16 Things to Do in West Virginia

By Janet Benoir – December 21, 2023

West Virginia, often serenaded as “Almost Heaven,” captivates with its spectacular Appalachian landscape. The allure of its rolling hills and lush forests has even resonated through the lyrics of John Denver’s legendary song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” an endearing anthem to the state’s natural beauty. This noble landscape promises adventure and discovery. It is aptly named ‘The Mountain State’, for it is a place of majestic peaks.

Adventure thrives in the heart of the Appalachians, with West Virginia delivering a myriad choice of amazing experiences. Navigate the currents of whitewater rafting, traverse trails by ATV, or soar through canopies on a zip line.

For those drawn to vertical pursuits, the state offers stunning rock climbing and rappelling challenges. The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve stands proudly as the nation’s most recent addition to the tapestry of national parks, further cementing West Virginia’s status as an adventurers’ paradise.

New River Gorge Bridge

When you venture to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, a standout activity is the Bridge Walk. Here, you traverse a catwalk under the towering New River Gorge Bridge. Perched 876 feet above the river’s surface, it is an absolute ‘Wow’ sight. Crossing it is an unforgettable experience.

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Aside from the glorious walk, if you’re up for more thrill, consider marking your calendar for Bridge Day. Held every October, it’s the largest single-day festival in West Virginia. Attendees witness thrill-seekers BASE jumping from this architectural marvel. It’s a place that seamlessly marries adventure with natural beauty.

Mothman Museum

In the small town of Point Pleasant, there’s a unique museum dedicated to the Mothman, a mysterious creature first reported by two individuals working at a cemetery in nearby Clendenin in 1966. These initial reports of a winged entity with glowing red eyes were soon followed by numerous sightings. Public interest in the Mothman surged, particularly after the tragic Silver Bridge collapse in 1967, which took 46 lives and was subsequently connected to the legend by some locals.

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This folklore not only piqued the interest of movie-makers – spawning the film “The Mothman Prophecies” – but also led to the establishment of the Mothman Museum, where visitors can immerse themselves in the captivating history of this local legend.

Blackwater Falls State Park

Blackwater Falls State Park boasts the iconic Blackwater Falls. This is beauty spot whose falls are a 57-foot natural wonder. Located in Tucker County, your journey to this state park isn’t complete without witnessing the cascading waters. It’s a photographers paradise.

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The park caters to a range of outdoor activities, ensuring there’s truly something for everyone. Biking, fishing, and discovering hidden treasures through geocaching are all fantastic options. Come winter, embrace the thrill of sliding down the East Coast’s longest sledding magic carpet.

From rustic tent sites to comfortable lodge accommodations, the park offers a brilliant range of year-wide accommodation too.

The Greenbrier Resort

Nestled in the gorgeous Appalachian Mountains, The Greenbrier stands as a testament to American history and elegance. Once a sanctuary for recovering soldiers, this grand resort, established in 1778, has evolved into a luxurious retreat known as “America’s Resort.” From prominent Southerners to distinguished guests, celebrities, presidents, and even royalty, its guest list is like few others.

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Leisure or adventure needs are all catered to brilliantly, with a great selection of activities for all ages. Perfect your swing on picturesque golf courses, unwind with a spa treatment, or make the most of the snowy season at Snowshoe Mountain, with first-rate skiing and snowboarding. Dining options are excellent too, and there’s also a great casino and boutique shopping.

Harpers Ferry

At the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers lies a true gem of American history: Harpers Ferry. This area isn’t just a charming relic from the 19th century; it serves as a pivotal Civil War landmark, sheltering battlefield sites and wartime encampments. Among these is the famed John Brown’s Fort, a testament to the abolitionist John Brown who in 1859 led the Harpers Ferry Raid aiming to incite a liberation movement among enslaved individuals.

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Your experience in Harpers Ferry extends far beyond its historic past. This area acts as the halfway point along the renowned Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which spans an incredible 2,100 miles, and which attracts hikers from across the world. Here you can embrace unforgettable outdoor adventure by exploring The Point, where you can witness the mighty Potomac and Shenandoah converging.

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Initially a bustling hub for loggers, this area’s rich history is epitomized by the superb Cass Scenic Railroad. Here you embark on a voyage aboard a classic steam-powered locomotive maintained by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad. En route to Bald Knob, West Virginia’s third loftiest peak, the train snakes through the Appalachians and gives you a matchless and unforgettable excursion through breath-taking panoramas.

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For a shorter adventure, the journey to Whittaker Station, a former hive of logging activity, is also beautiful. The autumn season is particularly captivating, as the foliage transforms into a globally renowned vibrant tapestry of colour. This wonderful park also offers a museum, theater, restaurant, and shops with unique local goods.

Monongahela National Forest

Your journey to the Monongahela National Preserve opens up a sprawling expanse of West Virginia’s finest wilderness which covers over 900,000 acres across diverse elevations. The Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area within these bounds presents the lofty Spruce Knob, the state’s supreme point. Nearby, the Dolly Sods Wilderness is revered for its Bear Rocks trail, offering magnificent vistas across the state’s landscape.

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Interest in outdoor excursions is effortlessly fulfilled here with a wealth of recreational trails for hiking and biking, alongside routes for scenic drives. Take a pause for a waterside picnic, or embrace aquatic activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing. Equestrian trails await riders, and for those seeking an extended stay options range from rustic tent sites to cozy cabins. In winter, the preserve is a fantastic place for snow-sports, including snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

West Virginia State Museum

The West Virginia State Museum, nestled in the heart of Charleston, invites you to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and rich history of West Virginia. Your journey through the museum’s exhibits will introduce you to a terrific array of artifacts that anchor the state’s past to the present, such as the iconic leather chaps once worn by Billy the Kid and the historical telescope used by George Washington during his survey of the region.

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The museum is not only a haven for historical treasures but also offers outstanding interactive experiences. It’s a brilliant way to learn about the state and its stories and people, and, even better, it is all absolutely free!

Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine

Nestled in West Virginia, the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine offers a rich journey back to a nation-defining bygone era of coal mining, spanning its family-operated beginnings in 1890 through to its closure in the mid-20th century. Your experience is enhanced by excellent guided tours led by miners, navigating through historic tunnels in the same “man trip” cars used in the past. It’s a true one-off place, where you connect with a vital part of West Virginia’s history.

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Venture above ground to the preserved Coal Camp, and you’ll find original structures such as the Pemberton Coal Camp Church and the Helen Coal Camp School. Enhancing your historical adventure is the adjacent Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia, complete with a superb planetarium and a late 19th-century homestead replica.

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

Established in late 2020, this expansive park sprawls over 70,000 acres, serving as a hub for outdoor activities. You can navigate the twists and turns of the New River, which stretches a vast 53 miles through the park. It’s a perfect place for those eager to experience whitewater rafting thrills.

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Beyond the challenging rapids, the park invites you to explore its gorgeous landscapes along scenic drives, diverse trails for hiking and biking, or cliff faces perfect for climbing. Anglers and nature lovers can immerse themselves in beautifully tranquil fishing spots, while free ranger-led programs offer enriching experiences for all ages, including a junior ranger track for younger explorers.

Adventures on the Gorge

For adrenaline enthusiasts, whitewater rafting here has to be a highlight! It offers tailored outings to suit various experience levels, and whether you opt for a swift half-day challenge or immerse yourself in a multi-day voyage, the guides will ensure a memorable ride on the whitewater waves.

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As well as offering thrills on the Gauley River, the resort also enables other exhilarating activities, including a high-flying zip line, a MoonTrek by night, a vivid foray through the treetops, and rappelling down sheer rock faces.

Lost World Caverns

Venture beneath the Earth’s surface to witness the sublime grandeur of Lost World Caverns, a must-visit destination nestled deep within West Virginia. Navigating through these astonishing caverns, you’ll gaze upon towering stalagmites, some reaching heights of nearly 80 feet. Engage in self-guided tours, which typically last around 45 minutes, fit for every member of your family.

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Situated at 907 Lost World Road in Lewisburg, the caves offer a profound experience, complete with a great museum and souvenir store. Bear in mind, pathways may be slick, so wear robust footwear and bring a light jacket for warmth, so that you enjoy this exceptional place to the max.

Berkeley Springs State Park

Berkeley Springs State Park is justly renowned for its restorative properties. The park provides an array of luxurious spa services in its bathhouses, from revitalizing mineral baths to tension-relieving massages. These springs boast a storied past, as they were revered by Native Americans for their curative benefits before becoming a magnet for European settlers in 1730.

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The springs captured the attention of George Washington who, after recognizing their remedial virtues, frequented the area, cementing its status as a top-tier wellness retreat. Today, visitors continue to commend the location for both its historical and recreational appeal, with the historic Berkeley Springs Castle, available for private gatherings, visible in the picturesque backdrop.

Twin Falls Resort State Park

Your outdoor adventure awaits at Twin Falls Resort. Immerse yourself in the expanse of nature with over 25 miles of trails for hiking and biking, allowing you to experience the sheer beauty of the park’s signature waterfalls. If you’re looking to relax on the water, the tranquility of excellent fishing, or the active enjoyment of canoeing and kayaking, are at your fingertips.

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Accommodations align with your preference for the great outdoors, offering spaces for both tent and RV camping. A step back in time is possible here too, with the reconstructed pioneer homestead offering moving insights into frontier living through its operational farm and gardens.

Chester Teapot

During your travels across West Virginia, take a moment to visit a notable landmark: the Chester Teapot. Standing at an impressive height of 12 feet and spanning 44 feet in width, this unusual attraction was originally a giant barrel for Hires Root Beer. It found new life as a refreshment kiosk accompanying a mini-golf course in Pennsylvania. In 1938, William “Babe” Devon relocated it to Chester, West Virginia, and transformed it with the addition of a spout, lid, and handle.

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The transformation served a dual purpose: not just a roadside marvel, but also a celebration of the local pottery trade. The teapot dispensed souvenirs through its service window, including teapots, as a nod to the area’s pottery heritage. Although it ceased operations around 1980, Chester City Council revived it in 1990. The teapot now resides proudly where U.S. Route 30 meets State Route 2, a charming silent witness to the region’s history and industry.

West Virginia Penitentiary

At 818 Jefferson Ave. in Moundsville, WV, stands the formidable structure that was once the West Virginia Penitentiary. Active for over a century, this penitentiary witnessed a many disturbances, from violent uprisings to executions, including hangings witnessed by the public. Decommissioned in 1995, this institution now opens its iron gates to curious visitors, offering a dark glimpse into its grim past through the eyes of former correctional officers.

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Touring this historic institution blends eeriness and enlightenment. Thrill-seekers can participate in a public ghost hunt or delve into private paranormal investigations, due to claims that spirits of past inmates linger on.