15 Best Things to Do in Western Maryland

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

Western Maryland is the mountainous side of the state, noted for rural landscapes, small towns, and numerous state parks and outdoor recreation opportunities in Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties. Here, you'll find a variety of fun things to do for all ages including visiting historic battlefields, exploring picturesque state and national parks, and touring a number of museums, breweries, and even vineyards. With its close proximity to the Washington, D.C., area, Western Maryland is a great destination to plan a day trip or weekend getaway.

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Camp, Swim, and Ski at Deep Creek Lake

Grassy shore of Deep Creek Lake lined with trees and rocks

Rachel Cooper / TripSavvy

With 65 miles of shoreline, Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County is Maryland’s largest freshwater lake. Located in the northwest corner of the state just south of McHenry, Deep Creek Lake is a popular destination year-round, and the resort area is the most popular attraction in the area. During the warmer months of the year, visitors enjoy camping, boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, and golf. In the winter, Wisp Ski Resort offers a wide range of activities including skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and sleigh rides. Other activities at Deep Creek Lake include zip-lining, bowling, relaxing at salons and spas, and even playing at some local arcades, mini-golf courses, and go-kart tracks.

02 of 15

Bike Through Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

View from above of canal running through field of trees in autumn at Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park

Rachel Cooper / TripSavvy

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (abbreviated C & O Canal) runs 184.5 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and operated from 1831 until 1924 as a means to transport coal from the Allegheny Mountains. The towpath along the C & O Canal is a popular bike trail with gorgeous scenery, and the western terminus of the canal offers boat tours, scenic railroad excursions, dining, shopping, and other forms of outdoor recreation. Additionally, the Cumberland-based C & O Canal Visitor Center offers interpretive exhibits on the transportation history of the region.

03 of 15

Pay Respects at the Antietam National Battlefield

Cannons at Antietam (Sharpsburg) Battlefield

Willard / Getty Images

Located in Sharpsburg, Maryland, the site of the Antietam National Battlefield commemorates the bloodiest one-day battle in American history, fought on September 17, 1862, during the Civil War. You can explore museum exhibits, join a park ranger for a battlefield talk, and take a self-guided auto tour through the battlefield, which stretches over eight and a half miles. Additionally, each December, the site holds a Memorial Illumination featuring 23,000 luminaries to represent the soldiers who were killed, wounded, or went missing during the battle.

04 of 15

Take a Ride on the Western Maryland Railroad

Western Maryland Railway Station in Cumberland

aimintang / Getty Images

The historic Western Maryland Railroad station in Cumberland, Maryland, offers a 32-mile ride through the scenic mountains of Western Maryland aboard a restored 1916 Baldwin Steam Locomotive and vintage diesel. The round-trip excursion is entertaining and educational, featuring interpretive history about rail transportation. Additionally, the railroad company offers special rides throughout the year including the Murder Mystery Train, Engineer for a Day, and Santa Express.

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05 of 15

Shop at Hagerstown Premium Outlets

Hagerstown Premium Outlets

Courtesy of Simon Malls

Located in Washington County, Maryland, Hagerstown Premium Outlets is one of the closest outlet shopping malls to the capital city, attracting shoppers from the area to its brand-named stores year-round. With more than 100 specialty outlet stores, a food court, and a children's playground, Hagerstown Premium Outlets is a one-stop shopping destination perfect for the whole family. Stores featured at Hagerstown include Adidas, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Coach, Gap, Guess, J.Crew, kate spade, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and Under Armour.

06 of 15

Hike, Bike, or Roller Blade the Western Maryland Rail Trail

Western Maryland Railway BoWest Bridge

Trains & Trails / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

The 21-mile Western Maryland Rail Trail is paved with asphalt, making it the perfect destination for hiking, biking, and roller-blading. From Hancock, Maryland, the trail travels 10 miles to the east to about a half-mile from Fort Frederick State Park and another 10 miles to the west of Polly's Pond. The center of the trail is accessible from the Hancock Station Parking Area just off Main Street in Hancock, Maryland, where you can find parking and even a few places to rent bikes or skate gear.

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Rocky Gap State Park

Lake Shoreline autumn colors Rocky Gap State Park Flintstone Maryland

Robert_Ford / Getty Images

Rocky Gap State Park is located in Western Maryland's Allegany County about seven miles from Cumberland and features a 243-acre lake surrounded by gorgeous mountains. The park has a day-use area with a nature center, interpretive programs, hiking trails, campgrounds, and cabins as well as access for fishing and boating. Nearby, the Rocky Gap Casino Resort offers luxury accommodations, gambling facilities, and a conference center. Whether you prefer to take an adventure in the great outdoors of Western Maryland or want to spend a day at the slot machines, Rocky Gap State Park is a great destination at any time of year.

08 of 15

Explore the Crystal Grottoes Caverns

Stone walls and stalactites inside Crystal Grottoes Caverns

Jklispie / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Crystal Grottoes Caverns, located between Frederick and Hagerstown in Boonsboro, Maryland, is the state's only commercial underground caverns. First opened to the public in 1920, visitors can take a 40-minute tour to learn about the history of the formations and geological aspects of the caverns. While the caverns are open year-round, it closes on weekdays from December 1 through April 1 each year.

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09 of 15

Swim in Greenbrier State Park

Greenbrier State Park Beach

Courtesy of Maryland State Parks

Located in the Appalachian Mountains three miles north of Boonsboro, Greenbrier State Park has a 42-acre man-made lake that is one of the closest to Washington, D.C., that allows swimming. During the summer, visitors can swim, sunbathe, boat, or fish at this pristine lake, and there are also hiking trails, picnic tables, and grills and playgrounds available for day use as well as 165 campsites for overnight accommodations. The visitor center is open year-round, but recreation and educational activities are limited during the winter months due to heavy snow in the region.

10 of 15

Explore Discovery Station

Turtle being held at Animal Encounters

Courtesy of Discovery Station

Discovery Station is a science, technology, and history museum in Hagerstown, Maryland, that offers hands-on experiences for all ages, stimulating curiosity for discovery and learning. Exhibits include a full-scale Triceratops skull, a Cessna 150, a model of NASA spacecraft, a 15-foot model of the Titanic, and the Moller historic organ. Activities at the museum include STEAM programs like the Homeschool Science Program, Animal Encounters, and solar system mobile-making workshops, among others. Additionally, the museum hosts a variety of special events throughout the year for kids and adults alike.

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Tour Breweries and Vineyards

See Saw at the Flying Dog Brewery

Courtesy of Flying Dog Brewery 

Although not quite as famous as some other East Coast states for its beers and wines, Western Maryland is home to a number of famous brewing companies and vineyards.

Flying Dog Brewery, for instance, is based out of Frederick, Maryland, and offers regular tours as well as a gift shop where you can pick up branded apparel and growlers full of the latest craft brew. For something a little more casual in Frederick, stop by Brewer's Alley for house-brewed beer and a half-pound burger for lunch. Meanwhile, Mountain State Brewing, a popular West Virginia microbrewery, has an outpost in McHenry's small downtown section known as Deep Creek Lake Brewpub that features wood-fired flatbreads and the latest ales from the flagship store.

If you're looking for something a little more sophisticated to drink, Western Maryland also features several prominent wineries. Deep Creek Cellars, which is located in Friendsville, is one of the state's oldest wineries and offers small group pours by appointment. Alternatively, you can embark on the Antietam Highlands Wine Trail to stop by several vineyards including Cool Ridge Vineyards and Willow Oaks, which makes artisanal ciders from locally-grown organic fruits.

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Relive the Past at the Thrasher Carriage Museum

Cumberland to Frostburg Railroad Thrashers Carriage Museum

Timelapsed / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

The Thrasher Carriage Museum is a small museum in the little town of Frostburg that's actually an extension of the larger Allegany Museum in Cumberland. Located just steps from the Frostburg Depot and the Great Allegheny Passage, this Thrasher Carriage Museum features a variety of horse-drawn vehicles dating back between the late 1800s and early 1900s. During your visit to the museum, which is open year-round, costumed docents will transport you back in time to see how early inhabitants of the region got around.

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13 of 15

Bike the Great Allegheny Passage

Great Allegheny Passage sights

Payton Chung / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Also known as the GAP Trail, the Great Allegheny Passage is a rail-trail system that runs 150 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. You can embark on a bike ride from anywhere along the trail, but if you depart from Frostburg near the Trasher Carriage Museum, you can see a series of bicycle-themed sculptures along the switchbacks connecting the trail to the Frostburg Depot known as the Switchbacks Sculpture Garden. This unique installation makes for a great photo backdrop for a souvenir picture of your bike tour of this part of the state.

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Go White Water Rafting at Adventure Sports Center International

Family White Water Rafting

Courtesy of Adventure Sports Center International

Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI) is a man-made whitewater park located above the Wisp Ski Resort at Deep Creek Lake in McHenry, Maryland. Along with serving as a venue for slalom races and training, this Olympic-standard white water rafting and canoeing center also offers a range of services to the general public including guided raft trips, hands-on instruction, and rentals of inflatable kayaks and riverboards. Whether you're a professional kayaker hoping to train for the next big race or you and your family just want to experience the sport safely, ASCI is the perfect destination in Western Maryland for a wet day of fun.

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Listen to the Maryland Symphony Orchestra

The Maryland Orchestra performing

Courtesy of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra

Based out of Hagerstown, Maryland, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra is the state's premier orchestral company, performing at venues across the region throughout the year. The company's regular season features five pairs of MasterWorks concerts and four special concerts, but you can also visit the orchestra any time during the year for a tour of the facilities and to meet some of the artists. Highlights of the annual lineup include the MSO Pops! Concert, two-holiday performances, a family concert, and the free "Salute to Independence" concert held at the Antietam National Battlefield each year on the Fourth of July.