History lives on in this attractive town, set with steep cobblestoned streets, and framed by the Shenandoah Mountains and the confluence of the rushing Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. The lower town functions as an open-air museum, with more than a dozen buildings that you can explore to get a taste of 19th-century, small-town life. Exhibits narrate the town's role at the forefront of westward expansion, American industry and, most famously, the slavery debate – in 1859 old John Brown tried to spark a slave uprising here and was hanged for his efforts; the incident rubbed friction between North and South into the fires of Civil War.
The upper town is dotted with cafes and B&Bs. Harpers Ferry sits beside the Appalachian Trail across the Potomac from the C&O Canal bike path, so there are lots of outdoorsy types filling the coffee houses and hostels. The town is touristy for sure, but it has a fun and energetic vibe.