How many of these 45 authentic WV experiences have you had?
West Virginia has never been one to follow the trends— I mean, we exist because we created our own state during the Civil War. There’s a deep-rooted tradition of kitschy, weird and wonderful in West Virginia.
How many of these uniquely West Virginia experiences have you had?
1. Defy gravity at the Mystery Hole
See the unbelievable at this mysterious mountain stop, guarded by a larger than life gorilla and decorated with a slew of the biggest tires you’ve probably ever seen.
2. Sleep in an abandoned lunatic asylum
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was a sanctuary for the mentally ill in the 1800s; now it’s a fantastic place for ghost hunters to spend an entire night provoking the spirits.
3. Communicate with aliens
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank operates the world’s premier astronomical telescope. They dedicate their lives to discovering what else is out there.
4. Visit ‘America’s Quietest Place’
Speaking of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, it blankets the surrounding area in a technological quiet zone. The telescope’s closest neighbors are 147 people living without cell phones, WiFi, and in some extreme cases, even microwaves.
5. Tour a mine
Hitch a ride underground in a man car at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, where you’ll get a rare glimpse into one of the area’s most iconic industries.
6. Climb the rungs of the via ferrata
Gain unforgettable views of the Appalachian Mountains hundreds of feet high on Nelson Rocks, the second iron-rung via ferrata in the nation. Europeans have been using this climbing method for decades, but there are still only 3 on the East Coast of the U.S.
7. Walk across a 900-foot canyon on a 24” catwalk
Spend more than 2 hours traversing the catwalk under the ridiculously high New River Gorge Bridge. Peer over your toes at the raging (but now seemingly tiny) river more than 850 feet below you!
8. Jump off a bridge
On Bridge Day, hundreds of daredevils legally jump (with parachutes, of course) from the New River Gorge Bridge and land alongside the New River, the second oldest river in the world!
9. Conquer a 15” super sized hotdog
At HillBilly Hot Dogs in Lesage, dine in school buses decked out in thousands of yard sale treasures. Try the Homewrecker, a giant hotdog with jalapenos, peppers, onions, nacho cheese, habanero, chili sauce, mustard, slaw, lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese all atop a 1-pound weenie. Eat it in less than 12 minutes, and you’ll get a shirt to prove it!
10. Scuba dive at the “Little Bahamas of the East.”
Explore an underwater playground at Summersville Lake, often referred to as the cleanest and clearest lake east of the Mississippi.
11. Unwind in a salt cave
Visit a salt cave built into a hillside in rolling White Sulphur Springs. Relax amidst 16,000 pounds of real Himalayan salt.
12. Ride vintage rides at Camden Park
Hop aboard the haunted house, one of only a handful like it still in existence today, or hitch a ride on their antique ferris wheel, one of the park’s first rides in 1903.
13. Spend the night in the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower
Cuddle up in the sky on this renovated fire tower. The 53-foot steel tower with a 12×12 live-in wooden cab and catwalk is one-of-a-kind in West Virginia.
14. Visit the ghost town of Thurmond
In its heyday, there was more coal pumping through Thurmond than Cincinnati and Richmond combined. As of the 2010 census, Thurmond’s population is 5.
15. Tour an underground bunker
Under The Greenbrier lies a super-sized bunker built for all 535 members of Congress during the Eisenhower era. The bunker was stocked for 30 years but never actually used as an emergency location. Its existence was not public knowledge until 1992, when The Washington Post revealed it.
16. Take on the best hiking trail in America
Recently, USA Today readers voted the Endless Wall trail the “Best National Park Hike.” Grab extraordinary views of the expansive New River Gorge area from this trail.
17. Sleep in a yurt at Spruce Knob
Spruce Knob boasts some of the darkest night skies in the East. Curl up in one of their rentable, wooden yurts and take it all in from the built-in skylight.
18. Grab a bottle of moonshine— legally
West Virginians are keeping the long mountain tradition of moonshine alive, legally. Try a variety of flavors from Appalachian Distillery in Ripley.
19. Scare winter away in a tiny Swiss mountain village
Every year, Helvetia hosts Faschnact, where out-of-towners pack into town (population 59) to party with giant handmade masks on.
20. Sit in a monster chair
If you’re driving through Braxton County on I-79, take the Flatwoods exit and plop down in a 10-foot high replica of the Braxton County Monster. It’s a great photo op and helps keep the quirky folklore alive.
21. Meet the Mothman
Every September, the town of Point Pleasant celebrates its most infamous resident, a human-bird hybrid with glowing red eyes.
22. Ride the longest zipline on the East Coast
Zip above the treeline on Gravity’s “AdrenaLine.” You’ll hit speeds of 60 MPH and fly for 3,030 feet!
23. Pickin’ at the Vandalia Gathering
The annual Vandalia Gathering brings together the finest traditional Appalachian musicians for a weekend of great picking. The gorgeous setting of the Capitol grounds is just a bonus!
24. Sleep in a penitentiary
You might not even get a few good winks in the West Virginia Penitentiary, which opened in 1876 and is now abandoned. You’ll get a 90-minute guided tour, but then you’re free to roam the halls alone.
25. Examine real mummies… in a bathroom
Visit an amatuer scientist’s claim to fame: 2 bodies he successfully mummified with his homemade embalming potion. They’re now stashed in the bathroom of the Barbour County Historical Museum, where you can get a glimpse for $1.
26. Party with the Hatfields and McCoys
In June 2003, about 100 years after the notorious Hatfield and McCoy feud, descendants of the 2 families gathered in Pikeville, Kentucky, to sign a truce. They still have a 3-day party every year in both Matewan and Williamson.
27. Chow down at a ramp feed
Since 1937, Richwood has indulged in the Appalachian delicacy of ramps at their Feast of the Ramson. Ramps have been such an integral part of the town’s history that one year, former newsman Jim Comstock infused the ink used to print the Richwood News Leader with the smell of ramps
28.October Sky festival
Each year, the original Rocket Boys (made popular by Homer Hickam’s memoir Rocket Boys and later, the movie “October Sky”) return home for the Rocket Boys Festival.
29. Spend the night in a caboose
The Castaway Caboose in Durbin hooks refurbished cabooses to the Durbin Rocket, and pulls you and your crew to a remote site along the Greenbrier River. Once there, the conductor unhooks you and heads for the hills. Don’t worry— your ride will be back the next morning.
30. Traverse rugged terrain on this train
Cheat Mountain is known as one of the most rugged, remote regions in Appalachia. Many view this area as impassable— but not the Cheat Mountain Salamander. This 9-hour ride transports guests through areas that few have seen.
31. Grab a hand-mixed soda at the Corner Shop
The Corner Shop is an old-fashioned soda fountain in Bramwell, which had the highest number of millionaires per capita in the entire United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In Bramwell’s heyday, the shop, formerly known as Bryant Pharmacy, was one of only 3 stores in the nation that sold Chanel No. 5 perfume.
32. Toast to Davis with a Stumptown Ale
Stumptown Ales is a tiny brewery in Davis, pumping out deliciously hoppy artisan brews.
33. Eat a pepperoni roll at the original bakery
Dig into a West Virginia snack staple at the bakery where they were invented. Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro, an Italian immigrant coal miner, whipped up the specialty when he was looking for a convenient lunch to take underground. The pepperoni roll became so popular that he and started a bakery in 1927.
34. Do stunts in a WWII-era training plane
Team up with a pilot at Wild Blue Adventure Company and board a Stearman Biplane or 1941 Piper Cub for a classic sightseeing tour or a heart-pounding aerobatic thrill ride— the choice is yours.
35. Check out an unusual castle in the hills
In the late 1800s, a wealthy businessman built the 20-room Berkeley Castle for his young lover. The castle is now a private residence and no longer open for tours, though it is available for weddings and other events.
36. Eat at the original Pies and Pints
With locations now in 3 states, this little West Virginia pizzeria has gained a lot of popularity with their weird toppings. like black bean and grape. Visit their Fayetteville location, where the popular joint got its start.
37. Attend a WVU game
Football is a lifestyle for WVU fans. Their games are packed with dedicated followers who aren’t afraid to get rowdy. Take a picture with the mountaineer while you’re there!
38. Wake up with a “Thundering Herd” biscuit
If you haven’t already, you’ve got to try one of West Virginia’s most beloved breakfast secrets: Tudor’s Biscuit World.
39. Watch glass in the making
Blenko Glass Company has been family owned and operated since 1893. You can stop in and watch the blowers turn hot goo into beautiful works of art before your eyes.
40. Check out a house made entirely of coal
The Coal House in Williamson weighs 65 tons and has 2-foot thick walls. It’s coal inside and out, from top to bottom.
41. Watch NPR live!
Charleston’s Mountain Stage hosts an eclectic mix of live musicians. Audience members get to see a 2-hour NPR radio show performed in front of them.
42. Meet French Creek Freddie
The West Virginia Wildlife Center is home to the state’s official weather-predicting groundhog. Each Groundhog Day, a staff member awakens him out of hibernation to forecast the season’s fate.
43. Tour the colorful Fiestaware factory
Newell is home to our favorite brightly colored plates, cups and bowls. You can get a look at how this beautiful dinnerware comes to life at The Homer Laughlin China Company Factory.
44. Attend the world’s largest water tasting competition
Every February for the past 25 years, professional water drinkers have descended upon Berkeley Springs to judge municipal, bottled, sparkling and purified water at the Berkeley Springs Water Festival.
45. Pig out on roadkill— kind of
Thousands of foodies visit the small Pocahontas County town of Marlinton for the RoadKill Cook-off, ready to try squirrel gravy, teriyaki-marinated bear or deer sausage.
How many of these uniquely WV experiences have you had?
This post was last updated on June 22, 2018