West Virginia Travel Regions
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|West Virginia: Eastern Panhandle: Articles|
Coolfont - come getaway!
Places of Resort
Coolfont - come getaway!
The Eastern Panhandle extends an invitation for a getaway that combines creature comforts with healthy living.
Come to Coolfont Resort and Conference Center, near Berkeley Springs, for first-rate spa pampering at affordable prices. It's a beautiful place to tone up, slim down, chill out, look inward, stop smoking or start exercising regularly. The resort's restaurant, lounge, pool and exercise facilities, miles of trails and all-season recreation opportunities make it more fun. Lodging options include a small lodge, a manor house, rental vacation homes and small chalets tucked into the woods.
Cacapon Resort State Park, one of West Virginia's most popular parks, is also close to Berkeley Springs. Well known for its championship Robert Trent Jones Golf Course, the park also offers lodging, a restaurant, horseback riding, beautiful woodland trails and a full complement of leisure activities.
The Woods Resort in Hedgesville, between Berkeley Springs and Martinsburg, is a popular resort, conference center and golf community. Guests and residents enjoy a full-service restaurant, fitness center, year-round recreation and 27 holes of outstanding golf.
Other courses in the Panhandle include Stonebridge Golf Club, Locust Hill Golf Club and Sleepy Hollow Golf Club near Charles Town.
George Washington's Trail
It has been 200 years since George Washington died, but his influence on West Virginia is still being reckoned. The George Washington Heritage Trail Byway, a new driving trail through the Eastern Panhandle, holds discoveries for scholars, families and all who, like Washington, appreciate the natural beauty of the state where he invested most of his own fortune, and encourages family and friends to invest.
The loop trail and several spurs traverse parts of all three counties on the Eastern Panhandle, with convenient access points at Berkeley Springs, Charles Town, Falling Waters, Glengary, Harpers Ferry, Inwood, Martinsburg, Rippon and Shepherdstown. Many of these areas were surveyed by young Washington, and he and his family owned thousands of acres ion the region.
In or near Charles Town (named for Washington's brother Charles), the trial passes by several homes owned by General Washington's family. Visit the Zion Episcopal Church cemetery here to find many Washington headstones, including at least three later George Washingtons. Washington selected Harpers Ferry as the site for a federal arsenal, setting the stage for John Brown's Civil War uprising. He hired Shepherdstown's famous resident James Rumsey as construction manager of the Potomac Navigation Company. Martinsburg was home to many of his colleagues and contemporaries, and contains some of the best-preserved colonial architecture. In Berkeley Springs, you can see the bathtub where Washington bathed, and enjoy your own spa treatment.
The George Washington Heritage Trail Byway also offers what the region offered Washington: panoramic views, unspoiled countryside and an invitation to relax and enjoy it all.
All across the state, heritage trials can be the basis for beautiful, educational and memorable West Virginia vacations. The Midland Trail, the Coal Heritage Trail and the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, recently chosen as a National Millennium Trail, await your discovery. Many sites on the national Civil War Discovery Trail are also within West Virginia. For more information on West Virginia's heritage trails, contact us to (800) CALL WVA
In Search of Bargains and History
Blue Ridge Outlet Center®
Martinsburg's central location and easy access to I-81 make it a hub for commerce and recreation in the Eastern Panhandle. Incorporated in 1778, the town later thrived as a railroad town, home to the B&O engine shop. Bitterly contested during the Civil War, Martinsburg changed hands as many as 60 times.
With seven historic districts, Martinsburg could keep a history buff happy for ages. The town's founder, General Adam Stephen, built an impressive stone mansion; it is open to visitors on weekends and by appointment. Next-door, the Triple Brick Museum highlights local heritage. The Belle Boyd House, family home of the flamboyant Civil War spy, details her eventful life and times - and houses an excellent regional genealogy center. The historic Boarman House is home to Martinsburg's Visitors Center and a lively arts center featuring gallery shows and studio demonstrations.
Shoppers flock to Martinsburg's Blue Ridge Outlet Center, where brand name merchandise at factory outlet prices is displayed in a brilliantly rehabilitated complex of 19th-century woolen mills. More bargains abound at the Tanger Shopping Outlet.
Old Town Martinsburg offers a wealth of choices for antique shoppers - including one antique mall that showcases more than 200 dealers - as well as fine arts and crafts by local artisans.
Driving tours, festivals and summer ghost walks also celebrate the region's roots, foods, arts and legends.
Quaint and Likable
A few miles southwest of Martinsburg, the village of Gerrardstown retains its 18th-century atmosphere. Kearneysville, south and east of Martinsburg, is the rainbow's end for seekers of original, handcrafted treasures including baskets, pottery and handmade furniture.
Take the Waters
Near the Potomac River at the northern part of the Eastern Panhandle, Berkeley Springs has welcomed weary travelers since George Washington discovered its sparkling mineral waters in 1748. In 1776, his friends and family established the town they named Bath (still its official name, but not on maps), and the town's healing waters and spa treatments continue to define its inviting character. Tiny Berkeley Springs State Park, right in the middle of town, is one of many area locations for therapeutic massage and warm mineral water baths.
Nowadays, the spas share the limelight with the arts; the town has been named one of America's best small art towns, with a pleasing array of galleries and shops, free summer concerts in the state park, and the new Ice House Art Center as the hub of a lively arts community.
Visitors can choose from a comforting number of elegant bed and breakfast inns and cabins as well as the gracious Country Inn and a variety of accommodations at nearby Coolfont Resort and Cacapon Resort State Park.
Shops in Berkeley Springs include three malls featuring antiques and collectibles as well as a pretty, awning-covered row of shops full of crafts, glass, crockery, political memorabilia and bath indulgences. Homeopathic remedies are made on-site at a one-of-a-kind factory, retail store and museum. When the shopping bags get too heavy, stop for a refreshing break at Tari's Cafe or take in a movie at the vintage Star Theatre.
Civil War Roots
The town of Harpers Ferry may be livelier today than it was in 1859, when abolitionist John Brown staged his raid on the US Arsenal there, setting off a chain of events that resulted in the Civil War. More beautiful than ever, its historic section is maintained as a national historical park and part of the Civil War Discovery Trail.
The park is actually a collection of many small museums housed in original buildings. Costumed interpreters guide tours year-round.
Along the cobblestone streets winding uphill from the park to the town of Bolivar, shops feature antiques, Civil War memorabilia and crafts. The Harpers Ferry Flea Market, an outdoor bazaar, appears on US 340 on spring, summer and fall weekends.
Harpers Ferry offers many choices for outdoor recreation. Stroll to nearby Virginus Island; bike or hike along the C&O Canal towpath or the Appalachian Trail; or enjoy a variety of paddle sports on the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.
Charles Town, named for George Washington's brother, exudes 19th-century charm. A pleasant walking tour (and seasonal ghost tours) will take you to many historic sites, including the Jefferson County Courthouse, where John Brown was tried for treason. The Jefferson County Museum displays artifacts from the era, including the wagon that carried Brown to his hanging.
Historic bed and breakfast inns are within walking distance, and community theater thrives in the Old Opera House.
For fast-paced fun, watch live and simulcast horse racing at the Charles Town Races, now also featuring video slots, or watch the rubber burn at Summit Point Raceway, only a few minutes away.
Sitting pretty beside the Potomac, about halfway between Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown is one of West Virginia's oldest towns, originally known as Mecklenburg. Today its shady streets, specialty shops in wooden storefronts, charming restaurants and college-town style make it a favorite for visitors.
Shepherd College is also the home of the Contemporary American Theater Festival in July, designated a "favorite summer theater outing" by The Washington Post. If you miss the plays, take in an art film at the historic Opera House, then enjoy a delicious meal in your choice of surroundings, such as the Beaux Arts-style Yellow Brick Bank, with its bank-vault-turned-wine-cellar, or the Old Pharmacy Cafe, complete with the original 1911 marble soda fountain.
History lovers know Shepherdstown as the jumping-off point for the legendary Bee Line march to reinforce George Washington's fledgling Continental Army; during the Civil War, the nearby Battle of Antietam turned the town into a vast hospital.
The town's most famous former resident is James Rumsey, who successfully demonstrated his steam-powered boat here on the Potomac in 1787 - two decades before Fulton's chug along the Hudson. A riverside monument and the Rumsey Steamboat Museum honor him. The Thomas Shepherd Gristmill, one of the world's largest overshot water wheels, has recently been restored to working order.
Overnighters will find historic inns and comfortable bed and breakfast options; for extra luxury, sink into a warm Jacuzzi bath at the Bavarian Inn, overlooking the Potomac River. Deer-antler chandeliers and award-winning German cuisine make dining here an experience to savor, as well.
A World Away
In the Eastern Panhandle, within easy reach of the East's major metropolitan areas, you'll find the tranquil, unpretentious country our Colonial ancestors enjoyed - side by side with contemporary arts and culture, recreation, affordable spa services, first-rate country inns and top-notch restaurants. Ready for relaxation, regeneration or an active retirement, it's a world away and right next-door.