Where: North Beach.
Why: A boardwalk, old-fashioned chewing gum and the Chesapeake Bay.
How Far: About 42 miles from the Sousa Bridge in Washington, or one hour.
Visitors to North Beach leave smitten . . . maybe with a bit of sand in their toes. A mere hour away, this cool little bay-front town can be a hot spot for an end-of-summer escape.
Anyone familiar with the town's rich and raucous history will marvel at the turn it has taken. More than 50 years ago, North Beach was known as Washington's saltwater playground. City dwellers escaped to the breezy haven, where two-fisted beer guzzling, gambling, and later, clusters of biker dudes helped the town earn its honky-tonk reputation. When the Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened in 1952, connecting beachgoers to the Eastern Shore and ocean resorts, the once robust town fell into decline.
Today, the summer cottages of yesteryear have been lovingly restored. Tucked among the post office, town hall and Laundromat are antique shops, restaurants and novelty stores -- including Old Town Candy Company, where nostalgic chewing gum such as Black Jack awaits bubble enthusiasts. Food fans will find top-notch fare at the Westlawn Inn, which has garnered buzz due in part to head chef John Kozik, who has worked at Kinkead's in the District.
Undoubtedly, the star attraction is a half-mile boardwalk. Doggies are welcome, and you'll find plenty of benches for people-watching and soaking up the sun. Grab a funnel cake and explore the public beach plus the 550-foot pier, where you can cast a line or spend an afternoon crabbing. (Want to know how? See Get Out, below.)
The drive into North Beach winds through county roads and past lush cornfields. Visit Gilbert's Service Center, complete with window boxes, icy-cold sodas and a dusty old auto manual prized by its mechanics. At one of the produce stands that dot the byways, Paul Dove is known to slip children a peach. And the stallion Night Train would love a pat on the head at Friendship Acres Miniature Horse Farm.
North Beach's pride peaks during Bayfest. Look for this year's street festival, scheduled or Aug. 27-28, to have music, arts, crafts, crabs and more. What a way to discover this town's treasures, both past and present.
North Beach Public Beach, Fifth Street and Bay Avenue, North Beach, 410-286-3799, www.ci.north-beach.md.us. Beach open daily, 6 a.m.-dusk. $4-$5, seniors and ages 3-11 $3-$4, 2 and younger free; boardwalk open daily, 24 hours; pier open daily, 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Fishing $5-$7. Bayfest Aug. 27-28, noon-6:30 p.m.
Road Trip maps are online at www.washingtonpost.com/roadtrip, as are addresses and business hours.