Way over in the very tip of the Eastern Panhandle is Jefferson County: a hub of history, hiking and West Virginia culture.
Only an hour drive from the eastern side of Hampshire County, Jefferson is an easy day trip for those looking to spend an afternoon seeing the sights and enjoying the outdoors. With cities like Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry and Charles Town, there’s a little something for everyone just a hop, skip and jump away.
The drive: 1 hour 30 minutes
Over Hill, Over Dale Hiking and Outdoors
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
Harpers Ferry NHP has 22 miles of hiking trials and encompasses about 3,500 acres in West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia. The town of Harper’s Ferry is the mid-point of the 2,178-mile Appalachian Trail, and there’s an opportunity to join the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, which goes all the way north to Pittsburgh, Pa.
Fun on the rivers
Jefferson County is home to both the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, which means 1 thing: awesome rafting and floating opportunities. While Hampshire’s river offerings are scenic and beautiful, if you want to check out the sights east of the trough, Jefferson offers a wide varieties of adventures on the water.
In addition to offering opportunities for watersports like rafting, tubing and kayaking, the rivers allow visitors to try their luck at angling. Both the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers were named by Fly Fisherman magazine to be in the top 10 for surface fly-fishing.
Back in time History
Charles Town, founded 275 years ago by Charles Washington (yes, Georges’ younger brother) blends the past and present effortlessly. Countless landmarks, including his former residence, the family cemetery and the Jefferson County Courthouse will allow visitors to experience history during their trip. Pick up a map of the town’s walking tour and get your history on.
If you’re a history buff, you’ll probably jump at the chance to take a tour of the U.S. Armory and Arsenal held by John Brown and his army in 1859. Walking along the C&O Canal, which was once the lifeline of the region, also adds to the Harpers Ferry experience. The town was voted “Best Town for History” by the readers of WV Living for 6 consecutive years.
Shepherdstown is one of the state’s oldest towns, and in 2013 was named one of America’s “Coolest Small Towns.” In September, the town holds its Appalachian Heritage Festival, steeped in the town’s culture and history.
Fun and Games History
Hollywood Casino offers an exciting casino experience with poker, table games and over 2,500 slot machines, as well as a racetrack and fine dining.
The Old Opera House
Located in Charles Town, the Old Opera House sees shows from local performers, and their upcoming show, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” opens Aug. 5. Tickets can be purchased online for $22 (senior price for 65 and older is $19, and youth under 18 is $15).
Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival
This fall, the Mountain Heritage festival returns to the Jefferson County fairgrounds in Kearneysville. The festival, planned for Sept. 24-26, will see around 200 artisans and crafters showcasing their work, as well as bluegrass performers and wines from nearby wineries.
Food, food, food Dining and drinks
The Bavarian Inn
Not only does the Inn in Shepherdstown offer luxury accommodations, it has a stellar dining menu as well. They strive to bring the Bavarian experience to Eastern West Virginia with a menu of their “greatest hits” and European-themed favorites.
In Jefferson County, local meat, produce and cheese is offered at farmers markets. Not only is the farmer’s market experience a memorable one, but purchasing local goods and bringing them back home is an excellent souvenir choice.
The Town’s Inn
Harpers Ferry has a self-contained lodging/dining/shopping experience with The Town’s Inn. There’s a grab-and-go shop with souvenirs, but as far as dining? There’s the Battle Grounds Bakery across the street and a restaurant in the inn, a convenient distance from all of Harpers Ferry’s exciting attractions.