It's time to get out of the city and head for the hills, especially if the hills are in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, a corner of the world that's been attracting visitors since colonial times and American Indians before then. And it's easy to get to from Philadelphia and other cities and towns in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Here's one good reason to consider the easternmost extension of the Mountain State: The Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival -
- is coming up Friday through next Sunday. The festival's crafters will be displaying wares ranging from art glass to furniture to musical instruments and West Virginia wines. And they say this year's scheduled entertainment includes the Seldom Scene, a bluegrass group that has had three Grammy nominations.
The festival "Map & Directions" page can show you just how centrally located the Panhandle is. The festival site is about 160 miles from both Philadelphia and Richmond, Va., 60 miles from Washington, and 70 from Baltimore. It is near Charles Town -
- which was laid out in 1786 by Charles Washington, George's brother, not to be confused with Charleston, the capital on the other side of the state.
From Washington, the closest part of the panhandle is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park -
- the community at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers that was a busy industrial town well before the Civil War. According to the park's history, Thomas Jefferson visited the spot in 1783 (you can read his description of his visit), and George Washington was there two years later. In 1859, John Brown captured the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, thinking he would raise an army to free slaves. But more than its historical importance, check out "Photos & Multimedia" to see how scenic the town and deep river valleys are.
If you prefer not to drive, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park -
- offers 185 miles of hiking and biking trails passing Harpers Ferry on the way from Washington to Cumberland, Md.
For scenic driving, the Washington Heritage Trail -
- loops around the Eastern Panhandle. Click on "Self-Guided Tours" for connections to local tours along the way, and peruse "History & Heritage" for more connections to George Washington. Slide your cursor over "Find by Area" on the left side of the page to open a menu of information on towns in the Panhandle's three counties. Visit the National Scenic Byways Program -
- for a map and additional information.
The arts and crafts festival and Harpers Ferry are both in Jefferson County -
- where Shepherdstown (chartered in 1762) will have its Street Fest on June 28. Explore "Activities" for a link to the Appalachian Trail, which crosses the Potomac at Harpers Ferry; local parks; golf courses; orchards; and whitewater rafting companies. Don't worry about going hungry; the "Dining" directory is unusually long for such a nonurban area.
In Morgan County, on the far side of Cacapon Mountain, the town of Berkeley Springs -
- boasts that it is the country's first spa. Washington and his friends and family were so impressed that they established the town, officially called Bath, in 1776. "Spas" is a directory of spots to soothe your travel-weary bodies, including Berkeley Springs State Park. "Attractions" holds a handful of photos of the scenery and a few links, and you definitely should check out "Walking/Driving Tours."
The third county in the Panhandle is Berkeley -
- home to the city of Martinsburg. Take a look at "To Do" for more history and outdoor recreation, including the Sleepy Creek hunting and fishing preserve and - as in much of the Panhandle - antiques shops.