11 Interesting and Beautiful Places to Visit in West Virginia

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Thinking of West Virginia conjures images of coal-dusted hard workers and lonely, mountainous landscapes. These are the images of yesteryear when times were tough but the people were tougher.

West Virginia can sometimes get a bad rap, but as a former resident, I’m here to tell you it is a hidden gem with tons of potential for fun, entertainment and memories to be made.

Waterfalls, ski resorts, grand hotels and outrageously beautiful parks make up a state that is wild, yet graceful in all the right places. West Virginia also has the most eclectic mix of things to do.

Come explore with me as we travel across West Virginia to see what makes this state so beautiful, interesting and worth a visit.

1. Charleston

Not to be confused with its older sister Charleston in the state of South Carolina, Charleston, West Virginia is just as beautiful but in a mountain setting that lures you to leaf peep on an autumn day or waterfall walk in the spring.

My earliest memory is building a snowman one night when it snowed and then helping my dad dig his ’67 VW bus out in the morning after a huge snow and ice storm.

But there is so much to do that requires no manual labor in freezing temperatures in this fun-loving city in West Virginia.

Check out the Capitol Market and stock up on some fresh produce, meats and artisan cheeses. Then, stop by the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences where you can enjoy a planetarium, an art museum, and a science museum. Finish the day at the Mountain State Brewery where you can enjoy a nice slice and a frosty mug of your favorite poison.

Charleston is the perfect introduction to this state that has an eclectic mix of indoor and outdoor fun to be had on your tour of West Virginia.

West Virginia by Jalen Heuser on Unsplash

2. Harpers Ferry

If you take away the astonishing amount of history and tales that the town of Harpers Ferry keeps within her treasured time capsule, then you are still left with one of the most stunningly beautiful towns in America.

Historical homes and museums, check! A gorgeous confluence of two rivers that add to the gorgeous landscape, check! Hiking and biking for those that want to get their heart pumping, check! Of course, then there’s the history! So much interesting history happened in this town that was in the middle of it all during the Civil War.

However, for the modern day traveler, all you have to do is show up, bring your national park pass and your camera and you have a day that will go down as one of the best in the state of West Virginia. History, fitness and beauty. You can’t go wrong with that!

Harper’s Ferry by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

3. Blackwater Falls State Park

I’ll never forget when I saw Blackwater Falls for the first time with my family a couple of years ago. We had hiked down from the parking lot and it was the hottest and most humid day of our trip. I think it hit close to triple digits that day!

Getting to the falls was like a mirage that you had to rub your eyes to believe. Even though it’s an easy 1-mile round trip hike, with the heat it felt like triple that. However, the mist was blown with a thick blanket of air and my skin was quenched about the time the kids stopped complaining. It was a beautiful sight to see.

Along with that lovely hike we were able to snag a wonderful spot at the campground and enjoy the fireflies that night as we attempted to roast marshmallows in the summer heat. My crew will do anything for a marshamallow.

The next day, we went on a drive to check out the scenery which I’m sure is stunning in the fall. Would love to add that to the list of best things to do in fall in West Virginia on a return trip!

Blackwater Falls State Park by Jared Baker on Unsplash

4. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Ghost Tour

Ok, ok, it may be a little, dare I say “crazy”, to put a ghostly mental health facility on a list of best things to do in a state, but I attest that this is definitely one of the best places to visit in the state of West Virginia for fun and horror. Great combo!

For those of you that find the macabre fascinating and wish it were Halloween everyday, this place is for you. Opening at the end of the Civil War, this hospital saw thousands of patients and hundreds die within its walls.

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Ghost Tour will be one of the most unique places you will visit in West Virginia. Paranormal activity has been reported for years in the form of apparition sightings, voices and unexplained sounds. Bring your crew on this ghost tour and have a bit of fun. When you are home in bed, just don’t get scared to turn off the light!

5. Beckley Exhibition and Coal Mine Museum

You can’t tour the state of West Virginia and neglect to visit a coal mine. Coal mining has been the bread and butter for the West Virginian economy for over 200 years. The history is deep and wide and this is one of the most interesting places in West Virginia to learn about mining.

At the Beckley Exhibition and Coal Mine Museum you can ride a rail car to an underground mine and check out how the whole operation works. You can also visit a three bedroom Miner’s cabin that is a replica of where a miner’s family would live. Additionally, there is a one bedroom miner’s shanty that really gives you the sense of how things were in the hey day of coal mining.

If you are traveling you might consider staying at the campground, so you can get the full effect of the museum and take your time. Whatever you do, this is a fascinating part of the American story that must be explored.

6. New River Gorge National Park

Come and take a gander at a marvel of geology when you come to New River Gorge National Park. At around 320 million years old, the New River is among the oldest on the continent of North America and is one of the most beautiful places in West Virginia to slow down and relax.

Or you may be looking for the thrill of a lifetime by taking advantage of white water rafting down this amazing geologic feature and taking on Class V rapids such as “Pillow Rock” and “Sweet Falls”.

If you only have a few minutes, watch the park film at Canyon Rim Visitor Center and walk the boardwalk. The main overlook at Grandview is divine. Take some selfies, have a picnic and just relax your weary traveling bones at one of West Virginia’s best national parks.

Check out our guide on how to spend a day in New River Gorge National Park for more.

New River Gorge State Park by EJ Strat on Unsplash

7. The Greenbriar

If you are just now trying to plan your trip to West Virginia, you may need to plan it around your stay at The Greenbrier and the most gorgeous place to stay in West Virginia.

Set in the astonishing Allegheny Mountains, this 710 room property has been luring visitors to its natural mineral springs since 1778. Yes! They have hot mineral springs for you to enjoy the “Greenbrier Sulphur Soak” and pamper those tired muscles before you trek on.

Activities at the Greenbrier run the gamut from falconry to golf to trying your hand at blackjack at the casino. They’ve thought of everything and you would be remiss if you didn’t spend a little time here on your whirlwind road trip of West Virginia!

The Greenbrier Resort by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

8. Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Do you have train enthusiasts with you on your trip? Then, there is no better way to see the beautiful Allegheny Mountains than a trip on a steam locomotive. My son was thrilled when we took him on this adventure!

This four and a half hour and 22-mile round trip will show you some amazing scenery and take you to the second highest point in West Virginia at Bald Knob. Stare at the view from almost 5,000 ft in elevation at one of the most gorgeous vistas in the state.

After, you can enjoy a scrumptious dinner at the Cass Restaurant and peruse their gift shop and even take in some”Pickin’ on the Porch”, before you leave. This is a great way to spend a half day on your travels and get some sightseeing from a historic mode of transportation.

9. Wheeling

Our stop in Wheeling was a perfect representation of a quaint town in West Virginia. Set at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains it has small town charm but also glitz and glamor.

A combination of green parks, casinos and river vistas make this quite the destination for a crew with differing tastes. Relax by the Ohio River, but then go paddle boating at Wheeling Park. After, you can stroll around Centre Market and shop the day away. Spend the night at Oglebay and get wet the next day at their Fun Splash Zone or hang around at their Aerial Challenge course, a favorite for my crew!

Make Wheeling a stop on your grand tour of West Virginia for a vacation from your vacation at one of the most popular places to visit in West Virginia!

10. Lost World Caverns

Lost World Caverns went from being a turn of the century garbage pit to one of the most fun places to visit in West Virginia. It wasn’t until researchers from Virginia Tech explored this “pit” more that they discovered there was a whole other world waiting to be explored under the ground.

From stalactites and stalagmites to prehistoric bear fossils, there’s a lot to be seen at one of the best places to go in West Virginia. If cave exploration gives you the willies, there’s still something for you!

11. West Virginia Botanic Gardens

If you are like me, you love a destination that is completely free. In combination with free, you get a gorgeous scene outside with nature trails and flowering meadows.

Want a reprieve from your travels? Relax by one of the ponds or take your crew on a hike through the hemlock forest, across streams and river crossings. Meanwhile, you will be traversing through the four season garden that excites and calms. Just what you need after a long week of travels.

More is in store for the gardens as a 15-acre basin is slated to be transformed into two smaller pools with aquatic plant installations that can be enjoyed all year long. Come back and enjoy the garden in another season when you schedule another tour of this great destination in West Virginia.

Did we miss any of your favorite places in West Virginia?

Let us know in the comments so we can add more to our list!

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