Out of all the states in the U.S., West Virginia is often the one that's forgotten. With its larger neighboring state of Virginia to the east, the Carolinas to the south, and beach-filled states such as Delaware and Maryland above that, it's not surprising that most skip over this Appalachian beauty. It might have a reputation for being remote and home to only small towns, but that's also exactly what makes it so unique (and worth visiting).

Even the food in West Virginia is worth heading to a festival for, and its mountain hiking is truly second to none. In town, history abounds along with boutique shops and plenty of off-the-beaten-track activities. This state isn't called 'Almost Heaven' for no reason, but here are just a few that might have travelers reconsidering a vacation.


Related: Everything You Need To Know About Virginia's 'Historic Triangle'

The Great Outdoors... Literally

There's seemingly no end to the number of recreational activities one can find in West Virginia. Its home among the Appalachian Mountains allows it to have any manner of activities from hiking to boating and everything in between.

Even if hitting the trails isn't a visitor's speed, a drive through the country will reveal more beauty than one may have thought possible in such an underrated state. This is also where the nickname 'Almost Heaven' came from - forests, rivers, valleys, farmland, and mountain summits create a paradise-like landscape that has inspired many artists. The state's parks are enough to make a visitor wish they didn't need to leave, and anything from chasing waterfalls to kayaking down a tranquil river is fair game.

Best State Parks

  • Blackwater Falls State Park
  • Babcock State Park
  • Beartown State Park
  • Cacapon Resort State Park
  • Watoga State Park
  • Fairfax Stone Historical Monument State Park
  • Cathedral State Park

Recreational Activities

  • Hiking
  • Fishing (with proper permits)
  • Geocaching
  • Biking
  • Camping
  • Boating
  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Swimming
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowshoeing

Enough Historic Charm To Fill Any Itinerary

According to Everywhere Forward, there are more than 400 prehistoric mounds scattered throughout West Virginia - and this is one facet of the state's history. Of them, the most popular are Grave Creek Mound, Criel Mound, and Indian Mound. These predate any colonial history in the area and are the oldest landmarks in the state. Much later on, the Civil War caused the split between Virginia and West Virginia in 1863, which means there's plenty of history to uncover from this era. One of the most notable historic places in the state is Harper's Ferry, where multiple battles took place very early on in the war.

Outside of Civil War history, West Virginia also has a significant industrial history which means coal mines. Visitors can explore one in Beckley that's still open to this day; the town is also home to a historic railroad and a general store. Those who want to learn more about the state's role in American history can also explore one of many museums strewn throughout the region. Some of these worth seeking out include:

  • West Virginia State Museum
  • The Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum
  • Heritage Farm Museum and Village
  • Clay Center
  • Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and Youth Museum
  • Oglebay Institute Glass Museum
  • Oglebay Institute Mansion Museum (industrial history)
  • Huntington Museum of Art
  • Mothman Museum
  • Princeton Railroad Museum

Food And Festivals Are Two Major Highlights

Just like many states in the U.S., West Virginia also has its very own cuisine. Much of it is inspired by its Appalachian history and visitors can still find many traditional dishes in its small towns. Any diner will undoubtedly showcase the state's most iconic foods, though, and no trip is really complete until they've been tried at least once. Local restaurants are the way to go here; it's unlikely visitors will find a pepperoni roll or buckwheat cakes at a chain restaurant! Farmer's markets are also a great way to explore the region's cuisine, and it's also a great place to find fresh produce and locally-made artisan goods. The state has a strong agricultural community, so fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs are all part of its best dishes. If nothing else, the state's farmer's markets give visitors a feel for what it's like to live in such a people-oriented state.

Believe it or not, West Virginia is also home to plenty of festivals that are worthy of a visit. Specifically, bluegrass and country music festivals. The state's Carnegie Hall is one of only four left in the world, and a small venue in Morgantown sports a smaller venue with a great variety of bands that play on rotation. This town is also home to the Wine and Jazz Festival, while the Greek Food Festival is held in Clarksburg and the FestivALL is held in Charleston.

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