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Brunswick: The Little City that Could

by Gabby

Brunswick, Maryland masters the triple threat. It’s a small city in southwestern Frederick County with considerable assets: a prime location on the Potomac River’s north bank; fascinating railroad heritage, earning it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places; and a thriving main street business district.

The city is an ideal destination for visitors – day trips, overnights and weekend or longer getaways for hikers and bikers, nature lovers and history buffs alike. Brunswick is located 15 miles southwest of the City of Frederick, an hour’s drive from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and is just minutes from Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

The MARC commuter train operates between D.C.’s Union Station and Brunswick. Convenient accommodations include the Brunswick Family Campground, Travelodge by Wyndham, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Lockkeeper’s Inn Bed and Breakfast as well as several Airbnb locations.


Photography by Vaughn Ripley

Brunswick residents value the city’s extraordinary natural surroundings and its history as a railroad boomtown. Mayor Nathan Brown says multiple generations of his family have lived and worked in the area since the late 1800s, and his family is not alone. The mayor credits many residents’ shared history with contributing to Brunswick’s small-town charm and “sense of community pride and place.”

Brown’s goals as the city’s leader include helping Brunswick to become “the best version of itself,” he said, and to make the city “an inclusive and welcoming place for all.”

Brunswick Main Street, a nonprofit branch of Main Street Maryland, has been working since 2004 to improve and unite the community, while refurbishing its downtown. Residents, business owners and community leaders serve on its volunteer board of directors.

A visit to the Brunswick Heritage Museum, at 40 W. Potomac St., which also houses the Brunswick Visitor Center for the National Park Service’s C&O National Historical Park on the first floor, will provide visitors with all the background information they need to learn about this unique city. The free-admission museum’s second-floor exhibits tell the story of the town built by the B&O Railroad. The third floor features a 1,700 square-foot scale model railroad with interactive elements that tells its history.

Visiting Brunswick during the first full weekend of October is a great way to get a taste of all the city has to offer. The annual Brunswick Railroad Days festival showcases food, craft beer, and regional musical entertainment. In 2023, the two-day festival takes place on Saturday, Oct. 7 and Sunday, Oct. 8, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


The city is home to several works of intriguing public art, commissioned by the Frederick Arts Council. When completed, the Brunswick Arch, at South Maple Avenue, will welcome MARC train commuters and C&O Canal Towpath hikers and cyclists to the city. The arch’s crosspiece, a “facsimile of a truss from the old iron bridge that crossed the Potomac River from 1893 until it was replaced by the current bridge in 1955,” was hoisted in early May, according to Wayne Allgaier, chair of the Brunswick Main Street Design Committee. The arch will soon be painted and illuminated letters spelling Brunswick will be affixed, he said.

Also new to the city’s artistic landscape is Lea Craigie-Marshall’s colorful “Walk Through Brunswick” mural on the former Citizen Newspaper building at 101 W. Potomac St. It features water and fauna as well as city landmarks like the new arch, Beans in the Belfry, the pizza shop, hardware store and print shop. The artist focused on the area’s three key components: river, trail and town. Craigie-Marshall, who was the 2022 National Cherry Blossom Festival’s official artist, has lived in Brunswick for 12 years.

In 2015, in commemoration of Brunswick’s 125th year of incorporation, Brunswick Main Street and the city commissioned artists Jack Pabis and Anthony Owens to create the Brunswick River Mural, a 45- by 10-foot mosaic at 2 Potomac St. The mural, composed of thousands of hammer-cracked floor tiles, celebrates the importance of the Potomac River with a flowing and swirling image of energy. It also depicts Dr. Arlington Grove Horine, the Brunswick mayor from 1906 to 1914, who owned a building on the site, where he operated Horine’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain Shop.


River & Trail Outfitters offers a several opportunities to take advantage of Brunswick’s geography. The company’s Brunswick Family Campground is an 11-acre parcel nestled between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River, a perfect launching pad for tubing, rafting, kayaking, canoeing and fishing on the mellow lower Potomac. It’s also the perfect adventure base cam” for biking on the C&O Canal.

Family-run and operated since 1972, the company offers riverfront camping in cabins or tents and RV sites are also available. A playground, pavilions, bath house, camp store, as well as boat ramp access are also on the grounds.

River & Trail also offers boating tours such as Sunset Kayaking, prime time for seeing great blue herons, egrets, kingfishers and the occasional eagle on the river; or Boat & Brew, 6 miles of kayaking or canoeing and visiting sand and gravel beaches, plus a Smoketown Brewery tour. Water to Wine offers a 6-mile paddle plus a visit to Big Cork Vineyards. For a more low-key experience, choose Peaceful Tubing, with a three-hour mellow float downstream toward Harpers Ferry.

Brunswick was designated the 53rd Appalachian Trail community on June 3, providing easy access to the trail’s southernmost 3 miles; it is also a trail head for hikers and bikers on the C&O Towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage.

Cyclists, hikers and runners love the challenging 5 miles of River’s Edge Trails along the shores of the Potomac, constructed by volunteers and the professional services of Elevated Trail Designs.


Photography by Vaughn Ripley

Quaint restaurants and other small businesses are dotted along the city’s downtown. For food and drink, there’s Beans in the Belfry Meeting Place & Café, 122 W. Potomac St., housed in a restored 1910 church with tall ceilings and stained-glass windows. Their specialties are coffees and teas and all-day breakfast and lunch.

For pub fare and local brews, stop at Smoketown Brewing Station, 223 W. Potomac St., a 1948 fire station transformed into a brewery. King’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant, 215 W. Potomac St., a New York-style pizza and sub shop, is known for its garlic knots. For American and Mediterranean fusion, local beers, wines and cocktails, indoor and patio dining, stop by Potomac Street Grill, 31 E. Potomac St.

Boxcar Burgers & Ice Cream at 12 S. Maple Ave., offers simple food, local ingredients, and Great Falls Ice Cream’s small-batch ice cream.

For convenience, there’s the Corner Store, 102 W. Potomac St., which offers personal care items, snacks, beer and wine. At Smoketown Bait & Tackle, 27 W. Potomac St., fishing supplies, including live, frozen and artificial bait, rods, reels, hooks and sinkers are for sale.

Three Points Cycles, 5 W. Potomac St., can help cyclists with tube changes, tune ups and brand-new bicycles. Vintage goods and finds are available at Ampersand, 230 W. Potomac St., and Antiques N’ Ole Stuff, 25 E. Potomac St.

By Ellyn Wexler

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