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Craving time spent outdoors in this age of electronics? Consider a West Virginia vacation for your family. There are so many great places to visit in West Virginia. The state’s mountainous terrain provides opportunities for outdoor adventure year-round from whitewater rafting to skiing.
West Virginia’s state history is just as rugged. It is the only state formed by seceding from a Confederate state. The state capital, Charleston, is one of the best places to visit in West Virginia to learn the state’s history. Here are our top ten things to do in West Virginia with kids.
10 Places to Visit on a West Virginia Family Vacation
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 to the kid’s areas where children can perfect their pitching and aim. So, don’t be afraid to join the hometown community. Grab a pepperoni roll and cheer on the home team!
Driving through West Virginia and looking for places to visit in West Virginia? 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. One of the best places to visit in West Virginia is the West Virginia State Capitol Building. It is one of the most beautiful and recognizable in the nation.
The building has a marble interior and an ornate gilded dome towering almost 300 feet above the city. Just steps from the capitol, a visit to the West Virginia State Museum is a 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 Historical Park. It is located the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers where West Virginia meets both Maryland and Virginia. Being so close to the Washington DC metro area, it is one of the most popular places to visit in West 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 the small town of Harpers Ferry steeped in a rich history, it is also a beautiful place to go hiking the Appalachian Trail. There are even opportunities for whitewater rafting on the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.
There’s so many more kid-friendly things to do in Charleston, West Virginia, including the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences. 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 enjoying a West Virginia vacation 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.
Looking for things to do in West Virginia? 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. Fortunately for families, it’s not difficult to reach, being located less than 20 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. 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 hiking trails; including the scenic trail to Raven’s Rock Overlook and a 2-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. It has a hiking trail that is popular with families as well as rock climbing opportunities for the more adventurous. Inquire at the visitor center for more hiking opportunities in the Monongahela National Forest
6. Enjoy an Outdoor Adventure to the Test Along the New River Gorge National River
West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains allow for some incredible, extreme outdoor adventures. The New River Bridge claims 2 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. Thousands of pedestrians walk across the top of the world’s second-largest single arch bridge. Hundreds of base jumpers use the bridge as their starting point to leap down into the gorge on Bridge Day.
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. A Bridge Walk is 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 zip-lining 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. Families can also try the resort’s guided rock climbing tours, perfect for beginners.
Looking to plan a vacation full of adventure including whitewater rafting in West Virginia? Check out Trekaroo’s guide to New River Rafting with Kids at Adventures on the Gorge.
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
In a state known for its mountains and rivers, you might expect to find some awesome waterfalls. West Virginia does not disappoint. One of the most popular West Virginia tourist attractions, and certainly the most 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. The gorge 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. Alternatively, it’s the perfect overnight getaway if your family chooses to spend the night at the Blackwater Lodge or at the nearby family-friendly Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center.
3. Enjoy the Winter Snowfall in the Mountains of the Monongahela National Forest
West Virginia’s mountains make it an incredible destination for winter activities, from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Snowshoe Mountain 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.
In the summer it is one of the best places for mountain biking on the East Coast. 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. It also has about 20 miles of cross-country skiing trails; it’s a beautiful place to visit in West Virginia in the winter. To the north in Wheeling, the family-friendly Oglebay Resort has a great terrain park for snowboarders of all ages.
2. Take the Steam Train from Cass up to Whittaker Station at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Riding a steam train is an experience for the senses in any season. From the sound of the piercing loud whistle to the feel of the gentle breeze coming through the open windows, it’s a treat to ride through the mountains in West Virginia. In the fall, the display of the colorful foliage is mesmerizing as the train chugs past brilliantly colored trees.
The 2-hour round trip between the Cass Depot and Whittaker Station is a perfect afternoon outing for families. The stop at Whitaker station provides an opportunity to take in the view atop the mountain from the picnic area. It’s one of the most best things to do in West Virginia with kids of any age. In addition to the Cass Scenic Whittaker Trip, Mountain Rail manages tourist routes across the state from full day trips to seasonal Polar Express trips for families.
Make your visit to the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park part of an epic West Virginia road trip and stop by the nearby Green Bank Observatory Science Center. Find out more in Trekaroo’s guide, Road Trip West Virginia’s Mountains Charleston to DC.
1. Go Whitewater Rafting on the New River
The mountains of Appalachia may define the landscape of the state. However, it’s the whitewater rafting in West Virginia that is really world class. It brings adventurists, thrill-seekers, and families from all over the United States. 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 to go whitewater rafting in West Virginia on some of the more mellow class I-III trips with River Riders on the Shenandoah River and with Adventures on the Gorge or ACE Adventure Resort on the Upper New River. Families with teens can go white water rafting in West Virginia 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 article.
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.
From coast to coast, we’re determining the Top 10 Things to do with Kids in each state of our great nation.