From singing John Denver’s classic “Country Roads” to shooting the white water on the New River, you’re not a true West Virginian until you’ve crossed off at least half of the items on our fun-filled list.
Article by Kevin Savage
Over the years, writers have coined a number of positive phrases about West Virginia – Almost Heaven, Wild and Wonderful, Mountain Momma. Musicians have waxed poetic about the state’s inspiring beauty and the vitality of its people. Indeed, West Virginia is a very special place.
But, what does it means to be a West Virginian? If a person is defined by deeds rather than words, completion of the following list, compiled by the HQ staff and our friends throughout the state, will make you a true Mountaineer.
West Virginia is steeped in history, rich in culture and blessed with extraordinary natural beauty. As a result, there is an abundance of activities to suit those of all ages and adventure levels, indoors and outdoors, in all seasons. Do as many as you can and you’ll not only have fun, but learn a lot about your state and yourself.
1. Spend the night at the world-renowned Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. A favorite sleepover for U.S. presidents, the luxury accommodations include a spa, fine dining, three championship golf courses and many other activities. Set upon 6,500 acres, the resort has received numerous accolades during its 225-year history, including a ranking as the “#1 Resort Spa in North America and in the Caribbean” by Conde Nast Traveler. Also voted “World’s #1 Value” by readers of Travel+Leisure, the Greenbrier truly represents the very best of West Virginia.
2. Sing John Denver’s classic “Country Roads” with great pride while driving down any of the winding, twisting and scenic back roads found throughout the Mountain State.
3. Rent “Matewan,” the critically acclaimed movie based on the 1920 massacre in Matewan that started the Coal Wars. Poverty-stricken miners stand up to company thugs in a film that reveals the courageous spirit of the true West Virginian.
4. Visit the Hillsboro home of Pearl S. Buck. Her books, most notably “The Good Earth,” have won her the distinction of being the first woman awarded both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize for literature.
5. Commemorate Memorial Day this year by remembering the most loyal citizens in America – more West Virginians per capita have volunteered for military service and died defending their country than any other state.
6. Pick up a copy of “Yeager,” the autobiography by Chuck Yeager, which recounts the glory days of the World War II combat ace and famed test pilot. The book is truly fascinating and offers evidence that the Hamlin native and Brigadier General is arguably the most accomplished man in the history of West Virginia. Did we mention he also broke the Sound Barrier?
7. Play in the snow! Ski, snowboard, tube or watch others from the fireside comfort of the lodge at one of the mountain state’s four popular ski resorts: Snowshoe, Canaan Valley, Timberline and Winterplace. Don’t forget your flask.
8. Ride the whitewater down one of West Virginia’s scenic rivers. The New River and Gauley are well known for offering some of the best rapids in the entire country.
9. Honor your mother this May.
After all, it was Grafton native Anna Jarvis who dedicated her life to
the creation of Mother’s Day. West Virginia
became the first state to observe the holiday in 1912; President Woodrow Wilson officially
10. Cast a fly into the breathtaking Cranberry River, near Richwood, in the federally managed Cranberry Wilderness Area. The catch and release stream is stocked with a variety of trout species. But even if you don’t get a nibble all day, the rugged beauty of the area is something you will never forget.
11. Tour the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley, an actual West Virginia coal mine, to gain an appreciation for the harsh working conditions endured by so many miners in our state over the years.
12. Garner some respect for West Virginia’s own beautiful action-adventure heroine, Charleston native Jennifer Garner. See the superstar weekly on the ABC television series “Alias,” or trading kisses and punches on the big screen with Ben Affleck in “Daredevil.”
13. Explore West Virginia’s awe-inspiring underground world. Tour Seneca Caverns and Smoke Hole Caverns in the eastern panhandle or Lost World Caverns and Organ Cave near Lewisburg. You’ll be amazed.
14. Enjoy the outdoors by visiting one of the 33 West Virginia State Parks. The Mountain State truly lives up to its wild and wonderful reputation with over 200,000 acres of state land set aside for public use. For more information call 1-800-CALL WVA or visit the website at www.wvstateparks.com.
15. Chug back into a bygone era on the Cass Scenic Railroad. Climb aboard one of the 1901-era steam driven trains (that once hauled lumber to the local mill) for an unforgettable ride to the top of Bald Knob in scenic Pocahontas County. For the best experience, plan your trip in the fall and soak in all the color.
16. Watch the pigskin fly! Head to Mountaineer Field in Morgantown to root for the WVU Mountaineers, or stop by Marshall University Stadium in Huntington to cheer on the Thundering Herd. Either way, you will enjoy an unforgettable day of college football action...not to mention all the tailgating.
17. Moth or myth? Rent “ The Mothman Prophecies” starring Richard Gere and search the red eyes for the truth in this spooky movie based on real life events that took place in Point Pleasant in the 1960s.
18. Celebrate Black History Month in February. It was Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a former student and principal at Douglass High School in Huntington, who established Negro History Week in 1926 which later grew into Black History Month. The second black man to earn a doctorate from Harvard University, Woodson is universally acknowledged as the “Father of Black History.”
19. Pull off the interstate at Beckley and see “The Best of West Virginia” at Tamarack. The peak-roofed, circular building and landscaped grounds offer a showcase for the state’s finest arts and crafts, music and cuisine, and products of all kinds, drawing half a million visitors each year.
20. Take a ride on the Big Dipper, an old-style wooden roller coaster at Camden Park in Huntington, the state’s only amusement park, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Congratulations!
21. Step back in time to see how life in West Virginia has evolved at the Heritage Farm Museum and Village in Wayne County. Tours are offered that celebrate the work ethic and ingenuity of our Appalachian ancestors, including everything from the history of transportation to the history of the broom. The small, re-created town includes a one-room schoolhouse, church, sawmill, blacksmith shop and several brimming museums all set against the backdrop of the lush West Virginia hills.
22. Relax at one of the state’s best-kept secrets, Glade Springs Resort near Beckley. The first-class resort is surprisingly affordable and offers something for the entire family including scenic walking trails, equestrian center, pool, spa, two spectacular golf courses and ski-and-stay packages to sister resort Winterplace during ski season.
23. Drive the Highland Scenic Highway, from Richwood west to 219, especially during the fall when the hardwoods are ablaze with color. Traversing the Monongahela National Forest, the route is 4,500 feet above sea level, features four scenic overlooks and passes the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, a unique wetland environment.
24. Have dinner at The Red Fox at the top of Snowshoe Mountain. A five-star dining experience, the restaurant is the best in the state and one of the few in the region to earn a Wine Spectator magazine Award of Excellence. It’s also one of the only places you can sample some truly wild and wonderful cuisine such as wild boar and wild turkey.
25. Catch a Minnesota Vikings game and watch Randy Moss, the Rand native, former Marshall University standout and perennial pro-bowler, haul in another touchdown pass.
To see the complete list subscribe to HQ today.
© 1999- 2004 Huntington Quarterly Magazine