FAMILY EXPLORER: Explore The Great Outdoors in Pipestem, Summers counties

by Jamie Null, Family Explorer

West Virginia is full of nostalgic entertainment, hidden in big cities and small towns. One of those experiences is a day outdoors, followed by a night under the stars in the country sides of Mercer and Summers counties. Pack up the car and plan for a full day of exploring with the family!

Play in the Great Outdoors

If you have the day, spend it outdoors at Pipestem Resort State Park, located on Route 20 near Athens and Princeton. This park, a favorite from childhood, is perfect for families because of the different activities for all ages. Little ones will love the splash pad, but older children will get a thrill on Adventure Lake.

Grab Lunch at the Bluestone Dining Room, then take a ride on the Ariel tramway to the Bluestone Gorge. I remember taking my first trip down the gorge at age 5. I was thrilled and in wonder of the vastness of the trees, flowers and the great blue sky.

Once at bottom, the river is perfect for some one-on-one quality time. Take turns skipping rocks and playing on the playground. Growing up in Mercer County, Pipestem Resort State Park was my neighborhood playground. I have spent countless hours exploring the park – both as a child and a teenager. Now, as a mother, I love sharing my favorite state park with my children.

Watch a Movie Under the Stars

Before the sun starts to set, we love to get ready for a night at the drive-in movies   With only a few remaining in the country, the Pipestem Drive-In is a fun movie experience for the entire family.   Built in 1972, this drive-in, located in Athens, sits on five acres of rolling hills in Pipestem (right off Route 20) and can hold up to 285 vehicles. I love that the drive-in is ran by a local family – The Woodys. They have been showing movies for decades!

The Pipestem Drive-In is open April through October, and the double feature movies starts at dusk every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But don’t wait till dark! To get one of the best spots near the screen, get to the drive-in around 7:30 p.m.  Pay by the carload for $14 on Sundays, or $7 for adults and $4 for children under 11.

Since it’s a double feature, you want to make sure you pack blankets, pillows and lawn chairs.  If you sit near the screen, you can lay out blankets, picnic style. Lawn chairs are welcome too! With most family outings, snacks are life. Drive to Gino’s Pizza for a large pizza to share or pack a cooler with family-friendly snacks. Bring cash for the concession stands too!

Movie popcorn, buttery pretzels, hot dogs and nachos are the gold standards for movie munching nights. The big speakers, near the concession stand, will let you hear the movie. But further back, you might want to pack a battery-operated radio or sit in the car to tune in on your radio. Headphones are good too, especially on a busy night, with a lot of giggles.

I will admit a few yawns here and there. But the late night is worth it for the nostalgic day with my family. Tired and a little sunburnt, there is nothing like listening to the sounds of night, cuddling up under the stars and watching a good movie.

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Jamie Parsell Null is the executive director for the Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Mercer County.  A native of Mercer County, she enjoys running, WVU football, reading, traveling and promoting her hometown and Almost Heaven,  West Virginia. She is married to Evan Null and has two children, Kinely and Tanner. She resides in Princeton, Mercer County.

This post was last updated on March 18, 2022