Last updated on March 26th, 2020
Sure, I could have spent my Groundhog’s Day birthday in Punxsutawny, PA with Phil the Groundhog – but why repeat that scene again? (If you are not groaning at this bad pun, then watch one of my favorite movie classics “Groundhog’s Day”). Instead, experiencing the annual First Saturday Frederick event at the Fire In Ice festival seemed like a much “cooler” activity to check out.
The historic center of Frederick, MD rolls out its red carpet on the first Saturday of every month, with seasonally appropriate events. The biggest and most popular Frederivk First Saturday is the Fire In Ice Festival in February when 25,000-30,000 visitors step out to experience all the free events the city has to offer.
Since the main festivities for the Fire and Ice Festival started later on Saturday afternoon, I took the morning to do some local sightseeing. I started at the Visitors Center which has some wonderful displays about the area and its history, as well as maps and pamphlets. I was surprised at how much there was to discover around Frederick, so for this trip I had to narrow down my explorations to just a few of the closer activities.
The Monacacy Aqueduct
About 20 minutes south of Frederick is the Monacacy Aqueduct. As the name implies, this is a large stone bridge that was built in 1833 across the river to carry water for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. At 516 ft long with its seven imposing arches, the Monicacy is the largest of the eleven aqueducts built along the C&O Canal system. The bridge spans the Monacacy River near its confluence into the Potomac River.
Today, the Monacacy Aqueduct is part of the C&O National Historic Park that stretches 185 miles from Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The canal towpath that was once used to haul goods and coal, is now a resource for recreational activities, including dog sledding. If you are lucky, like I was, and you are visiting after a fresh snowfall, you may find the Chesapeake Siberian Husky Club practicing their dog sled teams along the towpath.
I was quite surprised to find dog sledding in Maryland – I tend to associate that sport with the far northern states that get more snow. I learned however, that the local husky owners pool their dogs to form teams and then use the C&O towpath to train for races in Michigan, upstate New York and Pennsylvania.
The dog sled team that came off a six mile run that morning did not seem particularly tired or any less excited than the team of dogs waiting in the truck for their turn to run. The dogs were all extremely friendly and affectionate, so of course, I had to give each one some attention.
The Frederick Covered Bridge Trail
About 15 minutes north of Frederick is a covered bridge trail where you can discover three extremely picturesque bridges that are listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. To find the covered bridges, pick up a Covered Bridge Trail map at the Frederick Visitors Center. Alternately, put in the name of each bridge into Google maps.
Utica Mills Covered Bridge
The original bridge was built around 1850 over the Monacacy River. When the original was washed away in a storm, this version was rebuilt in 1889 over Fishing Creek instead.
Loy’s Station Covered Bridge
First built in 180 over the Owens creek, the timber frames of this lovely bridge are still from the original construction.
Roddy Road Covered Bridge
Built in 1856, this is the smallest of the three bridges, though no less picturesque as it is adjacent to Roddy Rd. Park.
While the bridges are the ultimate goal of this drive, the pastoral Maryland countryside that you pass as you motor from one bridge to another is equally rewarding.
The Frederick Art Walk
Back in Frederick, I explored the historic downtown district. The restored brick colonial style buildings are filled with cute boutique shops and eateries. You also can’t walk around the downtown area of Frederick and not notice its art. A Frederick Art Walk pamphlet from the Visitor’s Center took me by tromp l’oeil murals where it was hard to tell what was real and what was not, sculptures and other unique pieces of art scattered around town.
The First Saturday Frederick Fire In Ice Festival
For the afternoon and evening, I explored the many activities that were part of the Fire In Ice Festival. The “Ice” was visible throughout the downtown area and along the Carroll Creek Park in the form of over 100 different unique ice sculptures. There were ice carving demos, an ice bar offering local brews and an ice throne for those “cool”selfies. As the sun set, individual lights gave the ice sculptures a whole different look.
The heart of the festival was clearly along the Carroll Creek park. Along with the many lit up ice sculptures, the creek was also lit by a flotilla of lighted boats that were launched for the winter solstice celebration in November, and brighten up the town all winter long.
The “Fire” portion of the festival was experienced through the many s’more stations throughout town. And as if on cue, mother nature put on a show with an appropriately hot colored sunset.
The evening was capped off with a fire dance performance by the group Pyrophoric at the Carroll Creek Amphitheater. The troupe, which is from the Frederick area, combines music, dance and various flaming props to entertain and get the crowd “hot” with excitement.
For Frederick’s First Saturday Events calendar please visit https://downtownfrederick.org/upcoming-events/first-saturday/
Where to Stay for the Frederick Fire In Ice Festival
TownePlace Suites by Marriott offered a Fire In Ice Festival package which included shuttle service to downtown Frederick, along with its spacious suites and breakfast.
Where to Eat in Frederick
I was amazed at the number of dining options and the variety that was available in Frederick. I will have to go back just to try more of them. For the Fire in Ice Festival, I recommend making lunch and dinner reservations. The festival gets over 25,000 visitors, so you’ll have to be lucky to find a walk in table at the many downtown restaurants and breweries.
Mayta’s Peruvian Cuisine
This little restaurant is in a strip mall across the street from the TownPlace Suites where I stayed. Since I had never eaten Peruvian food, I gave it a try the evening I arrived in Frederick, and was not disappointed. A couple of appetizers and desert were a great introduction.
The Wine Kitchen on the Creek
This restaurant is located in the heart of the Fire In Ice festivities on Carroll Creek. I was very lucky to get a walk in table in the bar area for both lunch and dinner. The advantage of eating at the same place twice is that you can try more than one of the items on the menu. This is an advantage when there are a few things that sound really good and you have a hard time deciding. I loved the mushroom strudel at lunch and the pork belly at dinner.
For breakfast, I couldn’t resit this local donut shop that is also a diner. Sure, crispy french toast and a side of donut was not the healthiest choice, but oh so good.
Tips for Visiting the Frederick First Saturday Fire In Ice Festival
- Make lunch and dinner reservations ahead of time if you want to eat at a specific spot.
- Check out the Frederick Fire In Ice website for information on free shuttles and discounted parking.
- If you want to park in one of the garages downtown, get there early in the day.
- Stake out a spot along Carroll Creek at least 30 minutes before the fire show. If you want a seat by the stage area, then you’ll need to get there early.
The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
On my way back to Pennsylvania, I stopped at one more sight about 30 minutes north of Frederick, in Emmitsburg, MD. Elizabeth Seton was the first American to be canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, and the shrine and basilica here is dedicated to her memory and the charitable works she did throughout her life. The exhibits describe the path her life took that eventually led to her becoming a saint, while the Basilica offers regular catholic services.
Even though I only live about 2.5 hours away, this was my first visit to Frederick and the Fire In Ice Festival was a really fun way to get introduced to this wonderful historic and scenic area. I will definitely plan to go back for other events.
For other interesting things to do in and around Frederick, MD check out the Visit Frederick website.
Please note that my weekend in Frederick for the Fire In Ice Festival was hosted by Visit Frederick. All content is my own.
Thanks for visiting.