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West Virginia

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Did You Know…?

  • The town of Mountain was formerly named Mole Hill.
  • Mother’s Day was first celebrated in West Virginia (1908).
  • Berkeley Springs, incorporated as Bath in 1776, was America’s first spa town.
  • The Golden Delicious apple originated in West Virginia.
  • When West Virginia was created, its founders intended to call it Kanawha.

From coal to tourism

Mountains, mining and mound builders come to mind when describing West Virginia. Many consider this the most beautiful state in the Union and like the fact that its peaks and river valleys aren’t overrun with tourists.

Coal mining supported the state for many years; the demand is still there and so are the mines. But recreation and tourism are becoming more important, and West Virginia’s terrain makes this a natural for those who like outdoor activities — which can range from golf to whitewater rafting, foliage viewing to rock climbing.

When Virginia decided to secede from the Union in 1861, a number of western counties seized their opportunity to create West Virginia. That spirit of independence and determination still characterizes this destination.

It’s called Mountain State for a reason. Located in the Appalachian Highlands, it is covered with mountain chains in its eastern and central regions, and the rest is steep and rolling hills. There is not much that is level, except for the river valleys where cities are located. The cities are the centers for some heavy industry.

West Virginia may be south of the Mason Dixon Line, but its numerous and steep mountains translate into options for skiing and other winter sports. The state, also heavily forested, is attractive as well for biking, canoeing, climbing, fishing, hiking and other pursuits.

East Coast residents know that White Sulphur Springs has been a high class spa and resort for more than two centuries. Berkeley Springs offers another and even older spa option. Visits to a coalmine or one of the state’s coal houses recall for travelers another side of the state’s history.

Looking farther back, tourists can view Native American burial mounds. A prehistoric indigenous culture occupied the area and left the mounds, some with skeletons and artifacts, for scientists and more casual visitors to study.

Not a lot of people visit, despite the state’s great scenic beauty, but it is worthwhile for any traveler — adventurous or not, spender or budget-minded — to take a look at West Virginian activities and attractions. Skiers come for the snow; most other visitors come in the summer.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Travel the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, almost 500 miles available to those on ATVs, dirt bikes and mountain bikes, as well as hikers and those on horseback.
  • Sign on for a rock climbing expedition up the 1,000-foot face of Seneca Rocks.
  • Attend the annual Bluegrass Festival, held in May in North Bend State Park. Plan to camp out in the park during the event. Or, reserve space in one of the park’s cabins.
  • Bring your motorcycle and attend one of the state’s summertime motorcycle rallies. Or, bring the Jeep to the Jeep Jamboree in Snowshoe and plan to explore the Allegheny Mountains in your vehicle.
  • Take a guided backpacking tour in the Potomac Highlands and the New River area.
  • See a decommissioned coal mine, the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, on a tour led by a former miner. You travel on an authentic man-carrying car through low-ceilinged tunnels for a sobering look at a tough work environment. Also, see the historical coal camp on the grounds for more on the life of coal miners early in the 20th century.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Travel on a historic steam train, formerly used to haul logs, in the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. You can reserve a private caboose for your trip, or rent the caboose for an overnight stay atop Cheat Mountain.
  • Attend the July American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, devoted to new American plays and support of American playwrights, directors and artists.
  • Visit Grave Creek Mound Archaeology Complex at Moundsville for a look at a huge grave mound (900-foot circumference, 69 feet high) built by Native Americans more than 2,000 years ago. See artifacts found there in the adjacent Delf Norona Museum.
  • Take a float trip on the New River to fish for smallmouth bass. Also, more than 180 West Virginia streams are stocked with trout.
  • Plan a self-drive fall foliage tour that includes at least one fall festival and, maybe, a stay in a country cabin or homey inn.
  • Visit Lost World Caverns, Smoke Hole Caverns or a number of other underground sites.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Visit at least one glassmaking factory, then buy samples to take home.
  • Buy quilts, for which West Virginia is well known, at Cabin Creek Quilts in Malden.
  • Attend a production at the Historic Fayette Theatre in Fayetteville and stay at the Historic White Horse B&B in town.
  • Enjoy the benefits of a mineral spa, but in a quaint setting in the Berkeley Springs State Park, the nation’s smallest state park, at 4.5 acres.
  • See a Civil War reenactment at Pipestem State Park.
  • If the timing is right, take a Christmas home tour in Bramwell, a historic town noted for the mansions built by coal barons when Bramwell was a “millionaire coal town.” Numerous other towns — Bluefield, Helvetia, Parkersburg and Shepherdstown among them — boast historic town centers, too. Walk through the one nearest you.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the West Virginia Division of Tourism at www.wvtourism.com