TWO VIRGINIA WATER PARKS offer new ways to get soaked. Kings Dominion’s former WaterWorks reopened as “Soak City” this summer, offering three new slides and a children’s area called Splash Island that doubles the space devoted to little kid slides and sprays. Admission to the park ranges from $39 to $94. For more information and discounts, visit www.kingsdominion.com.
In Williamsburg, Water Country USA added the Colossal Curl last summer. Towering high above the tree line, this mega slide melds speed with splash for riders on rafts that can fit up to four people. Admission is $41 to $54. For more information, including packages, visit www.watercountryusa.com.
BALTIMORE'S NEW HIDEAWAY
TUCKED IN THE HISTORIC Mount Vernon neighborhood, The Ivy Hotel, which was scheduled to open in June, is Baltimore’s newest luxury escape. At this brownstone mansion turned posh hotel, you can play the piano in the music room, read in the library, play billiards in the conservatory, relax in the spa, and ride anywhere you’d like in the city (gratis) in the hotel’s antique black London taxi. Each of the 18 rooms and suites has a fireplace, a bathroom with a heated French limestone floor, and a patio or balcony overlooking the ivy-walled courtyard. All-inclusive perks include a gourmet breakfast, afternoon tea, evening cocktails, midnight snacks, two complimentary (pay-per-view) movies per day, and gratuities. Rates range from $475 to $1,400 per night. For more, visit www.theivybaltimore.com.
BIKE THE BAY
VBT BICYCLING and Walking Vacations offers a unique way to explore Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The company’s five-night guided tour, called “Maryland: Cycling the Chesapeake Bay,” takes you to a family-run dairy farm to sample artisanal cheese, to the edge of the Choptank River to look for bald eagles and yellow-throated warblers, and on a one-day loop that includes Oxford and St. Michaels, a 31-mile ride that’s considered one of the East Coast’s premiere biking routes. The loop includes a visit to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and a ferry ride to Oxford for homemade ice cream at the Scottish Highland Creamery. Day four’s adventure includes a private sail on Kent Narrows aboard Capt. Ed’s skipjack. He’s been in the oyster business for 35 years and loves to regale those aboard with stories, including one about sailing with James Michener when the author was writing his acclaimed novel Chesapeake. Nightly accommodations are split between the 70-acre waterfront Inn at Huntingfield Creek and the Tidewater Inn, a luxury hotel in Easton. Travel + Leisure’s five most recent readers’ polls have ranked VBT among the world’s best tour operators. Groups average 16 or 17 people (20 at the most). Per-person tour pricing begins at $1,995 and includes accommodations, 11 meals, the use of a custom VBT bike, and admission to various sites. Average cycling time is two to four hours per day. For trip dates and pricing, visit www.vbt.com.
MUSIC UNDER THE STARS
CONCERTS — FROM COUNTRY TO CLASSIC ROCK — are held every Sunday night through Aug. 2 at Ladew Topiary Gardens, a fairytale landscape in Monkton, Maryland, that’s been named one of the world’s “10 incredible topiary gardens” by Architectural Digest. Go early and lay a blanket on the lawn, then stroll through rose and iris gardens, and meander past more than 100 ingeniously shaped shrubs—from swans and a camel, to hounds chasing a fox. Food and wine are available on-site from Manor Tavern, or bring your own picnic and (nonalcoholic) refreshments. Admission, which includes gardens access, is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors aged 62-plus and students, and $5 for kids aged 2 to 12. Admission for children under 2 is free. For a band schedule and more information, visit www.ladewgardens.com. If you want to make it an overnight trip, a highly-rated Residence Inn (410-527-2333) and the Hunt Valley Inn/Wyndham Grand (877-999-3223) are each about 10 miles from Ladew.