With a history older than the country itself and a lush, rich Appalachian landscape, what’s not to love about West Virginia? While it’s often overlooked for its neighbors, like Kentucky and Maryland, the state offers a plethora of opportunities for fun and adventure. Follow this West Virginia travel guide to get the most out of your next Appalachia bus trip.
Founded back in 1788, Charleston, WV, isn’t your typical state capital. Only home to around 50,000 residents, the community offers the ideal blend of big city convenience and small-town charm. From live music to historic landmarks, it’s the perfect spot for a West Virginia introduction.
An excellent place to start your exploration is the West Virginia State Capitol Complex on the Kanawha River. The site is home to some of the most famous and historic buildings in the area. Take in the marble columns at the Capitol Gold Dome, get a look behind the scenes at the Governor’s Mansion, and dive into the history of it all at the West Virginia State Museum. Guided tours are available for the legislative buildings year-round with self-guided exploration encouraged at the museum.
Once you’re caught up on the past, live in the present by getting to know the locals. The Capitol Market is an excellent spot to mingle, offering indoor and outdoor vendors with fresh produce, handmade crafts, and specialty items. For food and retail therapy, hit the historic downtown district. If you’re exploring the area on a weekend, stop by Haddad Riverfront Park for Lie on the Levee. The family-friendly concert series is free and occurs every Friday night during summer.
2. Harpers Ferry
Located at the intersection of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, Harpers Ferry is a small town in West Virginia. With less than 300 residents, it’s easy to overlook, but the area offers a rich history with plenty of outdoor recreation. The community is even part of multiple protected parks and reserve areas.
Grab a spot at The Town’s Inn or the Stonehouse Bed and Breakfast before chasing adventure in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. There are ranger-guided tours available daily, but you can also take on the 20 miles of trails for yourself. If you’re in the mood for a challenge, hit the Maryland Heights Trail. While the trek is steep, it’s worth it for the awe-inspiring views at the top.
Back in town, re-energize at The Anvil Restaurant with seafood and drinks before heading out to the John Brown Wax Museum. The site offers wax-figure reenactments of the John Brown raid in 1859, but you might want to leave the kiddos at home — the show gets pretty graphic. Afterward, delve deeper into the past with a guided tour from the Harpers Ferry Park Association. Or, enjoy a spooky finish with a haunted tour from the Historic Harpers Ferry Foundation.
Bluefield, WV, is a quintessential small Americana town with endearing shops, welcoming locals, and a slow pace of life. Get a glimpse into what makes the city so special by strolling through the historic downtown area. Stop by Bluefield Yarn Company, grab a selfie at the Verdin Street Clock, and catch a show at the Summit Theater.
When you’re ready for some fresh West Virginia air, hit the trails at Pinnacle Rock State Park. The Pinnacle Rock overlook is a top draw of the park, but there are multiple trails on-site for hiking, along with horseback riding and fishing. The East River Mountain Overlook is another must-see outdoor spot, especially for breathtaking views.
4. New River Gorge National Park
The geographic beauty of New River Gorge National Park makes it a staple destination on West Virginia travel guides. Located near New Haven, the park offers over 70,000 acres of fun and adventure. Hiking is one of the best ways to get up close and personal with the mesmerizing landscape, and there are hundreds of trails to choose from. Visitors can also opt for ranger-guided activities as well as go whitewater rafting. Whatever activity you choose to complete, just be sure you get a chance to see the New River Gorge Bridge.
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