Germantown, Maryland, is located 28 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. The area was first settled by Native Americans and, later, in the 1600s, by European immigrants, many of English and Scottish descent. Today’s town of 86,300 people still resists incorporation as a city, although Germantown is close behind Baltimore and the federal district in population in the state. Affectionately referred to as “G-Town,” Germantown was so named for the distinctive accents of the German settlers who set up shops in the area in the 1800s.
Later in that century, the crossroads town became a nexus for troops on the move during the Civil War. Today, those visiting Germantown can journey back in time with a walk around the city, traversing the same roads as soldiers in both the Union and Confederate armies did. In September of 1862 and June of 1863, Germantown saw the Union marches to Antietam and Gettysburg along what is now Frederick Road, and in July 1864 General Early led a Confederate march through town, south to Washington.
The most infamous area event, however, took place post-war, on the south side of Germantown. There, modern-day history buffs can discover the ruins of historic Clopper Mill. On the night of April 15, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, and Booth’s co-conspirator, George Adzerdodt, took refuge in the mill before being captured.
Germantown’s Button Farm Living History Center brings the Antebellum era to life. At Button Farm, visitors truly interact with their surroundings by helping to cultivate crops, learning a historic trade and helping with chores around the plantation.
Agricultural history is also a hands-on experience at Butler’s Orchard on Davis Mill Road, where visitors can pick berries, cherries and apples and explore pumpkin patches. Summer tourists also learn about the area’s rich past in dairy farming at the King Barn Dairy MOOseum, open Saturdays May through October.
Nature lovers visiting Germantown cruise Little Seneca Lake at Black Hill Regional Park, a few miles northwest of town. Kayak, canoe, rowboat and pontoon-boat rentals offer many ways to cross the lake. Four miles of paved trails serve hikers and joggers, while 10 miles of terrain trails keep mountain bikers and horseback riders happily occupied.
Dining in Germantown might start with New York-style bagels and homemade cream cheese at Royal Bagel Bakery and Deli on Germantown Road. Locally, lunch is casual at chain restaurants like Red Robin, further up the road, or more elaborate at authentic Italian restaurant AgroDolce on Frederick Road. Thai food lovers dining in Germantown find their own ethnic delights at Sabai Sabai Simply Thai Restaurant, across from the public library. Both traditional and innovative Thai dishes are served for lunch and dinner in a relaxed, urban atmosphere.
After dinner at Sabai Sabai, stroll a block to Black Rock Center for the Arts. Browse the in-house art gallery or take in a show. The center presents a variety of theater productions, concerts and dance performances, as well as children’s shows on Saturday nights.