The Frederick Visitor Center, located for many years at 19 E. Church St. (tel. 301/600-2888; www.fredericktourism.org), plans to move to 151 S. East Street by early 2010. This is the place to stop for maps, information, and, if you parked in one of the four city garages, validation of your ticket for 3 hours of free parking. Guided walking tours of the historic district depart the visitor center at 1:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The cost is $5.50 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, and $2.50 for children 12 and under. If wineries or breweries are more your thing, or if you'd like a candlelight ghost tour, the staff can suggest plenty of options. If you love covered bridges, ask for the directions to three in Frederick County. Ghost tour fans, call tel. 301/668-8922 for one of the Saturday evening tours offered June through November.
Frederick's 33-block historic district was honored in 2005 as a Great American Main Street by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This area features shops, a handful of museums, and lots of good restaurants. Some streets are filled with tiny town houses; others are lined with one mansion after another. And you can't miss the church spires: Not only is Frederick is known for them, the town's seal features them. (Look for a pair of ornate gray spires to find the visitor center and a parking garage.)
Kids can let loose at Carroll Creek Park, which runs east-west through the historic district between Patrick and Bentz streets. Redevelopment has added new bridges, walkways, water features, and an amphitheater. Cross Bentz Street to get to the playground and picnic tables at Baker Park. You'll find Barbara Fritchie's tiny house in the park on Patrick Street. The house, reconstructed from the original materials, recalls feisty heroine of John Greenleaf Whittier's poem, who it is said waved a flag and said, "Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country's flag." Alas, the house is no longer open to the public.
Keep an eye out for the "Angels in the Architecture": Local artist William Cochran painted fantastic trompe l'oeil angels, birds, and other objects on walls around town. "Earthbound," at the corner of West Church and North Market streets, and the Community Bridge, part of Carroll Creek Park, should not be missed.
Following the Path of the Civil War -- At the visitor center on I-70, ask for one of the Civil War Trails maps. With lots of description, some photos, and a bit of a history lesson, they offer a soldier's view of the war -- only the soldiers walked, whereas visitors can drive in air-conditioned or heated comfort. Use the maps to find Antietam or Harpers Ferry or Gettysburg, or to take the roads Union or Confederate soldiers traveled. They'll lead you to some off-the-beaten-track sites of battles, skirmishes, hospitals, or strategic positions for each army. The map devoted to Antietam includes Harpers Ferry. The Gettysburg map covers much of the same territory as it describes the movement of the armies north for battle. Visit www.civilwartrails.org for more information.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.