The mountain air sparkles with crisp snow. Tree-capped slopes wear a blanket of the blinding white powder perfect for downhill skiing, a cross-country jaunt, or just simply to admire from the warmth of a cozy lodge. No, this isn't the Swiss Alps. Welcome to western Maryland.
The area doesn't cower inside waiting for Old Man Winter to blow over. Rather, visitors will find a host of activities, shopping, and dining to keep them entertained. Follow these suggestions for a weekend of fun.
Look at a map of Maryland--you're going as far westward as possible without driving straight into West Virginia. Town names such as Friendsville and Accident will let you know you're getting near home base for the weekend, Deep Creek Lake. You'll have to drive here, but you may shorten your trip by opting to fly into either Pittsburgh or Baltimore/Washington International. Expect a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Add another hour if you land in Baltimore. Either way, try to rent a four-wheel-drive car. While most roads are well-plowed, some of the more remote restaurants and state parks may be easier to get to with that option.
Head straight for the Lake Pointe Inn; 1-800-523-5253. The area around Deep Creek Lake is peppered with good motels, hotels, lodges, and bed-and-breakfasts, most of which can be found on www.garrettchamber.com. But the Lake Pointe Inn is our favorite, even though rates range from $163 to $249 per night. Trust us, it's worth it. Stroll into the historic home, and chances are you'll be greeted by a crackling fire and a glass of wine. Upstairs there are eight charming rooms and two suites, some offering steam showers, whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, down comforters, and magnificent views of the lake.
Eat dinner across the street at the Wisp at Deep Creek Mountain Resort's DC's Restaurant; (301) 387-4911, ext. 2165. Okay, this restaurant does have a certain Swiss Miss feel, but the steaks, seafood, and hearty desserts will take the chill out of the evening. Entrées cost up to $24.95.
Saturday--Explore and Shop
Amble downstairs for a breakfast served by innkeeper Caroline McNiece. Fresh fruit, coffee, muffins, cereals, and juices abound, along with the fluffiest omelets in Maryland.
Make sure to stop by Yoder's Country Market, a treasure trove of all-natural grains, jellies, jams, and baked goods. Then continue your drive into the nearby town of Oakland, where you'll want to browse the Book Mark'et on South Second Street. Next door sits The Garrett County Historical Society Museum. Though modest, it is free and has some unique armaments and historic pictures of local structures.
For lunch, stop in at Cafe La Donna for a delicious sandwich. Try the hearty Monte Cristo: a grilled turkey, ham, and Swiss delight on sourdough bread served with powdered sugar and cherry compote.
Though it doesn't contain much nowadays, a quick trip through the historic Queen Anne-style train station is a must. Oakland was, after all, a train town founded by the B&O Railroad. Complete your afternoon with a trip to the Simon Pearce manufacturing facility outside of town. The store is jammed with gorgeous handblown lamps, bowls, glasses, and vases.
Should the town of Oakland not keep you entertained all afternoon, a sleigh ride at Pleasant Valley Dream Rides will awe with stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside. Located on an Amish dairy farm, rides cost $10 per person, and reservations are recommended; (301) 334-9612.
Many locals prefer the Deer Park Inn for special dinners; (301) 334-2308. The menu changes regularly at this old Victorian mansion, but a typical meal might include an appetizer of local corn chowder with smoked bacon and crabmeat ($6), sea bass with a Champagne-butter sauce ($20), and crêpes filled with ice cream ($5.50).
Sunday--Enjoy the Outdoors
If you're a fan of downhill skiing, spend the morning on the excellent slopes of Wisp, a four-minute walk away. A Sunday morning ticket (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) costs $42 per person. For more details visit www.skiwisp.com.
From the slopes, you're two minutes from lunch at the Deep Creek Brewing Company. The delicious stews and pastas pale next to the beers, which are truly amazing.
If the morning's skiing left you pooped, head back to the inn to relax. Check out is at 11 a.m., but you can use their facilities until 3:30 p.m. Whatever you do, don't leave this area without a trip to one of the state parks. Go to Herrington Manor State Park for cross-country skiing, snowshoe-clad jaunts, and a rustic warming station. Nearby, Swallow Falls State Park offers quiet trails through 40 acres of a 300-year-old white pine-and-hemlock forest. Just 1/4 mile from the parking area, you'll hear the roar of Maryland's tallest (and arguably most beautiful) waterfall, Muddy Creek Falls. Both parks provide a winter wonderland you'll never forget.
For More Information
Contact Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, 15 Visitors Center Drive, McHenry, MD 21541; (301) 387-4386 or www.garrettchamber.com.
This article is from the January 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.