What does a typical day in Southern West Virginia look like? Walking over the New River Bridge, learning what it’s like to work in a coal mine, eating delicious comfort food, hiking to your heart’s desire, experiencing small town culture, and taking in the beauty by way of paddle boarding or white water rafting! And yes, that can all be in one day!
There is so much to see and do in the Wild and Wonderful landscape of Southern West Virginia. Experiencing this area through its small towns is a great way to explore and feel like you are immersed in the culture. Here are My Town’s Top 20 Places You Can’t Miss in Southern West Virginia.
1. Head to Glen Ferris, and Paddleboard or Kayak at Kanawha Falls
This was one of the absolute highlights of my time in Southern West Virginia! Drive down toward New River Gorge, and head toward Gauley Bridge. This unique area where the New and Gauley Rivers meet to form the Kanawha is a wonderful place for flat water activities. You will drive through the tiny and adorable town of Glen Ferris, and downstream, you will find Kanawha Falls.
I recommend getting an instructor if you are not an experienced kayaker or paddleboarder. Whether you’re visiting Small Town Hinton, Beckley, Fayetteville, or adorable Gauley Bridge; this outdoor activity is a fun way to explore, no matter your age or skill level. It’s become one of My Town’s favorites! Plus, I had THE BEST instructor! If you’re in Southern West Virginia- give her a call. Meghan Fisher with Mountain Surf Paddle Sports www.Mtnsurfps.com.
Beckley is a great spot to start your Southern West Virginia Exploring. My Town recommends staying in Beckley and use as a base camp as you discover surrounding areas. Visit Southern West Virginia is located here, as well as several small town attractions you don’t want to miss.
This historical landmark whose slogan is “ Journey into the earth and into the past,” is an actual coal mine that was used from 1890-1910 (the Phillips Family Mine). While visiting you go down into the coal mine on an authentic man car. You will learn all about how life was for miners from the early days until now.
There are several other unique places to explore the life of coal miners at The Exhibition; check out the Coal Company House, Pemberton Coal Camp Church, and if you are traveling with kids, they have a wonderful youth museum with original log building structures. One of My Town’s favorite parts was the second-floor museum. I was just fascinated by the stories of coal miners lives, and how the coal towns themselves were created and maintained. Make sure to call ahead to check on any changes due to COVID-19.
I was extremely impressed with the range of activities and amenities at The Resort at Glade Springs. The balcony rooms are incredibly spacious, and have comfortable beds, large bathrooms, and everything was impeccably clean!
The great thing about Glade Springs, especially if you have kids, are the activities on site. There is an Olympic size swimming pool, hot tub, arcade, bowling alley, and even a small cinema! All of this is included in your stay, and for the adults there’s a clubhouse, bar, beautiful golf course, and an adorable café across from the hotel.
I was not expecting all that I discovered at Glade Springs. The grounds are beautiful, it is surrounded by private residences, and is a gated community. All this and more helping you feel safe and secure while making your plans to visit more of Southern West Virginia.
Located right outside Beckley in Daniels, The Dish Café is the perfect place to stop for great homemade food you can feel good about eating! The Dish is a local family-owned and operated establishment. They take pride in using only local meat and produce and eliminating preservatives, additives, and GMOs- the result? Amazing tasting food in a small town atmosphere, the perfect combination!
My Town had the absolute pleasure of having lunch on a gorgeous fall day, within the beautiful setting of Daniel Vineyards. Started by wine enthusiast and world traveler, Dr. C. Richard Daniel, the first vines were planted here in 1988, and officially opened as the first Vineyard in Raleigh County in 1990.
Daniel Vineyard is an integral part of the wine movement in West Virginia and is leading the way in superior grapes in this area and wine education. Check out their Mission and Vision Here.
I also had the pleasure of talking with Chad Fox (GM), who gave My Town a lot of great information about this Estate Winery that 100% grows all its grapes, and why that’s becoming hard to find. Check out the conversation on one of My Town’s Podcast Bonus Features!
6. Shop at Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia
Tamarack is a special place in West Virginia to shop and see an abundance of local art and handmade items, made exclusively by West Virginia artisans. Conveniently located right of I-64, this is a must stop in Beckley for special gifts specific to West Virginia. But as Tamarack has gained notoriety, it’s also become known that visitors and locals stop here for the food. The chefs that prepare the food at Tamarack are the same that work at the famous Greenbrier, America’s Resort. I had comfort food (meatloaf) while vising, and it was outstanding. This is a must stop whether you are planning a visit or passing through. Fun Fact: If you have heard of the famous Greenbrier Peaches, you can also get them at right here at Tamarack.
Right outside small town Fayetteville is the famous New River Gorge and New River Bridge. In my opinion, the best way to experience New River Gorge is to do the Bridge Walk. The Bridge Walk takes about an hour and half, and you will learn the history of the Gorge during your walk. You can’t beat this once in a lifetime experience or the views! While yes, it can be a little intimidating, don’t worry, their amazing staff have you covered. You are harnessed in and will be with a guide. It is a very safe walk, and something you can only do in Southern West Virginia!
Named one of The Coolest Small Towns in America, Fayetteville is interesting because of its mix of eclectic businesses and railroad history. The downtown is great, because it is not too big an area to explore so you can really take your time, and it has many hidden shops and fun spots to discover. Here are a few My Town Favorite Finds:
9. While In Fayetteville Stay at The Historic Morris Harvey House
Welcome to the Historic Morris Harvey House! Located right in downtown Fayetteville, it’s within walking distance to great small town shops and restaurants! The home was placed on the Register of Historic Places in 1902, as it’s the former home of one of the county’s most notable residents, Morris Harvey. Click here for full history.
“The Historic Morris Harvey House was built by R. H. Dickinson and completed in 1902 for Morris and Rosa Harvey. This 3-story, 14-room Queen Anne-style house has five guest areas, seven fireplaces and two antique bathrooms with clawfoot tubs and water closets.”
10. Stop in at The Hobbit Hole While Shopping in Fayetteville
Have you been to a great Vintage or Antique shop lately? Check out The Hobbit Hole! Loved exploring this vintage find and the shops of downtown Fayetteville! Just one of the interesting and unique finds in this small town, named one of the Top 24 Coolest Towns in the U.S. by the Matador Network.
11. Have Lunch at The Secret Sandwich Society
Loved my experience at The Secret Sandwich Society. The owners really wanted to do a speakeasy kind of place. They started looking into secret societies, and then started looking at Presidents- because who has more secrets than U.S. Presidents?
The entire menu was themed and inspired by past U.S. Presidents, and places like “The Bohemian Grove, ” a secret compound for the wealthy to play (allegedly). Burgers are secret code names, and the atmosphere is an eclectic style all its own!
When visiting small towns, it’s always fun to see businesses that have withstood the test of time. In Fayetteville, you will see that the Ben Franklin is still the main place in town for grocery, home décor, and fountain service. If you are not from a town that still has this type of mom and pop operation, you must stop in to feel what it’s like to be a part of a simpler time.
13. Have Dinner at Pies and Pints
Don’t these Heirloom Tomatos look amazing? That is thanks to the original location of Pies and Pints in small town Fayetteville!
Pies and Pints takes their crafting of fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and pairing with craft beer seriously. Making each selection you make a culinary experience that anyone can afford! The sauces are all made in house and the hand-tossed dough makes all the difference. Make sure to check out the photo gallery to see the Pies and Pints Crew tossing their famous dough and firing up their pizza’s in their three-tiered oven!
You could spend all your time in Southern West Virginia right at Hawks Nest if you wanted to. Ride the tram and take in the views, then hike their famous trails on 270 acres of recreational bliss. Stay in their newly remodeled accommodations, and challenge yourself with their boating waterways. Also, you don’t have to leave with wonderful food right at the lodge. Hot breakfast is a staple here, southern biscuits and gravy anyone?
15. Sip and Play at The Chocolate Moose
I have to say when I find a Great coffee shop (for those of you who follow me), you know how excited I get. Why is the Chocolate Moose in Southern West Virginia a destination for Roadtrippers? Because it has one of the Top 50 Miniature Golf Courses in the U.S., and Indoor Climbing Gym!
Mountain State Miniature Golf course is amazing. Each hole has a detailed history, legend, or pop culture description of West Virginia; from the Mothman to Coal Mines, and Civil War Bunkers! Plus, many of the displays are made by local artisans, or came from a place of significance in West Virginia. A can’t miss stop, and as stated before, there’s also the Outside-In Climbing Gym; Featuring: moonwalk to have digitized climbs, and awesome coffee too, roasted right on site.
Hinton is and was a railroad town. There is actually an Amtrak line that goes through this town several times a week. I found this fascinating for the size of this town (FYI- if you’re in the DC area, you can get right to Hinton on this line)! You have to stop at Hinton’s Historic Depot and Railroad Museum, and walk the beautifully restored downtown with small shops and eateries, especially these next Favorite Finds:
17. Enjoy The Market Courthouse Square
Offering soups, salads, sandwiches, wood-fired pizza, and homemade desserts, “The Market” is one of Hinton’s favorite watering holes for locals. Delicious food, great coffee, adjoining bar, all right in the heart of adorable downtown Hinton!
18. Visit The Big Four Drugstore
The Big Four Drugstore on the corner of Temple Street is the original pharmacy and soda shop that’s been there since the 1940s. Similar to the function of the Ben Franklin in Fayetteville, you will get nothing but family-owned, small town charm from the Big Four Drugstore in downtown Hinton. You will love the walk-up soda shop counter, their signs in the windows supporting the local high school team, and the delicious ice cream!
19. Relax at The Ritz Theatre
If you plan to visit Hinton on a day The Ritz Theatre is showing movies, take in old flick at this historical theater downtown. The Ritz has been a staple and helping hand in the Hinton Community since 1929; from hosting war bond drives in the 1940’s, to offering free movies to the community children all through the recent pandemic. A great place to enjoy some downtime, in a special place to Hinton residents.
20. Explore Sandstone Falls
After visiting downtown Hinton make sure that you stop at stunning Sandstone Falls. Sandstone Falls is part of the New River Gorge National River about five miles from downtown Hinton. It has a boardwalk for you to see the falls, making this stop easy and enjoyable for all, and was one of My Town’s Favorite Finds.
Tips You Need to Know When Visiting Southern West Virginia:
1. Plan a lot of extra drive time
It may take you a good fifty minutes to get to some locations if you were going to be hiking or doing water activities in and around the gorge. In a four -day period, I drove an additional tank of gas more than I originally planned, just going to the activities and small towns I wanted to visit. It just takes that long to get down into some of the prettiest locations, that tend to be more remote.
2. Bring a Map
You will not have service in several areas of the gorge and rocky areas of trails in Southern West Virginia. Bring a map or pick one up in one of the several visitor centers. It is is not hard to navigate as many popular places only have one way in and one way out, but do not rely solely on your cell phone.
3. Plan for Tolls
You can find ways around the toll system in Southern West Virginia, but depending on which direction you’re coming from- the turnpike may be one of the best ways to get you into where you want to go. If this is the case, you may pay up to $8.00 on this toll route! Additionally, to get into the New River Gorge area on route 19, you will have 75 cents to and from, to plan for as well.
4. Pay Attention to your Surroundings
Pay attention to your surroundings. Southern West Virginia is an example of living history for the coal mines. Not only can you explore the way of life of past coal miners, but it is a working coal mine area. For example, driving on 60 West you will see the town of Boomer and all of its row houses near the Alloy Coal Mine. Then you come into the town of Smithers and Montgomery where you can also see living history.
There is so much that you can learn and see by just paying attention to your surroundings, and seeing what a hard-working area this is in Southern West Virginia. Keep your eyes peeled viewing the landscape and be respectful of the men and women who are going to work every day to make sure we have the energy needed to support the lifestyle we all enjoy.
A Note From My Town and Southern West Virginia Photo Gallery
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