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  • Shopping along a scenic street in Charleston, West Virginia
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    Charleston, West Virginia: Riverside Capital

  • Blacksmith demonstration at the Heritage Farm Museum and Village in Huntington, West Virginia
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    Huntington: History, Art and Old-Fashioned Fun

  • Whitewater rafting tour on the New River Gorge National River near Beckley, West Virginia
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    Beckley: A Small Town Big on Outdoor Adventure

  • Scenic overlook in Coopers Rock State Forest near Morgantown, West Virginia
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    Morgantown: The Quintessential College Town

The New River Gorge bridge in West Virginia
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West Virginia’s Cities and Towns: From Riverside Retreats to Mountain Getaways

By Zaida Rios

  • Route distance:
    660 km
  • Suggested Time:
    6 days

Discover unexpected delights and cool haunts in the one-of-a-kind towns and upbeat cities of West Virginia.

Hop in your car for a road trip through West Virginia that will land you in wonderful spots with unexpected experiences. Find yourself at a bluegrass concert or gazing down upon a beautiful gorge. Devour good eats, listen to the rush of river rapids and stay in quaint, bed & breakfast inns and boutique hotels – it’s all a part of the journey. Fly into Yeager Airport (CRW) in Charleston to begin your trip.

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Shopping along a scenic street in Charleston, West Virginia
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Charleston, West Virginia: Riverside Capital

Start things off with a concert at Mountain Stage, a radio broadcast sponsored by West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Watch music icons and emerging artists perform for locals and visitors in various locations around town. Shop, eat and hang out at the Capitol Market, a renovated train station, offering a collective of local specialty shops and gourmet food stuffs. There’s a nice selection of choices for lunch here from grab-and-go sushi to a sit-down meal at Soho’s Italian. While you’re downtown, tour the Capitol Building and State Museum, a classical limestone, gold-domed building, which dates to the 1920s. Overlooking the Kanawha River, it’s an icon of the Charleston skyline. For an extra dose of charm, head to the revitalized Elk City Historic District on the west side of town. It’s home to a medley of neat shops such as Elk City Records, Kin Ship Goods and more. Feel the welcoming spirit as you make friends with a shop owner or even a shop dog on your spending foray through this trendy, artsy district. As you wave goodbye to Charleston, get ready for Appalachian history at your next stop.

85 km
1 hour by car
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Blacksmith demonstration at the Heritage Farm Museum and Village in Huntington, West Virginia
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Huntington: History, Art and Old-Fashioned Fun

About an hour’s drive west lands you in Huntington, known for history, art and simple pleasures. Steeped in heritage and culture, Huntington surprises you with its scenic beauty. Make living history your first local discovery at the Heritage Farm Museum and Village. Start your immersion into Appalachian region pioneer life with a stroll through a series of log structures: a pioneer homestead, an artisan center, blacksmith shop, museums, a café and even several cabins you can rent for an overnight stay. Continue your cultural hop at the Huntington Museum of Art, home to a permanent collection of more than 16,000 objects comprised of art, sculpture and glass objects. As the pillar of Huntington’s art scene, the museum hosts a variety of temporary exhibits and events. Visit West Virginia’s only plant conservatory and hike nearby trails on the museum’s property. From there, drop by the Heritage Station, a former railroad complex that is now the place for shopping, dining and entertainment. Stop into The Red Caboose for Appalachian artisan wares – leather goods, glass art, ceramics and vintage-inspired jewelry. Ready to get outdoors? Venture less than two hours southbound to Beckley.

179 km
1.83 hours by car
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Whitewater rafting tour on the New River Gorge National River near Beckley, West Virginia
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Beckley: A Small Town Big on Outdoor Adventure

Good times outdoors are easy to access in Beckley, which is known for its pristine landscape. The New River Gorge National River deserves your attention first. Sign up with an outfitter for a whitewater rafting trip venturing down thrilling rapids, or take a more relaxed guided paddle board excursion on the New River or its smaller streams. Even catching a concert here is scenic. The Cliffside Amphitheatre, located inside Grandview Park, hosts a robust schedule of national and regional acts. Spring through summer, the rhododendron blooms flaunt their hues scattering color across the terrain inside the park. Strike out on the Bridge Walk, a guided tour of the New River Gorge Bridge along the catwalk (you’re securely adhered to a safety cable) for panoramic views and impressive photo opportunities. Back in town, you can also take a guided underground tour of Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. Stay at the two-story Historic Morris Harvey House just outside Beckley in Fayetteville, where each room offers a special amenity such as a fireplace or lovely garden view. Before you take the almost three-hour trip north to your final stop, drop into King Tut Drive-In, a quirky eatery that prides itself on the care given to every dish on the menu. Get adventurous and try the pizza burger before hitting the road to West Virginia’s most famous college town.

269 km
2.75 hours by car
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Scenic overlook in Coopers Rock State Forest near Morgantown, West Virginia
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Morgantown: The Quintessential College Town

Upbeat and buzzing with fun energy, Morgantown is your last stop. Wander this riverside town that blends culture and mountainous beauty. After checking out the downtown scene, grab a requisite pepperoni roll (a doughy roll filled with pepperoni and cheese) from Chico Bakery. Popularized by Italian immigrants working in West Virginia’s coal mines, the pepperoni roll is a West Virginia staple that skillfully mixes Italian food traditions with the convenience of a ready-to-eat snack. Next, explore the Core Arboretum located on the University of West Virginia campus. Discover the state’s native flora and fauna as you wander trails or sign up for a guided walk through this 37-hectare garden. If you’re lucky, your visit may coincide with one of the arboretum’s flower festivals. In the fall, get a taste of West Virginia’s native fruit called the pawpaw. Sweet and tropical-like, the taste is a blend of banana, mango and pineapple. Nearby, walk, bike or inline skate a popular rail trail, the Caperton Trail, which connects to the Mon River Rail-Trail, an 83-kilometer stretch along the lovely Monongahela River. Beyond the city limits, travel half an hour west to mountain getaway Coopers Rock State Forest, where sandstone bluffs tower above the Cheat River Gorge and evergreen trails ascend to wonder-inducing overlooks. Hike in the summer months and cross country ski in the winter within this ethereal forest. Take advantage of the pure mountain air before the 90-minute drive to Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) in neighboring Pennsylvania to fly back home.

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