I grew up in a military family, so I spent my childhood all over the world, moving from one place to another every few years. My only constant was family, but I loved having opportunities to meet new people and try new things. After I grew up, got married and had children of my own, my husband, Rob, and I realized we wanted our kids to experience other cultures through travel, just like I did.
Because our kids are still young—Ivy is 6, and Liam is 8—we prefer the freedom of road trips to flying. The U.S. has so much diversity in landscape and heritage, so my bucket list is to explore every state as a family before Liam goes off to college. We’d already checked off 11 states, and with a free weekend on the horizon, we decided to make it a dozen.
As we drove past emerald hills and quaint towns on our way to Martinsburg, West Virginia, I felt giddy to experience a new place with my family.
We passed through the heart of downtown Martinsburg on the way to our hotel, and I admired the charming brick buildings and intriguing local shops. This place felt like a hidden gem we were meant to discover, and I really wanted to dive into the downtown scene. But the kids were antsy to get outdoors and start the fun, so we dropped off our bags and headed to the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area to kick off our trip.
We’d read that Sleepy Creek offers miles of scenic hiking, mountain biking, geocaching, fishing and boating. We all agreed on hiking, so we hit the trail and explored the park by foot. Oaks and pines lined the way as we traversed over rocks and caught glimpses of the calm Sleepy Creek Lake between the trees. I breathed in the fresh air and took a moment to cherish this time with my family.
After our hike, we headed to JayDee’s Fun for an afternoon of entertainment. I thought this would be more fun for the kids than for Rob and me, but my inner kid came out at the water park as I zoomed through the winding yellow waterslide.
We took a break from the water park to refuel at the snack bar, and then took the kids to check out the Nature Zone. Liam loved the solar system exhibit and couldn’t take his eyes off of the rotating globe demonstrating the seasons. And Ivy wouldn’t let us leave before panning for “gold” at the gemstone mining station. She kept her shiny prize safe in her pocket for the rest of the trip.
The next morning, refreshed and ready for another adventure, we decided to look for more hidden gems in Martinsburg—except these were really hidden. We’d heard that Berkeley County has the most “favorite points” on the geocaching app of any county in the country, so we knew we had to spend some time searching for caches. We started at the Northbound West Virginia Welcome Center and enjoyed combing the grounds and following the coordinates on the app. The landscaping around the welcome center was lovely, with trees, picnic benches and flowers. Liam found the cache before anyone else and raised the small canister into the air in triumph. We signed the cache log, leaving our mark in Berkeley County.
I’d spotted the Wonderment Puppet Theatre in downtown Martinsburg the day before on our way to the hotel and had told Rob we couldn’t leave town without taking Ivy. After making our way back from the welcome center, I took her to the theatre to watch one of their shows, put on in a colorful Victorian house. She was distracted before we even got inside the building because she thought it looked just like her dollhouse at home.
Ivy crunched on animal crackers during the show, totally enthralled with the performing puppets on the stage. In addition to animal crackers, the theatre also gives attendees a balloon after the show. Ivy gripped it tightly as we made our way over to the nearby Belle Boyd House, where another geocache waited to be found. I read the plaque outside of the house aloud, and we found out that Belle Boyd was a Civil War spy who had lived here as a child. Ivy was curious about what it would be like to be a spy, and she even practiced by being as sneaky and quiet as possible as we searched for the cache. Instead of cheering when we found the small treasure, as we had done earlier in the day, she held it in her palm and did a silent dance in celebration.
While Ivy and I were at the puppet show, Rob and Liam had been at Orr’s Farm Market checking out the fresh produce and the geocaches on the property.
“Dad and I already found one, Mom!” Liam told me excitedly after Ivy and I had joined them at the market. “But we saved the other one so we could look for it together.”
I again pulled up the geocaching app, ready to hunt for our last cache of the trip as a family. As we searched for another gem hidden in Martinsburg, I couldn’t help but feel like this whole town is a hidden gem. Stunning scenery, unique history and a healthy dose of fun activities for all ages—Martinsburg had everything our family needed for a fabulous road trip. We’d checked off another state on our family’s bucket list, but I had a feeling we’ll want to check off West Virginia again and again.
Experience real adventure with your family on a trip to Martinsburg.