8 top family summer vacations in the mountains

Who needs the beach when you have miles upon miles of outdoor recreation and beauty?

Here are some of the top family vacation destinations in West Virginia:

1. Capon Springs and Farm, Capon Springs

It’s like summer camp, but for the whole family.

Capon Springs and Farms is an all-inclusive getaway tucked away in in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. This beautiful mountain resort has 19th-century architecture and a town square layout on more than 4,700 acres.

The farm prepares from-scratch, communal meals with fresh ingredients, and they have daily activities like golf, swimming, badminton and fishing. It’s best kept secret is the spring water, which is known for having healing qualities.

2. Black Bear Resort, Davis

Outdoor recreation is a way of life at Black Bear Resort, which has an outdoor heated pool, fish ponds, a playground, tennis and miles of outdoor trails for hiking and biking. It’s a haven for families seeking adventure and togetherness.

All that sits right in the heart of the state’s most rugged wilderness: overlooking the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and just a few miles south of the sweeping scenery of Dolly Sods, iconic Seneca Rocks formation and the Spruce Knob recreation area, the state’s highest peak.

If you want to get out and explore the wilderness, their top summer picks include everything from playful whitewater paddling to serene train rides through the mountain beauty, and everything in-between.

3. West Virginia Zoo, Kingwood

Lions, tigers, bears, oh my! You can visit all of these majestic animals and more at the West Virginia Zoo, which has herds of exotic creatures. In fact, they have Russian wild boars, pygmy goats and miniature donkeys.

Even better, you can interact with some of the zoo critters. Feed a young giraffe, play with lion cubs and meet baby kangaroos!

4. The Good Zoo, Wheeling

Meet unusual animals and come away with a better understanding of nature. The Good Zoo’s contented creatures— ranging from splotchy African wild dogs to handsome red pandas— will entertain and educate you all at once.

Learn about conservation and fragile ecosystems as you tour the Wonders of the Wetlands, Lorikeet Landing and the Outback Exhibit. It’s hard not to get inspired after meeting surprising rare creatures like poison dart frogs!

5. Opossum Creek Retreat, Lansing

The cabins at Opossum Creek Retreat are minutes from the New River Gorge, so there are 70,000 acres of nature and forest to discover!

Fill your days with endless family adventures, like rafting the world-class whitewater, soaring through the trees on dozens of ziplines, or even perching 800+ feet above them from the catwalk of the New River Gorge Bridge.

Nestled in the woods, these cabins make for a cozy, rural retreat with modern comfort. Venture out to explore nearby trails and the charming arts, wild dining and quirky shops in “America’s Coolest Small Town” of Fayetteville, or stay in and enjoy the simplicity of mountain living!

6. Mothman Museum, Point Pleasant

You don’t usually run across odd attractions like these, so give your tweens a treat. The weirder, the better, right?

The Mothman Museum’s walls are stuffed with eccentric memorabilia about a local monster. Did a red-eyed alien really stalk Point Pleasant? What about those strange glowing lights?

No doubt about it, something unexplained struck the area in 1966. You’ll see creepy models of the monster as well as newspaper clippings and movie mementos from the 2002 Richard Gere film, The Mothman Prophecies.

7. National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Green Bank

Remember when museums used to really encourage kids to be curious about the natural world? The NRAO really sparks your imagination— pun intended.

As you approach the world’s largest steerable radio telescope, you’ll notice that the scientists use ancient diesel cars. That’s because modern gadgets— like spark plugs, wi-fi and doorbells— can confuse the enormous telescope.

Your family will get a kick out of the old-fashioned cafeteria, too. Get thick shakes, hot fries and basic burgers; you’ll want to fill everyone up before hiking around the ‘scope. Or, sit outside and stare out at endless forests while you eat.

Whether you board the bus and tour the telescope or walk the long, flat trail, your family will appreciate this quiet— but eccentric— place in the middle of nowhere. It’s just you, some isolated astronomers and the occasional signpost about outer space.

8. Exhibition Coal Mine, Beckley

Kids will absolutely love taking the man-trip ride into an underground mine, where veteran miners will share fascinating stories about life deep below the earth. Bring a sweater, since this “drift mine” is 58 degrees year round.

Above ground, poke around a coal camp. Exhibition Coal Mine’s recreated town includes genuine, historic buildings, from a coal company house to cramped miner’s shanty.

The kids will also get a kick out of the Youth Museum, which is made out of 4 boxcars. Browse natural and cultural history exhibits like “T-Rex,” “Artist in the Studio” and “Bats.”

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This post was last updated on October 19, 2017