LUXURY EXPLORER: Proximity – The Real Luxury of the Eastern Panhandle

Stephanie Mathias, Luxury Explorer

As a native of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, having close proximity to Washington, D.C. meant I could pop-in for day trips to explore the monuments and museums as a high school student. Having time and no real agenda for the day (ah, to be that young again!) meant I could leisurely navigate the metro system. Perhaps, too leisurely for some…

I’ll never forget standing side-by-side next to a friend as we rode down the escalator at one of the stations. A gentleman in a suit was eager to rush down the steps and our positioning meant we were blocking his path. “Stand on the right, walk on the left…and that’s protocol,” he snapped.

Nearly 15 years later, now a D.C. resident and daily metro rider, this scene still replays in my memory. And out of habit, I find myself inching a little to the right even if I’m already flush against the edge of the railing.

Today, free time is more scarce than my good ol’ high school days. So, the proximity factor affords me the opportunity to escape the city, the busy streets and stations, and easily make the reverse trip back to my hometown. And that’s a real luxury.

I’ve known for years that Eastern Panhandle’s location is prime, yet when I talk to folks in D.C. they are so surprised to find out it’s that close. The real shock comes when I explain (usually after being asked “so, how long of a drive is it?”) that you can actually just take the train. And to be honest, for a price that’s comparable to a car ride across the city. In other words, a real bargain! Oh, and avoiding traffic…the ultimate perk.

My friends in The District will tell you that I’m on a mission for others to experience “Almost Heaven” for a weekend. But my passion is not just because it’s close; it’s because it’s awesome.

When friends, colleagues, neighbors, or the friend-of-a-friend solicit recommendations for a weekend getaway in my beloved neck-of-the-woods, I of course have an itinerary in the back of my pocket that goes something like this:


  • Catch a non-stop train that suits your schedule from Union Station going Westbound on the MARC’s Brunswick Line to Duffields. Amtrak also has an option departing at 4:05 p.m., but would require detraining at Harpers Ferry. Approximate travel time to Duffields is just under two hours.
    • Pro Tip: Cue Eastern Panhandle native, Christian Lopez, for the soundtrack to your journey.
  • Call an Uber or Lyft from train station to the Bavarian Inn.
    • Note: The Bavarian Inn is my go-to spot and is walkable to downtown Shepherdstown. However, if Airbnb is more your scene there’s some fun options like this one and this one – both Superhosts!
  • Check-in and enjoy the comfort and beauty of the property. I recommend staying on-site for dinner either in the Rathskeller (casual) or main dining room. If German cuisine is calling to you, this is the spot!


  • But first…Lost Dog Coffee. It’s a Shepherdstown institution.
  • Head up German Street to Pressed Flour or the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery for the breakfast complement to your morning brew.
  • Spend the rest of the morning strolling around Shepherd University’s campus, walking or running along the C&O Canal Towpath (just over the bridge from the Bavarian Inn), visiting the various downtown shops or indulging in an organic skincare treatment at Soul of Skincare and Wellness (appointment needed). You’ll definitely want to peep into “The Little House” for the photo op!
  • Speaking of THE photo op…the Bavarian Inn’s infinity pool awaits! Plan to spend your afternoon poolside with views of the Potomac River. You will come to fully appreciate the meaning of “weekend getaway.”
  • My dinner recommendations include The Press Room or Blue Moon. My personal advice: opt for an appetizer at Blue Moon (sit outside on the magical patio if the weather is cooperating) followed by dinner and dessert at The Press Room.
  • For an outdoor space bonus, add a post-dinner nightcap at The Mecklenburg Inn’s (“The Meck”) back patio. It’s the perfect bookend to starting the day at Lost Dog Coffee in terms of local character.


  • Plan to catch the 11:31 a.m. Amtrak out of Harpers Ferry back to D.C. You’ll be back just after 1:00 p.m., feeling refreshed and with plenty of time to fend off the “Sunday Scaries.”
    • Pro Tip: Cue John Denver’s “Country Roads” on your playlist, so you can listen and have a moment of reflection as the train departs West Virginia.
  • Conclude your weekend by sharing with me, and more importantly – others, the highlights of your time spent in “Almost Heaven.”
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Stephanie Mathias is a native of the state’s Eastern Panhandle. She now works and lives in Washington, D.C., but will forever claim West Virginia as her home.

This post was last updated on March 1, 2022