15 Free Things to Do in Frederick, MD

Free Things to Do in Frederick, MD
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Welcome to Frederick, where the contemporary meets the traditional every day.

Frederick’s proximity to Washington, D.C., and the presence of a United States Army Futures Command installation (Fort Detrick) in the city have long played a significant role in the growth of its local economy.

Frederick is famous for its historic downtown churches giving the city a “clustered spires” backdrop, represented on the city’s seal and other city emblems and logos.

The older portion of the city is filled with numerous restaurants, shops, sidewalks, and streets.

This is why the neighborhood became one of the “Greatest Neighborhoods” in the United States, according to Forbes magazine in 2010.

As the seat of Frederick County, Frederick offers budget-friendly attractions, from old buildings to museums to picturesque landscapes.

Explore the best free things to do in Frederick, Maryland.

Hang Out at Carroll Creek Park

The waters of Carroll Creek Park
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Carroll Creek Park, which extends over a mile through the center of historic Downtown Frederick, provides more than just a spectacular view.

The park’s perimeter includes specialty stores, outdoor dining options, breweries, a distillery, and many others.

Carroll Creek Park was first developed as a flood control project after two destructive floods in the mid-1970s.

Trail at Carroll Creek Park
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The project moved Downtown Frederick out of the floodplain and revived the economy of the historic business district.

The park’s first development phase extends from Court Street to beyond Carroll Street and includes a 350-seat outdoor amphitheater, pedestrian bridges, brick pathways, planters, and water features.

The final phase extended to East Patrick Street and finished in 2016, adding more brick pedestrian pathways, bridges, water features, benches, and lighting.

Flower sculptures at Carroll Creek Park
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See the John Hanson National Memorial Statue

The John Hanson National Memorial Statue gives tribute to John Hanson, the first President of the Confederation Congress, formally known as the United States In Congress Assembled.

This assembly was the country’s original governing body during the Confederation period from 1781-1789.

Standing in the County Courthouse plaza, the John Hanson Memorial Statue honors the vital figure of the United States' early nationhood and the Revolutionary War.

George Washington, Hanson’s political ally, reported to him and served as the first President of the country’s second government established under the Constitution.

Although George Washington was the recognized first President elected under the United States Constitution, some argue that Hanson was the country’s real first president under the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution’s predecessor.

The U.S. Congress, the John Hanson Memorial Association, the Maryland General Assembly, and descendants of the Hanson family are reintroducing this overlooked individual among the country’s founders to the public.

Grab Brochures at the Frederick Visitor Center

Building sign of Frederick Visitor Center
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The Frederick Visitor Center is the ideal place to start your adventure in Frederick!

The Visitor Center contains 2,200 square feet of informative exhibits inside a beautifully restored industrial warehouse built circa 1899.

Watch the award-winning short film about Frederick, titled “A Turn of the Wheel,” in their state-of-the-art theater.

Don’t forget to grab maps and brochures, as well as ask for information about the local attractions in the city and the county.

The Frederick Visitor Center personnel can suggest locations that suit your interests.

Other features include assistive listening devices and headsets (subject to availability), wheelchair-accessible seats, and a small souvenir store with items for purchase.

Explore Art at the Delaplaine Arts Center

Exterior of Delaplaine Arts Center
Acroterion, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Delaplaine Arts Center in historic Downtown Frederick, situated just next to Carroll Creek Park, provides over 250 workshops and classes and 50 exhibits annually.

The award-winning Art Center’s three floors of galleries and studios display art exhibits from local to national artists and organizations.

Monthly public programs are also offered, as well as annual special events.

Since its founding in 1986, the Delaplaine Arts Center has developed from a small non-profit group to a cultural hub that attracts over 80,000 visitors yearly.

The Gardiner Hall and the Event Deck host spaces for private events, public gatherings, and other programs.

The Gift Gallery features handcrafted items and fine art by local artists, all on consignment.

All purchases will benefit the artists and Delaplaine’s art initiatives.

Stop by the Jug Bridge Monument Park

The Jug Bridge Monument Park is a roadside park that displays the historical stone demijohn from the original Jug Bridge.

The Jug Bridge was constructed in 1808, crossing the Monocacy River as part of the National Road, comprising four 65-foot arches extending 425 feet.

In 1942, a portion of the bridge collapsed, and in 1944, the bridge was replaced entirely, its distinct orientation and original span demolished.

The demijohn was saved and preserved as a monument until 1965.

That year, the city moved it to a small park close to the intersection of Bowman Road and East Patrick Street, about 1.2 miles west of the location of the former bridge.

The Jug Bridge Monument Park also has picnic tables and a marker honoring French General Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to the city.

Explore the Monocacy National Battlefield

Daytime view of Monocacy National Battlefield
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The Monocacy National Battlefield is where the 1864 Battle of Monocacy, also called “The Battle that Saved Washington,” took place during the American Civil War.

This National Park Service unit is southeast of Frederick along the Monocacy River.

For more than a century after the Civil War, a large portion of the Monocacy battlefield was privately owned until 1928.

That year, Glenn Worthington, the owner of a considerable part of the battlefield’s northern segment, petitioned Congress to establish a National Military Park.

The National Park Service was given ownership of the battlefield’s 1,587 acres in the late 1970s after securing funding for its preservation and interpretation.

Trail at Monocacy National Battlefield
Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

The Monocacy National Battlefield offers many opportunities to make for an unforgettable visit.

Enjoy a six-mile roundtrip self-guided auto tour featuring five stops, all significant locations related to the Battle of Monocacy.

You can also try the walking trails that offer scenic walks and cover the battle's stages.

Visit the Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor Center for more information, which includes an interactive museum, public restrooms, and a bookstore.

Cannon at Monocacy National Battlefield
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Ride along the Frederick History Bicycle Loop

Explore Frederick's scenic views and history through the Frederick History Bicycle Loop!

Biking around Frederick lets people see historic structures and learn stories of the past in a more fun and faster way, but still at their own pace and time.

This easy ten-mile bicycle ride traverses a thriving Main Street Maryland community.

Pass through the 50-block historic district, stop by the burial site of Francis Scott Key (the man who wrote the U.S. national anthem), or rest at the city creek.

The creek is the city’s flood control project, which has become a recreational space.

Allow a minimum of two hours for this bike tour, or better yet, spend a whole day touring the historical landmarks of the “City of the Clustered Spires.”

You may download a Frederick History Bicycle Loop map online.

Join a Public Event at Baker Park

A hammock at Baker Park
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Baker Park is home to some of the most popular events in Frederick.

The 58-acre park is in historic Downtown Frederick, featuring jogging and bicycle pathways, several playgrounds, a scenic lake, and many more.

After more than 75 years, this pet-friendly park is still a well-liked location for concerts, sporting events, festivals, and recreation activities!

People on a bench at Baker Park
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The Fourth of July celebration, Frederick’s Fourth, offers a variety of entertainment culminating in a fireworks display.

The Summer Concert Series welcomes everybody to get up and groove to live music.

Other Baker Park features include a band shell, carillon, tennis courts, a baseball and softball field, and a public swimming pool.

Tennis court at Baker Park
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Learn the History of the Hessian Barracks

Daytime view of the Hessian Barracks
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Located inside the Maryland School for the Deaf campus close to Downtown, a visit to the Hessian Barracks won’t save you too much time.

The Hessian Barracks (known before as Frederick Barracks) served as a prisoners-of-war camp for German and British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War.

They were also used in various ways during the 19th century, including an armory for the Lewis and Clark expedition, a silkworm cocoonery, and a military hospital during the Civil War.

Two L-shaped buildings were built on the property in 1780, but one was destroyed in 1871.

In 1971, this two-story stone building with a gable roof design and gallery porches was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

View the Hessian Barracks from the outside (the interior is closed to the public) and know its history from the nearby historical marker.

Walk a Trail at Ballenger Creek Park

Ballenger Creek Park is a public space with many play equipment, sports fields, picnic areas, grills, and more.

The 4.2-mile Ballenger Creek Trail is an easily paved trail that connects residential areas to businesses, entertainment, parks, and schools.

The ten-foot-wide multipurpose trail is ADA-accessible and can be used by cyclists, joggers, runners, and skaters.

Other park features include a community building, gardens, horseshoe pits, and a dog park.

As a vast green space ideal for the entire family (dogs included), Ballenger Creek Park is the perfect recreation spot!

Launch a Boat or Kayak at Pinecliff Park

Monocacy river at Pinecliff Park
Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant), CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Pinecliff Park is one of Frederick’s favorite locations for outdoor gatherings and recreation.

The park is on Pinecliff Park Road and lies along the Monocacy River.

Some amenities include lighted ball fields, a boat ramp, horseshoe pits, grills, an ice skating pond and sled run during winter, play equipment, and picnic shelters.

The ramp provides excellent river access for boats, canoes, and kayaks!

If you’re not feeling adventurous, relaxing in the greenery beside the river or one of the picnic shelters is more than enough.

With the plethora of amenities, everyone will have something to enjoy at Pinecliff Park.

Discover Public Art along the Downtown Frederick Public Art Trail

Let the Downtown Frederick Public Art Trail be your guide in exploring the incredible outdoor display of broad and beautifully crafted artworks in Frederick.

With an innovative concept and skillful execution, the public art in Frederick shines a light on the city’s history and the citizens’ ambitions and dreams.

Murals are painted on the sides of old buildings.

An awe-inspiring iron bridge holds new life with natural elements like cattails, dragonflies, and flowering vines.

Follow the Downtown Frederick Public Art Trail and appreciate the city’s creative public art initiatives.

You may grab a physical map or brochure at the Frederick Visitor Center or visit Frederick’s online portal for a complete list of public art in Frederick.

Take a Downtown Frederick Architectural Walking Tour

Buildings at Downtown Frederick
Christian Hinkle / Shutterstock.com

The Downtown Frederick Architectural Walking Tour is one of many self-guided walking tours in Downtown Frederick.

Tiny houses to large commercial, public, and industrial buildings make up the diverse structures of Downtown Frederick, which boasts a strong history and a wide range of architectural influences and styles.

Most sites on this excursion are from the 19th century, a considerable period of growth and development for the city.

The attractions included in this walking tour are just several highlights of the city’s history.

Besides the Downtown Frederick Architectural Walking Tour, other self-guided tours include the Downtown Tree and African American Sites Walking Tour.

Visit the Frederick Visitor Center to pick up a printed brochure for all self-guided walking tours in Downtown Frederick.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take a Photo of the Utica Mills Covered Bridge

Exterior of Utica Mills Covered Bridge
Eric Wilcox / Shutterstock.com

Three historic covered bridges are in northern Frederick County, with the Utica Mills Covered Bridge as the closest to Frederick.

The Utica Mills Covered Bridge, originally constructed in 1834, is on Utica Road in Thurmont, Maryland, about a 15-minute drive from Downtown Frederick.

The bridge was initially built to cross the Monocacy River, but a powerful storm destroyed it in 1889.

Local citizens collected the remnants and rebuilt the 101-foot Burr Arch design bridge at its current location traversing Fishing Creek.

The three bridges, including the Loy’s Station Covered Bridge and the Roddy Road Covered Bridge, are all in the National Register of Historic Places.

These bridges are painted red, contrasting with the surrounding greenery, making it an Instagram-worthy stop outside Frederick.

Cross the Utica Mills Covered Bridge!

See the Wildlife at the Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary

In 1991, the Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary was acquired by the Audubon Society of Central Maryland (ASCM) from Audre Carroll’s estate, hence the name.

Located on Old Annapolis Road in Mt. Airy, Maryland, the sanctuary is about a 20-minute drive from Frederick.

The 129-acre sanctuary covers diverse habitats such as grasslands, streams, forests, and wetlands.

More than three miles of trails are available for visitors to explore!

The Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary is home to spring migration birds like warblers, black-billed cuckoos, and woodcock.

It also hosts breeding birds like the field sparrow, red-headed woodpecker, and Cooper’s hawk.

Likewise, you can see fall migration birds like the fox sparrow, Lincoln sparrow, and purple finch.

In the winter, see the brown creeper, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and white-throated sparrow.

Final Thoughts

Since the pre-colonization era, Frederick has been a significant crossroads for traders and travelers.

It was essential during the American Civil War, contributing to the city’s rich history.

If you are passionate about history but also art and nature, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy these free things to do in Frederick, Maryland!

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