Philly Cheesesteak (Philadelphia), Baltimore’s Pit Beef Sandwich, and the classic American burger and fries.
The area is also home to one of the nation’s oldest farmer’s markets (Lancaster Central Market, PA), and one can easily find freshly baked bread, ripe local fruit, flavorful vegetables, and other seasonal and homemade products if they look for it.
Large cities have many excellent restaurants some of them run by world class chefs, as well as humble eateries specializing in classic American cuisine or international specialties. Many immigrants and descendants of immigrants live in the area and the diversity of the cuisine available reflects the influences of various cultures.
Seafood is a mainstay in Maryland. Especially prized are the clams and blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay. There is also excellent seafood to be had in New Jersey such as swordfish, tuna, scallops, lobster, and clams. Pennsylvania is a leading producer of dairy, as well as many fruits.
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When To Go
Spring and summer are nice times to visit the Mid-Atlantic States. During the hot and humid summers many people head for the beaches of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, some of which can get quite crowded at the peak of the season.
Hurricane season on the east coast runs from about June through October, though the risk is usually higher in late summer and fall. Hurricanes and tropical storms in this region are not frequent though they can cause significant damage when they hit. Stay tuned to weather warnings and heed local advice if a storm occurs while traveling.
Temperatures can be very cold in the winter and are often hot and humid during the summer.
Dress across the region is casual and is similar to elsewhere in the US. East Coast style can be a bit more formal than that of the West Coast, though generally jeans and a t-shirt or slacks and a nice shirt are acceptable basic attire. During the hot summer months shorts and t-shirts or summer dresses for girls and women are typical.
If hiking or doing other outdoor activities layers are recommended as temperatures can rise and fall across the terrain and it can be cool in forested areas. Always cover legs and arms when hiking in forested areas to minimize the risk of getting bit by a tick or mosquito, both of which can spread disease. Lyme disease (spread by the bite of an infected tick) is prevalent in some areas. Heed warning signs and take precautions such as checking for ticks after a hike, covering extremities, and using insect repellent.
In some parts of the region it can be quite cold during the winter months through early spring so visitors traveling during this time should be prepared.
International visitors can arrive by plane either directly or via a connecting flight from elsewhere in North America. The largest airports in the area are in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, though there are also other regional airports.
Main cities are well connected by train and public transportation is easy to use and commonly used by locals within urban areas (metro or bus). For traveling to out of the way places or to enjoy a scenic road trip driving is the best option. Visitors can rent a car at the airport or in any major city.
The roads in the area are good though traffic congestion can be a problem in any big city and sometimes on the main highways.
In Baltimore there are water taxis available, though these are used predominantly for sightseeing rather than practical every-day transportation.
There are many well marked biking and hiking trails such as the Great Allegheny Passage (main route runs from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD).
There are plenty of good hospitals in the area though emergency medical care may be costly for non-residents. International visitors should consider purchasing a travel insurance plan prior to travel.
Travelers should be cautious in urban areas and at crowded tourist sites and metro stations or transport hubs and should keep any valuables hidden from sight. Certain neighborhoods in big cities such as Philadelphia and Baltimore (and others) have relatively high crime rates. Travelers should do adequate research and know what areas or neighborhoods may be wise to avoid. Rural areas are generally safe and more laid-back than the cities. In the countryside many people have a hospitable and friendly attitude and welcome visitors.
If hiking or camping in the outdoors it can be hot and humid in the summer, and there are certain pests such as mosquitoes and ticks which can spread disease (such as Lyme disease). On some beaches sand flies and mosquitoes can be an annoyance. The weather can sometimes be unpredictable, temperatures can be cold in the winter, and the eastern coast sometimes sees some big storms or hurricanes though usually there is plenty of warning in such cases.
Most citizens of the UK, Canada, Australia, and many European countries can visit the US without a visa if staying for no more than 90 days and if visiting as a tourist. Entry regulations can change without notice, so it is best to check up to date policies before your trip. All visitors are required to present a valid passport.
Top 5 Sites
1. Monticello (Virginia)
2. Flight 93 Memorial Park (Pennsylvania)
3. Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
4. Gettysburg Battlefield (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)
5. Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Top 5 Things To Do
1. Visit Foamhenge – this weird and wonderful attraction is located off the road in Natural Bridge, Virginia
2. Bike the Great Allegheny Passage; also known as the “GAP” this scenic trail is part of a route that connects Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.
3. Talk a walk along the famous Atlantic City boardwalk
4. Check out the mansions and historical monuments of the beautiful Brandywine Valley, originally home to Algonquin Indian tribes and later the site of many momentous events in the nation’s history
5. Visit quaint Assateague Island (Maryland and Virginia) where majestic feral ponies roam white sandy beaches
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