Wild and Wonderful Winter Weekends
November 16, 2016|
By Rebekah Call
West Virginia is known for its rolling hills and natural beauty, and residents and tourists alike spend endless summer hours hiking, climbing, rafting, biking and camping. When the warm weather ends, though, the fun certainly doesn’t have to.
Winters in West Virginia offer a myriad of activities for both winter sport enthusiasts and those who prefer a hot toddy next to the fireplace over hitting the slopes. From West Virginia’s sprawling southern region to the bustling Northern Panhandle and every point in between, there’s something for everyone during West Virginia’s winter months.
It’s easy to find entertainment in the capital city when cold weather sets in. Exploring the historic streets of downtown and meandering over to Capitol Market for some West Virginia-made products or fresh produce are just a few favored outings of locals and tourists alike.
While there are a variety of choices when seeking lodging, the Charleston Marriott Town Center is ideal for its location and amenities. Conveniently located next to the Charleston Town Center mall and Charleston Civic Center, the Marriott is just a brisk walk from downtown, where visitors can stop in at Taylor Books for a Charlie Brown Mocha or pop by The Peanut Shoppe, a family-owned peanut, popcorn and candy store dating back to the 1950s, for a quick snack. Capitol and Summers streets are also home to local hangouts such as Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille, Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream, Black Sheep Burrito and Brews and Pies & Pints Pizzeria.
Charleston is home to West Virginia’s historic, gold-domed capitol building, located next door to the Culture Center and its newly renovated West Virginia State Museum. The recent $4 million renovations to the museum updated exhibits and art to showcase the history, culture and geology found across the state. Just a few blocks away, the Clay Center houses a hands-on children’s museum, art gallery, planetarium and live-performance theater frequented by national acts and Broadway productions.
Heading into the Eastern Panhandle, the Hillbrook Inn and Spa in Charles Town is an ideal winter escape. With fine dining and a luxurious spa on-site, guests don’t have to look far for a relaxing winter retreat. Hillbrook Inn is conveniently located in Charles Town, where visitors can explore the unique SweetShine flavors of Bloomery Plantation Distillery with a tour and tasting or play a game of chance at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races with slot machines, table games and live and simulcast thoroughbred racing.
Charles Town is a short 20-minute drive to Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry, where shopping and dining possibilities abound. For live music and entertainment, take in a show at Black Box Arts Center in Shepherdstown, founded in 2014 by a group of local artists, or check out the Shepherdstown Opera House, a big draw for film screenings and live music from both local and national acts.
In Harpers Ferry, walk the cobblestone streets where John Brown tried to ignite a slave rebellion in 1859. While there, swing by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and Visitor Center for information about the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. In addition to the Appalachian Trail, avid hikers recommend a trek through town to Jefferson Rock, an iconic rock formation overlooking Harpers Ferry and parts of the Shenandoah River, and exploring the Maryland Heights trail, which boasts Civil War history and a breathtaking view of the town below.
In Southern West Virginia, Lewisburg has consistently been named one of the coolest small towns in America, and it has certainly earned the title with unique accommodations like the Historic General Lewis Inn, located downtown. Built in the 1800s, the family-operated General Lewis is furnished with antiques that celebrate the lifestyles of early settlers and offers its patrons on-site dining. Inn guests are just minutes away from shopping, dining and drinking at some of the best venues in Southern West Virginia.
During the winter months, visitors can enjoy a warm cup of coffee at The Wild Bean or pop into the Irish Pub for a cold draft beer, live music and eclectic menu choices. The Lewisburg area is also home to local favorites Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company and Smooth Ambler Spirits.
Every year, Lewisburg hosts the West Virginia Winter Music Festival, a benefit concert with a mission to lend a helping hand to musicians in need by raising funds, promoting performances and working with schools and various other organizations to assist in music education. This winter’s festival will take place on January 28 and will feature more than 40 bands in seven different venues located throughout town.
A straight shot up I-79 is where you’ll find Morgantown, the fastest growing city in the state, and this region certainly doesn’t hibernate during the winter months.
The Waterfront Place Hotel is perfect for a Morgantown getaway. The hotel has on-site dining as well as easy access to restaurants located in the Wharf District. A quick commute to downtown Morgantown will reveal shopping and a plethora of good eateries and bars sure to please even the pickiest of palates. If craft beer is of interest, be sure to check out Morgantown Brewing Company and Mountain State Brewing Company, which offer a variety of local brews and an inviting, family-friendly atmosphere.
Of course winter wouldn’t be the same without a chance to play in the snow. Chestnut Ridge Park, located just 10 miles east of Morgantown on I-68, offers skiing, snowboarding and sledding. With 16,000 acres of playground and sleds available for rent, this is the perfect destination for snow lovers.
For those who prefer the warmth of the indoors, take in a basketball game at the West Virginia University Coliseum, then head downtown to High Street to check out the local nightlife.
On the banks of the Ohio River lies Parkersburg, another must-visit destination for those brisk winter months. The history-rich Blennerhassett Hotel offers its guests all the modern amenities needed for a comfortable, luxurious winter getaway, including a Starbucks coffee bar, a cozy library with natural lighting, a gift shop with wares from local artisans and the signature cuisine of the hotel’s Spats Restaurant & Lounge.
The Julia-Ann Square Historic District showcases 126 beautifully restored, 19th century Victorian homes once inhabited by West Virginia’s leading politicians and oil and gas moguls working in the outlying areas of this region. For a unique, up-close look at five featured historic homes in the area, don’t miss the 17th Annual Victorian Christmas Homes Tour & Tea on December 3-4. Nearby, Historic Henderson Hall is open through the month of December and boasts Civil War history and reenactments and a Christmas Special Musical Tour on Saturdays in December. The Parkersburg City Park is also set to host Holiday in the Park, a cheerful drive-through light display that will run from November 19-December 31.
Unique shopping can easily be found in the Parkersburg area. Mulberry Lane Country Store offers home goods, collectibles and West Virginia-made food products and wine in its 5,500-plus-square-foot facility. Berdine’s Five and Dime, America’s oldest five and dime, located in nearby Harrisville, has been in business since 1908 and is considered one of West Virginia’s best treasures. It inspires memories of days gone by with its bulk candy bins and old-fashioned toys and offers a variety of gifts for any occasion.
Visitors from throughout the state and its surrounding areas travel to Oglebay Resort during the winter months to experience the Festival of Lights, a six-mile drive through the resort with over 300 acres of holiday light displays. Since its founding in 1985, the Festival of Lights has continued to grow and was once named one of the 10 Best Christmas Light Displays in the U.S. by AOL Travel. This year, the Festival of Lights will run from November 11-January 8, 2017. Visitors can enjoy the lights Sunday through Thursday until 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.
While this monumental display of holiday spirit is certainly a tourist draw, Oglebay Resort has a variety of other family-friendly activities to be enjoyed throughout the winter months. Oglebay offers overnight accommodations, on-site dining, spa services, shopping, museums and an indoor pool. At the ski and snowboard area, rental equipment is available, and visitors can try their hand at snow jumps or gather around the fire pit located just outside the ski building. Guests can escape the cold to check out the indoor exhibits at The Good Zoo, West Virginia’s only accredited zoo; visit the Discover Lab, where visitors will find small animals like poison dart frogs and tamarin monkeys; catch a program about nature, the universe or a holiday laser show at The Benedum Theater or visit the state’s largest 0-gauge model train display.
Stepping off the Oglebay grounds and into Wheeling proper, the entertainment options don’t stop. Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack offers its patrons table games, slot machines, dining and live greyhound racing. The revitalized Capitol Theatre on Main Street hosts musical acts ranging from folk to Broadway productions, and Center Market offers patrons a chance to experience the century-old tradition of the market house complete with dining and shopping.
Don’t let the forecast keep you from enjoying the best West Virginia has to offer. Whether you’re looking for romance, the perfect girls’ weekend or family-friendly fun, the Mountain State is wild and wonderful 365 days a year.