Evan L. Balkan (email@example.com) is author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Baltimore.
Frederick used to be called “Fred-neck,” suggesting a town without sophistication. No one could call it that these days.
First, Frederick’s history. Established 20 years before the Revolutionary War, it served as a neutral way station for Civil War soldiers on both sides. Dozens of museums and historic sites are clustered within the historic district. One not to be missed: the Civil War Medicine Museum. After you see all the old pharmaceuticals, you’ll want to kiss your corner pharmacist.
You can see historic downtown by picking up a self-guided map at the visitor center. Or wait until dusk falls and tag along on a candlelight ghost tour. The visitor center is at 19 East Church Street. Parking is next door, and there’s more parking off East Church and South Court streets. 800-999-3613, fredericktourism.org.
But all’s not history in Frederick. Its blend of old and new is what gives it charm. The city’s energy is exemplified by the year-round First Saturday Gallery Walk, when restaurants, art galleries, and shops stay open late. Live entertainment pulses from Everedy Square, an area of restored 19th-century factory housing.
You don’t have to visit on the first Saturday of the month to be entertained. Weinberg Center for the Arts (weinbergcenter.org), housed in a 1926 movie palace, hosts music, dance, and theater. Three other theater companies make their homes in Frederick: the Maryland Shakespeare Festival (shakespeareproject.com), performing free at Hood College; Maryland Ensemble Theatre (marylandensemble.org), presenting children’s performances, comedy, and drama—I caught an excellent production of Aristophanes’s Lysistrata; and Fredericktowne Players (fredericktowneplayers.org), with four shows a year.
Want to take some of the creativity home? Head to Delaplaine Visual Arts Center, a 30,000-square-foot gallery that showcases and sells locally produced art.
After the art, the history, and the boutiques and antique shops, you may want to eat. Frederick can’t claim a restaurant scene like Washington’s, but it’s getting there. A few years ago, choices were limited to traditional American fare. While that’s still here—check out Brewer’s Alley for a fine crab cake—new cuisine includes Thai, Spanish, and Mexican.
Frederick makes an easy day trip, but with so much to see and do, why not stay the night? My recommendations: Hill House, an 1870 three-story Victorian with four guest rooms; and Hollerstown Hill, a 1900 Victorian that is full of antiques.
Leave time for a short side trip before heading home. Three wineries offer tours: Berrywine/Linganore, Elk Run, and Loew. If you’ve brought the kids, you might take them to Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo, just north in Thurmont, to see everything from lions to lemurs. At the hands-on children’s museum at Rose Hill Manor, a few miles outside the historic district, adults and kids alike will have a ball playing the 18th-century games. Or head to 44-acre Baker Park, Frederick’s heart. There’s a pool, picnic areas, and playgrounds. Summertime swimming and canoeing yield to winter ice skating. Outdoor events are scheduled year-round.
Or work off breakfast on a hike at Cunningham Falls State Park or Catoctin Mountain National Park. Never mind those helicopters; that’s just security for nearby Camp David.
What to See
Barbara Fritchie House, 301-698-8992. The home of the woman who stood down the Confederate army.
Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center, 40 S. Carroll St.; delaplaine.org. Exhibits regional and national artists.
Historical Society of Frederick County, 301-663-1188; hsfcinfo.org. Exhibits and gardens offer a history of Frederick.
National Museum of Civil War Medicine, 301-695-1864; civilwarmed.org. Tells the medical story of the Civil War.
Roger Brooke Taney House, 301-663-7880. Explores life in the early 19th century, centering on the Supreme Court Justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision.
Rose Hill Manor, 301-694-1650; rosehillmuseum.com. Children’s museum and historic manor house.
Where to Eat
Acacia, 301-694-3015; acacia129.com. Asian fusion cuisine; entrées $10 to $24.
Brewer’s Alley, 301-631-0089; brewers-alley.com. Casual brewpub with a great crab cake; entrées $10 to $21.
Isabella’s Taverna & Tapas Bar, 301-698-8922; isabellas-tavern.com. Winner of Frederick Magazine’s Best Specialty/Ethnic Restaurant award four years running. Tapas $3 to $10.25, entrées $16 to $27.
La Paz Mexican Restaurant, 51 S. Market St., 301-694-8980. Authentic Mexican fare. Entrées $8 to $12.
Where to Stay
Hill House, 301-682-4111, itlink.com/hillhouse/1.html; $105 to $150 a night.
Hollerstown Hill, 301-228-3630, hollerstownhill.com; $115 to $125 a night.
Winery tours: Berrywine/Linganore (301-831-5889, linganore-wine.com); Elk Run (410-775-2513, elkrun.com); Loew (301-831-5464, loewvineyards.net).
Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo, 301-271-3180; cwpzoo.com. More than 450 exotic animals.
Cunningham Falls State Park, www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/cunninghamfalls.html; Catoctin Mountain National Park, nps.gov/cato. Hiking trails, from short and flat to steep and rocky.