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West Virginia’s motto is “wild and wonderful,” and that really does describe a visit to this east coast state. It might not be the most popular tourist destination in America, but it’s an ideal place to check out if you like off-the-beaten-path destinations with a distinct culture and a unique vibe.
This is a rugged state with rolling landscapes that awaken the senses and promise plenty of adventure. Outdoor lovers will find rock climbing, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and hiking opportunities galore, and that’s just the beginning. It’s known as an outdoor capital of the east, but also has plenty of opportunities for relaxation in its spa resorts and restaurants with southern hospitality. Music lovers will thoroughly enjoy the country and bluegrass scenes, and foodies can feast on local favorites like barbecue, biscuits, and fried green tomatoes.
If you’re looking to beat the crowds and experience a uniquely American destination, make sure to add these great places to visit in West Virginia to your bucket list!
Where the Potomac River meets the Shenandoah River lies Harpers Ferry, a historic West Virginia town that is home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Harpers Ferry is one of the few towns that the legendary long-distance trek passes through, and it’s also a haven for mountain biking, canoeing, hiking, zip-lining, rafting, and rock climbing. One of the top attractions is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which has museum exhibits, scenic overlooks, ranger-led guided tours, and over 20 miles of hiking trails. The living history event weekends throughout the year are especially popular. Consider visiting this town in September to check out the West Virginia Mountain Heritage Arts & Craft Festival and camping at one of the nearby campgrounds in your tent or RV.
Charleston is West Virginia’s capital and largest city, so it’s a logical place to start for many travelers. This is a great place to visit for regional sports fans because of its home to a minor league baseball team, minor league basketball team, and an annual 15-mile run. This is a green city that’s easy to get active in, especially in the Kanawha State Forest, Cato Park, and Coonskin Park. Charleston’s history dates back to the Revolutionary War and can attribute its growth to the coal, natural gas, and railroad industries. There are lots of exciting festivals that take place in Charleston, including the West Virginia Dance Festival in April, the Memorial Day Vandalia Gathering, the FestivALL arts and cultural events in June.
West Virginia might not be the first place that comes to mind for skiing and snowboarding, but there’s actually a great resort here for winter sports. Snowshoe Mountain is popular in the summer and fall because of the pleasant weather and outdoor events including concerts. Rather than a town, Snowshoe is an unincorporated community in Pocahontas County in the Allegheny Mountains. The Village at Snowshoe is the most commercialized area, filled with shops and restaurants. The Grand National Cross Country Race is held here in the summer, and the mountain biking trails and golf courses open up as well.
The reason that most people know Morgantown is that it’s home to West Virginia University and its sports teams. One of the best weekend getaways in West Virginia, there are quite a few neighborhoods in town worth checking out as well, including Suncrest, First Ward, and Sunnyside. Besides the University, the area is also known for its outdoor activities, including kayaking, biking, and walking along one of the many walking trails.
As the name suggests, Summersville is a wonderful destination to visit in the summer months. This town has a lovely lake and is a great home base to take day trips from. This Central West Virginia town has a quaint downtown area and is a haven for nature lovers. This is a perfect place to take a boat ride to relax or go whitewater rafting to get your adrenaline pumping. There’s a Potato Festival that’s held each year, and the colorful leaves are a welcome sight for visitors traveling during the autumn.
Conveniently located right off Interstate 64, Lewisburg has lots to do if you like dining out and shopping. This is a quaint small town that’s a favorite among travelers and locals because of the art galleries and diverse range of restaurants. It’s a great place to experience an old-fashioned American Main Street, and some favorite spots here are Food and Friends, the Harmony Ridge Gallery, and the Stardust Café. Take some time here to explore the Civil War sites and sample local wines. For a really unique experience, check out one of the town’s monthly square dances at Carnegie Hall.
There is also lots to see and do in Shepherdstown, including restaurants, shops, bed & breakfasts, and a university with arts and crafts festivals. This is a charming town by the Potomac River that is known for having quirky cafes and a lively event scene. In addition to catching a local performance while in town, you can tour Civil War museums and see reenactments to learn more about the town’s role in American history.
To truly experience what’s so wild and wonderful about West Virginia, you’ll have to get out of the cities and take a drive on the back roads. Near Marlinton, take a drive along the Highland Scenic Highway, which is West Virginia Route 150/39. This area offers beautiful views of the mountains without the crowds of other scenic drives along the east coast. Make a stop at the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center and the Cranberry Glades to learn more about it and get in some light exercise. The towns in this area are very small and rural, and services will be limited. However, the locals are friendly and the restaurants serve authentic home-cooked meals.
A great place to shop for authentic West Virginia souvenirs is the Canaan Valley. Make a point to stop by this area as well as Elkins, which is a small town in Randolph County. This town is home to the Augusta Heritage Festival, the Mountain State Forest Festival, and the Randolph Council International Ramp Cook-off and Festival. Ramp is an herb that grows in this part of West Virginia and a local favorite. Lots of visitors like to start their visit to Elkins with a scenic train ride through the mountains on the New Tygart Flyer.
One of the best things that West Virginia is known for is coal mining. Buckhannon is a coal mining town that’s in the Allegheny Mountain foothills. A visit to Buckhannon feels like stepping back in time. However, it also has a thriving art and antique scene. Check out the works of local artists at the Main Street Gallery and then browse the city’s antique mall for second-hand treasures. To relive your childhood (if you were born in the 80s or earlier), skate a few times around the community’s old-fashioned rink, Skateland.