Things To Do In Frederick
Known as the town of “Clustered Spires”, Frederick, Maryland, was founded in 1745. It was a colonial town featuring colonial row houses, most of which are still in use to this day. Many of the streets in Frederick are one-way only, a testament to how narrow streets were in those times. (Today, we would call those streets “alleys”). It is often thought of as a bedroom community of Washington DC as many of the people who live here commute the Nation’s capital each day, either by car or via a MARC commuter train. It is, in fact, the second largest city in Maryland.
Frederick is actually two cities – the old town, laid out in a more-or-less grid, and the new city which has grown up around it. It is big enough to have an armature baseball team and host the seat of the County Government, yet it has that small town feeling about it. Anyone will stop and have a conversation with you, and shop owners remember you – they even remember your name. It has a cultural diversity not found in many small towns, and has a thriving Art community which sponsors many events. It is close enough to Washington DC to attract some very high end tours and members of the performing arts, yet small enough to offer carriage rides in winter and horse drawn hay rides for the town’s celebrations in the summer.
When To Go:
Spring, Summer and early Autumn are great times to visit Frederick, Maryland. April and May are absolutely beautiful in Frederick, with all the spring flowers and flowing trees bursting into bloom. The weather is temperate, and there are no thunderstorms, so it’s a good time to be out and about. Indeed, this is one of the best times to stroll about or drive up and down the streets to see some of the lovely gardens and parks.
Baker Park, in particular, is very attractive this time of year. Photographers will find the canal and famous clock tower surrounded by flowering trees. It is a photographer’s dream. June, July and August can be quite hot and humid and, like all Mid-Atlantic States, subject to sudden thunder storms. So, if you can stand the heat, then feel free. Autumns are very agreeable in Frederick. The leaves are turning colors that particular with East Coast brilliance, and the weather is temperate. It rains a bit more, but this is only a minor inconvenience for the chance to see the amazing fall colors, both in the city and in the surrounding farmlands.
Here is a list of things to do in Frederick...
Churches – Clustered Spires
The actual “Clustered Spires” of Civil War fame are probably the steeples from St. Johns the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, two spires from the Evangelical Lutheran Church, one from the Trinity Chapel, and one from All Saints Episcopal Church. At any rate, the church spire and copula filled skyline of Frederick is distinct and could certainly have be seen by invading Confederate armies when they stormed into the area. Frederick is famous for its churches.
Most of them are included in the self guided walking tour of the city. Really great photos of the Fredrick skyline can be taken from almost any road leading into the city, or from the upper levels of the few parking garages in the city. Every Christmas season, Frederick sponsors a Candlelight Tour of Historic Houses of Worship. It is a beautiful event, featuring choral performances and usually some kind of light refreshment at each place of worship.
Baker Park and Carroll Creek Linear Park
Frederick has been very community-minded when it comes to city parks. They abound in every area of the city. Baker Park is a 44 acre park in the center of Frederick that runs along Carroll Creek. It has a swimming pool, several children’s playgrounds, bike trails, athletic fields, tennis courts, a lake full of ducks, a bell tower (aka Bell Carillion) , and an outdoor amphitheatre that is the venue for summer and winter concerts.
The Park is the center for community events including a huge 4th of July celebration and the city’s winter festivities. The Carol Creek Linear Park continues where Baker Park ends. It runs through the city and is the site of many City Festivals.
Monacacy National Battlefield
The Monacacy National Battlefield memorializes one of the most important battles of the Civil War. It was one of the last battles fought by the Confederate Army in Union territory. Even though the Union basically lost the battle, it saved Washington DC from being attacked. Visitors can take a tour of the Visitor Center, then travel a short distance by car to the other parts of the park, which straddles a major road.
Rangers offer tours at certain times during the day. There are no fees at the Battlefield, and there are a number of walking paths throughout the park. As it borders the Monacacy River, and is home to deer, waterfowl and other wildlife, it is a really good family trip. The more adventurous might want to entertain bicycling to the various parts of the park, but there are no bike lanes, and the gravel roads to the Historical Farms are pretty bumpy.
Rose Hill Manor
Another family-oriented venue in Frederick is the Rose Hill Manor and Children’s Museum. Everyone in the family should enjoy this former home of Maryland’s first Governor, Thomas Johnson. The house and grounds try to preserve and demonstrate life as it was in colonial times, when the city was first founded. All the exhibits are child friendly and “hands on”. There are even toys in the nursery and in the kitchen that children are encourage to play with.
On the property, visitors will find a log cabin, an icehouse, a blacksmith’s shop, and two barns. One barn is full of historical displays and also farm “equipment’ that children can try. Rose Hill is also host to several yearly events, including the Easter Egg Roll and the yearly Civil War Re-enactors Camp and Battle. It is free to visit the ground, and tours cost $4 for children and $5 for adults. Other special historical events and special classes are held throughout the year at the Park.
National Museum of Civil War Medicine
This interesting museum is not for the faint of heart. It is located in downtown Frederick the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is purported to be haunted. But then, what colonial home is not haunted? And, considering that it has over 1200 artifacts from the Civil War, it’s only logical that a ghost or two would have come along for the ride.
The Museum shows the history of Civil War medicine in graphic detail, complete with photographs, displays, and personal histories. Even though a lot of technical innovations and medical improvements came about because of the war, most of what one sees at the Museum is primitive and shocking. Admission is $9.50 for adults and children under 9 are allowed in free. It really is a good, if not stomach-churning, learning experience and well worth the price.
First Saturday is not a place, but, rather, a series of events. On the first Saturday of the month, year round, regardless of the weather, the Downtown Frederick Partnership sponsors a themed evening for the enjoyment of the general public. Stores stay open late, entertainment in provided and treats and special deals are available. It might be a Wine themed evening, a Girls Night Out, or an event encouraging people to shop locally.
You never know. Well – you do. You can look it up. In the summer months, First Saturday events take on a street-festival feeling, with people wandering up and down the streets, listening to bands and joining in dancing when the spirit moves them. And, speaking of “spirits” , the October First Saturday can be downright spooky with its Halloween themed activates. If you are planning a visit to Fredrick, try to time to coincide with a First Saturday event.
A few of the yearly Fredrick community events will make you think you have somehow been transported back in time. The Annual Christmas parade is like something out of the Christmas Story, with marching bands, floats, and a community Christmas carol sing-along at the Baker Park amphitheater. Father Christmas, Santa Claus and the Witch of the of the North all make an appearance. Each year, Frederick holds the “In the Street Festival” which celebrates the town and all its people. Huge parts of the city are closed off and everybody parties.
It’s just a good old fashioned block party. And, if you have survived the daytime fun, the nighttime actives begin with the “Up the Creek” phase of this annual event when the evening music and dancing continue along Carroll Creek. This Festival is held in September, so you might want to plan to attend. Frederick also has a Greek Festival, a Latino Festival, and a two day Festival of the Arts held in June (provided it is not rained out by seasonal thunderstorms).Then, of there is always something happening at the County Fairgrounds in Frederick including, not surprisingly, the Great Frederick Fair.
Downtown and the Walking Tour
Frederick was founded in 1745 and many of the original Colonial homes from that time still line the streets of Frederick. In fact, it is almost impossible to remove or change one of the historical homes in this beautiful city. If you stop in the Frederick Visitor Center, they will give you hand-out that takes you on a self-guided walking tour of Frederick.
It is a quite extensive tour, taking you past most of the important historical and cultural buildings and sites in the city. You end up walking most of the colonial parts of Frederick, so make sure you have your camera charged up. It is a great way to see the city. And since the older part of Frederick is small, it’s a great way to spend part of the day. The tour is free and you can wander about at your own pace.
Maryland School for the Deaf
The Frederick campus of the Maryland School for the Deaf in an important part of the community. It was first established in 1868, just after the end of the Civil War. The original campus was actually part of the Hessian Barracks, still standing from the French and Indian War era. The school offers bi-lingual education for Elementary, Middle School and High School students. Because it is such an integrated part of the City, citizens are used to seeing the general public talking with their hands.
Indeed, many stores have personnel who are fluent in “sign language” to help communicate with this part of the community. Even though it might sometimes be startling for people outside of Frederick to see so much signing, it is commonplace here and part of the local fabric. Visitors should take into consideration that non-hearing citizens may not respond to questions or horns that are honked in warning. You will pass the Campus on your way to the Hessian Barracks.
Roads and Rails Museum
The Roads and Rails Museum is just super fun for children of all ages. The cost of admission is $8 for Adults and $3 for children (ages 3-11). Once you get inside, you are greeted with one of the largest miniature model train displays in the US. The attention to detail is absolutely amazing. There are towns, a coal mine, a castle, a zoo, mountain climbers, a zoo, a circus, logging trucks, and so much more – all done to scale.
There are businesses, drive in restaurants, people, classic and modern vehicles, trolley cars….Children (and grownups) can manipulate the trains at various points along the display. And if that is not enough, there is a gift shop for those who need some extra train goodies to take home. It is a really good place to bring your children so that you can have an excuse to play with the trains.
Weinberg Center for the Arts
This center for performing arts activities in Frederick began its life as a movie theater in 1926. It struggled through the years to keep up with the ever changing entertainment world, and when it was basically destroyed by the Great Frederick Flood of 1976, it looked liked “curtains” for the fine old building. But, fortunately, it was rescued by Dan and Alyce Weinberg, and now The Weinberg Center for the Arts is the cultural center of Frederick.
Because it is so close to Washington DC, famous acts and performances that normally would not be available to similar cities find their way to Frederick. It is not unusual to find a Broadway play or a symphony orchestra on the playbill. And it is a treat just to go in and look at this beautifully restored building.
Other Historical Sites
There are a number of other Historical Sites worth visiting in Frederick. The Hessian Barracks were built during the French and Indian Wars, and were used as a prison. They are on the campus of the School for the Deaf. The Schifferstadt Architectural Museum is actually one of the original houses built in Frederick. It is a beautiful stone house, and it was the place where early settlers would seek refuge when they were attacked by Indians.
It hosts an Oktoberfest each year. The Mount Olivet Cemetery is the resting place for many civil war dead and is the final resting place for the city’s most famous son, Francis Scott Key. Students of American History will know him as the author of our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. After a couple of re-interments, his remains were finally buried in his home town.
There are the usual shopping Malls on in the “new” part of town. Downtown Frederick has a number of quaint and interesting shops and eateries, especially along Market Street, Patrick Street, Church Street, Carroll Creek and the attached side streets. Another fun shopping area is at the end of Church Street. It is called Shab Row and it has some great little coffee and tea shops and some great restaurants. And, just so you don’t get confused, some of the street names in Frederick are “North East Street”, “South East Street”, “East South Street”, “Maxwell Avenue” (which is a one-way alley) “Ambush Alley “(which just sounds cool) and “Monacay Blvd” which rings the city, and changes directions so many times, you don’t know which way you are going. Are you lost yet?
Fredrick also has numerous Antique shops, large and small. The variety is great. Some stores specialize in high-end estate items, while some have things that might have come from garage sales. There is almost always something to temp collectors. And, with so much completion, bargains are to be had in most locations. If you don’t find what you want in one store, move on to the next. And be sure to include the stores in both areas of town when you are antique shopping. Look in the main Downtown core, and at Shab row. Wander up and down the streets; there are little shops and surprise finds tucked away in the most unlikely places.
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