Step back in time with a visit to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia. Situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, the quaint town of Harpers Ferry is rich in history and natural beauty.
I knew Harpers Ferry was the location of John Brown’s fort, but knew little more than that when I visited Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. I expected to find beautiful views, a small visitor’s center, and perhaps a replica of the fort. Instead I found a wealth of history and quaint shops that left me wishing I had an entire day or a long weekend to spend at Harpers Ferry.
Here’s what to expect when you visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
1. Park at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
The historical park has the easiest parking in town. Start at the visitor’s center, pick up a map of the historical park, and ride the shuttle bus into the town of Harpers Ferry. The shuttle bus runs every 15-20 minutes and is a short 6-7 minute ride into the historical section of town. The $10 per car entrance fee to the national park is valid for three days.
After you ride the bus into Harpers Ferry, you are ready to expore historical sights, hike along the Appalachian Trail, or shop in the historic village.
2. Learn the history of Harpers Ferry.
The historical section of Harpers Ferry is reconstructed to what the town looked like during the Civil War. We looked in homes, shops, bakeries, etc. to see what life looked like in the 1860s. The attention to detail, including Wanted posters on the walls, advertisements, etc. was impressive.
There are short, educational films shown in many of the buildings, and we could have spent several hours exploring each home and shop. We spent the majority of our time in the Stephenson Hotel, pictured below, learning about John Brown’s raid.
3. Shop or dine in the historical shops.
We only had time to visit one shop, so of course we chose the candy shop. True Treats was a historic candy shop that sold treats from the 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s. The owner greeted us in historic clothing and was happy to explain the history of each piece of candy, where it was made, and why it was significant. She showed our little ones how people used licorice root as an early toothbrush.
We saw a pottery shop, a bookstore, an ice cream store, and several restaurants that I’m looking forward to checking out next time I go to Harpers Ferry.
4. Get outdoors at Harpers Ferry.
No shortage of active pursuits exist at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. We walked to the Potomac River and crossed from West Virginia into Maryland on a long bridge that spanned the river. We passed bikers, hikers, and joggers enjoying the beautiful scenery. The park has over 20 miles of hiking trails that wend through Civil War battlefields. You can even hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
For families looking for even more active pursuits, try ziplining with Harpers Ferry Canopy Tours.
Good to Know
Where: Harpers Ferry is about 1.5 hours away from downtown Washington D.C. Start your visit at the visitor’s center at 171 Shoreline Drive, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425.
When: Open year round from 9:00-5:00 p.m. Last shuttle at 5:45 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas day, and New Year’s Day.
How Much: $10 per car.
Amenities: Restrooms and benches at the visitor’s center. We brought a picnic and ate it outside on the benches. No picnic tables.