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There's plenty to see and do here during the winter months

February 08, 2007|by TOM RIFORD

Visitors to Hagerstown and Washington County are continually impressed with what we have to offer during the winter months. With so many wonderful parks, museums and venues for fun activities, it's no wonder that we're one of the top destinations in Maryland.

I was speaking with Bill Knode the other day. Bill is one of the folks who volunteer at the world-famous Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum. This season's attendance is the most they've ever had for the Trains of Christmas. Nearly 6,000 people have already visited the huge model trains layout, from scores of states and many different countries. The response has been great, Knode reports. The Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum's Trains of Christmas runs through Feb. 25, and it really is worth the visit! For more information, call: 301-739-4665.

It was a very special grand-opening to the "Loving Art" exhibition at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. Importantly, it was terrific to be able to help host the delegation from Holland, and I was pleased to be able to meet Elbert Roest, the Mayor of Laren and his wife. The delegation also included the director of the Singer Laren Museum, an author from Holland, and a couple who won a lottery - with the grand prize being a trip to Hagerstown! It was a thrill to witness Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey present the key to the City of Hagerstown. It really was a great event, and a proud moment for the community.

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By the way, please take a chance and stop in at the Discovery Station in Downtown Hagerstown. The Hagerstown Aviation Museum has a lot of new things, including a real Cessna 150 and a flight simulator. It was a lot of work for Tracey Potter and Hagerstown Aircraft Services, and the new plane looks great! I understand that the Aviation Museum will be making a special announcement in a couple of weeks.

The new SpringHill Suites Hotel by Marriott is having an official ribbon-cutting and grand opening event Feb. 27. It is a very nice hotel, and already attracting a lot of attention. We've been getting a lot of calls about it, and I understand that the new hotel is doing just great.

Our hotels, restaurants, and stores have been busy now that winter is truly in full swing. Winter sports enthusiasts have been flocking to Whitetail Resort. Snow tubing is very popular, especially with the new covered lift. Because the resort is only minutes from Hagerstown, our local hotels benefit from the snow sports adventurers. A lot of visitors make a weekend of it, stay in Hagerstown at one of our great hotels, and play at Whitetail. For more information, see: www.skiwhitetail.com, or call: 717-328-9400.

I was speaking with Mike Callas of the Four Points Hotel the other day. Mike has been doing a lot of hiking at Antietam National Battlefield. There are lots of trails, and the park is already getting ready for the 145th anniversary of the Civil War battle. (In a recent article, The Associated Press reported that "this summer's 145th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam will be America's biggest Civil War tourism event of the year.") The Battlefield Guides Program had a great 2006, with a large increase in the number of guided tours.

Our national parks have special winter hours, and welcome visitors throughout the frosty months. Visitors and residents know that Antietam National Battlefield and the C&O Canal Towpath really are two of the great places to enjoy crisp walks in winter scenery. The National Park Service staff invites you to see our parks this season, and walk for miles in the stillness of the battlefield, on cold winter mornings, and feel a peace you can achieve only here.

Have you ever seen Fort Frederick State Park in the wintertime? The large local deer herd enjoys the quiet stillness of the season, and the serenity is truly wonderful. The park is open year round, and in the "off season" (November through March) is open from 8 a.m. to sunset on Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to sunset on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, call 301-842-2155. (Did you see that the park had the best attendance ever in 2006? Congratulations Friends of Fort Frederick, management and staff!) The C&O Canal and the Western Maryland Rail Trail are very peaceful this time of year. Why not get outdoors for winter adventure?

Hagerstown's Ice and Sports Complex provides a lot of fun for skaters and hockey players. The ice arena has many scheduled times available for "open skates" and offers opportunities for parties and other gatherings. For more info, call 301-766-9122, or see www.hagerstownice.org.

Our advice to you: see what is here in Washington County! Visit our municipalities, our museums, our parks, and our stores. Tell your friends and far-flung family to visit there are a lot of great events coming up, so make plans to "Make Some Maryland Memories!"

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization whose mission includes helping attract visitors to Hagerstown and Washington County. The CVB helps to create vibrant growth for the local economy by promoting, developing and expanding the local visitor industry.

Tom Riford is president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He can be reached at 301-791-3246. His column appears monthly in The Daily Mail. The CVB's Web site is www.marylandmemories.com.

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