It is easy to overlook certain small towns in America. Big cities like New York or Chicago cast very large shadows across most media outlets, but there are gems to be found all across West Virginia, rich with culture and a history that tells many chapters in the story of America. The list below details just some of those overlooked little gems that many have become lost in the shadows.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
Williamson, which sits on the banks of the Tug Fork River, was established in 1892 and is the county seat of Mingo County. One of the most popular landmarks is The Coal House, a structure with an unusual façade built from 65 tons of bituminous coal. Many trailheads that snake through the network of Hatfield-McCoy ATV trails are accessible from the city. Every June, Williamson hosts the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon, which is generally comprised of around 500 runners.
A city rich with history connected to the American Revolution and Lord Dunmore’s War, Lewisburg has many things to do and see. Visit the Greenbrier Valley Theater, Carnegie Hall, and the North House Museum, home of the Greenbrier Historical Society archives. Lewisburg is also a short drive from Lost World Caverns and Organ Cave.
Martinsburg is one of the older towns in West Virginia, established in 1778 during the American Revolution. It also has ties to the French and Indian War, the Civil War and the B&O Railroad. Aside from many year-round festivals, there is much to do in the city: visit several farmer’s markets and fisheries, go geocaching, play paintball, see a show at the Apollo Civic Theatre, go to a spa and tour a distillery.
Fayetteville is a charming little town just a short distance from the New River Gorge Bridge. It has many great shops, restaurants and hiking trails. Its roots are steeped in WV history going all the way back to the American Revolution. Be sure to visit the historic Fayette County Courthouse and Altamont Hotel while you are there.
Once a town in its own right, Guyandotte has since been annexed by Huntington. It is one of the most historic towns in the region. It was the site of a two day battle during the first year of the Civil War, ultimately resulting in widespread fires that burned down two-thirds of the town. Many of the structures that survived the fires still stand today, such as the Madie Carroll house pictured above. Every November, the local VFW group hosts a five day event culminating with a two day reenactment of the battle that occurred here.
6. Harpers Ferry
Another historic town, linked to the Civil War and John Brown’s Raid, Harpers Ferry has many things to see, including John Brown’s fort, Jefferson Rock, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church (pictured above), The Point, White Hall Tavern and Harpers Ferry Station.
7. Point Pleasant
When people think about cryptozoological creatures, they generally think of Bigfoot, Chupacabra or the Loch Ness Monster. However, one of the most bizarre events in WV history occurred in the sixties when a mysterious creature called The Mothman was spotted by a great number of Point Pleasant residents. For 13 months, people were terrorized by this creature amidst a flurry of UFO sightings. Many people who reported these sightings were often visited by mysterious men in black, who were often described as having bizarre appearances and physical traits. These men would interrogate the witnesses and advise them to stop talking about what they saw. Some say these events were linked to an alleged curse that Shawnee leader Chief Cornstalk uttered before dying at the hands of American soldiers in 1777. Visitors can view the Mothman Statue and visit the nearby Mothman Museum. For the full Mothman experience, be sure to attend the Mothman Festival, held annually in September.
If there is one thing that Buckhannon has in spades, it’s charm. It’s impossible to walk downtown and not enjoy the unique shops along the way. When you are done with that, you can visit Buckhannon Antique Mall, Ron Hinkle Glass and Little Hungary Farm Winery. But you cannot leave without spending some time in Audra State Park. While there, you can hike along the trails and the Alum Cave Boardwalk before cooling off in the river.
Helvetia is probably the most unique entry on this list. It was originally settled in 1869 by Swiss settlers and the small community still upholds its Swiss traditions to this day. As of the 2010 census, the population of the community was 59. It is worth visiting for its distinctiveness alone.
Hinton has many things to see and do. You can go camping at Bluestone Lake (be sure to see Bluestone Dam), visit the Hinton Railroad Museum, go to the Ritz Theater, and don’t forget to get something to eat at the The River Rock Bar and Grill.
11. Charles Town
Charles Town was established in 1787 (originally called Charlestown) and is home to many historic structures. There are many modern establishments to visit as well, including the Bloomery Plantation Distillery, the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Charlestown Haunted History Walks.
Marlinton was founded in 1749 by the first non-native settlers to travel west of the Allegheny Mountains. Today, it is home to five structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is near the famous Droop Mountain Battlefield.
Another charming town with lots of history and historic structures, Parsons began its existence as a booming railroad town is the 1890s. It sits along the beautiful Cheat River which offers many activities along it tributary, such as whitewater rafting and rock climbing.
As you can see, there are many towns in this beautiful state that are just waiting to be discovered. Can you think of any that are not on this list? Feel free to comment below and let us know.