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Visiting the Heart of the Civil War During the "Off Season"

November 25, 2019
Visiting the Heart of the Civil War During the "Off Season"

The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area is a wonderful destination year-round, but the busy season for most sites is typically classified as spring and summer. That means the “off season” or the shoulder season, as it’s known in the travel industry, is a great time to visit. In fact, there are many advantages to visiting during the fall and winter. However, there are some things you should consider when planning a visit during the off season.

Snowy Antietam One of the best things about visiting the heritage area during the off season is that it is far less crowded. In fact, if you’re visiting during the week, you may feel as though you have the place to yourself in comparison to a mid-summer visit. You can browse museums and gift shops without bumping elbows or waiting in lines, have more one-on-one contact with rangers, volunteers and docents, and enjoy the peaceful solitude of local landscapes. There’s definitely less green this time of year but on the flip side, views open up during the fall and winter that can’t be seen with the leaves on the trees.

One of the most noticeable factors when traveling during the shoulder season is the colder temperatures. If you don’t mind the cold or layering to stay warm, you may not even blink an eye. You’ll have less daylight to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking or geocaching and touring battlefields, but you also won’t have to worry about the heat or most bugs which can be bothersome in warmer weather. If you enjoy cross country skiing or snowshoeing, there are times when the area receives enough snow to make those forms of recreation possible.

State Park Ranger Many sites in the heritage area, from small museums to national park sites, operate with smaller staffs during the off season. This, coupled with the cooler weather, generally translates to not as many programs or special events. It oftens means a reduction in hours as well, so be sure to check the hours of any site before visiting. If you’re interested in a specialized battlefield tour, battlefield guides for Antietam, Harpers Ferry and South Mountain operate year round. As long as the heritage area’s battlefield sites are not closed due to inclement weather, you can take a self-guided or a guided tour of the sites.

Another attractive reason to travel in the off season is discounted lodging prices. Most room rates are lower during the winter months, saving you money or perhaps, enabling you to extend the length of your stay in the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area. The heritage area serves as a great base camp for driving Maryland Scenic Byways, following Civil War Trails, and visiting historic sites and battlefields. Even gas prices are typically lower during the fall and winter months.

If you enjoy staying active and getting out in the wintertime, it’s a great time of year to explore the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area. Whenever there is snow or ice in the forecast, it’s always advisable to check social media sites for closings or call ahead. Delays and early closures are not unusual during inclement weather. But add just a dusting of snow to the landscape and it quickly becomes a beautiful winter wonderland.

(Images by Charissa Hipp: War Correspondents Arch at Gathland State Park (top), snow on Antietam National Battlefield (top left), State Park Ranger at Gambrill State Park (bottom right).)

Charissa Hipp

Contributing Author: Charissa Hipp

Charissa Hipp has a passion for connecting people to places through tourism marketing, storytelling, writing and hiking. A wife and mother of three, she is the Maryland Ambassador for Girls Who Hike and encourages people to connect with nature to experience its physical, mental and spiritual... Read More