Atmosphere: Informal. You stroll from stall to stall, buying what you want.

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Credit cards: Not taken.

Special facilities: Parking is tight, but try the public lot across from the Harbor Master by the wharf. Aisles can accommodate wheelchairs, but crowds during peak hours make navigation difficult.

Annapolis is a charming destination for a spring day trip with the family. There's lots to see, the Naval Academy, which offers tours; a ststehouse built in 1772, which is the oldest in continuous legislative use in the country; lots of histroic colonial buildings; and a busy wharf to which all roads seem to lead.

Though the city offers dozens of restaurants, the best buy for a family isn't at a restaurant at all, but at Market Place. This is an open-air market in a big barn-like brick building with a dozen or so stalls selling delicious Baltimore-style food at reasonable prices.

We always start by sharing a dozen oysters on the halfshell ($5) slurped down with hot sauce as we stand at the raw bar, where a brawny fellow named Joe pries open mollusks to order with his huge gnarled hands.

There's also steamed shrimp ($2.99 for six), as well as some tomatoey crab soup (79 cents a cup). But jpass up the crabcakes -they have too much bready filling.

Then pop over to the Man's Sandwich counter is you like kielbasa, a thick, garlicky, spicy Polish sausage that is typical Baltimore food. It's $2 on a roll, 89 cents for a smaller portion on a stick.

For your kids, the best food is around the corner at the Machioan Poultry stall, where six deep-fryers turn out spicy chicken all day. A fat paprika-red breast goes for $1.25, two wings for 75 cents. For 85 cents more you get a large order of thick crescent-shaped home fries with skin left on.

If you want to go native, you'll douse your chicken and fries with hot spice, tabasco and vinegar from the communal shakers on the counter.

To complete your picnic, walk a few feet to the International Market Deli counter, where you can pick up good cole slaw, potato salad and marvelous baked beans (each 40 cents a quarter pount). It's all prepared in the basement of the owner's hone and then toted to the market several days a week.

The International Deli also offers a novel creation: taco in a pita ($1.09).

You can get ice cream cones for dessert, or brownies and sticky buns from the Muhly's Bakery outlet (a branch of a Baltimore bakery).

Or you can do what my kids insist on: Pick up some "gummy gators" (tiny jelly alligator candies that are 8 cents each) at the Sweets and Treats stall.

For Mom and Dad, there's a fresh fruit salad at the Deli (89 cents).

Take your fare across the street for a picnic by the wharf, where you'll watch boats bobbing, hear gulls cawing for food and observe the middies strolling about in their stiff blue-black uniforms, always looking like they are standing at attention, even when theytry to slouch.