Martinsburg, WV lies at the far northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, rich in outdoor pursuits, mountainous scenery and American history. The French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War all saw casualties here.
A major part of Martinsburg’s Civil War history is the story of Belle Boyd. In 1861, when Belle Boyd was just 17, she shot and killed a Union soldier who cursed at her mother while he was searching the Boyd home for Confederate flags. Afterwards, Boyd became a notable spy for the Confederates, often sending them information with the help of a servant girl, Eliza Hopewell. Today you can still tour the Belle Boyd House, (126 East Race St., 304-267-4713) also serving as the Berkeley County Museum, which was built by Boyd’s father in 1853. And for the holidays, don’t miss “Christmas at the Belle Boyd House,” complete with period style décor, December 8, 9, 15 and 16.
Today, Martinsburg thrives as a West Virginia center of theatre, arts, luxurious spas, locally-owned shops and restaurants, children’s museums and festivals. Expanding on Downtown Martinsburg at this time of year, Meaghan Papeika of Main Street Martinsburg said, “I can tell you that I’ve only been part of the Main Street organization since the end of August, but it’s really fun to see how all of the local businesses and residents come together to make Downtown Martinsburg a place that everybody can enjoy. There’s a lot happening in the next month and there’s a little something for everyone–and it looks beautiful as well!”
December is an alluring time to visit. As do many small cities and towns in the Shenandoah Valley, Martinsburg finds creative ways to celebrate Christmas, especially through their own historic identity. The Colonial Christmas celebration at the Adam Stephen House is one example.
The Adam Stephen House, built from the 1770s to early 1780s, is a wonderful example of colonial architecture. They are hosting their annual Colonial Christmas celebration December 1, 2, 8 and 9 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Visit the historic home of Revolutionary War General Adam Stephens and discover how the holidays were spent more than 300 years ago. Actors will be performing various domestic scenes throughout the house to offer a glimpse of life back then – from decorating the home to preparing the feast and playing children’s games. The General Adam Stephen House is located at 309 East John Street in Martinsburg. Visit the Gift Shop in the Triple Brick Building next door. Call 304-267-4434 for more information.
Outdoor recreation can be bracing at this time of year in and around Martinsburg, but that doesn’t mean it comes to a stop. Berkeley County is home to a number of popular hiking spots, such as the Tuscarora Trail, a 250-mile long spur trail of the Appalachian Trail; Beacon Trail, which offers a short walk to a fire tower that allows hikers a view for miles; and Devil’s Nose, one of the most beautiful short hikes offered in the county with a cascading little waterfall that takes hikers to a scenic overview.
Also available for hiking and biking is the Route 9 trail, which stretches between Martinsburg and the Charles Town/Ranson area, and offers users wide open views and diverse terrain from flat land to sloping hills.
Martinsburg is in Berkeley County, which is also home to two nature preserves. Stauffer’s Marsh Nature Preserve, in Back Creek Valley, is a 45-acre wetland that is a favorite spot for birders, with 167 species of birds identified there. The Yankauer Nature Preserve has easy walking trails, including a one-mile trail that is wheelchair and stroller accessible, to allow visitors to observe the different plant species and trees that inhabit the 104-acre reserve.
Hunting is also a popular activity in Berkeley County, especially at Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area, the state’s largest wildlife area at 23,000 acres. Hunters will find strong populations of deer, turkeys, squirrels, black bear and perhaps ruffed grouse. An extensive trail system provides hunters with seasonal access. Primitive campgrounds are available year round along the 250-acre lake. Contact the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources for information on licenses, regulations, season dates, etc.
Christmas Events in Martinsburg occur early in the month, as indicated below. Put them on your calendar for next year!
Christmas Tree Lighting on the Town Square November 30
Colonial Christmas at the Adam Stephen House December 1, 2, 8 and 9, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Nighttime Christmas Parade December 1
South Berkeley Christmas Tree Lighting December 1
Banner photo courtesy Main Street Martinsburg