For years we’ve driven through the tiny hamlet of Berkeley Springs, WV on our way to visit family in Pittsburgh. We’ve said repeatedly that “one day” we’ll stop and explore. We finally decided to stop waiting for that one day to come, and put a visit to Berkeley Springs on our itinerary. We’re so glad we did.
Berkeley Springs has an eclectic vibe and is a haven for artists and art-lovers. Pop into most any store and you will find local art of every description for sale. Washington Street/522 is very walkable, and filled with quirky and interesting shops.
If you’re just passing through, we recommend stretching your legs in the heart of the town, Berkeley Springs State Park. During the summer months, the natural spring water pool is open to the public. There are a couple of bathhouses in the park and you can make an appointment for a soak at one of them, have a sauna or book a massage. Before you leave the park, be sure to pay a visit to George Washington’s bathtub. Yes, Berkeley Springs was even a spa destination for the Father of His Country.
We recommend having lunch or dinner at Tari’s Cafe. It’s a just short stroll from the park. Tari’s is a combination restaurant and art gallery. We chose it because they advertise as gluten-free friendly and our server was certainly knowledgeable about the ingredients in their food. The food was amazing and the service was prompt and friendly. Mark ordered the French Dip (hold the baguette) and went crazy for it. Tari’s showcases glass artwork, so the environment is not super kid-friendly. Honestly, I was a little nervous that I would accidentally hit/buy something with my pocketbook on the way past a display shelf. I’m not the most graceful thing.
Instead of stopping for coffee at a franchise, we opted to caffeinate at Fairfax Coffee House. With exposed brick walls and wood shelving, the Fairfax has a cozy, general store feel. It’s full of local art, most of which is for sale. There are pastries (some are gluten free) and frozen treats on offer, as well as the requisite coffee house drinks. When we tried to tip the barista, she said “Oh, no. We’re tip free here.” Even the restroom is graced with unconventional art and signage.
If you’re there on the weekend, take in a show at the Star Theatre. With a 90 year history, it’s pure nostalgia. The concession stand features popcorn prepared in a 1949 Manley Popcorn Machine, topped with real butter.
Berkeley Springs is a two hour drive from Baltimore or D.C. and a popular, weekend tourist destination. The first time we stopped for lunch was on a Wednesday, and I commented to our server at Tari’s that the town seemed deserted. She said “Yeah. We’re a Thursday through Sunday kind of town.” If you need lodging while in the area, try The Country Inn of Berkeley Springs or Cacapon Resort State Park Lodge, which is a ten minute drive from town.
Berkeley Springs police have no chill. No, I don’t know this from first hand experience, but we literally have never gone through there without seeing someone pulled over. Fair warning.
Because Berkeley Springs is a tourist destination, weekend parking is in high demand. We’ve had fairly good luck trolling side streets for an open spot. I’d rather walk a few blocks than feed the meter.
Shop owners take a break after the tourists go home each week. Many of the shops are closed on Monday. Some don’t re-open until Thursday. We recently visited on a Tuesday and very few shops were open along Washington/522.
We love this quirky, little town.
To learn more about Berkeley Springs: https://berkeleysprings.com/
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