Partaking of the West Virginia Panhandle

About seventy miles outside of Washington, DC, there is a little hamlet called Shepherdstown, West Virginia. There’s something for everyone in the West Virginia panhandle: good food, proximity to wineries, and a lot of history. On our longest trip to celebrate Tom’s 27th birthday, we included a little of Column A (western Maryland) and a little of Column B (northern Virginia) as well. I didn’t get the BEST picture of the weekend, which would have been a bar with a sign that read “The Best Little Pub in West BY GOD Virginia!” I screamed for Tom to turn back so I could photograph that sign, but alas.

Shepherdstown is a lovely little town that grew up around Shepherd University. The campus integrates nicely with the main downtown area and draws a friendly and artistic student body. The town has an independent theatre and a thriving arts community. Below, me standing next to the “tiny house” which serves as a community storybook center. There is a notice on the door about the following week’s town tea party. That’s how adorable this town is. For reference on the house size, I am 5’7″.

There’s a pizza joint that makes a great cheesy calzone and Shaharazade’s offers fine Moroccan food and tea. And if you want to just grab a bottle and some appetizers you can hit Grapes and Grains, which has a different themed wine tasting every Saturday evening. All of these are on the main strip. Sunday morning offers a nice farmer’s market, and there are plenty of little shops to browse for fun and funky items.

Shepherdstown is nestled near two major Civil War sites: Antietam in Maryland and Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. If you stay in Shepherdstown, it’s about a 20 minute drive to either site. The idyllic peace of these battlefields contrasts sharply with the history that played out on the land. Below, Burnside’s Bridge at Antietam, MD.


As a nice refresher after that history, Shepherdstown is near some of northern Virginia’s finest wineries. You can go to http://www.virginiawine.org to plan a day of tastings. We hit Breaux, Tarara, Chrysallis, and Hillsborough. These are the vines at Hillsborough Winery, which names their wines after semi-precious stones. The Carnelian is an excellent white that tastes like candy, but is not too sweet. The only drawback I found at Hillsborough was that they mowed during one of their tasting days. With my allergies, the “smelling” portion of the tasting was short-lived.

And this? This was the cutest thing EVER. Shepherdstown shut down their main street for a soapbox derby race. Note the intensity of the little wee drivers piloting their soapbox derby cars to the finish.

Shepherdstown may be only seventy miles away from DC, but it might as well be on a different planet. It’s the perfect quick road trip if you’re tired of the urban scramble in the nation’s capital.

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