It may come as a surprise to some, but a portion of the West Virginia panhandle is considered the northern Shenandoah Valley, and it’s always worth your time to explore the cute towns that await.
If you’ve never visited Shepherdstown, you’re missing out on “One of America’s Coolest Small Towns,” per Budget Travel and a place where “you’ll feel right at home,” according to Arlington Magazine. Indeed, there is much to see and experience in Shepherdstown.
Nestled along the Potomac River, Shepherdstown is West Virginia’s oldest town, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it. The dining options are delightful with Parisian, English, and Asian influence; but you’ll also find the mainstay mom-and-pop stops the locals love.
Quirky shops (vinyl, anyone?), art galleries, an independent bookstore, German and European goods, clothes, wine, and a good ol’ fashioned general store are among the fantastic, locally owned stores to be perused in Shepherdstown.
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When it’s time for rest, you won’t go wrong with the renown Bavarian Inn, a European style resort and brewing company. Guests love the infinity pool which seems to roll right into the Potomac. Their luxury rooms and suites are on par with dining rivaling any you’ve enjoyed elsewhere.
Mustn’t Skip: Contemporary American Theater Festival, July 8-31
Charles Town, WV
Founded by and named for the youngest brother of George Washington, you’ll find six Washington family homes still standing in Charles Town. In fact, Charles Town joins Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown on the 136-mile Washington Heritage Trail, which retraces George Washington’s footsteps through the panhandle. A key stop in Charles Town is the Jefferson County Courthouse and Museum, the location of the treason trial of John Brown for his 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry.
One of the most well-known attractions in Charles Town is the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. The Inn at Charles Town is a hotel on the casino and race grounds. It’s a comfortable home base from which to take your chances in the casino or catch a thoroughbred horse race.
Harpers Ferry, WV
Loaded with history, Harpers Ferry sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, which makes it an excellent outdoors haven as well. Hike to Jefferson Rock to get a view of three states all at once – West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. The Appalachian Trail is part of that experience as well.
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You’d be remiss to skip John Brown’s Fort within the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. It’s the place where Brown was captured after he, his sons, and five others raided the federal arsenal in 1859.
In addition to Brown’s raid against slavery and the Civil War battle that soon followed, Harpers Ferry is a significant historic location for other reasons as well. A few …
- The first free African American family settled there in colonial times
- The Freedman’s Bureau and Storer College were the first opportunities for African Americans to receive a higher education
- The first public meeting of the Niagara Movement led by W.E.B. Du Bois was held at Storer College in August 1906
Here’s an Idea: Self-guided, take on the Harpers Ferry Black Heritage Walking Tour to learn more.
These points and others helped land the 19 century town – as a whole – on the National Register as a National Historic District in 1979.
Let us see what you see when you visit these West Virginia communities of the Shenandoah Valley! Tag us on Instagram @VisitShenandoahValley).