Rose Hill Manor, a fine Georgian residence that served as retirement home for Maryland's first elected governor (trivia quiz answer: Thomas Johnson), has been restored as a place where kids can learn about 19th-century life. It's one of the most hands-on of the area's many historic homes, a refreshing and useful departure from the look-but-don't-touch ethos of many historic properties. It's also unusually well equipped for young visitors (with a diaper-changing station in the women's rest room and footstools in the bathrooms). One of the nicest features is a period-outfitted playroom where kids can mess with antique toys such as a 100-year-old rocking horse, an old checkers set and handmade wooden dolls and dollhouses. Parents can just sit and relax. Enthusiastic docents lead tours, which focus on everyday life in 19th-century Maryland. There's a kitchen with a "beehive" brick oven, a sewing room, a blacksmith shop, a log cabin, a carriage museum, period herb and vegetable gardens and more. Along the way, kids are encouraged to touch some items and do things like card wool, spin thread, taste the popcorn families would eat for breakfast (that's right, popcorn) and lie down on the log cabin's bed.
-- John Kelly and Craig Stoltz
Words to the wise: The docents are well prepared to handle the 8-and-up crowd, but younger visitors may be bored. If you can, call ahead to make reservations.
Notes: The first floor and much of the grounds are easily accessible, though certain areas won't accommodate wheelchairs very easily. Call for specific advice.
Food: There are plenty of places for lunch (as well as antique hunting) in Frederick.