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Frederick, Maryland

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Did You Know … ?

  • John Greenleaf Whittier celebrated the wrong woman in “The Ballad of Barbara Fritchie;” the flag waver was Mary Quantrell.
  • Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star-Spangled Banner” lyrics, was born on a farm near Frederick (1779).
  • Lew Wallace, commander of Union forces at the Battle of Monocacy, later wrote the book, “Ben Hur.”
  • Portions of the TV series, “The West Wing,” were filmed in Catoctin Mountain Park (aired 2004).
  • Antietam (1862) saw the deadliest single-day battle in U.S. history (23,000 killed or wounded).

Mixing war and poetry

Frederick, founded in 1745, has special appeal for history buffs, much of that associated with the War of 1812 and, even more, with the Civil War when Maryland, a southern border state, sided with the Union.

Antietam is the best known of area battlefields. Two of Maryland’s Civil War Trails pass through Frederick County, where the small city is the county seat. Many of Frederick’s churches were used as hospitals during the Civil War, and that role is made vivid in a bracing fashion at Frederick’s National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

Frederick gained greater fame in poetry that remembered a woman defiantly waving a Union flag when Confederate troops marched through — although the flag waver apparently was misidentified.

The city also is noted for the large (50 blocks) and striking Frederick National Historic District. Visitors don’t have to have a particular affinity for the history to enjoy the district’s architecture and famed wall murals or the district’s art galleries, museums, restaurants and shops.

To the latter point, Frederick’s downtown boasts more than 200 antiques shops, and if they aren’t enough, Maryland’s real antiques center, New Market, is nearby.

Frederick promotes the area’s wine trails, a blossoming array of unique dining choices and its up-and-coming craft beers. It also lures visitors to its festivals and reenactment events. The city hosts an annual beer week, but other town parties celebrate art, food and wine, history and music.

Frederick is surrounded by mountain views and appealing smaller communities. The latter include the towns where the first American-born saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton, lived (Emmitsburg) and the birthplace of Francis Scott Key (Keysville), who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” lyrics during the War of 1812.

The mountains attract lovers of beauty, especially the colors in autumn, and travelers yearning for challenging outdoor activities. Visitors can combine multiple interests by cycling or simply strolling along the scenic and historic C&O Canal Towpath.

Camp David, the presidential retreat roughly 20 miles away in Catoctin Mountain Park, is off limits, but the rest of the park is open for camping, cross-country skiing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking and rock climbing.

Things to do for Venturers

  • For Civil War buffs, Monocacy National Battlefield, two miles from Frederick, and Antietam National Battlefield, 17 miles away, are obvious must-sees.  Harpers Ferry, W. Va., and Gettysburg, Pa., aren’t much farther away, either.
  • For those who crave the white waters, the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers have the rapids to meet the need.
  • Pick up the Heritage Bicycle Tours brochure locally and sample the trails on a mountain bike.
  • Time your visit for the springtime Frederick Beer Week, for all sorts of tastings, competitions, beer and food pairings, brewery tours and, basically, anything beer that planners can think of, with emphasis on local beers.
  • Hike on nearby portions of the Appalachian Trail.
  • Look for the music — blues, DJ dance tunes, folk, pop, rock — in the restaurants on Market Street (on weekends after 9 p.m.). In summer, options also include outdoor music at Carroll Creek Amphitheater (Thursdays) and the Baker Park Bandshell (Sundays).

Things to do for Centrics

  • Take a self-guided tour of sites related to Francis Scott Key and/or the War of 1812, including the Roger Brooke Taney and Francis Scott Key Museum (they were brothers-in-law) in Taney’s former home and Key’s burial site at the Historic Mount Olivet Cemetery.
  • Linger in the Frederick National Historic District. Look for the trompe l’oeil murals found on the sides of some of the district’s buildings.
  • Learn — and shudder — at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.
  • Gain insights into the ways of moonshiners at the Blue Blazes Whiskey Still, an authentic still in Catoctin Mountain Park, now part of the National Park Service. Access is via an uphill hike on the aptly named Blue Blazes Whiskey Still Trail.
  • In Frederick, tour Monocacy Brewing Company or the Flying Dog Brewery, or leave town to savor craft beer at one of a handful of farmhouse breweries right where the ingredients are harvested. The oldest of the farm breweries is Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm in Mount Airy.
  • In Cunningham Falls State Park, hike to Cunningham Falls, Maryland’s tallest cascading waterfall. Different trails for the experienced and for the less experienced give you choices.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Include the Barbara Fritchie Home and Museum on your itinerary for a window onto her era — even if she did not wave that Union flag in the faces of Confederate soldiers.
  • Tour the historic district in a horse-drawn carriage. Shop for antiques in town or nearby New Market. Then, take high tea at any of Frederick’s tearooms.
  • Play golf with a scenic backdrop of rolling hills — and the battlefields.
  • Sip wines along the Frederick Wine Trail or along the Antietam Highlands Wine Trail.
  • Do some sightseeing while driving on the Historic National Road, the first federally funded highway (built between 1811 and 1834), a nationally designated byway. Drive across one of the county’s three covered bridges, too.
  • Tour the home in Emmitsburg where St. Elizabeth Ann Seton lived and worked in the early 19th century, and pause for reflection in the on-site Seton Shrine.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Tourism Council of Frederick County at