Surrounded by the deep blue Allegheny Mountains, Cumberland appears plucked from a Currier-and-Ives print. Tall steeples grace the skyline and elegant 19th-century mansions line the hillsides. In the 1800s Cumberland, the county seat, was a major transportation hub where the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and the National Pike met. Railroad barons built lavish mansions, and the city bustled with tourists. But as transportation patterns shifted, so too did Cumberland's fortunes.

In 2008, a multimillion-dollar tourism project restored the city's pulse. The stately brick Western Maryland Station (built circa 1900) has been renovated and a steam-powered antique locomotive puffs through the red shale cliffs to Frostburg (where you can stop for lunch and museum tours) and back each day. The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad also has special murder mystery trains and a North Pole and Santa Express around the Christmas holidays. At nearby Canal Place, you can follow markers from youthful George Washington's headquarters to scenic bridges, cycle over the canal towpath, and wander into shops and restaurants. A few blocks away, the cobblestone pedestrian mall feels like a small European town.

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