When the weekend comes, program your GPS for these family-friendly attractions.
Summer is the season of road trips—windows rolled down, happy music on the radio, a cooler full of ice-cold sodas in the back. It’s a great way to spend time with the ones you love. And the best part is, you don’t have to travel far or spend a lot of money to make those memories. We have a wealth of unique destinations right here in the Mountain State for your family to enjoy. Just don’t be surprised when “Are we there yet?” turns into “When can we go back?”
Heritage Farm Museum and Village
Mike and Henriella Perry founded the Heritage Farm Museum and Village to raise awareness about the bravery and ingenuity of the Appalachian settlers and the generations that have followed.
The collection is spread out through 16 buildings. That includes the Progress Museum, which shows the dramatic changes in home life from the late 1800s through the early decades of the 1900s. The Transportation Museum showcases the history of travel from covered wagons and carriages to early automobiles. There’s also the Industry Museum, the Country Store Museum, and the new Bowes Doll and Carriage Museum, which boasts a large collection of dolls, doll accessories, and carriages.
And that’s not all. There’s a new interactive playground that features the seven simple machines, a restaurant, a blacksmith shop, bread oven, farm zoo, and log church on the grounds, along with plenty of space for a family picnic. Make it a weekend and stay in one of the charming cottages on the property. 3300 Harvey Road, Huntington; 304.522.1244; heritagefarmmuseum.com
Oglebay Resort is a perfect place for an adults-only weekend getaway, with comfortable lodging, golf courses, and a spa. But there’s plenty for the little ones, too. The resort’s on-site zoo features 50 species of animals including bald eagles, lemurs, meerkats, red pandas, river otters, spectacled bears, and African wild dogs. The Discovery Lab allows guests to see poison dart frogs, tamarin monkeys, and other small animals. The zoo is also home to the state’s largest O-scale model train display. 65 Lodge Drive, Wheeling; 304.243.4030; oglebay-resort.com/goodzoo
The Clay Center
Charleston’s world-class performance hall is also home to the Avampato Discovery Museum, which features two floors of hands-on science exhibits.
There’s Milton Gardner’s Earth City, an interactive Earth science exhibit styled after an old-school roadside attraction. Health Royale goes inside the human body for a look at health science, with a game show hosted by Skully, an animatronic puppet, and his friends Coach Heart, Funny Bone, and Queen Intestine. For young children, the museum offers Kidspace, an exhibit especially designed to stimulate the minds of kids five and under.
Once you’re done with the museum, grab a bite to eat in the Clay Center’s Intermezzo Café, then catch a show at the Digital Dome theater, which features immersive documentaries as well as regular planetarium shows. 1 Clay Square, Charleston; 304.561.3570; theclaycenter.org
Exhibition Coal Mine
To understand the history of the coal industry is to understand the history of West Virginia. For a closer look at that history—both aboveground and below—check out the Exhibition Coal Mine.
A longtime favorite of school field trips, this museum features a restored early 20th century coal camp, with a church, school, typical miner’s home, and mine superintendent’s home. Step even further into the past with the Mountain Homestead, which gives visitors a taste of life on the Appalachian frontier. There’s a log house, one-room schoolhouse, barn, blacksmith, and general store.
Also on site is the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia. The museum features three interactive exhibits, which change out every year, as well as a planetarium offering shows about constellations, planets, and celestial events.
The main attraction, of course, is the mine itself. Former coal miners will give your family a glimpse of what it’s like to work in the dark, dank, and dangerous heart of a mountain. You’ll want to bring a jacket even on the warmest days of summer—the temperature inside the mine remains a cool 58 degrees all year long. 513 Ewart Avenue, Beckley; 304. 256.1747; beckley.org/underground-tour
Mountain Trail Rides
Located less than five minutes from nearby Canaan Valley Resort State Park and Timberline Four Seasons Resort, this attraction allows guests to experience the natural beauty of our state the same way the area’s early settlers did—on horseback. Experienced guides lead each tour along trails featuring picturesque views of the Canaan Valley, through landscapes populated with deer and black bears.
No equestrian experience is necessary at Mountain Trail Rides. All necessary equipment is provided, and guides give each group a short pre-ride class about safety and horse behavior—ensuring everyone is confident and comfortable in the saddle, even if they’ve never sat on a horse before. And with a stable full of beautiful, well-mannered horses, Mountain Trail Rides finds many guests returning to ask for their favorite pony by name.
While a horseback ride through the Canaan wilderness is a perfect summertime activity, Mountain Trail Rides host groups all year long, weather and trail conditions permitting. 255 Freeland Road, Davis; 304.866.4652; mountaintrailrides.com
For The Kids, By George
Opened in 2012, this 6,000-square-foot children’s museum will guide your family through four centuries of U.S. history. You can learn about George Washington’s adventures as a young surveyor in what is now West Virginia, tour a Native American village in the 1600s, take a look inside a log cabin from the 1700s, and browse the aisles of a general store from the 1800s.
The museum is also filled with exhibits for the railfans in your brood. Check out the GW Giles Shay Locomotive, the same kind of steam engine that powered West Virginia’s timber industry from the late 1800s through the middle of the 20th century. The “Working on the Railroad” exhibit, sponsored by the North American Railway Foundation, teaches kids about all the different jobs required to keep the trains rolling down the tracks.
Be sure to make time for the Pedal-a-Watt gallery theater, which takes visitors on a virtual biking tour of the Washington Heritage Trail that runs through Eastern Panhandle towns of Berkeley Springs, Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry, and Charles Town. 229 East Martin Street, Martinsburg; 304.264.9977; forthekidsbygeorge.org
Smoke Hole Caverns
The Smoke Hole Caverns and Log Cabin Resort centers around a beautiful system of caves, allegedly used as a hiding place for local moonshiners during the heyday of Prohibition. The caverns are now home to a more honest kind of commerce, with thousands of visitors touring the natural attraction each year.
The resort includes a log motel, private log cabins for couples and families, and cottages along the river. There’s also Smoke Hole Outfitters, which offers fly fishing lessons, a catch-and-release trout stream, and a catch-and-keep pond where visitors can also feed the fish. The resort’s newest activity is the Moonshine Mining Company. It allows treasure hunters of all ages to pan bags of dirt for fossils and gemstones, including amethysts, emeralds, and rubies.
Even the gift shop at Smoke Hole is an attraction unto itself—the 26,000-square-foot shopping center features all manner of outdoor gear, apparel, and gifts. Don’t miss the food section, which is filled with West Virginia-made treats. 8290 North Fork Highway, Cabins; 800.828.8478; smokehole.com
The mystery of Mothman is alive and well in the town where the otherworldly winged figure first appeared 50 years ago. Located just next to Point Pleasant’s silvery statue of the creature, the Mothman Museum gives visitors an up-close look at the legend.
See the original, handwritten depositions from the eyewitnesses who first spotted Mothman, as well as newspaper clippings and photographs from the Silver Bridge Disaster, a deadly 1967 collapse some believe is related to the sightings. There are exhibits dedicated to paranormal investigator John Keel and to local Mothman journalist Mary Hyle, and a sizeable collection of props from the 2002 Richard Gere movie The Mothman Prophecies.
The museum also features two life-size Mothman models—perfect for your next selfie—and a gift shop with tons of souvenirs including t-shirts, hoodies, stickers, buttons, and books. 400 Main Street, Point Pleasant; 304.812.5211; mothmanmuseum.com
North Bend Rail Trail
Built along an abandoned stretch of the CSX railroad, this multipurpose trail runs 72 miles from Parkersburg in Wood County to Wolf Summit in Harrison County. Along the way you’ll pass through 13 railway tunnels and over 36 bridges. You’ll see parks and farmland and tiny railroad towns like Cairo and Pennsboro.
You don’t have to commit to the full 72 miles—the trail is easily accessible from both Interstates 77 and 79 and runs parallel to U.S. Route 50 for much of the way, so there are plenty of places to begin a short jaunt. But if your family decides to go the whole way, North Bend State Park offers shuttle services to get you and your gear back where you started. 304.643.2931; northbendrailtrailstatepark.com
West Virginia State Wildlife Center
Located about 30 minutes from Stonewall Resort, the West Virginia State Wildlife Center allows your family to get face-to-face with some of the state’s native critters in a modern zoo facility, including animals no longer found in the Mountain State, like elk and bison.
You can also find white-tailed deer, coyotes, mountain lions, and timber wolves, along with birds and small mammals, including the river otter. And of course there’s French Creek Freddie, the famous groundhog that helps West Virginians figure out whether there will be an early spring or six more weeks of winter.
Animal enclosures are situated along a 1.25-mile, paved, wheelchair-accessible trail. There’s also a stocked pond where your family can spot waterfowl or drop a line to catch trout, bass, catfish, or bluegill. And if you decide to make a full day of your trip, the Wildlife Center has plenty of picnic areas for public use. 163 County Route 20, French Creek; 304.924.6211; wvdnr.gov/wildlife/wildlifecenter.shtm
Tygart River Outfitters
Just up the road from Audra State Park, Tygart River Outfitters offers a variety of wet and wild adventures for your whole family. Whether you choose to experience the Tygart River in a raft, kayak, or inner tube, this outfitter provides an all-inclusive experience with all the gear your group will need, plus shuttle services to and from the river. Certified instructors also provide a crash course in water safety so everyone makes it back safe and sound.
Once back on land, check out Tygart River Outfitters’ brand-new gem mine. It’s a different kind of adventure, panning through soil to unearth potentially pricey gemstones. You don’t know what you’ll find, and that’s the fun of it—knowledgeable staff members are on hand to help identify your haul. 1383 Swamp Run Road, Buckhannon; 304.613.5557; tygartriveroutfitters.com
ACE Adventure Resort
ACE Adventure Resort has been offering white-knuckle whitewater adventures since 1980. But the outfitter doesn’t cater only to adrenaline junkies anymore. Besides rafting and kayaking, ACE offers mountain biking, fishing, horseback riding, stand-up paddle boarding, ziplining, paint ball, a disc golf course, and more. From June to August children ages five to 10 can attend a daylong Kids Camp, where trained guides lead discovery hikes, scavenger hunts, craft projects, and games in the great outdoors.
One of the most popular attractions is ACE’s new Wonderland Waterpark. Featuring five acres of fun, the park has added 50 new obstacles and inflatable toys for 2016, along with bigger water slides, an expanded sandy beach, and a newly renovated restaurant. Guests can buy a day pass or spend the night in one of ACE’s comfortable cabins and make the fun last even longer. 1 Concho Road, Minden; 800.787.3982; email@example.com; aceraft.com