For more than 200 years, folks have come from far and wide to the little town of Berkeley Springs, nestled between the crystal rivers and green mountains of West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle. Friendly, safe, and affordable, this historic spa town is less than two hours from the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and within an easy day's drive from most Mid-Atlantic cities.
Berkeley Spring's biggest claim to fame is its status as the country's first spa, attracting visitors to soak up its warm, healing mineral spring waters, which naturally flow at 74 degrees Fahrenheit at 1500 gallons per minute and contain sulfates, nitrates, and carbonates. Today the town is filled with state-of-the-art spas, offering everything from aromatherapy to homeopathy and massages. Art galleries, antique merchants, charming shops, and delicious restaurants, cafes, and country stores fill the town, all surrounded by the splendid outdoors of West Virginia.
A fact worth knowing about Berkeley Springs in order to make your stay more enjoyable, as well as to generally clear up some confusion, is that the town actually has two names. There's the post office name: Berkeley Springs. Then there's the alias Bath -- the name used by George Washington and his men when they formed a town around the warm mineral springs in 1776. During the late 18th century, Bath was the target of traveling preachers who denounced it as a "seat of sin," due to its gambling, quarter horse racing, and overall party reputation. To this day, Bath is still the official name of this tiny town surrounding the springs.
Events worth seeing in Berkeley Springs include the Apple Butter Festival each Columbus Day weekend, the Summer Concerts in the Park series, the Berkeley Springs International water tasting, Uniquely West Virginia wine and food festival, and the Winter Festival of the Waters, held each year from January to March.
Finally, Berkeley Springs is filled with a host of outdoor attractions that will delight all ages and types of people. Outdoor fun in Berkeley Springs includes two state parks. Cacapon has an 18-hole golf course, sand beach, horseback riding, and miles of mountainous hiking trails. Berkeley Springs State Park surrounds the springs in the center of town and has an outdoor swimming pool open in season. A few miles west of town is is the spectacular Panorama Overlook, rated one of the best views in the east.
Nearby Harpers Ferry is well worth visiting. This quaint town, straddling two rivers and three states, has a long and fascinating history, encompassing everything from an 18th-century armory to 19th-century Civil War activities and today's National Historic Park: the most visited attraction in West Virginia. Elsewhere, the C&O Canal is just across the Potomac in Maryland. This famous canal, the product of a failed attempt at bridging the waters of the Chesapeake Bay with the Midwest, makes for a beautiful hike or bike ride, surrounded by forest and mountains on all sides. The Paw Paw Tunnel is the largest man-made structure on the canal and is certain to fascinate the entire family. Within a day's drive are the Civil War sites of Maryland's Antietam battlefield in Sharpsburg, Virginia's Bull Run battlefield in Manassas, and of course, Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Also within easy reach are Whitetail Ski Resort, the Potomac Eagle scenic train, and the Panhandle towns of Shepherdstown, Charles Town, and Martinsburg.
Berkeley Springs and the tri-state area of West Virginia, western Maryland, and northern Virginia is an exciting region with much to offer vacationers, history buffs, halth seekers, naturalists, and outdoorsmen alike. Center your next vacation around Berkeley Springs and see why this has been a favorite destination spot for more than two centuries.
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