Canal Towns Spotlight: Cumberland, MD

Cumberland

The C&O Canal National Historical Park ends its 184.5 mile stretch along the Potomac River in the delightful Canal Town of Cumberland, Maryland. Though Cumberland is the end point to the C&O, there are many adventures waiting to begin here.

Cumberland - R. Blake Divilbiss

Cumberland – R. Blake Divilbiss

Outdoor Activities – Cumberland sits at the meeting place of two long trails: the C&O Canal National Historical Park towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). This makes Cumberland a hotspot for outdoor activity.

Canal Place became Maryland’s first heritage area, based on the theme “Crossroads of Transportation”. This hub of transportation was the starting point for the first National Road (Route 40), railroads, and the terminus of the C&O Canal. There is only one way to go on the C&O Canal towpath here in Cumberland, and it leads to 184.5 miles worth of gorgeous sites and exciting activities.

Mule Statue at Canal Place - Tina-Yoder

Mule Statue at Canal Place – Tina-Yoder

The GAP trail connects with the C&O Canal towpath here. If the 184.5 mile stretch of the towpath is not enough for you, the GAP trail offers another beautiful 150 miles from Cumberland to Pittsburgh.  As you journey along the GAP trail, you will venture through many towns, hiking hotspots, and  picturesque scenery.

Being pulled by a century-old Baldwin Steam Locomotive is a different way to experience the outdoors, and the Western Maryland Scenic Railway is happy to help! Departing from the historic Western Maryland Railway station (also home to the C&O Canal Visitor Center) the scenic railway provides great views of this area all year long. This 23 mile trip takes you from Cumberland to Frostburg, and offers numerous dining and themed excursions throughout the year.

 

Events – Cumberland is a town filled to the brim with activities to enjoy, and there are events going on throughout the year that you will not want to miss.

Independence Day at Canal Place gives you a chance to get out and see Canal Place while enjoying both live music and fireworks. This event is a fun way to experience Independence Day at a fantastic venue.

DelFest is a festival celebrating Bluegrass music and takes place May 25-28 at the Allegany Fairgrounds.This family friendly event is a great way to get out and hear some wonderful live musical performances.

The Cumberland Heritage Days Festival, usually held in mid-June is one of the largest events in the towns along the canal.  Street food, vendors, games, and historical tours are a part of this major street festival.  Many of the events occur at Canal Place, but this event truly engages the whole town.

 

History – Even before the founding of Cumberland, this area  was at the center of  several historic events.

George Washington spent a considerable amount of time in the area that is now Cumberland. During the French and Indian War, Washington led the Virginia troops, and established a headquarters in the area. Washington’s headquarters is the only surviving building from the fort and can still be found in Cumberland today.

George Washington's Headquarters - msa.maryland.gov

George Washington’s Headquarters – msa.maryland.gov

Cumberland’s true legacy, however, is its relationship to transportation.  The first road over the mountains, “Braddock’s Road”, was opened in 1751, connecting Fort Cumberland and Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh).  In 1806, President Jefferson authorized the first federal road in the new nation, what would become known as “The National Road”, connecting Cumberland, Maryland to Wheeling, (now West) Virginia.

With the coming of the Canal in 1850, Cumberland was the beginning and end of many journeys. Companies and families alike would set off from Cumberland on their way to Georgetown to sell goods.

Railroads would also dominate Cumberland’s history, with both the B&O Railroad and Western Maryland Railroad being a major presence in the city at the turn of the 20th Century.  Even today, the large operational CSX rail yard south of town continues the rail heritage.  

And finally, standing at the Canal Visitor Center at the Western Maryland Railway Station, one can see the National Road, the Canal and the Railroad all overpassed by modern Interstate 68, a fitting image for the history of transportation in the Queen City.

 

Dining – Cumberland offers many dining options.

The Crabby Pig at Canal Place is a favorite stop for locals and visitors. This restaurant serves a large variety of dishes from seafood to ribs. Don’t miss the outside deck.  where you can take in the views of the C&O Canal.

Looking for a unique way to enjoy some sweets? European Desserts and More brings a taste of treats from all over Europe to Cumberland. Making desserts originating from Bosnia, Germany, Italy, Austria and France, European Desserts and More is  a  delight all its own.

For those looking for a great street food fix, head over to “Curtis Coney Island”, which has been serving some of the best hot dogs in the nation since 1918.  Folks have been known to stop in Cumberland simply only for a taste.  It’s at 35 North Liberty Street and it’s cash only!

 

Shopping – Downtown Cumberland is a hub of activity, and these beautiful streets are filled with some wonderful shops to explore.

Downtown Cumberland - msa.maryland.gov

Downtown Cumberland – msa.maryland.gov

Cumberland Trail Connection is a go-to shop when looking for outdoor gear to prepare for all the adventures awaiting you in Cumberland.

Fort Cumberland Emporium is a three-story shop offering a variety of antiques and collectibles. The fourth story of this shop will be when you tell people about the great experience you had while visiting!

All of Baltimore Street in Downtown has been closed to traffic to serve as a pedestrian walkway for shoppers and diners alike, with free music on summer evenings. Stop by the Visitor Center for more information on what’s going on during your visit.