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Road Trip! Destination: Scenic Maryland

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 8:43 p.m.
Rocky Gap Casino and Resort
Rocky Gap Casino and Resort
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad offers trips for tourists.
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
One of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad's historic locomotives
Rocky Gap Casino and Resort
Golfing at Rocky Gap Casino and Resort
Rocky Gap Casino and Resort
Roulette at Rocky Gap Casino and Resort
Great Allegheny Passage
Bicyclists ride through the Great Allegheny Passage.
Lance Bell, Mountain Discoveries magazine
The upstairs of the Thrasher Carriage Museum
Lance Bell, Mountain Discoveries magazine
A green carriage at the Thrasher Carriage Museum
Trail Town Program
Great Allegheny Passage offers scenic views in Western Maryland.

The biggest — but not only — attraction in Cumberland, Md., located at the far western end of the state, is the Rocky Gap Casino and Resort. The city of 20,000 was one of the old gateways to the West and is little more than a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh.

Not all tourists drive through the area, though. Plenty are on foot or on bicycles as they travel on the scenic Great Allegheny Passage. The option to travel by rail offers a lesson in transportation history with 16-mile excursions on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

The Canal Place Heritage Area, located at the intersection of the Great Allegheny Passage and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, is based at the Western Maryland Railway Station and features specialty shops (including the local Charis Winery), restaurants and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Parks Visitors Center.

The casino and resort is located in Rocky Gap State Park, 3,000 acres of public land that includes the 243-acre Lake Habeeb. In addition to numerous hiking and biking trails, there are overnight camping spots, while the lake offers a beach plus boating and fishing. Equipment can be rented from the resort.

Attractions in downtown Cumberland include a new brick pedestrian mall, which is home to sidewalk cafes, antique shops and boutiques and art galleries.

Mark Kanny is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

Rocky Gap Casino and Resort

Poker has just been added to the gaming at Rocky Gap Casino and Resort with approval Oct. 3 from the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. Three eight-seat tables of Texas Hold 'em are now active, with limit and no-limit stakes. Other table games include blackjack, roulette and craps. There are 550 slot machines, ranging from a penny to $10 per pull.

The resort's high-end restaurant is designed for casual, rather than formal, dining. Other eateries include a bar and grill, burger lounge and “A Little Munch” which serves coffee and pastries or sandwiches and beer.

The hotel associated with Rocky Gap Casino and Resort has a little more than 200 rooms, a number that fluctuates somewhat during a current expansion. Suites and single rooms are available, some with views of the lake or the golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. An on-site spa offers massages, facials, waxing, manicures and pedicures and body treatments.

Rocky Gap's Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course presents contrasting challenges. The first nine holes are cut from mountainous, tree-lined terrain. The back nine holes play across expansive, gently rolling meadows.

The full course is a 7,000-yard par 72, with five tee boxes per hole for players to adjust their skill to the par. There are also a 50-foot driving range, two large putting greens, two chipping areas, a practice bunker and a pro shop. Group and individual lessons are available.

Details: 301-784-7400 or www.rockygapresort.com

Great Allegheny Passage

Running from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, the Great Allegheny Passage is a 150-mile trail for hikers and bicyclists, not motor vehicles. Built mainly on abandoned railroad beds, the trail has a crushed-limestone surface for smooth traveling. The average grade is less than 1 percent.

Cumberland is also the start of the C&O Canal Towpath, which extends 184.5 miles to Washington, D.C., but is much less developed and a rougher path.

The Great Allegheny Passage is open year round, but most often used when weather is temperate. Horseback riders are allowed on some sections. The passage is maintained by the Allegheny Trail Alliance, a coalition of seven trail organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Western Maryland. It is a segment of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, one of eight nationally designated scenic trails.

Details: 888-282-2453 or www.atatrail.org; www.GAPtrail.org

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

Old steam and diesel engines and passenger cars have been carefully restored by this heritage railroad, which runs a 16-mile scenic course from Cumberland to Frostburg, Md. Passengers have time to explore Frostburg while the engine changes directions on a turntable.

First-class, coach and caboose rides are available. Lunch is served at tables in a dining car for first-class travelers on the way to Frostburg, who enjoy dessert and coffee on the way back.

Specialty trips include the Murder Mystery Train, a three-and-a-half-hour journey with dinner, cash bar and entertainment. The railroad also offers family-oriented North Pole Express and Santa Express trains for the holidays.

Details: 301-759-4400 or www.wmsr.com

Thrasher Carriage Museum

The son of a blacksmith, James Richard Thrasher quit school after eighth grade to begin working. He was born in 1913, acquired his first carriage in his 20s. After becoming a successful businessman, he began seriously collecting and lovingly restoring horse-drawn vehicles.

He had accumulated hundreds of carriages by the time he opened his museum in 1975 in Midland, Md. Upon his death in 1987, Allegany County purchased his collection and re-opened the museum in its current location.

The museum offers a look at Victorian America, including luxurious carriages, delivery carts, sleighs and other vehicles, accessories including bearskin lap robes and charcoal foot warmers and clothing from the period.

The museum is open from noon to 2 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays from May to October; noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in November and until mid-December, and by appointment January through April.

Details: 301-689-3380 or www.thethrashercarriagemuseum.com

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