But the glitter and excitement of gambling shouldn't overshadow this small city's storied history.
Six former Washington estates still stand in and around Charles Town. And there are thought to be more Washingtons buried here than anywhere else in the United States.
The Washingtons aren't Charles Town's only famous former residents, however. Martin Delany -- the highest-ranking black officer in the Civil War, a doctor and an author -- was born here in 1812. In 1859, abolitionist John Brown resided temporarily at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town (which was and remains the county seat). Incensed by slavery even before the Civil War broke out, Brown raided and seized the federal armory in nearby Harpers Ferry. Captured by Col. Robert E. Lee, Brown was put on trial on charges of murder and treason in the courthouse.
Charles Town was also on the route for the first rural free delivery, begun by the local postmaster in 1896.
A present-day visit to Charles Town demands a stop at its landmarks as well as a try at activities including water sports, biking and even gambling.
Jefferson County Museum (200 E. Washington St., 304-725-8628): Highlights include the wagon that carried John Brown to his execution, other artifacts from the famous trial and White House memorabilia from President James Buchanan's term. Don't overlook the display on the remaining six Washington estates in the area -- reception desk volunteers can tell you how to get to the homes. Most are private but can be seen from the road. A walking-tour brochure is also available. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays and Dec. 1-March 31.
Zion Episcopal Church and Graveyard (Mildred and Church streets): More than 80 Washingtons are buried here.
The Old Opera House (204 N. George St., 304-725-4420): Nonprofit theater company operates out of restored, circa 1910 opera house.
Blue Ridge Outfitters (Route 340, 304-725-3444): Whitewater rafting in Class III rapids, canoeing on the Shenandoah River and more.
Charles Town Races and Slots (Route 340, 800-795-7001): More than 3,500 slot machines costing between a nickel and $5 to play. Live horse racing and daily simulcasts of horse and dog races around the nation. Free entertainment, restaurants and a club that allows gamblers to redeem earned gambling points for merchandise.
Summit Point Motor Sports Park (Summit Point Road, Summit Point, 304-725-8444): Motorcycles and sports cars race on a challenging circuit track with 10 turns in two miles. Driving courses offered for everyone from police to drivers who want to learn to really take their sport utility vehicles off-road.
River and Trail Outfitters (Valley Road off Route 340, Knoxville, Md., 888-I-GO-PLAY): Whitewater rafting, canoe and kayak rentals (including a guided canoe trip to a nearby winery), lessons and tubing. Bike rentals and hikes for the landlubbers.
Barsandbooths.com Inc. (200 W. Washington St., 800-507-7632): Get lost in the Fifties amid these restored soda fountains, diner booths, pinball machines, jukeboxes and even a few one-armed bandits