5 off-the-beaten path, kitschy mountain stops in WV
Here in West Virginia— a state that certainly has its share of quirky festivals, stores and characters— we’ve got plenty of kitsch for fun-spirited irony connoisseurs. Here are the kitschiest of the kitsch in the Mountain State. Pull out your road maps. You won’t want to miss these spots!
1. The Unger Giants, Unger
Also known as the “Farnham Colossi,” this collection of fiberglass statues belongs to George and Pam Farnham. The place overlooks the small Eastern Panhandle town of Unger. These behemoths are most definitely kitsch at its finest.
The Farnhams have searched across the nation for additions to their statue garden— there’s a 25-foot Midas Muffler Man, smiling from beneath his crown; a man-woman pair of swimming-suit clad beach bums that look straight out of a 1960s Frankie and Annette surf movie; Santa Claus, a shopper, and more. You have to see it to believe it!
2. Hillbilly Hotdogs, Lesage
This West Virginia institution has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1999, when owners Sonny and Sharie Knight started a hotdog stand in a 12×16-foot shack in the Ohio River town of Lesage. They’ve expanded into a couple of converted school buses, cluttered with decor like goofy misspelled signs and old country toys. They have been featured on national TV shows such as Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.”
Their hotdogs are unforgettable, especially their signature “homewrecker”— a 15-inch hotdog piled with cheese, jalapeno peppers and more. But this place goes beyond food. If you finish a homewrecker in less than 12 minutes, you’ll get a free t-shirt. If you are considering eloping, you can skip Vegas and head straight to Hillbilly Hotdog’s special wedding chapel.
3. World’s Biggest Teapot, Chester
“World’s largest” attractions have been a staple for kitsch-seeking roadtrips for years now. In addition to having the western hemisphere’s longest single-span (and non-kitschy) bridge, West Virginia also has the largest teapot in Chester, far in the Northern Panhandle.
>Unfortunately for tea aficionados, this teapot does not dispense hundreds of gallons of Earl Grey to passersby It actually began as a giant Hire’s Rootbeer barrel in the late 1930s before being converted into a teapot/concession stand by a pottery shop. By the early 1990s, the teapot had fallen into disrepair, and the city of Chester opted to restore it. Today, it is a beloved landmark for the city.
4. Mystery Hole, Ansted
Along the narrow, winding Midland Trail road, as it descends from Ansted into the New River Gorge is a small, ramshackle building covered with oddities (like a car sticking out of its interior, or a giant gorilla overhead) and signs advertising itself as “The Mystery Hole.” The vagueness is intriguing, promising mind-blowing “gravity tours,” but not much more than that.
Before I entered the Mystery Hole, I asked friends what was exactly in it, and all of them simply said, “I can’t tell you. You need to see the mystery for yourself!” Needless to say, I am not going to reveal what exactly is in the Mystery Hole, either.
What I can say is that, as its website states, the Mystery Hole promises potentially mystical, mind-blowing experiences, buttressed by personal testimonies from visitors. If you want to know more, stop in and book a tour immediately.
5. Cool Springs Park, Rowlesburg
Tucked back into the windy mountain roads of Rowlesburg, in northern West Virginia, you’ll find one of the most unique roadside tourist shops in the nation. The Cool Springs Park is an indoor/outdoor combination of petting zoo, curio shop and old-time railroad museum. The store embraces its kitschy, campy vibe, even posting signs that say “tetanus shot” on some of their outdoor farm tools. Stop in, pet an irate goose, buy a fake Indian tomahawk and grab a hotdog at their restaurant.
What kitschy stops have you discovered in West Virginia?
This post was last updated on April 19, 2019