West Virginia offers a plethora of activities for its visitors. Nicknamed the “Mountain State” and given the tagline of “Wild and Wonderful,” West Virginia’s rugged terrain was formed by the Appalachian Mountains. This landscape makes for incredible outdoor fun. Its history is just as rugged; it was the only state formed by seceding from a Confederate state during the civil war. Here are the top things for families to do in West Virginia that help make West Virginia wild and wonderful.
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Top 10 of West Virginia Tourism: The Best Things For Families to do in West Virginia
10. Cheer for the Home Team at a Minor League Baseball Game in Morgantown
Morgantown is the heart and soul of West Virginia sports; children from all over the state learn from a young age to cheer on their WVU Mountaineers as they battle other universities in football, basketball, and over a dozen other sports. In the summer months, the competitive spirit of West Virginia turns to its minor baseball fields; like the Mountaineers, the West Virginia Black Bears call Morgantown home while the West Virginia Power plays in Charleston. These minor league games offer plenty of perks for the family, from an opportunity for the kids to run out onto the field with the mascot during specified breaks in play to the kid’s areas where children can perfect their pitching and aim while watching players out on the field. So, don’t be afraid to join the hometown community; grab a pepperoni roll and cheer on the home team!
Driving through West Virginia next summer? Here’s how to spend A Summer’s Day along the Monongahela River in Morgantown, West Virginia.
9. Learn about the History of West Virginia at the West Virginia State Museum in Charleston
West Virginia is a relatively young state compared to many of its neighbors; the Mountain State broke off from the Confederate state of Virginia during the Civil War and was admitted to the Union in 1963. To this day West Virginians are quite proud of this history and as a result, have a statue of Abraham Lincoln placed prominently in front of their state capitol building. The West Virginia State Capitol Building is one of the most beautiful and recognizable in the nation with a marble interior and an ornate gilded dome towering almost 300 feet above the city, but for families, the real gem is the West Virginia State Museum just steps from the capitol itself. A visit to the museum is a true walk through West Virginia history from the prehistoric formation of coal deposits, to the state’s unique role in the Civil War, to the modern day.
For a truly immersive history experience, families can spend a day at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers where West Virginia meets both Maryland and Virginia. Harpers Ferry was identified by America’s founding fathers as a strategic point, which later led to the city being chosen as the site of a US Armory and Arsenal. In 1859, that arsenal was the site of abolitionist John Brown’s raid that sparked tensions leading up to the Civil War. Not only is Harpers Ferry steeped in a rich history that tells the story of our nation; it is also a beautiful place with hiking trails and opportunities for rafting on the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.
Learn how to stop and take your time to really enjoy Charleston with the family – check out Trekaroo’s Spend a Day in Charleston, West Virginia’s Capital City
8. Take Scenic Route 60 between Charleston and the New River Gorge
Virtually all visitors to West Virginia have the opportunity to appreciate the state’s infamous country roads that wind through the state’s Appalachian terrain. A favorite stretch of road for many is the section of Route 60 between Charleston and the New River Gorge. Following the Kanawha River out of Charleston, the Midland Highway reaches its most scenic points just about an hour outside of the capital city. Waterfalls appear to both the left and right of the highway before the road turns upward leaving the river and continues onto the viewpoints at Hawks Nest State Park.
For more scenic routes to take across the state of West Virginia check out Trekaroo’s Road Trip West Virginia’s Country Roads to the New River Gorge.
7. Enjoy a Mountaintop View from Coopers Rock or Spruce Knob
Spectacular mountaintop views are easy to come by in this stretch of the Appalachians; after all, West Virginia is the Mountain State. Coopers Rock State Forest in north-central West Virginia has some amazing vistas, and fortunately for families, it’s not difficult to reach, being located less than twenty minutes from the city of Morgantown and just a few miles off I-68. The forest’s main overlook sits atop a rocky outcropping in which a legendary, whiskey-making cooper hid, and it is easily accessible via a short path from the parking area. For those that enjoy more of a hike, the state forest features over 40 miles of trails; including the scenic trail to Raven’s Rock Overlook and a two-mile roundtrip trail to Henry Clay’s historic iron furnace.
Located to the east in the Potomac Highlands, Spruce Knob is the highest point in the entire state at 4,863 feet. While it’s certainly possible to hike to the summit, there’s also a paved forest road that leads from US-33 to the observation tower at the top of the mountain. Nearby, the impressive Seneca Rocks provide a stark contrast to the region’s smooth forested mountain peaks with a jagged rock outcropping; the area has a hiking trail that is popular with families as well as rock climbing opportunities for the more adventurous.
Find a Place to Stay in Morgantown when you visit Coopers Rock State Forest.
6. Put Your Sense of Adventure to the Test along the New River Gorge
West Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains allow for some incredible, extreme adventures. The New River Bridge claims two of the most unique adventures in the nation: Bridge Day and the Bridge Walk. On Bridge Day, held annually in October, the New River Gorge Bridge is closed to vehicular traffic and thousands of pedestrians walk across the top of the world’s second-largest single arch bridge, and as these spectators look on in amazement, hundreds of base jumpers use the bridge as their starting point to leap down into the gorge. However, there’s no need to wait for October to experience a thrilling adventure on the New River Gorge Bridge. Nearly any day of the year families with older children can participate in a Bridge Walk, an organized tour that takes fully-harnessed guests on a 2-3 hour walk across the catwalk below the New River Bridge.
The mountains and forests around the bridge are also teeming with adventure. From east to west and north to south, West Virginia is full of opportunities for aerial adventure. Adventures on the Gorge, just a few miles from the scenic New River Gorge Bridge, offers a few different options for ziplining through the forest depending upon the thrill-seeker’s age and weight; it also has TimberTrek, one of the best aerial adventure courses in the Mid-Atlantic — according to my adventurous 7-year-old. Also along the New River Gorge, ACE Adventure Resort offers a range of activities for the adventure-seeking families including a canopy zip line tour.
Looking to plan a vacation full of adventure in West Virginia? Check out Trekaroo’s guide to ACE Adventure Resort – Summer Adventure for Families in West Virginia
5. Relax by the River
Families don’t need a sense of adventure to enjoy West Virginia’s lakes and rivers; scenic Summersville Lake provides the perfect destination for a relaxing family getaway with opportunities for boating, fishing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Alternatively, stay in the city; the Mon River Trail Network features 48 miles of bike path along the Monongahela River; the relatively flat path is a great place for a scenic bike ride. Families can follow up their bike ride with a leisurely dinner at the Mountain State Brewing Co. right along the banks of the river just steps away from the bike path and not far from downtown Morgantown. The city of Charleston also features riverside entertainment; the Kanawha River provides the backdrop for the summertime Friday evening Live on the Levee outdoor music event with food trucks lining the road behind the venue and a fun, family-friendly vibe.
4. Hike to a Waterfall at Blackwater Falls State Park
Check for hotel availability in Blackwater Falls
In a state known for its mountains and rivers, you might expect to find some awesome waterfalls. West Virginia does not disappoint. Likely the most popular and photographed waterfall in the state is found at Blackwater Falls State Park. The 62-foot-high Blackwater Falls is not particularly large or powerful, but the way that the water cascades over the rocks is quite beautiful; fortunately for families, the waterfall is easily accessible in any season via wooden boardwalk trail. The state park also features the Elakala Falls as well as a gorge formed by the Blackwater River that is quite beautiful in the fall — especially when viewed from Lindy Point. Blackwater Falls State Park is located in the eastern part of the state making it a reasonable day trip from the Washington DC area, or the perfect overnight getaway if your family chooses to spend the night at the Blackwater Lodge inside the park on or at the nearby family-friendly Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center.
3. Enjoy the Winter Snowfall in the Mountains
West Virginia’s mountains make it an incredible destination for winter activities from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Snowshoe Ski Resort nestled high in the mountains averages 180 inches of snowfall a year and offers a variety of experiences from its progressive terrain park at Silver Creek to the terrain-based learning at the Snowshoe Basin Ski School. Canaan Valley Resort in the eastern part of the state near Virginia offers one of the longest snow tubing runs in the mid-Atlantic at 1,200 feet as well as about 20 miles of cross-country skiing trails. The experienced thrill-seekers can be satisfied by the double black diamond and 1000-foot vertical drop at nearby Timberline Resort. To the south in Wheeling, the family-friendly Oglebay Resort has a great terrain park for snowboarders of all ages.
Snowboard with the family and book your hotel here! Be sure to check out Trekaroo’s guide for a family visit to Snowshoe Resort, and blog article Family Friendly Skiing in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.
2. Take the Steam Train from Cass up to Scenic Whittaker Station
Riding a steam train is an experience for the senses in any season – from the sound of the piercing loud whistle as the train approaches an intersection to the feel of the gentle breeze coming through the open windows on a hot summer day. In the fall, the display of the colorful foliage is mesmerizing as the train chugs past brilliantly colored trees. On a line once dedicated to hauling lumber, the two-hour round trip between the Cass Depot and Whittaker Station is now a perfect afternoon outing for families; the stop at Whitaker station provides an opportunity to take in the view atop the mountain and have a short picnic. In addition to the Cass Scenic Whittaker Trip, Mountain Rail manages tourist routes across the state from full day trips geared for railroad aficionados to seasonal Polar Express trips for families.
Make your Visit to the Cass Scenic Railroad Part of an epic West Virginia road trip using Trekaroo’s guide: Road Trip West Virginia’s Mountains Charleston to DC.
1. Ride the Rapids on the New River
Photo Courtesy of ACE Adventure Resort
The mountains of Appalachia may define the landscape of the state of West Virginia, but it’s the state’s whitewater that brings adventurists, thrill-seekers, and families from all over the nation to the Mountain State. During the summer months, hikers can often spot rafts bobbing down the rapids and hear the squeals of excited youth over the roar of the water. Children as young as 6 are welcome on some of the more mellow class I-III trips with River Riders on the Shenandoah and with Adventures on the Gorge or ACE Adventure Resort on the Upper New River. Families with teens make memories that will last a lifetime on the more thrilling class III-IV rapids of the Lower New River.
Thanks to Heather Erquiaga who researched and wrote the first version of this blog article.
All photos by Melissa Moore unless otherwise credited.
Lead Photo by: Flickr/judygallagher
Disclosure: The author and her children traveled to Morgantown, Charleston, the New River Gorge, Pocahontas County and Harper’s Ferry as part of a press trip with West Virginia Tourism. All opinions are her own.