Story by the staff of the Washington Jewish Week and Baltimore Jewish Times
Photos of Barry Perlis by David Stuck
Sometimes, you want to get on a plane and cross the ocean. Other times, you just want to hop in a car (or bus, or train) and head just an hour or two away for a change in scenery.
For those other times, here are places that you can head to for a day trip or weekend getaway.
Wilmington, with its unique historical destinations and family-friendly activities, is an hour-and-a-half drive away.
The Nemours Estate is a Wilmington must-visit. Constructed by Alfred I. du Pont, the 300-acre estate has the largest French formal gardens in North America, inspired by the grounds of Versailles, and a 77-room mansion filled with paintings, antique furniture and tapestries.
Another fascinating house from the du Pont family is the Hagley Museum and Library, which was the former industrial site of the black powder works of the DuPont Co. You’ll be able to see restored buildings, the first du Pont family home built in America and stone ruins of the black powder industry among its 235 acres of rolling hills.
If you have kids along, they’ll love the Brandywine Zoo, which is open daily and holds a wide range of special events. The city is home to the Delaware Children’s Museum, which has a variety of interactive exhibits that teach kids about science, technology, engineering and math through fun and engaging activities.
Some special Wilmington events to check out this summer are the Delaware Shakespeare Festival, which runs in July, and the 27th annual People’s Street Festival Tribute to Bob Marley at the end of August.
The Jewish Angle
Wilmington is home to a vibrant Jewish community, including the Jewish Federation of Delaware, the Siegel JCC and a number of synagogues. If you’re looking for an interesting Jewish-related activity, the Federation and JCC are co-sponsoring a Jewish Heritage Night with the Wilmington Blue Rocks on Aug. 5 at 7:05 p.m.
— Eleanor Linafelt and Selah Maya Zighelboim
Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
Harpers Ferry is the perfect day trip location for both history and nature lovers. Even though there are still some areas closed or restricted due to COVID-19, there are still so many attractions to enjoy.
Start at the Visitor Center and then board the bus to the heart of the historical streets. The area immerses you in the 1800s, with cobblestone streets and old-fashioned storefronts, like the general store and the bookshop.
The John Brown Museum is one of the biggest attractions in the area. It tells John Brown’s story, and notably discusses John Brown’s Raid. There are also smaller museums around it, like a museum that tells the different stories of Harpers Ferry’s history, a wax museum and another about John Brown. Some of the areas in the museums are restricted due to COVID-19, but you can still have a great experience.
Many of the streets are lined with bustling restaurants. If you want to grab a meal or a snack, there are many options to choose from, including themed restaurants like the Cannonball Deli.
There are also many gift shops and places to purchase souvenirs. One of the stores I peeked into was True Treats Historic Candy, which displayed how candy evolved from the 1500s to today, and had many candies popular during the Civil War era available for purchase.
In addition to the history, there are opportunities to hike and go camping in the Catoctin Mountains and canoeing in the Shenandoah River. You can also simply walk over and observe the breathtaking views of the mountains stretching along the river, which I definitely made sure to do.
With its immersive historical experience, unique restaurants, beautiful nature views and opportunities to enjoy the activities in the mountains and river, Harpers Ferry has something for everyone.
The Jewish Angle
The Ready Made Clothing Store is a great place to learn about Jewish history in the area. It was part of a chain of stores owned by Philip Frankel. Frankel was Jewish, and while he didn’t live in Harpers Ferry, he owned a business that was important to the community. The exhibit is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19, but I was able to get a private tour from a park ranger. The store displays the garments and accessories for men sold during the time period and showcases how the store was set up at the time.
This store was actually next to another Jewish-owned store, owned by Abraham Kaplon, which is no longer standing, but it is still interesting to learn that two Jewish-owned businesses were next to each other. As restrictions ease, the park is hoping to open this exhibit back up soon.
— Courtney Cohn
Assateague Island (Md. & Va.)
If you enjoy the road less traveled, you might want to embark on a trip to visit the wild horses on Assateague Island. Descended from feral ancestors, the population was likely brought to the island in the 1600s by owners trying to avoid taxes on them or fencing laws, according to the National Park Service.
The horse population here contends with pestering mosquitoes, sweltering heat, turbulent weather and second-rate food sources. The Assateague herd typically divides itself into bands of two to 12 horses, each of which has its own home range.
While the inquisitive are encouraged to come and admire the horses from a distance, the NPS does not encourage getting too close to them. As horses can get sick from human food, feeding them is considered detrimental, and petting them is also dissuaded. “Treating wild horses like tame animals takes away the wildness that makes them special,” the NPS site reads. “Give the horses the space they need to be wild.”
The Jewish Angle
After an afternoon of beachgoing and horse-watching, consider stopping off at the Ocean City location of Rosenfeld’s Jewish Delicatessen. The establishment was founded in 2013 by Warren Rosenfeld, a third-generation restaurateur who had grown tired of driving all the way to Baltimore or Washington, D.C., for real Jewish deli fare, according to its site. You can enjoy a cup of matzah ball soup, grilled Reubens, matzah brei, bagels and lox and more. Rosenfeld’s also offers gluten-free options.
— Jesse Berman
Annapolis provides the perfect location for a weekend getaway or day trip, especially for history buffs. Starting at the Maryland State House, you can view documents written during the 18th century and walk through the building where George Washington himself roamed the halls.
Outside, the Thurgood Marshall Memorial stands tall as a tribute to his leadership in the civil rights movement and as the first Black Supreme Court Justice. Revolutionary-era mansions, such as the Hammond-Harwood House, are also a must-see when you visit Annapolis, along with the Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park and Naval Academy.
If you’re looking for more of a beach town feel, the main street has restaurants, ice cream parlors and a variety of shops to choose from. Old Fox Books is a personal favorite! Gardens, museums, the dock, the colonial district or a pirate adventure, there are so many different attractions to choose from all while enjoying the fresh breeze of the Chesapeake Bay.
The Jewish Angle
What is less known about Annapolis is its rich Jewish history. The beginning of the 20th century saw the establishment of a small Jewish community in Annapolis with the creation of Congregation Kneseth Israel. Notable Jewish figures such as Albert A. Michelson, who attended the Naval Academy and went on to win a Nobel Prize for his scientific discoveries, has a place in Annapolis as well. Congregation Kneseth Israel is still in Annapolis today and is only two miles away from the Maryland State House. While you’re brushing up on American history, you can visit some historic Jewish sites as well.
— Lexi Gopin
Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
It takes just over an hour in good traffic to reach Berkeley Springs, W.Va., by car. But a 16-year-old George Washington must have endured days in a trackless void to get there on a surveying mission. For his trouble, ever the shrewd land speculator, Washington later bought a few lots in a town being established around a bubbling warm springs with its mysterious source in a mountain looming overhead.
If Washington didn’t sleep there, he certainly bathed there — according to town lore — and you can see his bathtub in the Berkeley Springs State Park, along the channel and pools that take the spring water through town and into the imagination.
Long before the English arrived, the spring water, at precisely 74 degrees, was reputed to have healing properties. Today, the citizens drink it, bathe in it, inhale its steam and, once a year, vote on it at the International Water Tasting Festival. Visitors, too, can even carry a gallon or two home with them.
Walk through town (the main street is named for Washington, too) and drivers will wave at you as they pass (and they don’t even know you!). There are restaurants, inns, B&Bs, the old-style Star Theater movie house, a cocktail lounge, an arts center, spas, bath houses, breweries and antiques.
And did I say water?
The Jewish Angle
The residents of Berkeley Springs are a mix of hip/artsy transplants and rootsy Appalachian townies. Trey Johanson is one of the former, and one of the town’s few Jewish residents. As the owner of the Star Theater and Fairfax Coffee House, a few steps from Berkeley Springs State Park, she’s a light unto the nations in her own right.
“People come in and ask, ‘What’s a shmear?’” she said. When the pandemic began and the coffee house’s bagel source in Rockville closed, Johanson started making her own, with Berkeley Springs’ water as the not-so-secret ingredient.
With the nearest synagogue 25 miles away in Hagerstown, she imagines the Star Theater doubling as a place for “religious and spiritual” services. “I long for a spiritual home in Berkeley Springs,” she said.
— David Holzel
Solomons Island, Md.
Google “Solomon Islands” and you’ll get search results for a nation of hundreds of islands in the South Pacific. Google “Solomons Island” and you’ll get information on a picturesque island town in Maryland situated between the Chesapeake Bay and Patuxent River.
The town is a boater’s paradise and offers a multitude of options for those looking to spend a day out on the water. Don’t own a boat? No problem! Bunky’s Charter Boats offers rentals for fishing, crabbing, guided tours or cruising.
Not into water? Well then, there’s The Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center. The museum features outdoor sculptures to explore and is affiliated with the Smithsonian. If your kids want to visit an aquarium or are into boats and fossils, then they’ll get a kick out of The Calvert Marine Museum. Time your visit just right so you can climb up into the Drum Point Lighthouse.
Breakfast options on the island are limited, but visiting the Lotus Kitchen is a great choice for a morning bite on the go. And no matter what time of day it is, always order the key lime pie. A single bite will justify the whole trip.
For lunch or dinner there’s The Pier, a historic landmark offering fine dining. But those looking for a view should head to The Lighthouse Restaurant and Dockbar where you can see all the boats in Back Creek.
Keep in mind Solomons is not a walking destination. Tourist shops are few and there are some short boardwalks, but the only sand found on this island is at the Tiki Bar. So landlubbers should look elsewhere for fun.
The Jewish Angle
The Beck House was home to a Jewish family-run store from 1914 to 1947. Today it is part of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory’s campus. And those looking to spend the night can drive across the Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge to attend services at Beth Israel Synagogue, a Conservative congregation
nearby in Lexington Park.
— Eric Schucht
Barry Perlis’ 3 favorite day trips
Barry Perlis says his passion is helping to grow Jewish nonprofit organizations: Save A Child’s Heart, where he took over fundraising and development for the American branch; JSSA; the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington; Congregation B’nai Tzedek; Jewish ROC; Chabad of Potomac and Chabad of Chautauqua.
The most important Jewish nonprofit is the family. So it’s no surprise that they’re an integral part of the Potomac resident’s three favorite day trips.
Locust Grove Nature Center, Bethesda
My 12-year-old grandson Sam and I recently hiked some of the trails here. We were in awe of the sights and sounds in nature all around us. In addition to the small inside nature exhibits and items to handle, there is an extensive array of outdoor exhibits and gardens. In the Upper Meadows, we looked for monarch butterflies and yellow tiger swallowtails, with their eggs and caterpillars on the milkweed. There are box turtles crossing your path in the morning and wrens and bluebirds flying by in large numbers. Bats come out just before dusk; no need to be afraid of them!
Great Falls National Park
(Chesapeake and Ohio National Historic Park)
Hiking is a favorite activity for me, and I love going on the path to Olmstead Island, where there is a great view of Great Falls. You can see from both the Maryland and Virginia sides.
This area has a lot of rapids; kayakers practice shooting the rapids — rated among the most difficult in the country.
Be sure to follow the trail to the famous Gold Mine — a little bit of a tough climb, but well worth it. The C&O canal runs over 100 miles, so you can get some great exercise here.
Along the trail you can see some of the canal locks that used to raise and lower the boats, and houses near the locks that were manned by the lock keeper when boats needed to travel the whole canal. Now you can rent canoes and kayaks at some of these for a gentle ride.
Deep Creek Lake
In western Maryland, Deep Creek Lake is considered a four-season attraction, with Wisp Mountain being the main attraction in the winter. Skiing, tubing and snowboarding are popular all winter here, overlooking the lake.
According to my 7-year-old grandson Avi, “The lake is quite large and beautiful.” Many water sports including motor boating, wakeboarding, water skiing and, of course, swimming are available here. There is biking and mountain biking and hiking most of the year in this area, and the State Park accommodates campers. I loved camping there with my family when our three sons were young. There are also rock climbing, golf, mini-golf, ziplining, archery and a relatively new roller coaster the runs over the ski slopes off-season. Of course, I was a little taken aback when we looked out the window into the woods last time we visited — there was a mother bear with her baby foraging awfully close!