The Getaway
20 Essential Experiences in West Virginia

West Virginia may have faced its share of challenges in recent years, but there's so much more to this enchanting Mountain State. By visiting, you're supporting local communities and discovering a breathtaking natural wonderland that captures the hearts of adventurers. West Virginia's allure lies in its vibrant fall foliage, inviting nature enthusiasts to indulge in the delightful art of leaf peeping. Beyond the mesmerizing hues of autumn, you'll uncover soothing warm springs, the unique alpine landscapes of Dolly Sods Wilderness, mouthwatering pepperoni rolls, awe-inspiring engineering marvels, and even luxurious accommodations hiding secret bunkers. Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty and charm of West Virginia, where unforgettable experiences await at every turn.

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01 Visit West Virginia's State Capitol

Aerial view of the West Virginia State Capitol which is the seat of government for the U.S. state of West Virginia, and houses the West Virginia Legislature and the office of the governer

When in doubt, start at the seat of government, where you'll usually find first-class architecture and admirable art collections. West Virginia's State Capitol is no different from its ilk in other states. Designed by Cass Gilbert, the same man who conjured up Arkansas and Minnesota's state capitols and the Supreme Court building in D.C., this building took eight years to complete and was dedicated in 1932. Two-thirds of the interior is marble.

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02 Ski at Snowshoe Mountain Resort

The ski resort at Snowshoe, WV after a fresh snow.

Cost-effective ski trip, anyone? Snow Shoe Mountain Resort has trails to suit beginners, the more advanced, and night skiing to boot. The resort isn't reserved for idyllic winter holidays either. You can stay here throughout the year to enjoy mountain biking, horse riding, climbing, canoeing, golf, and more. An onsite Starbucks keeps tongues sweet and hands toasty.

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03 Grab a bite at Capitol Market

Charleston's Capitol Market is an indoor-outdoor spread of eateries and shops in a former freight station. The food runs the gamut from salt of the earth to gourmand-worthy, and you can start your day with a solid cup of Joe. Book lovers can stroll a few blocks toward Taylor Books, where the shelves are decked with eclectic choices and bestsellers.

04 Keep your wits about you at Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Weston State Hospital, also called the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, the largest cut-stone building in the United States Malachi Jacobs / Shutterstock.com

Like the hair-raising prison attractions that pop straight out of an American Horror Story plot line, asylums can be pretty frightening. Something about madness and its associations with the paranormal makes mental institutions and psychiatric hospitals simmer with uneasiness. Perhaps you'll sense it at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, a place that was once packed with 2,400 patients. Learn about the architecture and history on a guided tour.

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05 Chase waterfalls at Blackwater Falls State Park

View of Blackwater Falls, at Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia.

Tucked in the Allegheny Mountains, Blackwater Falls State Park makes for a refreshing weekend away. Take in the stunning views from the boardwalk, go sledding with the fam down the slide that runs next to the lodge, and head for one of the many waterfalls, including the star attraction, Blackwater Falls. The Lindy Point view of the canyon is something else. Cozy cabins greet you at the end of the day.

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06 Envision the ancient past at Grave Creek Burial Mounds

Moundsville, West Virginia, just outside of Wheeling, is home to the Grave Creek Mound. This historic burial mound was built by the Arena people sometime before Christ.

The Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville is one of the largest of its kind in the country. This historical site has tremendous value—archaeologists date its contents and excavated ornaments to 250 BCE. The Adena people would have had to transplant 60,000 tons of earth to create the burial mound over a century. Double up with a visit to the West Virginia Penitentiary across the street.

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07 Cross the bridge at New River Gorge National River

The New River Gorge Bridge, seen from Fayette Station Road, at the New River Gorge National River, West Virginia.

Although it's the highlight, there's more to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in the Appalachians than the third-highest bridge in the U.S. You can go tubing and white water rafting in the rapids below, climb the sandstone cliffs, hunt, and camp. Watch base jumpers launch themselves off the bridge on Bridge Day. The African American Heritage Auto Tour is also worth a visit while you're in the area.

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08 Rise like Seneca Rocks in Monongahela National Forest

View from Seneca Rocks, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia.

Seneca Rocks is one of the Mountain State's most iconic natural features. You can hike starting at the Discovery Center, climb with various skill levels, and do some catch-and-release fishing. The landmark lies in Monongahela National Forest, which stretches for 921,000 acres. Look for bald eagles soaring above the North Fork River.

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09 Don't lock up at West Virginia Penitentiary

West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville.

Between April and November, this former prison, with its imposing Gothic aesthetic, welcomes visitors for creepy tours. This 19th-century penitentiary closed its doors to the incarcerated in 1995, but during its 120-year history, it witnessed 100 executions and a series of upheavals, including a prison break. In 2018, the prison and its surrounding town were featured on the Travel Channel's paranormal series, Most Terrifying Places in America. Go for the Halloween haunted house and the Dungeon of Horrors.

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10 Soak up Berkeley Springs

Berkeley Springs Baths in West Virginia. Alejandro Guzmani / Shutterstock.com

Just an hour and a half away from Washington and Baltimore, the mineral spa in Berkeley Springs State Park has long been favored for its therapeutic properties. George Washington was a fan, as were the Native Americans who ventured here from great distances up north. Saunas and massages complete the hot spring experience.

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11 Spill the tea at The Greenbrier

Greenbrier Resort, White Sulphur Springs, WV

This 5-star hotel, set among 11,000 acres of grounds in White Sulphur Springs, has been around since the 18th century. It calls itself America's resort, and when you consider that 28 presidents have rested their esteemed heads on its pillows, it's hard to argue with the moniker. Below the surface, you'll find a huge declassified bunker intended as a shelter for Congress during the Cold War. It was built at the same time as the West Virginia wing and remained stocked until the 1990s.

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12 Clap your hands at the Purple Fiddle

What's the nightlife like in the upper reaches of Monongahela National Forest? It turns out it's not bad at all. The Purple Fiddle in Thomas is a music hall where you'll find yummy sandwiches and live shows every night. The genre-spanning acoustic performances cover rock and roll, reggae, and funk.

13 Ask the crucial questions at Mothman Museum and Festival

Mothman museum and statue Harry Steele / Shutterstock.com

An unusual red-eyed, winged figure donning black and accompanied by inexplicable lights in the sky—these were the reports in 1966, and they were intriguing, to say the least. What were the locals looking at? They dubbed the Batman-like creature Mothman and built a statue, museum, and September festival in Point Pleasant to memorialize the moment.

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14 Travel back in time to Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

The Shay engine and cars of the Cass Scenic Railroad in the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. The Old Major / Shutterstock.com

The heritage railway was built at the turn of the 20th century to haul lumber—today, it lugs visitors over an 11-mile route in the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. Your steam train adventure lasts just over four hours, offers remarkable views at Bald Knob, and culminates at Whittaker Station. Expect a smoky, noisy experience, a distinct nip in the air, and no cell signal. It doesn't sound fun, but it is.

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15 Find culture at Huntington Museum of Art & Ritter Park

The Huntington Museum of Art houses a tropical conservatory, a coral reef aquarium, sculpture gardens, nature trails, an auditorium, and various exhibition spaces. Artifacts from far-flung locales pepper the impressive permanent collections. Below the museum, Ritter Park is a historic district with a nationally-acclaimed rose garden.

16 Snap pics at Mystery Hole

Sure, the Mystery Hole is a whole lot of kitsch, but the exhibits here do seem to resist the laws of gravity. Kids will love this roadside attraction, and you can make a little detour here if you're at Hawks Nest State Park or Cathedral Falls. Don't do the tour if you have vertigo.

17 Go deep at Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine

Without coal and its miners, America may have never become the world power it is today. During the 20th century, southern West Virginia was at the heart of coal production. Today, industry veterans take tourists below ground for a better sense of what it took to acquire black gold. A passenger tram known as a man car will whisk you to where you need to go.

18 Explore the Cranberry Glades Boardwalk Trail

Pine tree canopy in Allegheny mountains Monongahela national forest Cranberry Glades Wilderness, West Virginia with path along wooden boardwalk hiking trail in autumn

An hour from Lewisburg, the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, AKA the Glades, is not what you'd anticipate seeing in the Mountain State. The peat bogs here are a far cry from the peaks these parts are known for, but they're beautiful, peaceful, and far from the madding crowd. The boardwalk is half a mile long.

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19 Learn a little-known chapter of history at the John Brown Wax Museum

The John Brown Wax Museum in Harper's Ferry recounts an 1859 raid with 87 life-size wax figures. Learn about the life of this military abolitionist who needed arms to free enslaved people. Brown and 20 accomplices crossed the Potomac to accomplish their mission. Did it fail? You'll have to find out. The museum is a little kooky, but the music, animations, and voiceovers will certainly leave an impression.

20 Take sides in Hatfield and McCoy Country

Appraise the situation and pick your poison. That's the only way to visit Hatfield and McCoy country. These two feuding families fought over land, pigs, love, and murders. The museums in Matewan and Williamson detail the bad blood, and a driving tour map will take you to key sites for the ultimate immersion in the saga.

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