Last Updated on March 24, 2023

Located on Maryland’s western shore, Frederick County was founded in 1748. With a land mass of 660-square-miles, Frederick is bursting with farmland, history, outdoor activities, and city life that can be enjoyed by the young and old alike. I’ll be sharing my favorites of what to do in Frederick, Maryland.

Because of Frederick County’s location, it easily attracts visitors from Pennsylvania, which it borders to the north; Virginia, which it borders to the south; and Washington D.C., which is less than an hours’ drive away. 

Emblazoned in history, Frederick County, Maryland is one of my all-time favorite places to visit. Each time I go, I discover a new shop to stroll through or a treasured piece of Maryland’s iconic past. Whether I want an outdoor adventure or a downtown experience, both are available for the taking. It’s almost impossible to take in all of what Frederick County offers in a day, or even a weekend. That’s why I keep returning, year after year.

What is there to do in Frederick, Maryland

Historic Covered Bridges Driving Tour

© Colleen O’Neill Mulvihill

In the northern section of Frederick County, you will find three historic covered bridges, all of which are on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic PlacesThe Roddy Road, Loy’s Station, and Utica bridges are located within 12 miles of one another making for an easy driving tour to see all three. 

Each was built using a different truss system, which holds the bridge together and keeps it strong and sturdy above the water. The bridges have individual height and weight restrictions, but passenger cars and trucks can drive through without issue. Most RVs are too large and not recommended.

For an easy driving route check out visitfrederick.org.

Catoctin Mountain Park 

© Colleen O’Neill Mulvihill

Located just outside of the town of Thurmont, Catoctin Mountain Park is one of the nation’s 420 national parks that are owned and operated by the US National Park Service. Among the park’s many attractions are the East Side hiking trails. Whether you choose a gentle stroll in the forest, or a challenging climb, there is a trail here for all hiking abilities. 

Among our favorites is the one mile hike up to Thurmont Vista, which rewards with a spectacular view of downtown Thurmont from 1,500 feet above. 

For visitors who would like to spend more time in Catoctin, the park offers picnicking areas, cabin rentals, and camping areas where you can pitch a tent and stay for a while. 

Cunningham Falls State Park 

Also located within the picturesque Catoctin Mountains is Maryland Park Service’s 5,000-acre Cunningham Falls State Park. Divided into two distinct areas, this park has something for everyone. 

The William Houck Area boasts the 43-acre, manmade Hunting Creek Lake, where sandy beaches welcome summer swimmers and picnickers for all-day play. The crown jewel of the Houck Area is Cunningham Falls itself, the largest cascading waterfall in Maryland, at just under 80 feet tall. 

The Manor Area is known for its hiking and camping areas. Hikers of all abilities will appreciate the short, quarter-mile trail leading to the Catoctin Furnace Historical Village, a unique pre-revolutionary industrial village. Built between 1774 and 1820, the village is maintained by the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society.

For more experienced hikers, the strenuous 27-mile Catoctin Trail is sure to please. Overnight camping is permitted in designated campgrounds. 

St. Anthony’s Shrine

The Catholic parish now known as St. Anthony’s Shrine dates back to Colonial times. 

Maryland was originally founded in 1634 as a place of religious freedom, but that freedom was short-lived. In 1692 when the Church of England became the established religion in the colony, Catholics were forbidden to worship in public, forbidden to hold office, and forbidden to bear arms. 

Many Catholic colonists decided to flee persecution and head west, settling in the fertile Monocacy Valley in northern Frederick County. As late as 1740, Catholic settlers in northern Frederick County would gather in secret to receive the sacraments from traveling priests.

It wasn’t until 1897 that the cornerstone for their new church was laid using a square block of Gettysburg granite. Parish records note that the cornerstone “contains rare coins and some new coins dated 1897, names of subscribers, and copies of The Catholic Mirror, and of The Emmitsburg Chronicle.”

Monocacy National Battlefield

The clash on this historic Civil War battlefield was pivotal in saving Washington D.C. from Confederate forces. Not much on these sacred grounds has changed since that famous 1864 engagement, and today’s visitors can experience almost 1700 acres of farm fields, historic buildings, and panoramic views along the Monocacy River. 

Many of the top what to do in Frederick, Maryland activities are related to the Civil War.

A self-guided driving tour is a great way to see the park. With five stops at key locations, each related to the Battle of Monocacy, the route travels along public roads and is about six miles long round-trip. The driving tour is touted as one of the best ways to understand the events of the battle. You can pick up a brochure with the tour route at the Visitor Center. 

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

The museum was first proposed in 1990 by Dr. Gordon Damman, a private collector of Civil War era medical artifacts. Located at 48 East Patrick Street in downtown Frederick City, the 7,000-square-foot museum consists of five exhibits, each recreating a different aspect of Civil War medicine. From life in an army camp to surviving a surgeon’s tent, each exhibit displays artifacts used during battle. 

As a living institution, the museum utilizes storytelling and historic lessons derived from that era to educate and inspire the public. While Civil War medicine may seem barbaric compared to modern medicine, at its core are questions about ethics, responsibility, humanitarianism, innovation, and compassion, topics which the museum curators believe are both timeless and universal.

Both self-guided and group tours are available. 

The Weinberg Center for the Arts 

The historic 1926 movie palace, known simply as ‘The Weinberg’ to locals, is home to year-round entertainment. Theatrical performances, concerts, art displays, film festivals, comedy shows, and lecture series are among the many activities at this Frederick cultural center. 

Designed to comfortably seat 1,500 people, entering the Weinberg feels as if you’ve stepped back in time. With a grand lobby, outdoor ticket booth, marble columns, crystal chandeliers, and decorative floor-to-ceiling paintings, the center is stunning. 

The Weinberg has drawn such famous names as George Carlin, Tammy Wynette, the Temptations, and Marcel Marceau to the town of Frederick. Grab a beer or glass of wine from the vestibule or mezzanine bar before the show, and take in a great performance with a classic, old-timey feel.

Yearly event and performance schedules can be found by visiting weinbergcenter.org.

Mount Olivet Cemetery

If you are a fan of historic cemeteries, Mount Olivet is a must see. Located along South Market Street in downtown Frederick, this famous cemetery is the final resting place for several notable historic figures. Interments here include Francis Scott Key, author of the “Star-Spangled Banner;” Thomas Johnson, Maryland’s first governor; and Charlotte Louise Winters, the last surviving female American veteran of the first world war. 

Spanning 32-acres, the cemetery was designed with walkways and driveways throughout and contains over 34,000 graves. 

Carroll Creek Linear Park 

Originally created as part of a flood control project in the 1980s, downtown Frederick’s Carroll Creek Park has become a favorite of locals and visitors alike. The one-mile long stroll through the park will take you past public art displays, flower gardens, and water features along the brick-paved paths.

Pedestrian bridges allow for easy access to both sides of the manmade river, and a 350-seat amphitheater shows outdoor summer performances. 

Downtown Frederick’s Restaurant and Bar Scene

No doubt about it, downtown Frederick is a foodie’s paradise. With literally blocks of places to choose from, there is no shortage of options. You’ll find everything from sophisticated upscale restaurants, to gastropubs, to quirky corner cafes. Whether you are wanting vegan, vegetarian, or seeking ethnic food such as Mediterranean, Greek, Turkish, or Lebanese, you’ll find it in downtown Frederick.

With more than 30 brew pubs such as Flying Dog Brewery and Oscar’s Ale House it’s easy to find a cold brew too. 

 

Author

  • Colleen O'Neill Mulvihill

    Colleen O'Neill Mulvihill is a retired career firefighter, certified holistic nutrition consultant, and certified health coach who has also become an avid travel writer. She is a wellness-travel seeker who enjoys sharing mind, body, and soul experiences along with holistic and healthy travel tips on her website and blog.