The quietly aristocratic town of Charles Town was named for George Washington's youngest brother; Washington's family lived in the town for many years. Today, tree-lined streets lead visitors past 18th century homes in this city on the edge of West Virginia's eastern panhandle. Nearby, the town of Harpers Ferry is located at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers where the states of West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland meet. Harpers Ferry was considered the key to Washington, D.C. during the Civil War and was the site of abolitionist John Brown's raid in 1859.
Historical walking and carriage tours are available in Charles Town. Historic sites include Jefferson County Courthouse, site of John Brown's trial; Jefferson County Museum, featuring John Brown memorabilia and the site of the John Brown gallows.
Entertainment in Charles Town includes the Old Opera House Theatre Company is located in a historic theater and presents plays and concerts. For more modern fun, Charles Town Races & Slots features over 3,800 slots, year round thoroughbred racing and several restaurants. Dining options range from fine dining at Avanti Ristorante for seafood and Italian food to Chinese fare at Shu Chen to one of three restaurants at the Charles Town Races & Slots.
To see the history of Harpers Ferry, visit the National Historical Park of the same name. Harpers Ferry NHP includes the old town, restored to its 19th century look with exhibits about the Civil War, John Brown and Storer College, a school for freed slaves. Other sites to see in the park include historic houses such as Camp Hill, Lockwood and Harper House; the ruins of St. John's Episcopal Church, used as a guardhouse during the Civil War and Jefferson's Rock, the spot where Thomas Jefferson said the surrounding view was "one of the most stupendous scenes in nature". Park activities include bird watching, hiking, nature walks and whitewater rafting on the Shenandoah or Potomac Rivers.
Harpers Ferry is the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conference. Camping is available at Harpers Ferry KOA. Families will want to explore Ridgefield Farm & Orchard.Harpers Ferry Main Street features shops, antiques, fine dining and crafts. The Anvil Restaurant, one dining option, features casual dining in a rustic atmosphere.
Charles Town and Harpers Ferry are located on the eastern edge of the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, over five hours northeast of Charleston, WV or about 90 minutes northwest of Washington, DC. From Washington, DC, take I 270 north to I 70 west to US 340 west.