The sun is shining. It’s a beautiful day. Do you need any additional reasons to pile into the car for a fun road trip? There are plenty of getaway-worthy destinations within easy driving distance if you take the right road or, in this case, roads. Interstate 70 runs through Western Maryland and Eastern West Virginia, passing through or close to a number of cities and towns filled with charm, history, culture and plenty of land- and water-based recreational activities. In parts of Maryland, Alternate U.S. 40 parallels I-70 and offers even more cool places to see and things to do.
Main Street and Frederick Road in this former 18th-century mill town are lined with artists’ studios and galleries. Main Street is also home to numerous antique and one-of-a-kind boutique shops. Tour a 1780-built log cabin home and America’s oldest surviving railroad station. Then get familiar with some local spirits of both the ghostly and thirst-quenching varieties.
The B&O Railroad Museum is located in the nation’s oldest surviving train station.
âž DRIVE TIME: (from Wilmington) 1 hour, 30 minutes.
âž STAY HERE: The circa 1780 Wayside Inn gives you a taste of Ellicott City’s history and its warm hospitality with distinctively decorated guestrooms, some with double-jetted tubs. Betty’s Suite has a queen pullout bed to accommodate families. Multi-course breakfast is included. $159-$219 double occupancy. 4344 Columbia Road, (410) 461-4636, www.waysideinnmd.com.
âž EAT HERE: Portalli’s Restaurant serves Italian classics such as spaghetti and meatballs and dishes with the chef’s own innovative twists such as blackened chicken Florentine. $14-$26. 8085 Main St., (410) 720-2330, www.portallisec.com.
Ellicott Mills Brewing Company offers a surprisingly international menu that ranges from Kasseler Rippchen (Bavarian smoked pork chops) to Brazilian rubbed salmon filet. $14.99-$28.99. 8308 Main St., (410) 313-8141, www.ellicottmillsbrewing.com.
A replica of the first horse-drawn passenger rail car.
The Thomas Isaac Log Cabin was built circa 1780.
âž DO THIS: The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, located in the nation’s oldest surviving train station, is a delight for railroad enthusiasts and youngsters with its replica of the first horse-drawn passenger rail car, 1927 caboose, 40-foot model train layout and living history re-enactments and exhibits. $8 adults, $6 children. 2711 Maryland Ave., (410) 461-1945, www.borail.org/Ellicott-City-Station.aspx.
If you’re into unusual art, make an appointment to visit the studio of Bill Knapp, who creates sculptures and furnishings from salvaged materials. 8624 Frederick Road, (443) 326-3445, www.billknapparts.com.
Or stop in at Barry Sheehan’s metal and blacksmithing studio Metal N Motion. 8624 Frederick Road, (970) 274-4271, www.metalnmotion.com.
Ellicott’s Country Store is four stories of showrooms filled with antiques and furnishings themed to fit particular decorative styles from French country gourmet to African safari. 8180 Main St., (410) 465-4482, www.ellicottinteriors.com/ history.asp.
Antique Depot features close to 100 dealers. 3720 Maryland Ave., (410) 750-2674.
Rumor has it that Ellicott City is a hotbed for haunting so you never know who—or what—you’re going to meet on the Spirits of Ellicott City ghost tour ($20). You must be at least 21 because it includes tastings at pubs and bistros said to be haunts for some otherworldly types. (800) 288-8747, www. visithowardcounty.com/ghost-tours.
Learn about late-18th-century American life during a visit with the costumed historians and artisans at the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin, which was originally built circa 1780 as a private home. Free. 8394 Main St., (410) 313-0420, www.howardcountymd.gov/thomasisaaclogcabin.htm
History buffs will find a lot to love in the 270-year-old city of Frederick. Some great museums—including one that presents a child-friendly view of 18th-century farm life and another that offers what is perhaps the nation’s most comprehensive exploration of Civil War medicine and breakthroughs—bring the past to life. Just touring the downtown area, with its varied preserved architecture, soaring church spires that define the city’s skyline, lively creek-side urban park and works of public art that seem to pop up everywhere, is a treat. A “don’t miss” is Community Bridge, a homely concrete bridge that was transformed into a trompe l’oeil (fool the eye) masterpiece of three-dimensional-looking painted stone, ivy and statuary.
The 270-year-old city features a beautiful creek-side urban park.
âž DRIVE TIME: 2 hours.
âž STAY HERE: Located a few walkable blocks from Frederick’s downtown, Hollerstown Hill Bed & Breakfast is a four-guestroom Victorian, lovingly furnished with period antiques, reproductions and co-owner Betty LeBlanc’s personal doll collection. $145-$175 double occupancy. Full breakfast is included. 4 Clarke Place, (301) 228-3630, www.hollerstownhill.com.
âž EAT HERE: Chef Bryan Voltaggio is the toast of the town with VOLT, where he coaxes deep, rich flavors from seasonal ingredients. Entrées range from $16-$32. If you’re in the mood to really splurge, book the chef’s table for a 21-course tasting for $150. 228 N. Market St., (301) 696-8658, www.voltrestaurant.com.
For a taste of Voltaggio’s more casual fare, visit Family Meal, where breakfast is available all day and home-style dinners (think meat loaf and fried chicken) range from $14.99- $21.99. 880 N. East St., (301) 378-2895, www.voltfamilymeal.com.
At Isabella’s Taverna & Tapas Bar, you’ll find a huge menu of delectable Spanish-inspired small plates and wines, plus a fun atmosphere. Most dishes are less than $10. 44 N. Market St., (301) 698-8922, www.isabellas-tavern.com.
Hollerstown Hill Bed & Breakfast is a short walk from downtown.
âž DO THIS: Rose Hill Manor Park & Museums give elementary school-aged children an up-close-and-personal glimpse of life on a 19th-century farm through hands-on exhibits, guided tours and special events. $5 adults, $4 children. 1611 N. Market St., (301) 600-1650, www.rosehillmuseum.com.
During the Civil War, Frederick was fiercely fought over and occupied by both Southern and Northern troops. At the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, two floors of interactive exhibits explore the realities of camp, battlefield and home life with a focus on the development of many medical innovations. $9.50, students $7. 48 E. Patrick St., FrederickMd. (301) 695-1864, www.civilwarmed.org.
While the Monocacy River offers the view, the rolling landscape provides the challenge at Clustered Spires Golf Course. $35 weekdays, $44 weekends. 8415 Gas House Pike, (301) 600-1295, www.clusteredspiresgolf.com.
Washington County is home to five national parks and eight state parks, making it rich in outdoor recreational opportunities. At its hub is Hagerstown with its downtown historic district, where you’ll find a number of hip restaurants and arts and entertainment venues. Neighboring Sharpsburg was the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest single-day conflict, the Battle of Antietam. And in nearby Boonsboro, you can spend the night in a charming literary-themed bed-and-breakfast owned by one of America’s most popular romance writers.
Sharpsburg, located near Hagerstown, was the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam.
âž DRIVE TIME: 2 hours, 30 minutes.
âž STAY HERE: Although the original late 18th-century hotel that stood on “the site was destroyed by fire, the Inn Boonsboro was carefully restored to reflect the architecture and decor of the period, even using brick and stone salvaged from the blaze. If you’re a fan of best-selling author Nora Roberts’ romantic novels or are just a romantic at heart, you’ll enjoy the rooms and suites, themed around literary lovers such as Elizabeth and Darcy from “Pride and Prejudice” and Nick and Nora from “The Thin Man.” Multicourse breakfast is included. $225-$285 weekdays double occupancy, $255-$305 weekends. 1 N. Main St., Boonsboro, (301) 432-1188, www.innboonsboro.com.
âž EAT HERE: Rhubarb House is open weekdays for lunch and Friday-Saturday for dinner. Casual fare includes burgers (try the Chesapeake crab and cheddar), pasta bowls, sandwiches and salads. Be sure to save room for the homemade desserts. $6.95-$12.95. 12 Public Square, Hagerstown, (301) 733-4399, www.rhubarbhouse.com.
Two dozen American craft beers are the stars on the menu at Dan’s Restaurant & Tap House. Entrées range from $12 for a gluten-free, vegan garden penne to $28 for scallops or crab cakes. 3 S. Main St., Boonsboro, (301) 432-5224, www.drnth.com.
The Inn Boonsboro is a literary-themed bed-and-breakfast.
âž DO THIS: Hire a professional guide to drive your car for a two-hour ($65) or three-hour ($95) tour of the approximately 3,000-acre Antietam National Battlefield, one of the best-preserved battlefields in the country. Admission for self-guided auto (you can purchase a CD from the museum store), biking and hiking tours is $4 per adult or $6 per family. 5831 Dunker Church Road, Sharpsburg, (301) 432-5124, www.nps.gov.
On the battlefield, you can also visit the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, which served as Gen. George B. McClellan’s headquarters. $5. Antietam Highlands Wine Trail Guided Tours includes a four-winery, six-hour wine-tasting tour and lunch. $74 per person. (301) 573-1930, www.roadrunnerservices.com.
Take a dip in the 42-acre lake and stretch out on the beach in Greenbrier State Park. Park admission is $3 week-days, $5 weekends. The lake is also stocked with trout, largemouth bass and bluegill—a Maryland angler’s license is required. 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, www.dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands.
At Fort Frederick State Park, the fort dates back to the French and Indian War and its stone wall and two barracks have been restored to their 1758 appearance. You can visit the displays inside. Make sure to check the website for military re-enactment dates. $5 per vehicle. 11100 Fort Frederick Road, Big Pool, (301) 842- 2155, www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands.
We’ve paired these two towns because they share a historic railroad and famous hiking and biking trail. You can take a scenic train ride from Cumberland to Frostburg, then bike back along the Great Allegheny Passage trail. It’s a 16-mile trip, but it’s downhill, so the biking is easy. Then spend the night in a lovely 19th-century home, a log cabin or even a yurt with plenty of amenities that elevate the experience from just camping to glamping.
âž DRIVE TIME: Cumberland, 3 hours, 15 minutes. Frostburg, 3 hours, 30 minutes.
âž STAY HERE: Tucked away in Savage River State Forest is Savage River Lodge, where you can rent an upscale, two-story log cabin ($225-$235 double occupancy) or a tricked-out yurt ($255 double occupancy) for a glamping adventure. Muffins and juice are delivered to your door each morning. 1600 Mt. Aetna Road, Frostburg, (301) 689-3200, www.savageriverlodge.com.
Even if you don’t stay here, stop in for a meal. Dinner selections include a signature meat loaf made with seasonal game, pork and beef. $25-$35. Breakfast ($7-$11) and lunch ($8-$12) are also served. The Bruce House Inn offers four guestrooms and one suite in a beautifully restored 1840 Federal home. Full breakfast is included. $119-$145 weekdays double occupancy, $129-$159 weekends double occupancy. 201 Fayette St., Cumberland, (301) 777-8860, www.brucehouseinn.com.
âž EAT HERE: Ristorante Ottaviani serves Italian family recipes in a casual setting. Mostly $13.25-$19.75. 25 N. Centre St., Cumberland, (301) 722-0052, www.ottavianis.com.
A family-run, comfort-food eatery since 1939, Princess Restaurant offers omelets starting at $4.75, cheeseburgers at $2.30 and platters with two veggies, mostly $7.50-$11.95. 12 W. Main St., Frostburg, (301) 689-1680, www.princessrestaurant.com.
Cumberland and Frostburg share a historic railroad and a famous hiking and biking trail.
âž DO THIS: Hop aboard a vintage steam- or diesel-engine train and let the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad take you for a 3.5-hour, 32-mile narrated tour through the Allegheny Mountains to Frostburg. Choose from standard, premium, parlor car or first class. $35-$60 for adults, $18-$45 for children. Add an extra $5 to bring your bike. For an evening’s entertainment, take a murder-mystery ride. $85 with dinner, $60 without. 13 Canal St., Cumberland, (301) 759-4400, www.wmsr.com.
Rent a bike at Cumberland Trail Connection to take on your train ride to Frostburg. Rentals are $20 half day, $30 full day. Canal Place, Cumberland, (301) 777-8724, www.ctcbikes.com.
At the Thrasher Carriage Museum, your costumed docent will walk you through an extensive collection of horse-drawn vehicles and explain the role transportation played in the work and play of Americans before the automobile became the king of the road. $2. 19 Depot St., Frostburg, (301) 689-3380, www.thethrashercarriagemuseum.com.
With 3,900 acres and 65 miles of shoreline, the state’s largest freshwater lake becomes one big playground during the warm weather months. You name it, you can rent it—from a sports boat to a stand-up paddle board. The scenery is spectacular, and you can get a great view as you clip clop along peaceful wooded trails on the back of a gentle steed.
âž DRIVE TIME: 4 hours.
âž STAY HERE: Good Timber Bed & Breakfast is a lovely cedar-log home on the lake with soaring ceilings and handcrafted furniture, and art from the Maryland mountains and around the world. The Buffalo Run room ($225 double occupancy) has a private deck and whirlpool for two. Each of the other two rooms is $175 per night. 2159 Mayhew Inn Road, Oakland, (301) 387-0097, www.goodtimber.net.
Railey Mountain Lake Vacations offers two- to nine-bedroom lakefront and lake-access accommodations, some with amenities that include gourmet kitchens, wet bars, indoor pools, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, fully equipped game rooms and flat-screen televisions. Many also are pet friendly. One-bedroom lakeside cabins begin at $165 per night. 5 Vacation Way, McHenry, (866) 544-3223, www.rentals.deepcreek.com.
A number of outfitters provide watercraft rentals to help visitors enjoy Maryland’s largest freshwater lake.
âž EAT HERE: Victorian elegance without the stuffiness best describes Cornish Manor, cozily situated in a former home. Dinner entrées range from under $17 to just over $30, featuring items such as Cognac pepper steak and Brazilian shrimp and scallops. For lunch, the warm chicken salad in a bread bowl is a hands-down favorite of the locals. $8.95-$14.95. 830 Memorial Drive, Oakland, (301) 334-6499, www.cornishmanorrestaurant.com.
For basic, country-style food at down-to-earth prices, the breakfast-to-dinner offerings at The Casselman Inn & Restaurant are always a good bet. For example, the all-you-can-eat pancakes are $4.99 and the Friday dinner buffet is $11.59 for adults, $6.49 for children. 113 E. Main St., Grantsville, (301) 895-5266, www.thecasselman.com.
âž DO THIS: Rent a gas-powered sport boat built for two to four from Aquatic Center. $77-$99 for one hour. 634 Deep Creek Drive, McHenry, (301) 387-8233, www.aquatic-center.com.
At Deep Creek Marina Club, you can rent a ski boat or pontoon for $180 for two hours, a wave runner for $89 an hour, a one-person kayak for $30 for four hours and $40 for eight hours, a canoe for $40 for four hours and $50 for eight hours and a stand-up paddle board for $25 for one hour. 2010 Deep Creek Drive, McHenry, (301) 387-6977, www.deepcreekmarina.com.
At Water Sports Center at Deep Creek Marina Club, Greg Rouse teaches water skiing, wakeboarding, wake skating and tubing. $175 approximately one hour for one or two people. (301) 387-0732.
Sit back, relax and check out the scenery or the stars on a carriage ride with Pleasant Valley Dream Rides. $14 for adults, $10 children, $50 private ride. 1689 Pleasant Valley Road, Oakland, (301) 334- 1688, www.pleasantvalleydreamrides.com.
Visit the resident and guest craftspeople at Spruce Forest Artisan Village. Specialties range from bird sculptures and pottery to slate painting and weaving. Some of the artists offer one-day workshops for visitors. 177 Casselman Road, Grantsville, (301) 895-3332, www.spruceforest.org.
The name Harpers Ferry is synonymous with the 1859 raid staged by abolitionist John Brown and his 21-man “army of liberation” to capture a weapons-filled arsenal. Although the raid failed, it did focus the nation’s attention on the issue of slavery and, to paraphrase Frederick Douglass, began the war that ended it. The town has been re-created, complete with costumed interpreters who will tell you about life during this period in history. Its location at the meeting of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers also makes Harpers Ferry the perfect place for various water sporting activities.
âž DRIVE TIME: 2 hours, 15 minutes.
âž STAY HERE: Located about 12 miles north of Harpers Ferry, the Bavarian Inn, set on an 11-acre estate, has a surprisingly European style with its Alpine-inspired main house and chalets. Some rooms have whirlpool tubs. There’s also an infinity pool, and guests have access to the private championship golf course at nearby Cress Creek Country Club. $149-$349. 164 Shepherd Grade Road, Shepherdstown, (304) 876-2551, www.bavarianinnwv.com.
The Shenandoah and Potomac rivers converge at historic Harpers Ferry.
âž EAT HERE: You’ll find seasonal ingredients and simple, yet innovative preparations (some vegetarian) at Canal House Café. $11 $23. 1226 W. Washington St., Harpers Ferry, (304) 535-2880, www.canalhousecafe.com.
At Greystone Mansion at the Bavarian Inn, dinner ($18-$40) showcases traditional German favorites—from jaeger schnitzel to schweinebraten—and contemporary fare, including American wild game dishes. A five-course tasting menu is $65. The wine list features hundreds of labels from around the world. Breakfast ($8.50-$14.75), lunch ($8.75- $14.50) and Sunday brunch ($32.95, $12.95 children) are also served. (304) 876-2551, www.bavarianinnwv.com/dining.php.
âž DO THIS: Stroll the brick sidewalks of Shenandoah Street, where you can visit the restored 19th-century shops, museums and other buildings, chat with costumed interpreters and watch cooking, craft and artillery demonstrations at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Trace the progression of John Brown’s 36-hour raid and its repercussions during a ranger-guided tour—and be sure to visit the John Brown and Black Voices museums. Park entrance is $10 per car. 171 Shoreline Drive, Harpers Ferry, (304) 535-6029, www.nps.gov/hafe.
River Riders can take you on a seven-mile, white-water rafting trip in the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers where Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia come together. Weekdays are $64 in the morning, $55 evening; Saturday $74; Sunday $69. Combine your rafting adventure with a zip-line canopy tour for $128 weekday a.m., $119 weekday p.m., $153 Saturday, $138 Sunday. Or go tubing on a lazy part of the Shenandoah River. $28-$38 weekdays, $32-$42 weekends. 408 Alstadts Hill Road, Harpers Ferry, (304) 535-2663, www.riverriders.com.
If you’re looking for a place that will pamper you, this tiny town, built around warm mineral springs, has spas offering every kind of treatment from the basic Roman baths to the latest in massage techniques. George Washington “took the waters” here and his “bathtub” is still in the 4.5-acre state park that sits in the center of the downtown area. Nearby Cacapon Mountain is a great place to hike, and the unspoiled scenery and serenity are well worth the effort.
âž DRIVE TIME: 2 hours, 45 minutes.
âž STAY HERE: As comfy as it is classy, the Victorian bed-and-breakfast Highlawn Inn offers unparalleled views of the town from its hilltop perch. But you’re still only a short walk away from the downtown spas, shops and dining spots. Rooms and suites range from $98 double occupancy to $205. Some have whirlpool baths. Multi-course breakfast is included. Try to time your visit to coincide with one of innkeeper Sandra Kauffman’s memorable “Silver Service” dinners. $49. 171 Market St., (304) 258-5700, www.highlawninn.com.
The Victorian bed-and-breakfast Highlawn Inn is as comfortable as it is classy.
âž EAT HERE: If weather permits, ask to be seated on the porch at the 1913-built home-turned-restaurant called Lot 12 Public House. Owner/chef Damian Heath serves what he calls “seasonal upscale comfort cuisine,” which pretty much sums up selections such as shrimp and grits and Amish-style chicken with sage cornbread stuffing. $26-$36. 117 Warren St., (304) 258-6264, www.lot12.com.
Crab cakes are a specialty at Tari’s Café, and there are always some nice vegetarian options on the menu. $19-$29 dinner, $9-$12 lunch. 33 N. Washington St., (304) 258-1196, www.tariscafe.com.
âž DO THIS: At Berkeley Springs State Park’s Bathhouse, which first opened in 1930, sauna, Swedish-style massage and original Roman or Jacuzzi baths are basic and well-priced. A bath, shower and 30-minute massage package is $45 weekdays, $50 weekends; 60-minute massage package $85 and $95. (304) 258-2711, www.berkeleyspringssp.com.
A signature treatment at Atasia Spa is the 45-minute bracing eucalyptus steam and cocoon of hot herb-soaked linens ($70). Raindrop therapy uses 10 essential oils to soothe (50 minutes, $110). Day spa packages ranging from 1.5 to six hours ($99-$415) are also available. 41 Congress St., (304) 258-7888, www.atasiaspa.com.
Cacapon Resort State Park has over 6,000 acres and more than 20 miles of maintained trails for hiking. You can also go trap shooting, $23. (304) 258-1022. Or take a guided horseback ride, in the daytime or under the moonlight. $26- $75 for one to three hours. (304) 258-1022, ext. 4170. 818 Cacapon Lodge Dr., (304) 258-1022, www.cacaponresort.com.