Unless you are there when no one else is these places are chock a block full of bloody tourists ruining whatever quaintness or scenery there is.
Here’s one I’ve been to. Packed. Took all the fun out of being there.
When Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry in 1783, he peered out at the Potomac and declared it to be “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”
It’s easy to see what the founding father saw in Harpers Ferry. The storied West Virginia town, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Potomac and Shenandoah river valleys, is such a natural treasure that most of the town is now part of the National Park Service and is maintained as the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
Harper Ferrys’ culture is as rich as its beauty. While you may be familiar with the town’s best-known historical event—when abolitionist John Brown attempted to start an armed slave revolt in 1859—you may be less knowledgeable about the legacy of the Storer Normal School.
The school, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, opened its doors on October 2, 1867. The pioneering educational institute in the United States holds the honor of being the first school in West Virginia and one of the first in the country to welcome all students regardless of race, color or creed. The historically black college later became the sight of the Niagara Movement, the precursor to the NAACP. Today, the school is run by the National Park Service, which will honor its milestone anniversary through special events throughout the year.
Come for the sesquicentennial in October which promises to be a “weekend of special tours, programs, drama, and music.” Also be sure to check out other living history events going on throughout the year—reenactors do everything from tell the story of the Civil War through the point of view of medics to give a taste of what 19th-century cider-making life was like.
During your stay, take advantage of the great outdoors. You can go rafting, kayaking and tubing the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, and there’s also stellar hiking to be found on the C&O Canal as well as the Appalachian Trail (whose national headquarters can be found on Washington Street). One trail not to miss? The steep but rewarding Maryland Heights Trail; it boasts great overlook views of the town and Potomac River, not to mention a close up look at artifacts from the Civil War.
After you’ve worked up an appetite, establishments like the Country Cafe (not to mention sweet treats at Scoop’s) will provide a needed recharge, getting you ready for an evening stroll along Harpers Ferrys welcoming cobblestone-lined streets.