If you're looking for a little bit more culture in your life, then make your way to Hagerstown.
Hagerstown, you may ask?
There's more than meets the eye in this historic country town: Hear live Grammy-Award winning music, dine on Bavarian bread dumplings and visit numerous art museums.
The eighth annual Western Maryland Blues Fest comes to town next weekend (May 30-June 1). This critically acclaimed blues event features 15 musical acts, including the Grammy-winning Blind Boys of Alabama, who return to the festival to perform gospel blues. Organizers anticipate approximately 18,000 people will show up over the course of the three-day festival.
Next Friday (May 30), the Blues Fest kicks off at 4 p.m. at the central parking lot, 3 N. Potomac St., and lasts until 9 p.m. Space is limited to the first 1,000 people. Tickets are $10.
That Saturday, grab some fresh-brewed coffee and pastries at the Hagerstown City Farmers' Market (25 W. Church St.) before heading off to the festival. The market has been in continuous operation for more than 200 years and is open from 5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday.
The Street Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. next Saturday at Public Square, Washington and Potomac streets. Gates open at 10:45 a.m. Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 at the gate; $5 for children 6-12 years old and free for children under 5. Order tickets by calling 301-791-3246 or by visiting www.blues-fest.org. Then next Sunday come to the Family Blues Picnic, held from noon until 5 p.m. in Hagerstown City Park. Free admission.
Soaking up sun
While in town for the festival don't pass up the opportunity to explore Hagerstown, which offers an abundance of history and hiking in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Relive the bloodiest day of the Civil War at the Antietam Battlefield, 12 miles south of downtown Hagerstown. The visitors center houses a museum, an observation room, a 134-seat theater, a bookstore and research library. Park entrance fee is $3 per adult and $5 per family. The best way to see the battlefield is to take an 8 1/2 -mile, self-guided driving tour. Call 301-432-5124 or visit http://www.nps.gov/anti/home.htm.
After a few hours at the battlefield, take a stroll on the C&O Canal in Williamsport (8 miles south of Hagerstown). You can walk or bike on this trail along the Potomac River all the way to Harpers Ferry, W.Va. The C&O Canal follows the Potomac River for roughly 185 miles from Washington to Cumberland. The canal was operated from 1828 until 1924 as a means of hauling coal from Western Maryland to the port of Georgetown in Washington. Call 301-739-4200 or visit www.nps.gov/choh.
Art and history buffs will have plenty to keep themselves busy in Hagerstown.
See 19th- and 20th-century American art at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts (301-739-5727) after walking through the 50-acre Hagerstown City Park, which is downtown and which has a lake, gardens and sports and picnic facilities. The museum, in the middle of the city park, has free admission. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. While you're in the park, tour the 1846 Georgian-style house and see Federal-period artifacts at the Mansion House Art Center & Museum (City Park, 301-797-6813). The work of more than 20 local artists can be purchased here. Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Once you've had your art fix, learn about the rich history of this town, which was founded by a German immigrant in 1739.
See the history of Hagerstown's railroads at the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum (300 S. Burhans Blvd., 301-739-4665). Open 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For exhibits, including artifacts and 18th-century furnishings of early Hagerstown, check out the Jonathan Hager House & Museum (110 Key St., 301-739-8393). Tickets are $2-$4.
The Miller House Museum (135 W. Washington St., 301-797-8782) has a pottery exhibit running until August. This 1825 Baltimore-style town house is decorated with period furniture. Tickets are $3-$5.
More interested in designer labels than art and history?
No visit to Hagerstown is complete without a stop at Prime Outlets (495 Prime Outlets Blvd., 888-883-6288). This huge shopping complex has more than 100 designer and specialty outlet shops with name-brand merchandise at bargain prices. Stores are open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
You'll find full-price items at some shops, but if you put in some effort scanning the racks, you're bound to find some real bargains. Guys can buy a shirt at Gap (301-745-5612) for as low as $3.99, while women can find a halter top at J. Crew (301-393-4800) for as little as $1.75.
A bite to eat
The Gourmet Goat (4 E. Franklin St., 301-790-2343): Try the Inspector, this deli's popular roast beef and provolone sandwich.
The Grille at Park Circle (325 Virginia Ave., 301-797-9100): Black Angus steaks and broiled lump crab cakes highlight the Grille's upscale pub menu.
The Broad Axe (28 W. Franklin St., 301-733-8454): Live music Saturday nights at this downtown bar.
Burhans Station (301 S. Burhans Blvd., 301-790-3000): Order reasonably priced fresh seafood and pastas at this casual restaurant with downstairs sports bar.
House of Kobe (757 Dual Highway, 301-797-6979): A Japanese restaurant serving excellent sushi and tempura.
Krumpe's Donuts (912 Maryland Ave., 301-733-6103): Midnight munchies? Head to this family-owned doughnut shop that is open until 2 a.m. (except Saturdays). Watch bakers roll dough, cut and fry doughnuts, then dunk them in glaze.
From Interstate 695, take I-70 West (Exit 16) toward Frederick for about 60 miles. Take U.S. 40 West (Exit 32B) for about 4 miles to North Potomac Street. You'll see the festival on your left next Friday and Saturday. Park at the North Potomac Street parking deck. On Sunday, take U.S. 40 to Walnut Street (the 13th traffic light), turn left and go about a half-mile. City Park is on the left. There is plenty of street parking and a lot across from the park.