Washington County, Maryland's transportation history played a vital role in the expansion of the United States. The Historic National Road (HNR) enabled goods to be transported from Baltimore to points West, and the C&O Canal was dug to help move goods by boat to and from Washington, D.C., and Western Maryland. Many early railroad lines were linked into Hagerstown and it earned the moniker Hub City.
Today, the HNR Scenic Byway threads together charming small towns with thriving cities. Groups could drive along this "open-air museum" to explore its recreation, museums, shopping dining, wineries and brewpubs.
There are many sites and side trips along the HNR in Washington County for groups to enjoy.
Groups could visit Washington Monument State Park, the first completed in honor of George Washington, before dining at the Old South Mountain Inn, which dates to the 1700s.
In the town of Boonsboro, the National Road Museum is scheduled to open in early 2021 and will be Maryland's first museum dedicated to America's first federally funded highway. Exhibits will interpret the HNR in its heyday, and the integral part it played in expanding America's untamed West. Boonsboro is also the hometown of Nora Roberts, world-famous romance novelist. Roberts has several businesses in the town, including Inn BoonsBoro, Vesta Pizzeria, Turn the Page Bookstore—where the author holds book signings every time she publishes a new book, six times a year—and Gifts Inn Boonsboro, featuring works of local artisans.
Williamsport's portion of C&O Canal National Historic Park runs parallel to the Potomac River. Ride a 1900s-era launch boat over a restored aqueduct, tour an authentic lock keeper's home, and watch a demonstration of a working lock. It's the only site in the U.S. offering these authentic experiences as they would have happened in the early 1900s.
Hagerstown offers incredible recreation, arts, culture, and dining experiences in its historic downtown Arts & Entertainment District and City Park. Maryland Theatre and Performing Arts Center offers outstanding evening entertainment, while Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant celebrates the area's German heritage. Hagerstown Cultural Trail connects the A&E District to Hagerstown's City Park and offers engaging opportunities to take a short walk while experiencing fabulous works of public art such as the Mural of Unusual Size. Once in City Park, visit cultural amenities such as Washington County Museum of Fine Arts—with works by artists including Norman Rockwell and Rodin—and the Jonathan Hager House, home of Hagerstown's founder, which dates to the early 1700s frontier days and is preserved in authentic period furnishings.
Don't forget to visit Clear Spring and the historic Wilson Village to buy old-time candy at Wilson's General Store. In Big Pool, don't miss Fort Frederick, a stone fort built during the French and Indian War. Also worth checking out is Hancock, Maryland, aka Maryland's Trail Town. Here, groups could dine at Buddy Lou's Antiques and Eats. Last, be sure to visit Sideling Hill, a geological marvel, where the mountain was cut through to complete the road to reduce accidents. Previously, the site was the scene of many stagecoach mishaps!
The HNR is a hip and historic byway where the journey is the destination. Come and see why!
Courtesy of Visit Hagerstown.
Photo courtesy of Visit Hagerstown.