Lying completely within the Appalachian Mountain Range, West Virginia - “The Mountain State” - is a relatively rural and scenic part of the country with a somewhat tumultuous history. It was established by presidential decree - the only state created this way - as a group of counties that wished to remain part of the Union when Virginia was trying to secede during the Civil War. Its location as a border state during that conflict led it to be the site of one of the flash points of the war. It is sometimes referred to as the northernmost of the Southern states, and the southernmost of the Northern states. Today, it is a quaint, off-the-beaten-path state with authentic, down-to-earth citizens from the cities to the charming mountain towns. The laid back lifestyle is an appealing one and West Virginia is a great place to discover history and head out into nature.
Where to Stay
Where to stay depends on what kind of trip you are looking to have. Bed and breakfasts in the country or apartments in the city are all available to add a more personal touch to your getaway. There are apartments for rent in historical cities like the capital, Charleston. Visit the beautiful capitol building - it has the largest capitol building dome in the nation that is adorned with radiant gold leaf. For a taste of the state’s past and present history as a major coal producing region, head to Beckley, a city with a lovely main street area. It is home to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, a decommissioned mine that today features tours 1,500 feet underground. If that isn’t to your liking, Winterplace Ski Resort is not far away. Those interested in the Civil War will love Harpers Ferry, a small town frozen in time. There are zip lining and river activities to enjoy there as well. In addition to the cities, there are also bed and breakfast rentals and cottages in the more rural areas of the state for those looking for an even more remote destination. Be charmed by the southern hospitality of friendly West Virginians.
- The first major land battle of the Civil War was fought in West Virginia.
- The famous pilot Chuck Yeager is from West Virginia.
- The town of Harpers Ferry changed hands 8 times during the Civil War.
- Don’t forget, whistling underwater is prohibited in West Virginia!
- West Virginia is home to the Western Hemisphere’s longest steel arch bridge (1,700 feet).
Things to See and Do
From its historic sites to its natural beauty, West Virginia is a fun place to explore. Harpers Ferry is well-preserved and visitors can take tours, explore the museums, and hike the surrounding trails of one of the Civil War’s most important spots. Wheeling is a city with a beautiful Victorian city centre and riverfront that is a great place to wander. Jump in the car and take a drive along some of the state’s many scenic routes, which wind up into the mountains past rivers, forests, and quaint towns and even more history. There are 14 sites in West Virginia alone along the Civil War Discovery Trail.The state is also a prime destination for outdoor sports, including fishing, hunting, water skiing, white water rafting, camping, golfing, and many more. Head to the New River and Gauley River for the best rafting around and thrill seekers should try - or just watch - BASE jumping or repelling off the New River Gorge Bridge on Bridge Day in October. If visiting in the winter, there a number of ski areas to enjoy as well. For the non-claustrophobic visitors, head to one of the several open caverns and grottoes and explore what lies under the surface of the Mountain State. A great place to base a trip to the outdoors is Elkin, close to several ski hills, caverns, and mountain bike trails.
As West Virginia lacks a comprehensive statewide bus system, it is much easier, more comfortable, and more convenient to see the state by car. The beautiful Appalachian Mountains offer great scenery and are a pleasure to drive through. It is a slow, careful drive, but you aren’t going to want to rush past the lovely forests, creeks, and mountaintop views. If motorcycles are your thing, the winding roads and ups and downs are perfect.Some of the cities themselves, however, have local bus lines which can in some cases negate the need for a car.