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Maryland’s National Road
Known as the Road that Built the Nation, Maryland’s Historic National Road was established in the early 1800s as the first interstate highway in the country. Today, this 170-mile stretch of history spans northern Maryland and the past two centuries.
Maryland’s largest city, Baltimore is an incredibly historic metropolitan area consisting of cities like Windsor Mill, Elkridge, Towson, and Westminster.
Set in the Old Line State’s eastern on the Patapsco River, B’more plays host to important monuments, professional sports team, major universities, and much more.
Baltimore’s famous Inner Harbor is an American landmark in and of itself. The area is home to the National Aquarium, the Lloyd Street Synagogue, the American Visionary Art Museum, and many a historic ship.
Major teams like the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, MLB’s Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park, and the Sports Legends Museum are all part of the Camden Yards Sports Complex.
Since this is a historic tour, it’s important to see some of Maryland’s legendary landmarks. The obvious one for B’more – amongst many others – is Fort McHenry National Monument. This famed fort of the War of 1812 is best known as the birthplace of “The Star-Spangled Banner" – America’s national anthem.
Today, the Fort McHenry acts as a major tourist attraction, and hosts special events like Defenders Day and historic reenactments.
Baltimore boasts nearly 5,000 acres of parkland. Vistiros are encouraged to enjoy the sunshine at major Charm City parks like Patterson Park, Federal Hill Park, and Druid Hill Park.
From central Baltimore, move west about 10 miles along State Route 144 to Ellicott City – home to the iconic Ellicott City Station, Historic Ellicott City, and Thomas Isaac Log Cabin. From Historic Ellicott City, continue west on SR 144 – following the Baltimore National Pike and Interstate 70 – straight into New Market, and then Frederick.
Known as the City of Clustered Spires, Frederick is another historic Maryland town famous for its history and charm.
A U.S. Historic district, the Historic Downtown Frederick is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and features shopping, arts, and events. Head to Frederick Historic District offers boutiques, antiques, and art galleries, plus wine shops, flower shops, bookstores, and old-fashioned barbers.
Stick around Frederick Historic District for the best cuisine in town and around. Choose from cute coffee shops and tea houses to pubs, taverns, bars, and maybe a speakeasy or two.
Check out the Raw Bar & Grill, Olde Towne Tavern, JoJo's Restaurant & Tap House, Isabella's Taverna & Tapas Bar, and plenty of bakeries and ice cream parlors.
Family and pet-friendly parks abound in Frederick as well. Enjoy tennis or grab a seat by the lake at the 44-acre Baker Park, splash around Diggs Pool, hit the Dog Park, or let the kids loose at East Third Street Park.
From Frederick, get on US Route 40 and head northwest for 25 miles through South Mountain Battlefield State Park to Hagerstown – where you’re in for more historic treats.
Set in the Cumberland Valley, Hagerstown is known as Maryland's Gateway to the West – and continues to impress travelers of the Historic National Road.
As you can imagine, Hagerstown is bursting with historic sites. Be sure to the Washington Monument State Park – the first memorial in America to honor President George Washington.
Other historic sites include Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Fort Frederick State Park, and many nearby battlefields of the Civil War. South Mountain State Battlefield and Antietam National Battlefield are within a short distance, and can also be found along the Maryland Battlefield Tour.
H-town offers plenty of local attractions too boot. Check out the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, the Hager House & Museum, and the Western Maryland 202 Locomotive Display & Museum – all found within Hagerstown City Park.
Hagerstown also yields a number of special events, including the Western Maryland Blues Fest, the Downtown Live! music fest, Augustoberfest, and the Alsatia Mummers' Halloween Parade.
Though teeming with museums, Hagerstown City Park is still an urban park where you can enjoy a picnic, feed the ducks on Lower Lake, and trek the walking trails.
From Hagerstown, follow US Route 40 – which has now merged into Interstate 68 – through Hancock, Green Ridge State Forest, and Cumberland. After a 70-mile scenic drive along the National Freeway, you’ll arrive in La Vale.
Set on Willis Creek just northwest of Cumberland, La Vale is reached by remaining on Alternate Route 40.
Since we’re on the Old National Pike, we’ll be stopping by the La Vale Tollgate House. Built in 1835 and listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, this was the first tollhouse constructed along the National Road.
If you haven’t had it with shopping by now, take a trip to Country Club Mall in La Vale. Grab lunch, see a movie at Country Club Cinemas, or stock up on some more road trip goodies and snacks.
La Vale neighbors the Wills Mountain State Park – a 300-acre park operated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. A mostly undeveloped park, Wills Mountain offers hiking trail, hunting, bird watching, and nature viewing.
Maryland’s Historic National Road continues west through the Cumberland Narrows and other Old Line cities like Frostburg, and scenic sites like the Casselman River Bridge State Park. Cumberland Road eventually courses into Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois – eventually ending in Vandalia.