Unwind in Harpers Ferry

Outdoor activities and shopping take a front-row seat in this historic West Virginia town.
Karen Lingo

If you think of Harpers Ferry only in terms of history, think again. A tour of the national historical park sits high on the list of things to do, but so do rafting trips down the Shenandoah River, biking on the C&O Canal, and walking the Appalachian Trail. Add shopping and dining to the mix, and you're in for a lovely, lively weekend.

Friday--Scout the Shops
Begin with a bite to eat and a bit of browsing in nearby Shepherdstown. For lunch, try the Yellow Brick Bank on East German Street. The menu features everything from burgers to grilled salmon or oyster stew (lunch entrées range $7-$14).
Spend the rest of the afternoon checking out the shops. Look for furniture by John Landis in J Cooper Gallery and toys and games in One Two Kangaroo. Grab an espresso at Lost Dog Coffee before you drive out East Washington Street to O'Hurley's General Store, where the rooms are filled with everything from buckets to cookware, books, and toys.

 

Dress for dinner at the Bavarian Inn. Begin with the chef's pâté ($5.95) or the steamed mussels with garlic and herbs ($8.50). Try the Wiener Schnitzel ($18.50) or veal Oscar ($22.50). Save room for a slice of Black Forest Cake ($3.95) or the apple strudel ($4.25).

If you like old hotels with a great view and atmosphere instead of elegance, stay at Historic Hilltop House Hotel & Conference Center in Harpers Ferry. Rates start at $65; 1-800-338-8319 or www.hilltophousehotel.com. For both atmosphere and elegance, check in to the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown. Rates begin at $85; (304) 876-2551 or www.bavarianinnwv.com.

Saturday--Run the Rapids
Rise for an early breakfast at the Country Cafe & General Store in the community of Bolivar, adjacent to Harpers Ferry ($4.95 for eggs, sausage or bacon, home fries, and toast). Then raft the Shenandoah River with one of the local outfitters. The trip takes three to four hours and costs about $55 per person. It includes float time to watch for wildlife, as well as some challenging rapids. Check to see if lunch is provided. For reservations contact Blue Ridge Outfitters, (304) 725-3444; River Riders, 1-800-326-7238; or River & Trail Outfitters, 1-888-446-7529.

Spend the afternoon in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, woven so tightly around the town that one seems to blend into the other. Park your car at the visitors center ($6 fee at the entrance), and take the shuttle.

Visit the museum buildings, and don't miss John Brown's Fort, where the abolitionist holed up during his raid on the U.S. Armory in 1859. Stop by the bookstore in the old Stagecoach Inn, and then browse the shops lining Potomac and High Streets for candles, crafts, ice cream, and fudge.

Have dinner at The Anvil Restaurant. Begin with the hot crab dip ($8.25, enough for two). Next try the pan-fried trout ($16.95), or order the petite fillet ($17.95) and add a jumbo lump crab cake ($7).

Sunday--Take a Hike or Bike
The Country Cafe is always good for breakfast, or have a bite at your hotel or inn before setting out for the C&O Canal National Historic Park. The same outfitters who take you down the Shenandoah River can set you up with everything you'll need to bike the scenic towpath between Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry. The cost runs about $25, or ask for a combination raft-and-bike package and save a few dollars.

Before heading home, stroll again the streets of Harpers Ferry, with an ice-cream cone or slice of fudge to sweeten the moment.

This article is from the April 2004 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.