The historic Great Falls Tavern was not always the visitor center for the section around Lock 20 of the C & O Canal. It opened it's door in 1831, serving as a stopover where people traveling along the canal could find food and a room.
In one room of the old Tavern, which now serves as the Great Falls Park Visitor's Center, there is a video of the history of the Canal, and of the section around Great Falls. There is one very old sepia photo of a bunch of people standing along the side of the tavern, most looking like they'd had one too many. The original proprietor of the Inn, a Mr. W.W. Fenlon, was pretty famous for his hospitality, organizing dances, fishing parties - not too close the Falls, we hope, especially with all the imbibing that went on.
Today, the Park is booze free. It's literally a federal offense to open a bottle of wine with your picnic. And the old inn is now a bookstore with lots of material on the history of the canal, and you can pick up lots of free information and maps.
This is a section of the canal where you can still get a ride on a reproduction barge pulled by two mules, and run by volunteers in period costumes.
This section of the park is opened daily between 9:00 AM and 4:30 PM.
To get there, you can hope your bicycle and ride along the tow path, or you can do what we did and drive north along Canal Road to where it merges with MacArthur Boulevard, then go about another 3.5 miles to the park entrance.