I can’t hear the words “West Virginia” without thinking of the song by the late and great John Denver that calls the state “almost heaven.” I have seen the beauty of West Virginia first hand from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Shenandoah River as the song mentions.
There are various mountain ranges in the state which makes hiking one of the major attractions and there are also many bodies of water if water sports are more your type of enjoyment. Other sports include excellent skiing and white water rafting, canoeing, and much more to do in “The Mountain State.”
Other nicknames for West Virginia include “Switzerland of America” also because of the great number of mountain ranges (although other states have been called this as well), and “The Panhandle State” because of the physical dimensions of the borders. Personally I always thought that on a map, it looked like a tulip.
You will need to do your homework if you will be visiting West Virginia and match up the available activities with things you will enjoy. For starters, here are a few possible things to add to your agenda.
1. Hiking the trails and other mountain adventures on one of the many mountain ranges in the state. Begin with the Allegheny Mountains if you are having trouble with a starting point. But that doesn’t mean you should overlook the others. If you don’t have a camera along with you, I suspect you will be buying one there soon enough.
2. Visit some of the places of historical interest in the state. West Virginia just became a state during the Civil War era when it was formerly a part of Virginia. If the Civil War isn’t your topic of interest, this was also an area where pioneer stories are plentiful. One historical site from the Civil War era is Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Spend some time where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac and where a famous attack on slavery happened with John Brown at the helm. Check out John Brown’s fort and the museum in this area. Visit Virginius Island.
3. Spend some time in the state’s capital city of Charleston. You will be able to find museums, fabulous eateries, and many activities to keep you and your family (if you are not traveling alone) very busy while spending some time in the capital. If you enjoy museum hopping, don’t forget to check out the planetarium at the Avampato Discovery Museum. It is found in the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences.
4. No matter where you will be staying in the state, try to catch part of Route 60. It actually runs nearly 200 miles in length and if you have a camera or at least a memory that will never forget majestic views, it will be worth your time. You will see panoramic views and river gorges as well as many other beautiful sights. This stretch of road is called the “Midland Trail National Scenic Byway.” If you want to do more in this area than just driving through it, you will be able to find activities such as biking, hiking, river rafting, and even climbing.
5. Did you know that there is a castle in the United States? Or that there is a castle in the United States *and* reported to be haunted? It is found in West Virginia and its name is Berkeley Castle. The structure was built in 1885 and was actually purchased by a ghost chasing society.
6. While you are in the Berkeley area perhaps trying to catch a glimpse of the castle, you may want to stop by the Berkely Springs State Park to take advantage of the mineral springs or plan an afternoon at one of the spas in the area. There are many unique treatments that you can choose there, so be sure to do enough research before your trip so you can select the best spa match for your needs.
7. Check out the fabulous skiing. If you don’t already participate in the sport, this may be a great place for you to learn.
8. See the Grand Creek Mound Historical Site. As the name suggests, this is an ancient burial ground for the Native American “mound builders.” The mound is nearly 70 feet in height.
Those are just a few of the things you will find to do if you are vacationing in West Virginia. Research the available activities that match with your family’s interests and it will be a memorable trip.