Come to Shepherdstown, WV, this Black Friday, not for buys but to replenish one's spirit. Shepherdstown is a popular country resort, within a 90 minute drive from DC. It claims to be the oldest town in the state and is full of history as well as ecotourist delights.
Shepherdstown was founded by Thomas Shepherd in 1772. In 1775, George Washington issued a call for Virginia Volunteer Riflemen and Captain Hugh Stephenson gathered his men here. James Rumsey invented his steamboat here, which was later made into a commercial success by Robert Fulton. During the Civil War, after the Battle of Antietam in 1862, Lee's infantry crossed the Potomac at Pack Horse Field. The town was overwhelmed with casualties. At the Battle of Shepherdstown, more than 100 Confederates died here. Antietam Battlefield is just 4 miles away.
Today, many of the town's historical buildings on German Street are occupied by quaint boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. The town is also home to many local artistic and theatrical groups, many affiliated with Shepherd University.
The Potomac River is nearby and is shallow enough for swimming (in summer) or "tubing"--a fun activity of floating down the river on an inner tube (watch out for the rapids!). The Yankauer Nature Preserve is just north of Shepherdstown. It is farmland gradually returning to its natural forest state and is interesting for visitors to view a constantly changing blend of fast growing shrubs and trees, red cedar glades and emerging oak. The preserve includes a series of high, wooded, limestone bluffs overlooking the Potomac.
Shepherdstown is home to Shepherd University, a state affiliated institution which offers a degree in Environmental Studies.
To be an environmentalist in Shepherdstown is not without controversy. The Catholic Church completed a big church this year not far from the town's center. While it may better serve the growing Catholic population, many acres of woodland were cleared--the habitat of birds, deer, and other wildlife. And the town council this year cut down trees on German Street over the objections of many--to preserve man-made sidewalks. St. Francis might have rolled over in his grave!
So if you are not doing anything special over Thanksgiving, why not spend a day or two in Shepherdstown? There are some nice bed and breakfasts in town or nearby. And on the way back to DC, drop in at Nutter's in Sharpsburg for ice cream. You won't regret it!