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Mid-Atlantic> Western Maryland Experience History, Cities & Mountains


A Karen Brown Recommended Itinerary

Western Maryland
Experience History, Cities & Mountains

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ITINERARY AS EXCERPTED FROM KAREN BROWN'S GUIDE: This itinerary departs from Washington, D.C., taking you northwest into battlegrounds that shaped our nation's history then through the Cumberland Pass into the mountains of Northwestern Maryland and Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Recommended Pacing: This itinerary may be followed as one long loop or, if time is at a premium, as two separate itineraries. The shorter of the two routes begins from the city of Washington, D.C. and travels northwest into the battlefields just north of the Maryland state line in Pennsylvania before returning. It's a trip that, assuming an interest but not a consuming passion in the history of the nation, could be traveled in two or three days. The longer route passes through the mountainous western areas of Maryland and southern Pennsylvania including not only the beautiful scenery of mountains and lakes but also a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, his most famous contribution to architecture. This extended westerly loop could easily add three days to your travel for the distances are great and you won't want to spend all the time in the car gazing at the passing scenery.

From Washington, D.C. drive northwest on I-270 into the area where much of our country's history was told on bloody battlefields and over long winters. Plan to stop in Frederick (from the 270 take I-70 east for 3 miles), an historic town with lovely old stone structures and then, if antiquing is a passion, visit New Market, a few miles farther east, generally considered to be the capital for antiquing in Maryland. Keep an eye out for the numerous vineyards that lie in this area and the tasting rooms where you can stop and taste the latest creations of the local winemakers. Back on I-70 heading northwest toward Hagerstown you'll have the opportunity to visit many small historic towns-a great way for you to get a feel for the area and its history. This is also the beginning of the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains whose slopes are covered with orchards.

A side trip worth taking is that to Sharpsburg and the Antietam National Battlefield Site (Route 34 west from I-70 or Route 65 south from Hagerstown). It is here that the Union forces under the command of General George McClellan met those of General Robert E. Lee and turned back their attempt to move into northern territory.

Continuing on I-70, at Clear Spring take Route 56 south to Fort Frederick State Park and visit the museum there. This fort figured in the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution, and the Civil War. Back on the 70 traveling west, there are several scenic overlooks with grand views into the surrounding mountains.

If time does not permit you to travel farther west, turn north on Route 57 to Mercersburg, where you turn east onto Route 16 for Gettysburg (described later in this itinerary). After visiting this historic area you continue eastwards, picking up Route 140 in Emmitsburg and following it into Baltimore.

The extended loop of this itinerary lets you see more of a very different part of Maryland-one of small towns in rural settings-as you travel west into its mountainous region. The I-70 connects to I-68 as you leave Hancock to travel into the Cumberland Pass and the Allegheny Mountains. Once you have climbed the Cumberland Pass and are traveling into the western part of Maryland on I-68, you have the opportunity to visit lovely lakes, and to ski, hike, and camp.

The industrial city of Cumberland on the Potomac River, also dating back to the time of the French and Indian Wars, is home to many historic sites and the headquarters of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. In the town of Grantsville as you wend your way west on I-68, you will notice the descendants of the Amish and the Mennonite farmers who today live their lives as their ancestors did for the last century or more. Of special beauty is the area not far to the south around Deep Creek Lake.

From the I-68 west of Grantsville, take Route 40 west to Farmington, Pennsylvania and then drive north on Route 381 towards your goal of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Fallingwater. However, before you get there, you might want to stop at Kentuck Knob, another Frank Lloyd Wright home, located 6 miles north of Route 40 and 2½ miles south of Ohiopyle on Chalk Hill-Ohiopyle Road. Opened to the public in 1996, this home embodies many of Wright's architectural principles and philosophies and the owners have filled it with furniture and accessories designed by Wright. Panoramic views from the house overlook the Youghiogheny River Gorge and the mountains. Reservations are suggested for the 1½-hour guided tour. (724-329-1901)

A little farther north you come to Fallingwater, acknowledged as one of the greatest 20th-century architectural achievements in America and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright when he was 68 years old. What inspired Wright was the opportunity to merge one of the most beautiful of all sites-a waterfall and stream running through rocky terrain-and a structure designed to harmonize with the majesty of the setting. If you have ever built a house and if you are fascinated by design, you must travel to visit this Frank Lloyd Wright creation-it will provide you with a lifelong memory. Visiting Fallingwater is by 45-minute guided tour only. Opening times vary by season, so call 412-329-8501 to be sure that you will be able to see this masterpiece. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, dedicated to preserving habitats for a diversity of life and uses, is responsible for the conservation efforts here at Fallingwater. (724 329-8501)

Continue north to connect with I-70, and travel east to Mercersburg on Route 16 then Route 140, which will take you eventually to Baltimore and the end of the journey. As you drive through the Pennsylvania countryside you see the historic markers and sites of the battles fought here. Of special note is Gettysburg, reached by detouring north on Route 15 at Emmitsburg.

To visit Gettysburg and to gain an understanding of the Civil War you will need to plan a minimum of one day in this area. Gettysburg was the site of the war's worst battle and greatest loss of men in the summer of 1863. With Robert E. Lee making a move toward capturing the capital of Harrisburg and Major General Joe Hooker moving north, the two armies, war-worn, tired, and discouraged as they were, met and fought in what history has recorded as the deciding battle of the Civil War. When it was over thousands were dead and more wounded. It was at the consecration of the Gettysburg cemetery for the war dead that President Lincoln made his famous address beginning, "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Among the sights here are the Gettysburg National Military Park (www.nps.gov/gett) with its visitors' center, the National Cemetery, and the Eisenhower National Historic Site with the Eisenhower home complete with furnishings. (www.nps.gov/eise). Information on visiting Gettysburg may be obtained from the Gettysburg National Military Park (1195 Baltimore Pike, Suite 100, Gettysburg, PA 17325, 717-334-1124), www.gettysburg.com.or the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors' Bureau, (571 W. Middle St., Gettysburg, PA 17325, 717-334-6274). Note: Additional information on Gettysburg is included in the Brandywine Valley, Lancaster & Gettysburg itinerary.  www.gettysburg.com.

Your trip ends in  Baltimore and you'll want to allow time for a visit. Baltimore, pronounced by natives as "Bawlmer", is a wonderful vibrant city and easy to explore. This is a city whose resurgence is remarkable, with a downtown area and a waterfront that is nothing short of exciting. Theodore McKeldin, then Mayor of the city, is responsible for the brilliant renovation of what was a rundown and derelict waterfront as recently as the 1970s.  It is today considered one of the most widely acclaimed renewal projects of any city in the country and you will love it! The Baltimore Visitors' Center can assist you with information on the many tours (especially walking tours) available. (300 W. Pratt Street, 410-837-4636 or 800-282-6632.)

A logical place to begin your explorations is the Inner Harbor. It is alive with shops, restaurants, museums and a bustle of activity with tourists, street entertainers, parades and often fireworks are set off to commemorate special occasions and events. The Inner Harbor is also neighbored by other colorful districts-each with its own distinct allure and appeal.  It is an easy and very reasonably priced trip by light rail from the airport (BWI). Sports fans should disembark at Camden Yards. The station is immediately across from the entry to Camden Yards-home to the Baltimore Orioles and just up from the M&T Bank Stadium-home to the Baltimore Ravens. Also bordering the station to the north is the historic Camden Station whose 22,000 square feet has been converted into 14 interactive galleries which showcase legends such as Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken Jr., Johnny Unitas to swimming legend Michael Phelps. Just two blocks distant, the next stop, the Convention Center is the most convenient place to disembark to explore the inner harbor and is near the tourist office.

If you like to walk it is feasible to cover the distance from one attraction to the next on foot as they are many and all in close proximity. However, attractive blue & white water taxis also provide a delightful means of transportation with a one day ticket allowing you to hope on and off at your own pace. Colorful and fanciful paddleboats are also available for rent should you want to venture out onto the water. Tucked along the water's edge are numerous restaurants that are strategically positioned to benefit from the views, the Maryland Science Center, the world famous Davis Planetarium, an imposing Imax Theater, the Power Plant at Port Discovery (which is easily spotted by the large guitar that tops its smoke stacks to identify its other tenant, Hard Rock Café), the remarkable Kid Powered Museum, and, perhaps most famous of all, the incredible National Aquarium. For the history buff, Baltimore played an important role in our early history and is evidenced here on the waterfront. The Baltimore Maritime Museum (410-396-3453 or 396-5528) refers to two of the historic ships (the USCGC Taney and the lightship, Chesapeake), a submarine (USS Torsk) and a lighthouse (Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse). Very distinctive, the lighthouse is sure to catch your attention. This round, red, three story Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, built in 1856, guarded the entrance to the harbor for 134 years and was relocated here in 1988.

Other battleships that can be visited and that have found a home and protection in the harbor are the USS Constitution and the Fohey. On the opposite shore from the harbor is Fort McHenry National Monument (410-962-4290). Fort McHenry is an 18th-century star shaped fort that is world famous as the birthplace of the national Anthem. It was constructed to faithfully guard Baltimore's harbor and in a battle to fend off the British forces in 1814, it was valiant and successful in its role. This victory inspired poet-lawyer Francis Scott Key to write the "Star Spangled Banner." Although, the fort can be reached by car it is also possible to arrive by water taxi. However, it is important to note that the last water taxi departure from the fort docks is at 5pm.

Some incredible and very prestigious museums are located just a short distance from the Inner Harbor. The Baltimore Museum of Art on Art Museum Drive at Charles Street at 31st Street (410-396-7100 or 396-6320) features a permanent collection of more than 120,000 works of art including 20th century art by such painters as Matisse, Picasso, and Cezanne. At the Walters Art Gallery, (600 N. Charles Street, 410-547-9000) boasts more than 30,000 masterpieces. Two very intimate museums, the Evergreen Museum & Library, (545 North Charles Street, 410-516-0341) housed in a mansion and surrounded by Italian gardens, has a wonderful collection of rare books, and Homewood Museum, (3400 North Charles Street, 410-516-5589), once a private residence, is considered one of the finest examples Federal Period architecture and furnishings. Both museums are part of John Hopkins University. One of our country's most highly regarded academic institutions; you might want to also take time to include a campus visit (410-516-8000).

While the crown jewel of Baltimore is its revitalized Inner Harbor the city also has a few other key and distinctive neighborhoods. In proximity to the Inner Harbor, Little Italy with its many restaurants and residents retains the character and ambiance of the immigrants who settled here. In fact it is one of the few neighborhoods that survived the fire of 1904 that ravaged most of the city. It is said that the entire Little Italy community gathered and that it was their prayers that were responsible for saving their community. The miracle is still celebrated every day in June at the St. Anthony Festival. Camden Yards is home to Baltimore's two sports arenas. Fells Point just around the corner from the inner harbor reflects its British roots. The district with its cobbled streets and 18th- and 19th- century homes was named for an Englishman who started a ship building company here in 1726.  At the heart of the neighborhood referred to as Federal Hill is the historic Cross Street Market. Grab some oysters and beer and enjoy one of the most spectacular views of the harbors. In 1788, 4000 patriots celebrated Maryland's ratification of the U.S. Constitution enjoying the view and launching fireworks! Mount Vernon-although its namesake is more famous and located in Washington, D.C., was actually the first monument erected in honor of George Washington and if you climb the 228 stems to the top of this 178 foot marble column, the Mount Vernon of Baltimore, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of downtown. Also, many of what were the grand mansions of the city have been converted to fine museums and art institutions. Lovely parks and America's first Catholic Church are also located in Mount Vernon. Westside, Baltimore's original downtown is undergoing major renovation and has a real sense of neighborhood and ties to African American history and culture. Edgar Allan Poe is buried at Westminster Hall and Lexington Market is the nation's oldest continually running market. Railway historians will relish a visit to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum with its meticulously restored trains and where visitors can actually board an historic train and travel the first few miles of the first passenger rail ever laid (410-752-2490 or 752-2388). Hamden is a neighborhood that typifies the true "Bawlmer". It still guards the character of this city that evolved from a blue collar mill town and enjoys interesting shops, cafes and its own unique character.

Enjoy Baltimore - it is a dynamic and wonderful city for all ages to appreciate!

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