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The 20 Best Things to Do in West Virginia for First Timers

Governor’s Mansion

The diverse landscape of West Virginia, which includes the Appalachian Mountains and forested national parks, makes this eastern U.S. states a fantastic place to visit for those who enjoy the outdoors. The state is also the site of many historical events, so it is a fascinating place to visit for history buffs. Furthermore, there are multiple activities and attractions for families to enjoy. Therefore, regardless of your age or interests, you will find plenty to keep you entertained during a visit to this state. Here are the 20 best things to do in West Virginia for first-timers.

Harpers Ferry

20. See the Attractions at Harpers Ferry

Planetware names Harpers Ferry as one of the top things to do in West Virginia. Harpers Ferry is a small town in West Virginia that is located at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River. This town and the surrounding area form the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, which is home to multiple museums and historical exhibits. It is also a fantastic place for hiking, as there are more than 20 miles of hiking trails in this park. Throughout the year, various programs are run at this location.

Cranberry Mountain Nature Center

19. Go to the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center

West Virginia is home to many stunning landscapes, and few are more beautiful than what you will see at the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center. There are a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy at this center, including nature trails, mountain biking, lake-based activities, and exploring the wildflower gardens. If you are visiting the center on a Sunday, you will also see the snake show.

Governor’s Mansion

18. Visit the Governor’s Mansion

History buffs will enjoy a visit to the Governor’s Mansion in Charleston, West Virginia. This is a Georgian Revival-style property that was designed by local architect Walter Martens. The building was constructed in 1925, and it remains the residence of the governor. Although the property is inhabited, the governor and his wife welcome visitors into their home to take a tour of the historic building. Some of the rooms that visitors can see include the ballroom, the library, the drawing-room, and both the state dining room and the family dining room. Tour guides give visitors detailed information about the property’s history.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

17. Tour the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

An unusual and morbid yet rather interesting attraction to visit in West Virginia is the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. First constructed in the mid-1800s, this facility for people with a mental illness was originally intended for 250 patients. By the 1950s, it was estimated that there were approximately 2,400 patients living at the facility. It was eventually closed due to overcrowding in 1994. Now, visitors to the area can take tours of this surprisingly beautiful building that has a dark and tragic past.

Mystery at Mothman Museum

16. Uncover a Mystery at Mothman Museum

An interesting and unusual place to visit while in West Virginia is the Mothman Museum, and there is no other museum like this anywhere else in the world. It is dedicated to the mystery of the Mothman, which is a creature that according to legend, caused a disaster in West Virginia on November 15, 1966. The museum boasts historical evidence that intends to prove the existence of this creature, including documents, police reports, eye-witness accounts, newspaper clippings, and photographs. It is a great place to learn more about this legendary creature if you have not heard of the Mothman before.

Stunning Glassworks at The Glass Museum

15. See the Stunning Glassworks at The Glass Museum

Located in Wheeling, West Virginia, The Glass Museum is an interesting attraction to visit if you are interested in arts and crafts. This museum showcases more than three thousand objects made of Wheeling glass. These objects were all created between 1829 and 1939. They exemplify various styles of art and artistic eras. In addition to the stunning exhibitions, visitors have the chance to take part in workshops where they will see live glasswork and have the opportunity to make a glass paperweight.

West Virginia State Museum

14. Learn About Local History at the West Virginia State Museum

One of the best places to learn about the history of West Virginia is at the West Virginia State Museum. The topics covered in the exhibitions that relate to the state’s history include paleontology, history, archeology, culture, art, and geology. Although many of the exhibits are serious, there are also some fun elements in this museum, including a 19th-century flea circus. There are also interactive elements to the exhibitions, including films, audio elements, and hands-on artifacts.

Mountain Rail Adventures

13. Take a Trip with Mountain Rail Adventures

There are three departure points for Mountain Rail Adventures; Cass, Durbin, and Elkins. From each of these locations, there are a variety of locomotive adventures from which you can choose. There are options regarding which type of train you ride, and the adventures offer a variety of experiences. Some of them take passengers into some of the most remote mountain areas of West Virginia. There are even overnight excursions which include board and food. This is a fantastic way to see some of the most breathtaking parts of the state that are often missed.

Outdoor Fun at Grand Vue Park

12. Have Some Outdoor Fun at Grand Vue Park

A fantastic activity for both families and those who enjoy the outdoors is Grand Vue Park. This is an outdoor adventure park that uses the natural surroundings as a playground for lots of fun. Visitors climb through the trees on rope bridges and whizz through the air on zip lines. This is a great way to get the kids burning off some energy during your visit to this state. The 40-foot rope course has rappelling, freefall drop zones, bungee trampolines, and a huge rock wall for climbing. At this attraction, visitors can also have fun at ground level as there are nature trails, hiking and biking trails, disk golf, and a pool.

National Radio Astronomy Observatory

11. Make a Visit to National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Founded in 1956, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory operates the most versatile radio telescopes in the world. Although the use of the telescopes is reserved for the professionals, visitors can take a tour of the facilities and learn about the work of the NRAO. Two of the highlights of a visit are watching videos in the auditorium and seeing the Catching the Waves exhibition. There are also several interactive activities and an on-site café.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and Visitor Center

10. Go to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and Visitor Center

The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to main, passing through 14 states including West Virginia along the way. The central point of the trail is in Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, and there you will find a visitor’s center. There are more than 2,100 miles of hiking trails to explore in the surrounding area, or you can simply visit the visitor’s center to learn more about the trail and sit outside with a picnic enjoying your surroundings. At the visitor’s center, there are some fascinating exhibitions, including a collection of more than 2 thousand photographs.

Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park

9. Spend Time Outdoors at Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park

One of the best places to visit for lovers of the outdoors is the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. Before exploring this beautiful island, you should visit the mansion and museum. At these attractions, you can learn about the lives of the Blennerhassetts. There are various ways that visitors can then explore the island, including nature walks, bicycle rentals, and horse-drawn carriage rides. You should take along a picnic so that you can enjoy eating in pretty surroundings.

Bloomery Plantation Distillery

8. Take a Tour of Bloomery Plantation Distillery

Time Out recommends a visit to Bloomery Plantation Distillery. Located in Charles Town, this micro-distillery produces a moonshine with a contemporary twist. The production facilities are in a quirky, dilapidated backwoods log cabin. The award-winning distillery was founded in 2011 by a husband and wife team who were inspired by their love of Italian liqueur. Visitors can take a tour of the plantation and distillery before sampling some of the cocktails and cordials.

State Capitol

7. Visit State Capitol

West Virginia’s State Capitol is located in Charleston. This domed structure is five feet higher than the US Capitol Building in Washington DC’s dome. The building was designed by Cass Gilbert, and construction took place between 1924 and 1932. It is a stunning marble structure that reflects both Roman and Greek architectural styles. One reason to visit is the stunning architecture, and another is the beautiful grounds. It is possible to take a guided tour of both the building and the grounds, or you can explore them on your own.

Lost World Caverns

6. Explore Lost World Caverns

ac120 feet below the surface of the Earth are the Lost World Caverns. The stalactites and stalagmites give these caverns and almost magical appearance. Visitors can take guided tours or they can explore the caverns alone. Some of the formations in the caverns are so breathtaking that they have been given their own names. These include the Bridal Veil, the Snowy Chandelier, and the War Club. Once they have finished exploring the caves, people can also visit the dinosaur museum. More adventurous travelers may wish to take part in the four-hour guided Wild Cave Tour. This takes visitors deeper underground than the Lost World Caverns.

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

5. Enjoy Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Visitors to the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park can take a trip back in time to the Golden Age of Steam. It is possible to take a trip on refurbished logging flat-cars along the original line that was built in 1901. One of the highlights of a trip is stopping at Bald Knob, which is the third-highest point in West Virginia and boasts panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The trip also stops at Whittaker Station, which is a recreated 1940s logging camp. At the base of the camp, visitors can tour the museum.

Exhibition Coal Mine

4. Got to Exhibition Coal Mine

You will find this attraction in Beckley, West Virginia. Visitors can take a tour of the underground mines and coal camps. The tour of the underground mines includes a guided ride that is led by a veteran miner. This is an interesting attraction to visit as mining has played such an important role in the history of the state.

West Virginia Botanic Garden

3. Stroll Around West Virginia Botanic Garden

One of the most peaceful places to visit in the state is the West Virginia Botanic Garden. These beautifully landscaped gardens were created in 2000 on the former Tibbs Run Reservoir. Spanning 80-acres, these gardens showcase a diverse range of ornamental plants and inspirational landscapes. Guests are free to explore all aspects of the garden. There is also the option to take a guided walk, and there are workshops held throughout the year.

The Greenbrier

2. Visit The Greenbrier

Located at White Sulphur Springs, The Greenbrier is a National Historic Landmark. This hotel is the ideal place to stay if you are visiting West Virginia and you want to absorb yourself in the state’s history. It has long been a popular destination for presidents, royalty, and foreign dignitaries. The hotel has also played a role in a variety of historical events. It is open to the public for tours, and there are more than 50 activities to enjoy within the 5,100 acres of grounds.

Heritage Farm Museum and Village

1. Spend a Day at Heritage Farm Museum and Village

According to Vacation Idea, the best things to do in West Virginia for first-timers is to spend a day at Heritage Farm Museum and Village. This attraction is nestled into the Ohio River Valley, and the mission is to showcase the rich Appalachian history to visitors. The village consists of 15 log buildings, five of which are used as accommodation. Some of the features of the village for visitors to explore include seven award-winning museums, a petting zoo. A children’s machine discovery zone, a blacksmith shop. A homestead sire, and a log church. Within the grounds, there are also multiple hiking trails to discover.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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