For a quick and lovely holiday getaway that’s an easy drive from Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia – Berlin, Maryland is a sweet little historic town with plenty of Christmas charm that you’ll simply fall in love with. Located just 9 miles west of the summer mecca that is Ocean City, and voted the winner of Budget Travel’s “America’s Coolest Small Town” in 2014, Berlin has proven itself a travel destination worth visiting that’s just off the beaten path.
But what’s the draw? With 47 structures on the National Historic Register Berlin’s Main Street hasn’t changed much over the last 100 years as most of its historic architecture and Victorian charm remains preserved. A stroll down Berlin’s Main Street gives you a feeling that you’ve just stepped back in time. And that’s exactly why we love it. A visit to Berlin is wonderful any time of year, but during the Christmas season, Berlin’s streets come alive with magical lights and decorations that will get you in the holiday spirit. Be sure to check the town calender for the list of ongoing holiday events.
Fun Travel Fact: The charms of Berlin haven’t escaped Hollywood and you may have seen it featured on the big screen. Berlin was chosen as the filming location of the 90’s hit romantic comedy “Runaway Bride” starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere and was also turned into the town called “Treegap,” complete with dirt roads, horses and period costumes for the movie Tuck Everlasting released in 2001.
WHAT TO DO
Incredibly preserved, Berlin is filled with charming shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Main Street Enchanted Tea Room serves lunch, tea, and pastries on fine china, while the highly acclaimed Baked Dessert Cafe is home to Berlin’s official dessert: the Peach Dumpling. For those who love books, check out The Greyhound, a new little indie bookstore right on Main Street. It carries internationally recognized books while staying true to its Maryland and Eastern Shore roots promoting the talents of local authors.
If antiques are your thing, Berlin’s Main Street is considered the antique capital of the Eastern Shore. You can easily spend hours searching the perfect treasures to take home or give as gifts. History buffs should check out The Taylor House Museum for a glimpse into all things historic in Berlin.
For a fun holiday experience, visit Berlin on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm through December 23 where free Christmas carriage rides through town depart from the corner of Pitts and Main Street.
Travel Tip: Movie buffs can stop into the Berlin Visitor Center or The Atlantic Hotel check-in area for a self-guided walking tour brochure of movie filming locations located throughout the town.
WHERE TO STAY
The Atlantic Hotel
2 N. Main St., Berlin, Md.
Ideally located in the heart of Berlin right on Main Street lies the striking Atlantic Hotel. Built in 1895, the hotel retains much of the same character it did when it first opened over 120 years ago. The hotel itself has 18 charming and Victorian-style rooms beautifully decorated with period decor layouts ranging from cozy to surprisingly spacious. Rooms have full to king-sized beds and many with vintage clawfoot tubs. For modern amenities, each guest room comes with a flat-screen TV as well as complimentary on-site Wi-Fi.
One of the suites is complete with a full kitchen and washer dryer. If you prefer accommodations that are a little more private, The Gardner’s Cottage may be more your speed.
The second floor of the hotel where we stayed has a lovely little parlor perfect for reading and enjoying a freshly brewed cup of Keurig coffee or tea offered to guests on a serving table in the hallway. Each of the hotel guestroom floors are elevator accessible.
Tip: Love Runaway Bride or maybe you’re a romantic comedy fan? Book room #20 where Richard Gere stayed while filming Runaway Bride. It is now appropriately called “The Richard Gere Room.”
But one of the best spots at the hotel to sit and relax is on its sprawling covered veranda that doesn’t only need to be enjoyed the warmer months. Grab a cup of hot chocolate, settle into one of The Atlantic’s rocking chairs and drape one the complimentary electric blankets around yourself to keep warm while you admire the Christmas Tree out front and watch the world go by. The cool winter air will never feel so bleak again. When you get hungry there’s no need to go far. Head inside the hotel to its own restaurant and bar called Th Atlantic Hotel Bistro Bar that serves Maryland style specialties.
In a hotel that has survived over 120 years, it’s no surprise that The Atlantic has its fair share of ghost stories and reports of paranormal phenomenon most notably the story of little ghost girl has been seen and heard on the second-floor hallway over the years either bouncing a ball or riding her tricycle. No one seems to know who she is. Whether true or not, we found the hotel remarkably comfortable and had no other worldly experiences ourselves. There’s always next time.
WHERE TO EAT
Atlantic Hotel Bistro Bar
2 N. Main St., Berlin, MD
Even if you’re not staying overnight, the Atlantic Hotel Bistro Bar is a wonderful way to experience the hotel and its friendly hospitality. And how can I forget the food? Open for lunch and dinner, the Atlantic Hotel Bistro Bar is a full-service restaurant and bar serving American classics with a nod to local Maryland fare. Don’t miss their perfectly prepared Caesar Salad topped with crispy and fresh fried oysters. For dessert, you can’t leave without trying a slice of their locally famous Lemon Lust that is indeed luscious. A sweet, tart and creamy lemon filling is piled high over a pecan shortbread crust and topped with whipped cream and garnished with lime and lemon zest. It’s pure heaven.
Tip: Grab a seat in the enclosed glass room of the Atlantic Hotel Bistro Bar for a great view of Main Street.
Blacksmith Bar & Restaurant
104 Pitts St, Berlin, MD 21811
Our first official meal in Berlin was at Blacksmith, a rustic chic gastro-pub style restaurant serving Farm-to-Table American style food alongside a nice selection of local Eastern Shore beers and a great cocktail menu. Their empanada with slow-cooked beef and their crab cakes were both outstanding. And the show-stopper? The Fried Banana Cheesecake. Fresh bananas and a cheesecake filling are wrapped in a wonton-like pastry and then deep fried. As if that isn’t decadent enough it’s drizzled with caramel sauce, toasted coconut flakes and a dash of whipped cream before serving. Worth every single calorie. Stop in for their super happy hour.
Rayne’s Reef Soda Fountain & Grill
10 N Main St, Berlin, MD 21811
Located on the adjacent corner to The Atlantic Hotel, Rayne’s Reef Soda Fountain & Grill is the quintessential old-fashioned soda shop. Come here for the burgers, stay for the burgers and come back again for the burgers. Juicy on the inside and perfectly charred on the outside, the burgers here steal the show. If you need a sweet, try one of their old-fashioned ice-cream sundaes, malts or sodas. Even if you’re not in the mood for a burger you’ll find it hard to resist the delicious aromas coming off the grill as you walk by. We couldn’t. Rayne’s is also open for breakfast daily from 8 am to 5 pm.
12 Broad St, Berlin, MD 21811
Right next door to the Atlantic Hotel is The Globe, a restaurant serving American specialties in a renovated 100-year-old building that first began as Berlin’s own Old Globe Theater. Serving lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, The Globe is a popular casual dining spot in town that isn’t just for eating. It also hosts its own Book Club, Murder Mystery Dinners and musical acts throughout the year. On the night we visited, there was a screening of A Charlie Brown Christmas playing on the Globe’s large movie screen to ring in some Christmas cheer. Don’t miss their out-of-this-world-best-I’ve-ever-had Cream of Crab Soup served in a mug and topped with a mound of lump crab. It’s seriously divine. The warm Snickers bread pudding was a sinfully decadent treat that warmed our bones before stepping out into the cold. If you visit, be sure to check out the second-floor art gallery that has local artists on display.
WHERE TO PARK
The Town of Berlin, Maryland offers free parking to all its visitors on Main Street and in 6 public parking lots located around town. Click here for a map. Guests staying at the Atlantic Hotel are able to park behind the hotel building for no charge as well.