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Five Washington County Boroughs offer Big Spirit, Small Settings
by Kate Rader
Five Washington County boroughs are carving out their own unique identities.
As the core of Washington County, the City of Hagerstown’s shopping, dining and entertainment venues get a lot of attention. But just as the City Center works to develop its reputation for arts & entertainment, other county townships are redefining themselves as centers for history, tourism, shopping, and small town charm. Now is a great time to re-explore what these inviting towns have to offer.
Nestled at the foot of South Mountain, Boonsboro lies between Frederick, Hagerstown and Antietam National Battlefield. A “just-passing-through” locale no more, Boonsboro has reinvented itself — thanks in part to author Nora Roberts and family — whose investments in the InnBoonsboro, Dan’s Restaurant & Tap House, Turn the Page Bookstore, Vesta Pizzeria and Fit In BoonsBoro have added a fresh new dimension to the town’s historic culture.
While there’s now a good reason to visit Boonsboro any night of the week, residents take special pride in longstanding community events. Boonesborough Days, held annually the weekend following Labor Day, combines hand-made crafts, pottery and art, children’s activities, vendor demonstrations, classic cars and delicious country cookin’ with over a mile of residential yard sales offering everything from handmade goods to the kitchen sink.
Beautiful Shafer Park, a central hub for town activities, also plays host to the annual Independence Day Celebration, Green Fest, Youth Fishing Derby and National Night Out. The park’s plentiful pavilion and gazebo spaces, community center, athletic facilities, children’s playground and (now dog-friendly) walking paths bring its welcoming residents out to share the beauty of Boonsboro with friends and visitors alike.
For more information on Boonsboro’s events, parks and amenities, visit www.town.boonsboro.md.us.
Quickly becoming known as the “antique capitol” of Washington County, Funkstown has attracted an abundance of antique and vintage-style stores selling items for almost every collectors taste and budget. Because it offers easy access to Boonsboro, Smithsburg, Robinwood Drive and the Valley Mall, Funkstown sees a lot of local traffic, in addition to the day-tripping antiquers from Rockville, Gaithersburg and Pennsylvania. “On Saturday and Sunday you can see the people walking up and down the street. It’s amazing where all the people come from to this little town,” says Mayor Paul Crampton, Jr.
Paul has always lived in Funkstown and believes it’s attractive to residents because of its close-knit community. “Funkstown is very vibrant for its size,” he says. “It’s unique and there’s a good mix of businesses.” In addition to antique stores, the town features taverns, a hobby shop, and hair salons. Funkstown is attracting an increasing number of young residents because of its mix of affordable real estate, local nightlife and welcoming atmosphere.
Despite it’s big city allure, Funkstown maintains small-town values. Volunteers work hand in hand with the town at events like the annual Halloween Parade, reenactment of the Battle of Funkstown, and Old Tyme Christmas. The local fire company, which is very active in the community hosts a fire prevention week, and indoor yard sales and old-fashioned pit beef and chicken barbecue fundraisers in warm weather. Paul believes Funkstown Community Park to be one of the nicest parks in the county, and is also home to the Funkstown Legion baseball team. “It has pavilions, kid’s stuff, basketball — everything major parks have but in a small community setting.”
See what Funkstown has to offer! Visit www.funkstown.com for event information and a list of Funkstown businesses.
You may have visited Hancock lately thanks to the C&O Canal and Western Maryland Rail Trail. The town has carved out a solid niche as the place to go in Washington County for serious recreation. Two visitor centers make it easy to take advantage of the area’s campgrounds, parks, trails, restaurants and specialty shops.
Direct access to the Potomac River via the Hancock boat ramp offers unlimited opportunity for boating, canoeing, rafting, tubing and fishing. The C&O Canal Tow Path Trail attracts backpackers from Georgetown to Cumberland and beyond, while the Rail Trail offers 22 paved miles for a day trip with amazing views.
A variety of shops and restaurants support the town’s influx of visitors. Take home a tasty treat from the bountiful Blue Goose Market, test your bow hunting skills at Appalachian Archery’s indoor target range, rent a bike at C&O Bicycle, or spend the day perusing over 250 vendors at the Hancock Antique Mall & Indoor Flea Market.
Don’t be fooled by this friendly town’s quiet nature. Hancock is unique in that it has its own Chamber of Commerce, Arts Council and Historical Society — supported by people who are committed to their community. Visit www.hancockmd.com or www.townofhancock.org to plan your trip.
Likely because it’s located at an important crossroads between Hagerstown, Frederick and Boonsboro, Smithsburg has become an oasis for daily travelers — a comfortable stop between city and country to gas up, grab a snack or some lunch and fishin’ bait, and head on off to your destination for the day.
This small town has plenty of convenience — you’ll find local purveyors like the Smithsburg Market, Phil & Jerry’s Meats, ACE Hardware, Hadley Farms Bakery and the Dixie Eatery — all within a 5 minute drive. Veterans Park, adjacent to the new Smithsburg Library, offers picnic facilities, athletic fields, a playground and walking path. Lions Community Park has similar amenities, and a beautiful lake to boot.
Known for its outstanding fruit-growing conditions, Smithsburg is a Washington County hotspot for picking up fresh produce on the side of the road, or in the field. Growers like Rinehart Orchards, Lewis’ Orchards & Farm Market, Mountain Valley Orchard and Allenburg Orchards are bursting with a delicious variety of seasonal fruits, vegetables and berries.
If Smithsburg’s charming architecture, tidy streets and friendly locals don’t offer plenty of reasons to stop by, you’re sure to feel the love at one of their signature events. Visit their website for more information on the Steam and Craft Show in September, Smithsburg Hometown Christmas in December, Smithsburg Pride Days in May, and the Smithsburg Carnival held every final week of June. www.townofsmithsburg.org.
Once considered a possibility for our nation’s capitol by George Washington, Williamsport is also famous for “being a town that never locked its doors,” says lifelong resident, past Town Councilman and current Washington County Commissioner Jeff Cline, whose family has had ties to the town for more than 100 years. “Williamsport is a close-knit town. It’s neighbor helping neighbor. When in need, there’s always a neighbor to mow your grass or take food over.”
This sense of neighborly camaraderie is evident in the growth of Williamsport’s annual events, such as the free, all-volunteer run Charlie Brown Christmas, 4th of July Fireworks, Bike Night Ride for Charity, and C&O Canal Days, which celebrates the town’s rich canal history. This year, the Conococheague Little League and Boy Scout Troop 17 are celebrating 60- and 100-year anniversaries, respectively.
With all the outdoor attractions, staying on the path to fitness is pretty easy in Williamsport. “Take a short walk, enjoy the beauty and serenity, wildlife … get back to nature, bike ride, and exercise,” Jeff says of the historic C&O Canal towpath, which stretches 184.5 miles along the Potomac River. Enjoy fishing in the Cushwa Basin or put your jon boat in the water at Riverbottom Park boat ramp.
Take a short walk from the river into the heart of downtown Williamsport and you’ll find a little something for everyone. Appease your sweet tooth with a scoop of Hershey’s ice cream at the Williamsport Creamery, or dine at HM’s 2013 HotList winner Desert Rose Cafe. In the mood for Italian? Tony’s Pizza Time Cafe offers “very cheesy” pizza, dinner entrees, and some great appetizers, like the crabby cheese fries and fried calamari. The town’s eclectic collection of shops includes Odyssey Pewter & Gifts, Williamsport Yarn Closet and River City Cycles. For more information on Williamsport, visit www.williamsportmd.gov.