Off the beaten path in WV’s liveliest cities
West Virginia’s metro areas are full of opportunities to absorb what makes the Mountain State unique.
Here are a few you might not know about:
Sunday nights with Mountain Stage, a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, have been a Charleston staple for more than 30 years. Featuring music legends and budding artists alike, Mountain Stage showcases a diverse range of music— indie rock, country, alternative and folk (among others).
Each 2-hour episode is recorded with a live audience, and it’s featured on more than 150 stations around the world. November and December performances include Jonathan Edwards, Session Americana, Josh Ritter, and Noah Gundersen.
Just south of the state’s bustling capital city, you’ll find the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. Designed to accommodate ATVs, dirt bikes and UTVs, this off-road trail system spans more than 500 miles— one of the longest in the country. 6 different trail systems provide varied rides for every level.
You don’t need a guide, but you will need a permit. Guided tours and rental equipment are available if you don’t want to go it alone. If one day isn’t enough, book a stay at one of the area campgrounds, cabins, hotels and bed and breakfasts, and make a weekend of it.
Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine
For a deeper look at the industry that shaped our state, stop by the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, Youth Museum and Mountain Homestead. It’s easy to get to— just 10 minutes off the interstate.
Stroll through period coal camp buildings and the restored Coal Company House. Veteran miners will guide you through the vintage mine. Along the cold, dark passages, they share personal accounts of their life and work. Make sure you bring a jacket. It’s a little cooler down there.
An above ground tour reveals life in the late 19th century. Visit the barn, blacksmith shop, general store and 1-room schoolhouse. Their annual Appalachian Coal Town Christmas features caroling, roasted marshmallows, wagon rides, and holiday craft-making.
A local favorite since the early 1940s, King Tut Drive-In serves up some seriously good diner food. With its 1950s vibe and curb service, you might feel like you’re in Back to the Future. Burgers and fries are always a good choice, and the milkshakes here are on point. Oh, and don’t leave without a piece of homemade pie. 2 words: coconut cream.
Henderson Hall Plantation
Poised above the Ohio River, the Henderson Hall Plantation was built by House of Burgesses member Alexander Henderson (completed in 1859). His sons, Alexander and John, were vital players in exposing Aaron Burr’s treasonous plans.
The beautifully restored 29-room Victorian mansion teems with rare antiques and furnishings, like handmade linens, a letter written by Robert E. Lee to Elizabeth Henderson, and documents signed by Patrick Henry. History buffs can explore the home and tool around the surrounding grounds and family cemetery that comprise the Henderson Hall Historic District, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Don’t miss the Adena Indian Mounds. These 3 pre-historic mounds are believed to be about 2,000 years old.
Few things make a place more appealing than a good ghost story, and historic Blennerhassett Hotel doesn’t disappoint. It’s believed to be haunted by the hotel’s builder, William Chancellor; a few precocious children; and a sobbing woman. Guided ghost tours of the town also begin at the Blennerhassett. You’ll learn all about the Banshee of Marrtown, the Mothman and other area paranormal legends.
The hotel is pet-friendly, and its on-site restaurant, Spats, is a real treat. The walls are dressed with cozy wood paneling and 20s-era paintings. The atmosphere is only rivaled by the menu, which features Smoked Salmon Wontons, Fried Falafel Sandwiches and Grilled Ribeye with a Gorgonzola Béarnaise Sauce.
Authentic Italian Pizza
The Pizza Place– locals claim it’s the only real Italian Pizza Place in West Virginia. We can’t say for sure if that’s true. But we can say you’ll find some phenomenal NY-style pizza here. The dough is made fresh daily, and there’s a good variety of pies to choose from– even vegan and gluten-free options. You can also find hearty pastas, subs and freshly made salads.
Whether you’re 3 or 93, you can definitely sate your inner child in Wheeling.
Marx Toy Museum celebrates the legacy of Louis Marx, wildly successful American toy manufacturer from 1919 to 1978. One of Marx’s factories was situated in Glen Dale, about a mile from the museum.
Dubbed the “Henry Ford of the Toy Industry,” Marx brought us Rock’em Sock’em Robots and the Big Wheel. You’ll find those and thousands of other metal toys, dollhouses, trains and Marx-brand toys.
In addition, guests learn the steps of toy production and meet former factory workers who share their stories through video clips.
And More Toys!
You’ll also find a few Marx toys in The Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum. It’s located in an old-school building and provides a great selection of vintage toys for us 40-plus crowd, and modern day interactive toys for younger visitors. Their detailed train layouts in the Train Room are quite impressive, including just about every scale you can imagine.
The Doll Room features loads of unique dollhouses, various versions of Barbie through the years, and her fashion doll contemporaries from other companies and countries.
To share their appreciation for life “back then,” Mike and Henriella Perry created the Heritage Farm Museum and Village. Each log building gives visitors a peek into Appalachian history. The Transportation Museum follows the transformation of transportation from covered wagons to an electric truck. Doll lovers will appreciate the Bowes Doll and Carriage Museum, with an impressive selection of dolls and accessories. The Heritage Museum shows us life in Appalachia from early traders to today’s professionals.
Old-time Soda Shoppe
The Griffith and Feil Drug and Soda Fountain is a fun way to wax nostalgia over a glass of homemade phosphates. The pharmacy’s working jukebox is a patron favorite, and the original 1929 soda fountain fixtures are quite lovely. Also, the back bar, mirrors, tile and marble counter are all from the original 1892 store.
You can get your prescriptions filled while you have lunch– the pharmacy is still open and run by super nice folks. The homemade vanilla Coke is spot on. Other popular menu items include the fried bologna sandwich and the Monte Cristo. And if you leave without ordering a milkshake, I’m really sad for you.
So Many Pumpkins!
The Pumpkin House showcases more than 3,000 hand-carved pumpkins each Halloween season. Thousands of people from all over the country visit each year.
Take in the View
Just east of Morgantown spans Coopers Rock State Forest. Its namesake was a local fugitive who successfully eluded the law for many years. He was a cooper by trade, and continued to craft barrels and sell them locally while he maintained his hideout. The various overlooks provide sweeping vistas of the Cheat River Gorge and surrounding areas.
Borders and cliffs along the trails challenge hikers of all levels. Catch a few trout in the 6-acre pond at Glade Run, or meander through the varied creeks within the valleys. Fall displays around here are quite splendid, but make sure you come back in June when the mountain laurel and rhododendron bloom.
Ruby & Ketchy’s has been a local gem since 1958. Its rustic ambience with counter service, booths and tables make an ideal spot to get your 3 squares a day. Diner favorites include everything from a heaping plate of biscuits and gravy and cheese burgers to homemade coconut pies and rich milkshakes. You’ll be planning your return visit before you leave from your first one.
Which West Virginia cities have you explored?
This post was last updated on October 19, 2017