5 ways WV will throw you for a loop

West Virginia has great moonshine, bluegrass, and yes, plenty of great “country roads.” But there’s so much more to this state than  this.

Here are some things about the state that might just throw you for a loop…and keep you here:

1. The small-city (and small town) nightlife is as vibrant as any big metro center.

Our cities may be relatively small, but they sure pack in the excitement. Charleston has a vibrant nightlife and live music scene for visitors and locals alike. It’s the home of the weekly Mountain Stage show, which you can hear nationwide on NPR. The historic and quirky East End has eateries like the Empty Glass and Bluegrass Kitchen, which often feature live music. Drop in for dinner and tunes after enjoying  one of the monthly Art Walks which take place from March to December.

There’s plenty of music and art beyond the capital city, too. On the New River Gorge outside Fayetteville, rafters’ favorites like The Burrito Bar at Breeze Hill, Chetty’s Pub, and Rendezvous Lodge feature live bluegrass and rock throughout the summer and fall. For more intimate music, check out the bi-monthly “Poetry, Prose, and Plainsong” open mics at Cathedral Cafe and Secret Sandwich Society, alternately.

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2. The fine dining options range from upscale Appalachian to international fare.

Whether you are in the mood for soul food, farm-to-table, vegetarian, sushi, or anything else, West Virginia has it. And, we have some of the nation’s most acclaimed chefs right here in our backyard. In fact, you can uncover several full-on foodie towns all across the state, each with its own lineup of interesting fare.

Perhaps West Virginia’s finest dining experiences are found in quaint country inns. Just minutes from nearby Snowshoe Resort, the Elk River Inn nails rural gourmet. Try their calamari ceviche appetizer or various trout entrees. At the Bavarian Inn’s estate, head to the Greystone Mansion for upscale blend of German and American cuisine, or lounge in the pool as you dine on hors d’oeuvres and frozen cocktails.

3. Our history goes way beyond the Civil War and coal heritage.

Think of West Virginia history, and what usually springs to mind is the conflicted North/South loyalties of the Civil War, and our miners extracting black coal from the mountains. These are both major shapers of our history. But our story goes deeper than that… much deeper.

Appalachia was the original frontier of America, as settlers pushed from the Virginia piedmont into more rugged territory. Indian captive Mary Draper Ingles, made famous in the book “Follow the River,” made her way from Ohio all the way back to the Carolinas by following the New River south through the region.

We’ve got our share of famous innovators and pioneers, too— John Henry, Booker T. Washington, Chuck Yeager and even Brad Paisley! We have epic tales of love, triumph and tragedy, even tales of treason. Come see if you can follow our wild, winding history.

Keith Albee, WV

4.You can find renowned performances in jaw-droppingly unique theaters.

From university dramas to Off-Broadway tours to community troupes in historic venues, West Virginians love theater and performance. Major venues like the West Virginia Public Theater in Morgantown near West Virginia University and the Clay Center in Charleston bring major musicians, musicals and operas to the stage. Wheeling’s Capitol Theater has showcased innovative country stars since the days of Hank Williams, Sr. Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg is one of only 4 of these renowned theaters in the world.

Small-town theaters throughout the state not only host local drama productions, but often screen classics or independent films. Shepherdstown hosts the annual American Conservation Film Festival of international independent movies. A more quirky show is the annual Video Boater’s Challenge in the Historic Fayette Theater, which shows the best rafting footage at the end of each season!

5. There are places in West Virginia where you won’t even feel like you’re in America anymore.

Plenty of people from around the world have decided to call this place home, and they’ve brought their own homelands with them. The micro-town of Helvetia is a displaced Swiss-German village, tucked into the West Virginia countryside. Its Bavarian architecture houses an authentic restaurant, B&B and a mask museum, with pieces from their annual Old Man Winter burning festival, Fasnacht.

Another locale re-rooted from across the globe is far less unassuming: the stunning Indian-style New Vrindaban Palace of Gold. Named one of the country’s religious wonders by CNN, this awe-inspiring palace is a marvel in itself, but it also sits among a vast, serene landscape with a boathouse, temple, lotus pond, peacock house, rose garden and more.

In Fairmont, Italian miners rushed in during the coal boom, and brought their flavor with them. Usually, the Italian traditions are centered in family homes and authentic restaurants that have been there half a century or more. But once a year, the Italian heritage spills into the streets in honor of the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes.

There’s plenty more of the unexpected waiting to be discovered in West Virginia. Where will you go first?

See for yourself >

This post was last updated on March 14, 2022