Weekend Getaways in WV

West Virginia is located in the Apalachian Mountains, historic, forested, with waterfalls, canyons, fast rivers and scenic mountain views around every corner. It is the state of small southern towns where history is embraced and celebrated but the life is modern and vibrant. Charming Charleston is the state capital, with beautiful architecture in its historic downtown, snuggled between Kanawha and Elk rivers. Morgantown is the home of the West Virginia University, which colors the life in the city. Princeton was once the hub of the area’s coal mining, but is today called ‘the Jewel of the South.” Harpers Ferry National Historical Park includes a small town of  Harpers Ferry where American history was created in the 19th century. The New River Gorge National River is a breathtakingly beautiful  place where whitewater rafting and rock climbing bring  adventure enthusiasts every year. The iconic  2,180-mile long Appalachian Trail runs through West Virginia and attracts hikers from all over the world.


Charleston is charming southern city snuggled between the Elk and Kanawha rivers, with lively riverside complex perfect for strolling among stately buildings such as Governor’s Mansion, gold-domed State Capitol, the West Virginia State Museum and Theater and so much more. Kids love the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences with its discovery museum and a planetarium. Hands-on interactive Avampato Discovery Museum is another great place for the whole family. Downtown Capitol Market will show you what the local farmers grow and let you taste local goodies. Magic Island, in the middle of the Kanawha River, is a lovely green oasis  to stretch your legs and enjoy the views of the river and  the city. South Charleston Mound is a fascinating piece of ancient history of the region, a burial mound of the Adena culture.


Like in so many lively college towns, the life in Morgantown in West Virginia revolves around its great school -West Virginia University: the renowned art museum, fantastic sculpture garden, Core Arboretum  with ancient forest, wetlands  and fields of wildflowers. You can catch a WVU’s college football game at Milan Puskar Stadium’s Mountaineer Field. On the Monongahela River, the WVU Core Arboretum has old-growth forest and spring wildflowers. The Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum is located on the university’s Evansdale campus, in the former Mineral Resources Building. Outside of the university campus is the 1924 Metropolitan Theatre and Morgantown History Museum. Spark! Imagination and Science Center is kids’ favorite, with interactive displays, which show that science and fun can mix. A 13-mile-long Cheat Lake is a great swimming and boating lake and  has miles of hiking and biking trails around it.


For Collis P. Huntington, the builder and owner of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, an area where  West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky meet was the natural spot to found and build the city. The city of Huntington is today the second-largest city in West Virginia, a lovely college town on the  scenic banks of Ohio River, where students of the Marshall University create the lively vibe and influence the city’s life. The downtown area is full of shops, cafes and restaurants. The town square reminds visitors of the city's railroad history. Pullman Square is the heart of city’s cultural life with year-around festivals and events in the Keith-Albee Theater and the Civic Arena. Camden Park is the kids’ favorite with  all sorts of rides, mini-golf, haunted house and a carousel.


Located at the confluence of the Little Kanawha and Ohio rivers,  Parkersburg is a modern industrial city that became world famous when the B&O completed in 1870 the Parkersburg Bridge, at that time  the world’s longest railroad bridge. The city continued its industrial development in the post-World War II period, and became the Ohio Valley’s major industrial center. You can follow the city’s past at the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, with its lavish mansion, carriage rides and beautiful picnic areas. Julia-Ann Square Historic District showcases city’s affluent era with lovely Victorian architecture. The 1863 Fort Boreman archaeological site includes a Civil War fortification surrounded by a network of scenic hiking trails.


Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on the Ohio River,  Wheeling was originally a small settlement in the British colony of Virginia and later became the first West Virginia state capital.  Learn more about the city past at the 1860 West Virginia Independence Hall. Check the Wheeling Suspension Bridge across the the Ohio River,  the largest suspension bridge in the world when it was finished in 1849.  Fascinating Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum displays a range of model train layouts and classic toys. Schrader Environmental Education Center teaches about the importance of guarding our natural world. Called the “Unofficial LEGO Museum,” Toy and Plastic Brick Museum has much more than just legos. Good Zoo & Benedum Theater combines live animals  and nature programs. Historic Center Wheeling Market is a nice place to grab something to eat, surrounded with all the history.


Located at 2,655 feet above sea level, in the lush East River Mountain, Bluefield is the highest town in West Virginia, earning the nickname  Summit City. The high altitude keeps the Bluefield’s temperature balmy year around and if it gets  over 90 degrees, everyone gets free lemonade from Chamber of Commerce's "Lemonade Lassies.” Settled in the 1780s, the city got its name from the vast blue chicory fields in the area. For a while, Bluefield was a booming railroad hub for the thriving coal industry until its decline in the 1960s.  Downtown Bluefield has lovely architecture dating from its affluent past in the 1920s. Bluefield Area Arts Center, located in the historic Old City Hall, features modest art gallery and studios for local artists on its top floor.  Summit Players  is a local dinner theatre offering four new plays every year. There are several scenic hiking trails leading to the  East River Mountain Overlook, offering a 3,500-foot-high view of the city and East River Mountain.


Martinsburg is located at the tip of the West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle region and is famous as the first American city to have a United States post office, established in 1792. The lovely place to learn more about the city past is the Belle Boyd House, an opulent Greek Revival mansion converted in 1853 into a Civil War museum. City’s Arts center is developing a reputation as the major ARTS education center in the region. Poor House Farm Park is a large park with a lake full of fish, several event pavilions and a historic 1800’s barn. The For the Kids, by George  is children's hands-on museum teaching them about their heritage. Nearby Great North Mountain is a popular local hiking destination with a 50-mile long mountain ridge in the Appalachians.


Princeton is a charming small town in Southern West Virginia often called the "Jewel of the South." It grew as the hub of the area’s coal mining and railroads, shipping coal to the big cities in the north. A witnesses to the city’s affluent past are luxury homes in the city’s historic district  such as Dr. James W. Hale House and Dr. Robert B. McNutt House. Mercer County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Virginian Railway Yard Historic District  and the Mercer Street Historic District are also recognized for their historic importance and registered  at the National Register of Historic Places. The city’s cultural hub is the Chuck Mathena Center, with a 1,000-seat theater. The RiffRaff Arts Collective showcases works of local artists. The Mercer County War Museum is "Dedicated to Those Who Served." Glenwood Recreational Park has a beautiful 55-acre lake where locals love to enjoy paddle boats, golf courses, tennis courts and picnics.

New River Gorge

The New River Gorge National River was established to protect the New River Gorge in southern West Virginia. This protected area is about 53 miles long and it stretches from downstream of Hinton to Hawks Nest State Park close to Ansted. New River Gorge is known for the  best whitewater rafting in the country. It is also one of the East Coast most popular climbing areas, with more than 1,400 rock climbs. The most popular cliffs are made up of a hard Nuttall sandstone and are located below the rim of the gorge. What adds to the popularity of the rock for climbers is an abundance of face routes, crack and occasional roofs. The new visitors center offers fantastic views of the gorge and the bridge over New River. A short hiking trail leads down into the gorge on a narrow wooden boardwalk which has two observation decks.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Located near the city of Harpers Ferry and about 50 miles from Washington D.C., where the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers meet, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park was established in 1963 to protect the area’s historic and natural value.  The park includes the famous historic town of Harpers Ferry, known as the site of John Brown's abolitionist uprising and the center of area’s 19th-century industrial development, as well as the spectacularly beautiful Blue Ridge through which the Potomac river carved the way.  Today the area is very popular tourist attraction and recreation area. The park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Blackwater Falls State Park

Located in the Allegheny Mountains, in West Virginia’s Tucker County, Blackwater Falls State Park was created to protect the magnificent Blackwater Falls, a 62-foot waterfall, famous for its amber color caused by the tannic acid created by the dissolved needles of surrounding  hemlocks and red spruces. The trail that goes down to the falls follows steep wooden steps and has several viewing platforms along the way, offering great viewpoints for photography. At the lowest viewing platform, near the base of the falls, you will feel the mist of the falling water. Other places along the gorge where you can observe the falls are Pendleton Point behind the Blackwater Lodge and Lindy Point Overlook.

Ritter Park

Located in the Southside neighborhood of Huntington, West Virginia and created in 1913, Ritter Park is a green oasis in the heart of the city and the locals’ and visitors’ favorite outdoor recreation space. The park’s many hiking trails run along the cool Four Pole Creek, pass by a lovely rose garden, restroom facilities, shelter with grills and picnic tables, a kids’ playground and an amphitheater that is often used for outdoor concerts and plays. The American Planning Association named the Ritter Park as one of the country’s great public places, greatly for its wonderful integration in the surrounding historic district. The park’s rose garden, which has over 3,500 rose plants, is surrounded by stone walls and provides background for many events, weddings and the annual Rose Show.


Grandview State Park

Grandview State Park is located  in Raleigh County, West Virginia, and is a very popular hiking, picnicking, and sightseeing area. It is the best place to enjoy fantastic views of the New River. One of the best observation spots is the Main Overlook, at 1400 feet above the river. You can also see the entire New River Gorge National River, seven miles of the New River and its surrounding watershed and traces of the area’s  history, such as a railway used to ship first coal out of the town of Quinnimont in 1873. Turkey Spur Overlook is another spot with great views. The park’s shady woodland trails are relaxing and not too demanding and are particularly lovely in the spring when Catawba rhododendrons are in full bloom. The park’s  visitor center offers ranger-led talks and hikes. The park is also a home to Theatre West Virginia, featuring  summer outdoor drama presentations.


Coopers Rock State Forest

Located 13 miles from Morgantown,  a 12,747-acre Coopers Rock State Forest provides a great getaway with over 50 miles  of wonderful hiking trails, spectacular views of the canyon the Cheat River cuts through, many historic sites and fascinating cliffs and boulders.  There are many scenic seasonal picnic and camping spots. A six-acre trout pond is located on the north side of the forest. Near the overlook is  Overlook Trading Post that operates from May to October.  The trails through the forest range from very easy to strenuous and offer not only spectacular views but also opportunities to observe different wildlife such as fox, deer, bats, box turtles and many birds such as wild turkey, raptors, ravens and song birds.

Berkeley Springs State Park

Located in the heart of a small touristy town of Berkeley Springs in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, Berkeley Springs State Park is known for a mineral water spa that has been already popular during colonial times. The warm springs are bubbling up through small sand patches and spilling into a narrow channel and a few large stone pools. The water is constant 74.3 degrees. The park has a Roman bathhouse with full spa services such as massages, baths, showers and saunas.  The kids love playing in the park, catching crayfish and minnows in the springs. There are even small nets for sale to help with the fishing. The park also has an outdoor pool with lifeguards in the summer, a bandstand for summer concerts, an 18th century millstone,  picnic tables, spacious green lawns, and free summer concerts.

Babcock State Park

Babcock State Park is located on 4,127 forested acres surrounding the New River Gorge in Fayette County, West Virginia, about 20 miles from the New River Gorge Bridge. The park is known for its scenic trails surrounded by blooming rhododendron bushes, cool, rock-filled streams, spectacular white-water rafting  and the Glade Creek Grist Mill, a fully operational replica of the historic Cooper’s Mill. The mill is a living monument to over 500 mills that once operated in West Virginia. The park offers 28 cabins and 52 campsites, boat rental facility, sport courts, 19-acre Boley Lake full of fish, horseback riding and many other recreational facilities.

Hawks Nest State Park

Located near Ansted in West Virginia’s Fayette County, about ten miles from the New River Gorge Bridge, Hawks Nest State Park is a popular 270-acre green area known for its fantastic whitewater rafting and scenic overlook that offers breathtaking views of the New River Gorge River far below.  The park has a nature museum, jet boat rides for those who are not into rafting, aerial tramway, numerous hiking trails and challenging whitewater boating waterways. The 31-room lodge has luxurious accommodation, great restaurants and modern meeting facilities. Below the lodge is the Hawks Nest Lake and above the lake the narrow canyon with fast rushing water.

Tu-Endie-Wei State Park

The name Tu-Endie-Wei is a Wyandotte Indians word that means “point between two waters.” Tu-Endie-Wei State Park is established on four-acre piece of land in downtown Point Pleasant, West Virginia, at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers. The park is popular recreation spot for the locals and its most striking feature is the 84-foot high granite monument erected in 1909 that commemorates the frontiersmen who lost their lives in the 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant, the First Battle of the Revolutionary War. Another park’s important structure is the Mansion House,  built in 1796 as a tavern. Today it is a museum of its time.

Kanawha Falls

Kanawha Falls is located on the Kanawha River near the town of Glen Ferris, in Fayette County, West Virginia. The falls is only about 15 feet high, but very wide and broken into distinct sections. The only way to see the falls  close up is from a boat. You can come a bit closer to the western side of the falls, near an old power plant. This impressive falls  has water year round, unlike most others in West Virginia.  There is a small dam above the falls which diverts water to the power plant, so during the dry summers the falls will not be as wide.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian Trail is an iconic  2,180-mile long public trail that crosses the wild, scenic, forested and wooded Appalachian Mountains. The trail was completed in 1937 by private people, and today is managed by many state agencies and 4,000 volunteers. The trail runs through 14 states along the Appalachian Mountain Range. The popular "thru-hiking,” accomplishing the whole trail in one go, usually starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia, ending at the northern terminus at Mount Katahdin in Maine. Most hikers are happy to do day or multi-day trips along smaller portions of the trail. Most of the trail is close to urban ‘civilized’ centers, but some portions, like through northern Maine, run for over 100 miles without crossing a paved road.

Cathedral Falls

Cathedral Falls is one of the most scenic waterfalls in southern West Virginia. It is the result of a 60-foot drop of Cane Branch, a tributary of the New River, from the mountain ledge about a mile from Gauley Bridge. The small river starts its rapid cascade through a narrow canyon, dropping more than 100 feet in a series of small falls over Upper Nuttall sandstone ledges. The last 60 foot drop is the one that is the most dramatic, creating Cathedral Falls. It is easy to see from the Scenic Byway that runs from Charleston going east.

Monongahela National Forest

Located in the Allegheny Mountains in eastern West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest was established in 1920 to protect and manage 921,000 acres of federally owned land. The Monongahela is a multi-use,  ‘working’ forest . It is used for harvesting timber, water and minerals, for grazing and for pure pleasure of enjoying its spectacular beauty. The forest is one of the ecologically most diverse areas in the States, with elevation that ranges about 1,000 feet to 4,863 feet above sea level. There are about 75 tree species in the forest, but most of the trees are a second growth forest. These are the trees that have grown back after all the original, primary forests have been cut down. There are 230 bird species in the forest and large number of wild animals. The forest is a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, canoeing, hunting, trapping, fishing and nature observation.

The Greenbrier River Trail

The Greenbrier River Trail is a 78-mile long state park and a rail trail between Cass and North Caldwell in eastern West Virginia. The former railroad bed is now used for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding. The longest rail trail in West Virginia, the Greenbrier River Trail runs through magnificent area with breathtaking views. It passes through small towns, across 35 bridges,  through two tunnels and through some really remote and rough parts of West Virginia. The Trail is one of 50 American Millennium Legacy Trails and Backpacker Magazine rated it as one of the ten best hiking trails in the country.