Photo Courtesy of Maryland zoo

Animal encounters

It’s swimming time at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore—at least for the river otters. The whiskered, web-footed creatures glide past onlookers watching them through the glass of their enclosure, which includes a clear tunnel that offers underwater views. At the 135-acre zoo—one of the country’s oldest—you can find species native to the state, such as the otters, bobcats and bald eagles, as well as animals from around the world: African elephants, white rhinos, penguins and chimpanzees to name a few.

The zoo offers experiences for people to interact closely with some of its 130 species. The fun includes a giraffe feeding station where guests can hand-feed the animals acacia branches, sessions where visitors can watch zookeepers train the river otters, rhinos or penguins, and events such as Breakfast with the Animals, overnight campouts, and beer and wine festivals.

A new exhibit running through November features 20 animatronic dinosaurs—some as large as 35 feet tall and 40 feet long. The exhibit highlights the importance of caring for animals and their habitats today so they don’t confront the same fate as their reptilian ancestors.

The zoo is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (limited hours in January and February). Admission at the gate is $26, $23 for ages 65 and older, $22 for ages 2-11, free for children younger than 2; save $2 by reserving tickets in advance online. Special events and animal experiences have separate prices and tickets.

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, 1 Safari Place, 410-396-7102,


Photo courtesy of WSSC Water

In bloom

Wander the dirt paths and gravel trails that wind through the Brighton Dam Azalea Garden in Brookeville when the flowers are blooming and you may feel like you’ve stepped into an impressionist’s painting. Each May, pink, lavender, crimson, orange and white blossoms from 15 species of azaleas bloom on the 5-acre wooded hillside overlooking the Triadelphia Reservoir. The garden was established in 1959 by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which owns and manages the land and nearby Brighton Dam, in an effort to beautify the Patuxent River watershed. The informal garden is also home to birds, ducks and geese, along with dogwood trees and Montgomery County’s largest fringe tree, all of which usually bloom in May or June. Wooden benches along the paths offer spots to enjoy the views and rest from walking the hilly terrain. Food and dogs are not permitted in the garden.

Brighton Dam Azalea Garden is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Parking is available at the Brighton Dam Visitor Center, 2 Brighton Dam Road, Brookeville, 301-206-4386,