I am on a quest! A quest to see all 50 states before I turn 50 inspired by Melody over at Wherever I May Roam. Some people thinks checklists are silly, but I think it’s celebratory and fun to attempt any sort of quest. They also can lead to adventures that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. I had to drive to Washington DC for my grandfather’s funeral. You can read about my top ten things to do in DC or about 3 fabulous day trips from Washington DC. We had a few free days and realized two of the states I had left to visit were in road trip distance, so off exploring we went to explore West Virginia and Kentucky. The result is a list of fun things to do with kids in West Virginia, which can easily work for adults as well.
Table of Contents
Hike to a Phenomenal View in Northeast West Virginia
I am all about a good hike and seeing the nature in an area. I was pointed to Seneca Rocks National Park by many locals. We were cursed with rain, however, so we didn’t get to hike that day, but the Monongahela National Forest is worth a drive through. If you are blessed enough to add in a hike, you can find out how to do it on Virginia Trail Guide.
Things to Do in Greenbrier Valley, West Virginia
Before the trip, I knew nothing at all about West Virginia. I was directed to the Greenbrier Valley area by a local. We found it a darling place to visit. It sits southwest in the state at an elevation of 2,000 feet. Here are a few of our highlights from Greenbrier Valley.
Green Bank Telescope
Nestled in the mountains is the world’s largest fully steerable telescope. A perfect add to the list of things to do with kids in West Virginia, or even a science-loving adults. Plan your visit to the Green Bank Observatory.
The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV
One could spend days just hanging at this opulently-retro resort with manicured gardens nestled in acres of green golf courses. We didn’t stay the night, but spent a tranquil day walking though the gardens, having afternoon tea and a huge ice cream sundaes at Drapers Ice Cream Counter. They also have a spa where you can soak in water from local sulphur springs. I would love to return and take a carriage ride around the grounds. You can also take a tour of their bunker. Make a hotel reservation here.
Lewisburg was founded in 1751 by a surveyor, General Andrew Lewis. He built the town around one of West Virginia’s natural springs, which can still be seen in a stone building.
This adorably rejuvenated downtown was voted coolest small town in America. It is easy to see why. The buildings have been lovingly restored and are now filled with quirky shops and restaurants. All set in a town where you see locals saying hi to each other from across the road.
I dig old cemeteries and enjoyed my stroll through Lewisburg’s. The Old Stone Presbyterian Church is over 200 years old. It abuts to the cemetery, was a field hospital and was used to billet soldiers in the Civil War. Adjacent to the battlefield is a gorgeous, brick building that used to be Greenbrier College for Women in the 1920s and is now part of the New River Community and Technical College.
After your exploring be sure to grab dinner at Food and Friends right around the corner. What a perfect name for a restaurant.
Lost World Caverns
I am a little crazy about caves and visit them whenever I can. It was one of the big reasons for my excitement over visiting West Virginia. And this is a fine cave to explore. It is .5 mile long and really opens up! I prefer to explore things on my own and love the way the cave is set up. The guides prepare you for your journey, give you a flashlight, then send you on your way to explore the paved loop trail. Everything is well-marked with complete descriptions and a fairly easy walk, although you do descend 10 stories. This cave has fabulous examples of most types of speilomorphs- stalagmites, stalactites and much more! They also have a nice mine shop, picnic tables and llamas.
Thank you for Lost World Caverns for hosting my visit to explore this fantastic cave.
To learn more about Greenbrier County, West Virginia visit the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website.
New River Bridge
On your way from Lewisburg to Beckley, you will drive over the New River. Take a small detour to see the US’ third tallest bridge. There is an overlook to see the whole thing or you can travel to the bottom of the 876 foot behemoth. One day a year, they even allow people to base jump off it. I will not be returning for that day, but let me know if you are.
Beckley Exhibition Coal Mining Tour
Since West Virginia was shaped through the coal industry, learning a bit about it is something that you should do when you visit. English, Welsh and Scottish workers were brought to the area to mine towns put together just for the coal miners and their families. Coal is still a large source of jobs and income for West Virginia, but has declined steadily since its peak employment of 883,000 workers in 1923 (according to Wikipedia).
At the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mining Tour, there is a museum where you can learn about the state’s history and how coal mining. There are also buildings from a coal town, so that you can see how the miners and their families lived. But the most interesting part of the tour is a ride on a coal train’s “man cars” into the tunnels of an old coal mine. Underground your guide, a real miner, will show you the conditions for coal miners and how mining has changed over the years.
Read more about the tour here.
West Virginia State House in Charleston
The dome of West Virginia’s capital building is one of the prettiest I have seen in the US.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
My oldest is a bit obsessed with ghost tours and haunted houses, so when we drove by the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum we knew we needed to stop for a look.
The tours are pricey, but there is a lot of history to be found here starting in the Civil War when it was used as Camp Tyler. Over time it was also a Tuberculosis sanitarium and said to be haunted. The tour and museum also do a great job educating how treatment of mental illnesses have changed over the years.
A Map to Help You Plan Your Road Trip Through West Virginia
Above is a basic map of how we visited West Virginia. We started from Washington, DC and continued from Charleston to Kentucky. We then drove back to Rhode Island driving again through Charleston, so did the northern portion of West Virginia on our way back through. I included the map above to help you in planning your road trip through West Virginia. Check out my US Road Trip Guide for more help on planning a road trip anywhere in the US (or even a bit though Canada).
Huge thanks to the Greenbrier Valley CVB for their generous hosting of my trip. As always, I will give you my honest, unswayed opinion. I hope you get a chance to visit this gorgeous area soon.
Find a hotel in Greenbrier Valley for your trip using Hotels.com. I book most of my hotels through here. If you do, it won’t cost you any more, but will help support this website.
6 thoughts on “Fun Things to Do in West Virginia”
This was a very detailed guide. We will be driving through West Virginia and Ohio in the next year to work on a couple more states too. I pinned it for future reference. Thanks!
Looking forward to seeing how your trip goes. I haven’t been to Ohio since I was a kid. You may want to check out Kentucky when you are there too!
I loved this quest!! Here’s to hitting all 50 before 50!! And what beautiful places you experienced in Virginia. This is wonderful!! Would love to do that coal mining tour!
Are you near 50? Did you get yours?
This is a great list! I was born and raised in West Virginia but haven’t done everything on this list. The Greenbrier is my favorite 🙂
I am fascinated by the story behind freedom trail…I want to know what happened to the residents!