The northern end of the Shenandoah Valley crosses into history-rich West Virginia–and destinations like Harpers Ferry, Charles Town and Shepherdstown are both celebrating the past and embracing the future.
In this Jefferson County region, American history and outdoor recreation of many types are complemented by a growing arts scene. Tourists today, as they have for generations, are still drawn by the spectacular confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers,–the views, the, fishing and the paddling. They are drawn by the Appalachian Trail, by Civil War historical sites—combined with a multitude of contemporary restaurants, shops, festivals and performance art.
One major event coming June 28-30 is the 75th Anniversary of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park becoming a unit of the National Park Service. Additionally, a monthly speaker series, coordinated by the National Park Service and Harpers Ferry Park Association, began in February and will run through November. Check here for specific times and locations; some of the upcoming topics include: Harpers Ferry Armory and the New Technology, Harpers Ferry Night Sky Festival, the Slave Dwelling Project, the Battle of 1862, and the 160th Anniversary of John Brown’s Raid. A guided tour of the Armory and Arsenal Brown took is a fundamental part of a Harpers Ferry visit. (Brown is only one of many famous historical figures with ties to Harpers Ferry. Frederick Douglass, Meriwether Lewis, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others had a presence here. )
The park is open year-round, except for major holidays. Shuttle buses transport visitors from the Visitor Center to Lower Town where about four street blocks are lined with museums and exhibits. Additionally, there are over 20 miles of trails throughout the entire park, some of which begin in Lower Town. Buses begin service at 9 a.m. and end between 5:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. depending on the season.
July is an ideal time for lover of performance art to visit. A sometimes overlooked destination in Jefferson County is Shepherdstown. Actually the oldest town in the state, it is in some ways breaking completely new artistic ground. Shepherd University’s Contemporary American Theater Festival stages six brand new plays from July 5 to 28. It has been described in glowing terms by The New York Times, American Theater, and World Guide.
Looking a bit further ahead, travelers can plan to visit the 44th Annual Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival September 27-29th, 2019, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. each day, at their new location, the Jefferson County WV Fairgrounds. This is one of the better-known festivals in the Shenandoah Valley. Expect 200 quality arts and crafts vendors from 17 states, West Virginia wines, live bluegrass music, activities for children, and outstanding food, all less than 70 miles from Washington, DC. Keep up with developments on Facebook.
Of course, no coverage of this region is complete without mentioning the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. If their combination of gaming, dining, racing and entertainment isn’t enough to lure you to this diversified destination, what is?
Photo courtesy National Park Service