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Shopping, Hiking and History: How to Choose Your Own Maryland Adventure at the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area

Courtesy of Visit Frederick

Across America, there are places where history, culture and nature intersect, forming a trifecta of culturally rich terrain to explore. One of those locations is the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, a series of sites in Maryland’s Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties that help tell the story of how the United States got to where it is today. 

Here are the sights, bites and streets not to miss as you explore all the area has to offer.  

Adventure a Main Street Away

Courtesy of Auni Gelles

Maryland is known for its vibrant and bustling main streets. Choose your own adventure as you cruise along the Old Main Streets Byway, and be sure to take a guided tour at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster. There you’ll see exhibits, artisan demonstrations of skills like spinning and weaving, and the Farm Museum’s resident animals including heritage breed oxen, goats, chickens, and more.

In Emmitsburg, the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is less than an hour’s drive away, where you can take guided tours to learn about the first American-born saint. What’s more, the Catoctin Mountains and Catoctin Mountain Park are nearby, so you can get out in nature among its 25 miles of trails. 

See a Real Civil War Battlefield

Courtesy of Visit Frederick

Given its position in the Mid-Atlantic, Maryland was a key site in the Civil War. Some of the most famous and tenuous battles were fought in and around the cities encompassing the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, including at South Mountain. Today, the Battle of South Mountain is commemorated at South Mountain State Battlefield, which is Maryland’s only state Civil War Battlefield. After the war, much of the land became the home of George Alfred Townsend, who built the War Correspondents Memorial that guests can still visit today. 

If you’re an outdoorsy person, the Appalachian Trail intersects with the mountain — you can take it north to Pennsylvania or south to Harpers Ferry. What’s more, no visit to South Mountain is complete without exploring the area’s shops. Local makers including ceramicists and landscape artists are a part of the Valley Craft Network, while cideries like Willow Oaks Cider uses special heritage apples to create a unique local flavor. 

Stargazing and Walking Among the Trees

Courtesy of Visit Frederick

In addition to being rich with history, the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area is a nature-lover’s paradise. There’s many different activities to cross off your list, including camping at Greenbrier State Park and its 42-acre man-made lake and beach, as well as Tree Trekkers, an adventure-filled outdoor recreation center high in the sky just 35 minutes away.  

In Carroll County, Bear Branch Nature Center offers a choice of camping under the stars or staying in a luxurious cabin. Contact an outfitter to determine what might be best for you. 

Ice Cream and Strawberry Picking

Courtesy of Visit Frederick

Amidst all this learning and sightseeing and hiking, you’re probably going to get hungry. Thankfully, the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area has plenty of local restaurants and makers to whet your appetite. The area has a long history of farming, which means that you can sample craft beverages, pick your favorite fresh produce and jams at Cronise Market Place in Washington County’s Boonsboro and eat something sweet at South Mountain Creamery, where you can even feed the cows responsible for helping fill your waffle cone! 

Carroll County is also rich with farmland — Baugher’s Orchards and Farm is a premium location to snap a photo while picking your own strawberries. 

Test Your Wits

Courtesy of Justin Tsucalas

The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area has fun for the whole family. Whether you’re a puzzle wiz or good at spotting things hidden in plain sight, there’s a riddle for everyone across the region. With the The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area Geotrail, you’ll be tasked with finding sites across three counties and learn about their place in Maryland and American history. While you’re on the hunt, make the most of your time by plotting out the best places to visit in Carroll County, Frederick County and Washington County for local shops and eats. 

In Downtown Frederick, local business Surelocked In Escape Games runs frequent scavenger hunts and puzzles throughout the entire historic downtown, giving families the opportunity to solve puzzles together and explore the hidden corners of the historic city.

Also back for 2022 is Park Quest, an initiative across Maryland State Parks to complete as many pollinator-themed activities as possible. Maryland State Parks are committed to helping visitors learn more about birds, bats, butterflies, bees, wasps and other pollinators and the role they play in a healthy ecosystem. And the best part: Families who complete 12 quests or more will be entered into a special drawing to win prizes! 

For more on the can’t miss sights across the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, head here.