ESCAPE KEYS: Charlotte Hall

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

GETTING THERE: Charlotte Hall is just under an hour from the Beltway; Point Lookout is less than two hours away. From downtown Washington, take Pennsylvania Avenue southeast to Branch Avenue (Route 5), which leads to Point Lookout.

WHERE TO STAY: Options include Bard's Field B&B (15671 Pratt Rd., Ridge, 301-872-5989,, where the two rooms in the 1790s manor house start at $55, including breakfast. Nearby, the Brome Howard Inn (18281 Rosecroft Rd., St. Mary's City, 301-866-0656,; from $125), an 1840 plantation house, has four guest rooms, three with fireplaces.

WHERE TO EAT: Rudy's Cake & Steak at the Charlotte Hall market sells sausages, funnel cakes and chili ($4 a cup). You can't miss the car parked on the roof of Bert's Restaurant & 50's Drive-In (28760 Three Notch Rd., Mechanicsville, 301-884-3837), and you can't go wrong with the cheesesteak ($6.95). El Cerro Grande (22695 Washington St., Leonardtown, 301-997-0808) has a large menu, and it doesn't skimp on the cheese or sour cream (chimichanga plate, $5.99 lunch/$9.50 dinner). For an indulgence, dine at the Brome Howard Inn (see above), where the menu changes daily and most entrees cost $20 to $25.

AMISH COUNTRY: To get a flavor of Amish country, visit the stalls in the Charlotte Hall market by the "Buggy Parking" signs. Or go to any of the shops you see advertised from the side of the road; just be aware that they don't have phones and are open only during daylight hours Monday-Saturday. Henry B. Stauffer's craft shop, at 27990 Point Lookout Rd., sells rag rugs, toys and artwork. Across Point Lookout Road, Zimmerman's Greenhouse has plants, gardening tools and cookies. Near Loveville, Stephanie Horst's shop features quilts, dolls and jams (41365 Friendship Ct.).

For some St. Mary's history, visit the St. Mary's County Welcome Center in Charlotte Hall (37575 Charlotte Hall School Rd., 301-884-7059).

INFO: 800-327-9023, -- C.T.

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