For fans of a warm B&B vibe, the former 1868 parsonage that's now the Thomas Shepherd Inn (300 W. German St.; 304-876-3715) is the only game in town. Six second-floor bedrooms have luxe linens and are outfitted in antiques—but no TVs. Room 6 is known for marriage proposals—could it be the claw-foot tub? Full breakfasts might include blueberry-pecan French toast and potato strata. Always on the menu: Shepherd's Kiss blend by local roaster Hypnocoffee and house-made spice biscotti.
With knowledgeable staff, shelf after shelf of new and used books, and a cozy, colorful children's floor, Four Seasons Books (116 W. German St.; 304-876-3486) is everything a book-store should be. Offbeat finds at the family-owned store include Deer Hunting With Jesus and Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians.
Brass lanterns and fabric-draped ceilings create an exotic atmosphere at Shaharazade's (141 W. German St.; 304-876-8100), a tearoom and Middle Eastern restaurant with delicious food, gentle service, and monthly Sunday poetry readings. Loose leaves, teapots, and cups are for sale.
When Deb Tucker opened Bistro 112 (112 W. German St.; 304-876-8477), she set out to do five things perfectly: steak au poivre, pommes frites, raspberry tart, espresso and—of course—French bread. Locals and visitors gather here as much for the food as for the fun, friendly atmosphere. Solo diners are embraced. Inside, the decor includes paper lanterns, glass masks, and a flirty mannequin in a 1920s Lanvin dress. In warm weather, the party moves outdoors under the stars, to a long communal table or intimate garden corner.
If the great outdoors beckons, head to Shepherdstown Pedal & Paddle (115 W. German St.; 304-876-3000), where you can rent a bike, kayak, or canoe. Group bike rides, led by owner Eddie Sampson, leave from the shop every Saturday and Sunday morning (between 6 and 7 am in summer). Shuttle service to various points along the Potomac River is available for those renting kayaks and canoes; prices vary. For details, visit thepedalpaddle.com.
Once a makeshift Confederate hospital, the Mecklenburg Inn (128 E. German St.; 304-876-2126) was named to Esquire magazine's 2011 list of the nation's best bars. The former inn has ornate tin walls and ceilings, stained glass, and exposed brick. You can throw darts in the game room or grab a drink in the dimly lit bar, the atrium, or the back garden, which has a tree swing. At "the Meck," live music might include Grateful Dead jams, bluegrass, or jazz.
Almost everything at Dickinson & Wait Craft Gallery (121 E. German St.; 304-876-0657) is handmade in the US, and a quarter of the one-of-a-kind merchandise—a shabby-chic grandfather clock, a burled-wood bowl—is regional. One of Niche magazine's top 100 craft retailers in the country, the store is open and airy, with artwork and photography gracing the walls. Contemporary jewelry, clothing, home accessories, and furniture might be made of new or recycled wood, glass, fiber, clay, or metal.
Sixteen-year-old Lost Dog Coffee (134 E. German St.; 304-876-0871) has a lot of personality. Decorations include a ceramic Buddha and papier-mâché clown as well as rotating local art ranging from professional photography to designs painted on paper sheets ripped off a roll. There's no set menu, but baristas can create everything from espressos to smoothies. There are also locally made muffins, cookies, and pies plus more than 110 varieties of tea.
The chicness of Soho meets small-town sensibility at Blue River Clothing Company (123 E. German St.; 304-876-0506). Owners Eric White and Laura Carter take pride in their socially conscious, natural items. If suffering is involved in making something, they won't sell it. Many of the clothing, shoes, furniture, and gifts are manufactured in small quantities and bought from cottage industries or solo artists or producers.
Despite a population of fewer than 2,000, Shepherdstown sustains a diverse arts community. July 6 through 29, Shepherd University (301 N. King St.; 800-999-2283) hosts the 22nd annual Contemporary American Theater Festival (catf.org), which features five new American plays, including one this year by Neil LaBute. Shows take place Wednesday through Sunday in three locations around campus, and scheduling is arranged so out-of-towners can watch all five plays in two days. For more on the festival, see Where & When, page 35.
Brooms, baskets, birdhouses, hand-carved wooden trucks, Amish rocking chairs, jewelry, jeans—at O'Hurley's General Store (205 E. Washington St.; 304-876-6907), you can find it all, much of it locally made. Long-weekenders can catch free Appalachian heritage music—a traditional style that features dulcimers and harps—on Thursday nights.
High on a bluff above the Potomac River, Rumsey Monument Park (end of Mill St.) is a great place to picnic. Stairs lead to a granite monument honoring 18th-century engineer James Rumsey. It overlooks the spot where he demonstrated the first working steamboat in 1787, 20 years before Robert Fulton's more well-known achievements.