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Hour Town

Food is big in Frederick; there are far more restaurants in the historic district than it seems a small city could support. But at dinner, most are bustling, and some are packed -- like the Tasting Room, a wine bar and restaurant that specializes in seafood.

The Tasting Room stands out as sleek and modern in a town that tends toward the flowery. The small bar area and first-come, first-{grv}served window seats tend to be taken by a crowd younger and hipper than the downtown day visitors. The name makes the place sound like a wine bar first, restaurant second, but the food doesn't taste secondary. Creamy lobster chowder and a salad of sliced ripe tomato, onion and goat cheese were devoured as soon as the waitress set them down.

Downtown Frederick is the kind of good-strolling district where you can spend all day doing not much at all. Right, the view from Baker Park. (Courtesy Of Tourism Council Of Frederick County)

Hey, nothing works up an appetite like a long day of doing very little.

Escape Keys

GETTING THERE: Downtown Frederick is about 48 miles from the Beltway. Take I- 270 north to Frederick, then the Patrick Street exit and follow signs to the historic district.

BEING THERE: Just about all of the businesses in downtown Frederick stay open late (most until 9 p.m.) on the first Saturday of every month for the monthly gallery stroll; many offer free food and wine. Most of the shops are concentrated within five blocks of Patrick and Market streets.

Emporium Antiques (112 E. Patrick St., 301-662-7099, www.emporiumantiques.com), with more than 100 antique vendors under one roof, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except Sundays, when it opens (like most shops in town) at noon. The Maryland Ensemble Theatre (33 W. Patrick St., 301-694-4744, www.marylandensemble.org) is staging "Psycho Beach Party" every weekend in May. The Weinberg Center for the Arts (20 W. Patrick St., 310-228-2828, www.weinbergcenter.org) plays classic films and hosts live music acts. Frederick also hosts events throughout the summer, including the Frederick Festival of the Arts (June 5-6), a Fourth of July celebration, and free Sunday concerts in a city park bandstand.

STAYING THERE: Right across the street from one of the city's main attractions, Emporium Antiques, is McCleery's Flat (121 E. Patrick St., 301-620-2433, www.mccleerysflat.com), a beautiful rowhouse bed-and-breakfast built in 1876 and restored within the last decade. Rooms start at $90 and go up to $140 for the largest suite. Guests have full run of the house and yard. Also downtown are Hill House Bed and Breakfast (12 W. Third St., 301-682-4111; $105-$150) and Tyler Spite Inn (112 W. Church St., 301-831-4455, www.tylerspitehouse.com; $125-$250).

EATING THERE: There are scads of restaurants in the historic district, and several of the best tend to fill up on weekends. Reservations are recommended for the Tasting Room (101 N. Market St.; $17-$32 for entrees), an upscale wine bar and restaurant that somehow manages to have ripe tomatoes in early May. Brewer's Alley (124 N. Market St.; $10-$20 for entrees) doesn't take reservations but is big enough to accommodate the crowds that flock there for microbrews and hot crab dip. Also recommended by locals: the California cuisine at Acacia (129 N. Market St.; $17-$25 for entrees) and tapas from Isabella's (44 N. Market St.; $4-$8 per small plate). All four restaurants (and many more) are on Market Street between Patrick and Second streets.

INFO: Tourism Council of Frederick County, 800 999-3613, www.fredericktourism.org.

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