Harper’s Ferry is a small, historic town located in the mountains of West Virginia. The town is situated where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet, creating a confluence of scenic beauty in the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
Here you’ll find great vacation rental homes for a comfortable stay, plus there are many things to do in Downtown Harpers Ferry, including visiting museums, hiking trails, and shops.
Where is Downtown Harpers Ferry?
Downtown Harpers Ferry is an easy 30-minute drive from either Baltimore or Washington, D.C. Also called the Lower Town, downtown Harpers Ferry is home to eclectic shops, historical landmarks, an abundance of nature, and some delicious restaurants to try.
How to Get to Harpers Ferry
The closest airport to Harpers Ferry is the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, which is located about 60 miles away from the town. The next closest airport is the Washington Dulles International Airport, about 70 miles away.
If you are looking for a smaller airport that is closer to Harpers Ferry, you can try the Hagerstown Regional Airport, which is located about 30 miles away.
The best way to get to Harpers Ferry after getting off the plane is by car. Rental cars are available at all the neighboring airports. There are a few different routes you can take, but the most direct route is via I-81.
Are you coming from Washington, D.C.? You can actually bike to Harpers Ferry if you’re feeling actively inclined!
Historical Significance of Harpers Ferry
Even prior to West Virginia becoming its own state, the small town of Harpers Ferry played a significant role in American history. In 1859, famed abolitionist John Brown led a raid on the town in order to use weapons from the local armory to free local slaves.
During the Civil War, both the Unionists and the Confederates wanted control of Harpers Ferry. This was due mainly in part to the town’s strategic location at the convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, as well as the local railway access. Control over the town actually changed hands eight times!
Top Things To Do In Downtown Harpers Ferry
If you’re planning a trip to Harpers Ferry, be sure to add these top attractions to your itinerary! From exploring the historic town, to learning about American and Civil War history, to hiking and biking into the scenic surroundings, there’s something for everyone in Harpers Ferry.
Hit the Trails
Downtown Harpers Ferry is located near several hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, the Maryland Heights Trail, Loudoun Heights Trail, and the Shenandoah River State Park trails. These trails offer a great way to explore the natural beauty of the area and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The entire town of Harpers Ferry is actually part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which boasts a number of great hiking trails for hikers of all skill levels.
Insider Tip: You can bring your furry friend(s) with you on the hiking trails, so long as they are on a leash at all times.
Explore Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
In addition to a vast collection of hiking trails, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has plenty more to offer. This park, which is run by the National Park Service, commemorates the site of the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry, which was one of the first battles of the Civil War. The park includes monuments, exhibits, and a walking trail that takes you through some of the key battlefield sites, including the Battle of Bolivar Heights.
Check Out Local Museums
There are several museums located in Downtown Harpers Ferry, such as the John Brown Wax Museum and the Restoration Museum. Both of these museums offer a unique look into the history of Harpers Ferry and the surrounding area.
John Brown Wax Museum
Address: 168 High St, Harpers Ferry
The John Brown Wax Museum offers an interesting (and somewhat macabre) glimpse into the famous abolitionist leader’s intense hatred of slavery and the actions he took to eliminate it. You will see a story told through wax figures, numerous dioramas, as well as depictions of Brown’s fateful raid on Harpers Ferry which ultimately led to his imprisonment and death. The John Brown Wax Museum is among the most informative and interesting museums in town.
Address: 767 Shenandoah St, Harpers Ferry
If you love history, then you’ll definitely want to check out the Restoration Museum in Harper’s Ferry. This museum is dedicated to restoring and preserving historical items and buildings from the area. You can see everything from old tools and furniture to clothing and photos. You will also learn all about how excavations are carried out and the restoration of some of the town’s oldest buildings. The museum is small, so a visit won’t take you very long at all, leaving you with plenty of time to explore the rest of what downtown Harpers Ferry has to offer.
In addition, there are a surprising amount of museums crammed into a seemingly tiny area! Other museums worth checking out include the Black Voices Museum, the Harper Museum, the Storer College Museum, and the Wetland Museum.
Visit John Brown’s Fort
Address: 814 Shenandoah St, Harpers Ferry
This fort was built by John Brown in 1859 as a base of operations for his raid on the Harpers Ferry Armory. The fort is now a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public. Visitors can tour the fort at the Point and learn about its history.
This event was a major catalyst leading up to the Civil War, and it’s fascinating to see the place where it all happened. The fort has been turned into a museum, and there are several exhibits inside that tell the story of what happened here.
You can also take a tour of the surrounding area, which includes the site of John Brown’s execution. This is an excellent way to learn more about American history and get some exercise at the same time!
Head to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor Center
Address: 799 Washington St, Harpers Ferry
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor Center is the perfect place to start your journey on the Appalachian Trail. The friendly and knowledgeable staff can help you plan your hike, and the center has all the resources you need to get started.
There are also a variety of events and programs offered at the visitor center, so be sure to check them out! Given its location approximately half way down the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, the visitor’s center is a popular place for hikers to stop and take photographs to commemorate their trek.
Do Some Shopping
There are many shops located in Downtown Harpers Ferry, including souvenir shops, art galleries, and local businesses. These shops offer a unique selection of items that can’t be found anywhere else.
The Gilded Flea
970 Washington St, Harpers Ferry
One of the most popular places to go shopping in downtown Harpers Ferry is The Gilded Flea on Washington Street, an eclectic collection of antiques and second hand clothing. You can find classic vinyl, antique postcards, furniture, and more.
Tenfold Fair Trade Collection
180 High St #1A, Harpers Ferry
For souvenirs and other random trinkets, stop by Tenfold Fair Trade Collection. Here, you’ll find upcycled handicrafts, sustainably sourced jewelry, and a myriad of other artisan wares to commemorate your time spent in downtown Harpers Ferry.
Other shops worth stopping by include Vintage Lady, Tessoterica, and Hodge Podge.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Address: 144 High St, Harpers Ferry
No visit to Harpers Ferry would be complete without making a stop at the iconic candy shop, True Treats Historic Candy. Well-known throughout town and beyond, this candy shop is beloved among locals and tourists alike.
In addition to the delicious candy, True Treats Historic Candy offers a unique experience. Sample candies and learn about how they are made and their history in this eclectic candy shop.
The shop is located in an old Victorian house, and the owners have decorated it to look like it did over 100 years ago. It’s like stepping back in time! The staff is always happy to answer any questions you may have about the candy or the history of the shop.
Explore Lockwood House
Address: 359 Fillmore St, Harpers Ferry
If you’re looking for a little history and charm during your next visit to Harpers Ferry, be sure to check out Lockwood House, one of the town’s many historic sites. This beautiful home, built in 1848, was once the residence of Colonel John Lockwood. Today, it serves as a museum that provides visitors with a glimpse into what life was like in the 19th century.
The house is furnished with period furniture and features several exhibits on the Civil War and abolition. Be sure to allow plenty of time to explore all that this unique museum has to offer. Admission is free, so there’s no excuse not to add it to your itinerary!
Take a Ghost Tour of Historic Harpers Ferry
Address: 723 Shenandoah St, Harpers Ferry
There are many stories about hauntings in Harpers Ferry. Some say that the town is haunted by the ghosts of Civil War soldiers. Others say that they have seen the ghost of John Brown, who led a raid on the town in 1859.
If you’re looking for a spooky way to spend an evening, why not take a ghost tour in Historic Harpers Ferry? These tours are led by local historians who will share stories of the town’s haunted past. You’ll visit some of the most haunted locations in town, including the Harper House and St. Peter’s Catholic Church. The Historic Harpers Ferry Association gives nightly ghost tours. If you’re brave enough, you might even catch a glimpse of a real ghost!
If paranormal adventures aren’t your thing, a historic walking tour of Harpers Ferry is also a great option. In addition to learning everything there is to know about this charming piece of American history, you’ll also get the lay of the land, so to speak, and interesting anecdotes from your expert guide.
Stop by Jefferson Rock
The beauty of this small town has caught the eye of many, including one of our Founding Fathers and third president, Thomas Jefferson. In 1783, he wrote “The passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature.”
Today, there is an unusual stone formation that bears Jefferson’s name just outside of downtown Harpers Ferry, overlooking the scenic mountains and rivers that make up the surroundings. Jefferson Rock is a great place to bring your camera and snap some photos during the golden hour, or simply sit back and relax, taking in the views over the Potomac River with a good book.
Take Photos at Ridgetop Overlook
Address: 400 E Ridge St, Harpers Ferry
Another super-scenic spot in downtown Harpers Ferry is Ridgetop Overlook. When you get to the top of the hill and see the overlook, you’ll know why it’s called Ridgetop. The view is incredible! You can see for miles in every direction. On a clear day, you can even see Washington, D.C. from up there.
The best time to visit is early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun isn’t so harsh and you can catch every photographer’s favorite, the golden hour. But really, any time of day is a good time to enjoy this special place.
Get out on the Water
Take advantage of Harpers Ferry scenic location on the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers by taking a boat out! To truly enjoy the confluence of two major river systems, you can rent a kayak or canoe to spend the day kayaking and canoeing along either the Potomac or the Shenandoah Rivers. You can even find spots to go whitewater rafting or tubing!
Head to River Riders to rent a boat or to set up an adventure excursion, such as zip lining, canopy tours, or mountain biking.
Experience a Vintage Christmas
Happen to be in downtown Harpers Ferry during the holiday season? This magical town comes to life with twinkling lights, old-fashioned treats, performances led by locals, and even horse-drawn carriages. The entire place becomes sheer magic, complete with carolers, traditional yule log lighting, and ornate decorations. This is the Harpers Ferry & Bolivar Old Tyme Christmas Festival! If you plan your trip strategically, you can take part in some of the annual festivities.
Exploring Harpers Ferry Beyond Downtown
While downtown Harpers Ferry certainly has its fair share of things to do and see to keep you on your toes, there are a few worthwhile things to do outside of town as well!
Take in the History at the Civil War Battlefields
There are a number of Civil War Battlefields in the vicinity of Harpers Ferry that Civil War buffs will go nuts over. Take a visit, imagine what atrocities may have occurred there (particularly at Antietam, which was the bloodiest battle in all of US history!), and soak in the eerily peaceful ambiance that now permeates the air.
Antietam National Battlefield: 302 E Main St, Sharpsburg, MD 21782
Monocacy National Battlefield: 5201 Urbana Pike, Frederick, MD 21704
Toy Train Museum and Joy Line Railroad
If you’re visiting Harpers Ferry with kids, be sure to check out The Toy Train Museum. The Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum is a great place to take the kids for a day trip. The museum has a wide variety of trains on display, as well as a few interactive exhibits. The Joy Line Railroad offers rides on a real steam engine train, which is a lot of fun for the whole family. Be sure to check out both of these great attractions when you’re in town!
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
Address: 750 Hollywood Dr, Charles Town, WV
If you’re looking for a night of fun and excitement, look no further than Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. With over 200 table games and more than 1,900 slots, there’s something for everyone. Plus, with horse racing, live performances and more entertainment, it’s the perfect place to spend an evening.
While you’re there, stop by the Skyline Terrace Restaurant. While enjoying a leisurely dinner, you can enjoy spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains while watching the horses run on the track below.
Where to Eat in Downtown Harpers Ferry
For such a small West Virginia town, there are a surprising number of places to score some seriously good eats in Harpers Ferry, from traditional American fare to interesting ethnic cuisine – and even legit vegan options! No matter what dietary restrictions you may have or how picky of an eater you are, there are plenty of delicious dining options in downtown Harpers Ferry. Here are some of our favorites:
Address: 125-129 Potomac St, Harpers Ferry
Cannonball Deli is a great place to stop for a quick bite while exploring Harpers Ferry. The deli is located in the historic district, and the building itself is over 100 years old. The menu features classic sandwiches, salads, and soups, as well as some unique items like the “Harpers Ferry Melt” and the “Cannonball Club.”
There’s also a small selection of beers and wines available. Whether you’re looking for a quick lunch or a leisurely meal, Cannonball Deli is sure to hit the spot. Be sure to bring your appetite, as the portions here are huge!
Kelley Farm Kitchen
Address: 1112 W. Washington St. Harpers Ferry
Kelley Farm Kitchen is a great place to score great vegan food in the town of Harpers Ferry. The food is locally sourced and the menu changes seasonally. The atmosphere is casual and the staff is friendly, though the food is so delicious you’d expect to eat it at a white linen establishment. Some of the meals here are so well disguised by amazing flavors that you wouldn’t even be aware they are vegan without knowing beforehand.
Try the mac and cheese, any of their vegan burgers, or the Philly sub!
Address: 1723 W Washington St, Harpers Ferry
If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by Country Café in Harpers Ferry. The food is great and the staff is friendly. The café has a casual atmosphere, so it’s perfect for a quick bite or a leisurely meal. And if you’re looking for a souvenir to take home with you, they have a great selection of local gifts and products.
Despite having delicious food and reasonable prices, perhaps the best thing about this classic American restaurant is the quirky, casual atmosphere.
The best things to try here are the frickles (fried pickles) and grilled cheese sandwich!
Yatai Hibachi Food Trailer
Address: 36 Bakerton Rd, Harpers Ferry
For something a little more creative, you’ve got to head to Yatai Hibachi Food Trailer. You may not expect a food truck in West Virginia to be able to stand up to the Japanese cuisine you’d find in Washington, D.C. or even Maryland, but you’re in for a pleasant surprise!
They even have sushi here! But the real claim to fame is the authentic Hibachi. While you don’t get quite the same experience as you would at a Hibachi table, the food is every bit as good.
Try the steak hibachi or the Panang curry – and don’t forget the fried rice, which is to-die-for!
The Barn of Harpers Ferry
Address: 1062 W Washington St, Harpers Ferry
For a night cap, stop by The Barn of Harpers Ferry. This is arguably the best bar in town, a beloved favorite of locals and tourists alike. They offer a huge selection of draft and bottled beer, craft cocktails, wine, and more. Check out the calendar to see if there are any live performances while you’re in town!
If you’re looking for a charming town to explore with plenty of things to do, Harpers Ferry is the perfect destination. The historic downtown district is full of cute shops and restaurants, and there are also plenty of outdoor activities available in the area. And if you need a place to stay, be sure to check out Mountain Mama Cabins – we have everything you need for an enjoyable getaway.
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