Road Trips from Pittsburgh: Northern Panhandle

The Northern Panhandle is one of two panhandles in the state (fun fact: West Virginia is the only state out of the entire 50 states of the country to have two panhandles) and is home to some of the best-preserved historical communities in West Virginia. Rich in history and cultural diversity and known for its bridges – the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is a stunning landmark that was once the largest suspension bridge in the world from 1849 to 1851 – this region captures the perfect mixture of serene rural beauty and an upbeat and bustling city atmosphere.

Day 1 – Wheeling

Located just an hour outside of Pittsburgh, Wheeling (founded in 1769 and known as the “Friendly City”) is a must-visit destination on any trip to this region. By the end of the 19th Century, this city earned itself the title of being the richest city per capita in America through an active industrial economy and a large working population. Wheeling was also once home to the State Capitol between 1863 and 1870 before it was moved to Charleston where it remains today.

If you’re looking to learn all there is to know about West Virginia, the West Virginia Independence Hall is the perfect place to visit. Considered by many to be the birthplace of the state, this National Historic Landmark is a museum dedicated to preserving the rich and exciting history of West Virginia. The grand architecture of the interior portion of the building is authentically preserved to give you the most genuine experience possible, and free tours of the museum are offered daily.

Oglebay Resort is a place that offers fun and relaxation for people of all ages. A 1,700-acre year-round resort, Oglebay features a 270-room lodge, 54 cottages and 4 golf courses – along with specialty shops, ample dining options, a spa, an indoor pool, a fitness center, gardens and museums. For a wide variety of unique eateries, antique shops and salons all within a one block walking area, check out Centre Market.

Overlooking the iconic Wheeling Suspension Bridge and the Ohio River, the Almost Heaven swing at Wheeling Heritage Port is the perfect spot for you to capture your #AlmostHeaven swing selfie!

Didn’t think Oglebay could get any more extravagant? This resort even has its very own zoo! The Good Zoo at Oglebay is home to 50 different species of animals, 20 of which are considered endangered. Take the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the animal kingdom’s most unique species like red pandas, snow leopards, two-toed sloths, bobcats, cheetahs and more.

Grab something to eat in town at Vagabond Kitchen – serving up elevated Appalachian cuisine with Chef Ambassador Matt Welsch at the helm. With menus rotating seasonally, you truly can’t go wrong with any selection at this delicious spot.

Day 2 – Moundsville

Start the day in Moundsville, a rapidly growing city that is rich in heritage a part of the Wheeling metropolitan area. Home to the largest conical burial mound in North America, this city gets its name from 2,000-year-old ancient Adena Indian burial mounds.

While in the area, visit the West Virginia State Penitentiary. With its beautiful gothic-style architecture and hauntingly violent history, this place is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. One of the roughest prisons in the entire country, the penitentiary housed some of America’s most notorious criminals and was known for its frequent riots, murders and electrocutions. The prison offers both day and evening tours and is closed from November 1st to April 1st each year.

Another must-see location is The Palace of Gold. Considered to be “America’s Taj Mahal,” this stunning palace was built between 1973 and 1980 to serve as a place of residence for the leader of the Krishna community, Swami (known as “Srila” to his followers) Prabhupada. Upon his death in 1977, the palace now serves as a shrine dedicated to the life and legacy of Prabhupada and is open to the public for tours.

Be sure to stop by Grand Vue Park, a go-to place for adventurous fun and top-notch lodging. Whether ziplining through the valley, relaxing at the pool or taking a hike along the peaceful trails, this park has something for everyone to enjoy. Other activities include mountain biking, swimming, geocaching, scenic overlook viewing, bird watching, golfing and a playground. As beautiful as it is exciting, Grand Vue Park overlooks the stunning Ohio Valley, making it the perfect getaway for anyone looking for the perfect mixture of aesthetic beauty and outdoor entertainment.

While at the park, grab a bite to eat at Vue Bar and Grill and enjoy a great meal alongside a great view of the beautiful Mountain State. With wraps, salads, steaks, and unique selections that can only be found here, Vue Bar and Grill has something to satisfy every palate.

Day 3 – Weirton

Weirton has history dating back to the 1700s – the days when pioneers first settled in the area. Weirton has a rich steel heritage as the Ohio River made it cheap for industrialists in the area to export steel, which resulted in the Weirton Steel Corporation. Check out the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center – where you can brush up on West Virginia’s lead in the steel industry. You can still spot remnants of Weirton’s early days as you go about your stay here.

Just a 20-minute drive north of Weirton, Tomlinson Run State Park provides a great escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Enjoy nearly 1,400 acres of forested hills with overhanging cliffs of shale and sandstone. About half of the park developed with picnic spots, volleyball courts, basketball courts, miniature golf, cabins and a large campground.

30 minutes North of Weirton in Chester resides the World’s Largest Teapot. The structure is 14 feet in diameter and approximately 14 feet tall. This was originally a giant wooden hogshead barrel for a Hire’s Root Beer advertising campaign, which was shipped to Chester from Pennsylvania. Stop by and check out this one-of-a-kind spectacle, and don’t forget to snag a picture with it!

Known for selling brightly-colored Fiesta Dinnerware, Homer Laughlin China Company is a must-stop for anyone looking to spice up their kitchen. Conveniently located on Pennsylvania Avenue, PRIME of Weirton – Weirton Book Company, has something for everyone as it sells books, Imported and vintage candies, ice cream, chocolate-covered espresso beans and many essentials. SerenDipity Boutique is a neighborhood boutique store that sells timeless women’s designer clothing. Collections are hand-selected by the owner, and the store offers clients personal styling consultations. Wherever you decide to shop, Weirton has many ways to fill your bags.

With much Italian heritage, Weirton has plenty of options for you to get a feel for the town. For dinner, try some Italian cuisine at La Cucina Italian Grill. You can choose from a wide variety of pizzas, pasta dishes, seafood, subs, calzones, strombolis and their famous cannolis.

For a farm twist on traditional bed & breakfast, Barn With Inn is your ticket. The mission of Barn With Inn is to provide a unique farm experience focusing on farm life, animal care and local farm-to-table foods. Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort  is set on 77 acres of wooded hillside along the Ohio River. This resort-style hotel offers a thoroughbred race track, casino, sports bar, three swimming pools and more – making this a lively place to stay. 

Immerse yourself in rich Appalachian culture and history while you explore Almost Heaven’s Northern Panhandle.

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This post was last updated on October 6, 2023