There are countless reasons to visit West Virginia, yet surprisingly, the state remains one of the USA’s best kept secrets! Before my visit, I was one of those people completely clueless to everything the state has to offer. However, I was delighted to what I discovered. It gave me with all the things I’d been craving in my life! It gifted me adventure, self-discovery, peace of mind, and a newfound appreciation for community. These are always my favorite kinds of destinations. The kinds that fill the little holes in your life you never knew existed!
Why visit West Virginia? If you know nothing about the state, I understand you may need some convincing. However, after reading these 10 reasons to visit West Virginia, you’ll realize its most appealing draw! West Virginia has something to offer all types of travelers. From adrenaline junkies to foodies to history buffs, there is something to entertain and inspire everyone.
Keep scrolling and you’ll understand why I keep telling everyone to visit West Virginia 😍
1. Gauley Season
Without a doubt, West Virginia is one of the best places for whitewater rafting in the country! This can be attributed to the famous Gauley River and its challenging, yet thrilling class V rapids. Every year when Gauley season rolls around in the fall, tourists flock from all over the world to experience the famed Gauley. It’s that one of a kind!
Although it’s known for its abundance of world-class rapids, the river is uniquely still a playground for all levels of paddlers. Whether you’re a beginner with zero experience or a whitewater veteran, the Gauley welcomes everyone with open arms.
There are several whitewater rafting tours in the area, offering all types of half or full day excursions based on your skill level. Even if you’re not ready to take on the Gauley River, the nearby New River is just as beautiful with the same top-tier rapids (just not as many!).
I did a half day tour on the New River with ACE Adventure Resort and I couldn’t recommend the company more. Our guides were extremely knowledgable and accomodating, and made the class V rapids feel like a breeze! It was the perfect mix of relaxation in nature and heart-racing adventure.
2. Food Scene
If the rest of the state is anything like Charleston and Fayetteville (the two areas I visited), then it’s safe to say West Virginia is a foodie’s paradise! With local, seasonal ingredients being the focus of so many establishments, it was hard to find a bad meal during the trip.
I sampled everything from sandwiches and pizza to acai bowls and salads, and I can honestly say each meal left me so impressed! As an LA native, I admit I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to food, but West Virginia exceeded all expectations.
Some favorites of the trip included specialty pizzas at Pies & Pints, pancakes and smoothie bowls at Cathedral Cafe, gourmet sandwiches at Secret Sandwich Society, and a BBQ feast at Smokey’s Steakhouse.
3. Welcoming Community
While we may not travel somewhere solely because of the people, the locals sure do shape our experience in a place, don’t you think? Looking back, the welcoming community in West Virginia was a major reason I grew so in love with the state.
All the locals I met, regardless of their different backgrounds and beliefs, all shared a strong pride for their home. Because of this pride, there was such a palpable bond amongst their entire community.
Witnessing this mutual love made it so easy as a visitor to adopt their same adoration for West Virginia. This sense of community is something I’ve always found lacking in my hometown of Los Angeles, so as an outsider I was really moved by the warm and welcoming locals. In particular, Fayetteville was an outstanding example of how a strong community can dramatically affect people’s quality of life. This brings me to my next reason to visit West Virginia…
If you only have the time and/or money for one destination when you visit West Virginia, make it Fayetteville! With its charming architecture, rich history, delicious food scene, and friendly locals, there is no better place to experience West Virginia!
Also, Fayetteville is surrounded by all the defining landscapes that make West Virginia so special. Just a short drive away, you’ll find the New and Gauley Rivers which offer rafting, climbing and hiking. Plus, there’s an abundance of adventure resorts surrounding Fayetteville, making the bridge between rest and play feel seamless.
In town, don’t miss the antique and adventure gear shops, as well as all the restaurants previously mentioned. Also, don’t forget to bring your camera. Every block looks as though you’re stepping back into America’s past!
5. Climbing & Hiking
If you don’t visit West Virginia for the rafting, then do it for the climbing! The state is home to some of the best rock climbing in the country.
You’ll find incredible climbing all over, but the crowd favorite is definitely the New River Gorge area. Not only are the sandstone cliffs ideal for climbers, but the surrounding views of the New River Gorge and its famous bridge are absolutely jaw-dropping! Plus, there’s climbs available for all ages and skill levels.
New to climbing? West Virginia is the perfect place to learn how with an array of climbing schools and guides to choose from! If rock climbing isn’t your thing though, you can still experience the state’s untouched nature on hiking trails located all over the state!
6. Fall Foliage
West Virginia ranks at the tippy-top when it comes to witnessing those iconic autumn views. The tourism board even has an entire section on their website dedicated to Fall, so you know you’re in the right place when it comes to fall foliage! In fact, the entire state experiences such a transformation during this season, travelers from all over the world come to witness the sight.
There are countless regions and national parks to view the foliage, as well as several methods to explore the views. You can set out by foot on a hike, in your car on a road trip, or my personal preference, on a train ride specifically designed for peeping fall foliage!
My trip took place during late summer, but I’ll most definitely visit West Virginia again in autumn one day!
7. Extreme Sports
If whitewater rafting and rock climbing aren’t enough of a thrill for you, West Virginia offers even more extreme sports for daredevils!
Zip-lining is something the entire family can enjoy, as well as night-time obstacle courses, which take place way up in the tree canopy! The latter was probably the most frightening activity on my West Virginia itinerary, but definitely the most exciting and rewarding! If you’re up for the challenge, I highly recommend booking the moonlit TimberTrek at Adventures on the Gorge!
For those who want to take it to the highest of extremes, you can try skydiving or participate in “Bridge Day” where hundreds of base jumpers fly off the famous New River Gorge Bridge! If you’re anything like me, you’ll take part in Bridge Day on the sidelines, beer in hand 🤣. Either way, Bridge Day is a fun and exciting holiday for everyone in attendance!
8. Untouched Nature
West Virginia’s unspoiled nature is another major feature that made me fall hard for the state. Even in a city like Charleston, you’re still surrounded by an abundance of greenery and rivers everywhere you turn. The result is an overwhelming sense of calm that permeates the state. If you’re feeling the need to escape and clear your mind, there’s endless options in West Virginia.
As you can already tell, the nature also provides endless opportunities for adventure! One of my favorite memories from the trip was actually stand up paddle boarding on Summersville Lake with Adventures on the Gorge. Paddling on the lake with the backdrop of quiet, lush forests was such a relaxing way to experience West Virginia’s beautiful nature!
9. Rich History
West Virginia’s history is something that can be felt on a deep level, even when just roaming the state on foot. Whether it be the Civil War signs around Fayetteville or old mining towns on the New River, West Virginia holds so many stories from the past. What’s interesting too is the amount locals that can recite these stories to you. So if you’re a history buff or just curious about West Virginia, be sure to strike up a conversation!
This history is something I find so rare in the U.S. today, at least for me growing up in California. I love the sensation you get knowing a place has seen so much over its years, so I was completely enamored while exploring West Virginia 😍.
10. Camping & Adventure Resorts
One last thing you don’t want to miss out on is the unique accommodation the area offers! West Virginia offers countless adventure resorts nestled right in the heart of unspoiled nature. The resort grounds usually offer a variety of cabins, as well as campgrounds where you can pitch a tent!
Because the resorts are adventure themed, they’ll offer on-site activities like rafting, zip-lining, climbing, and even more! With the resorts being so intertwined with these activities, planning and booking your West Virginia itinerary becomes effortless.
Those are my 10 reasons to visit West Virginia! Have I convinced you yet?
I’m curious…Have you been to West Virginia? If so, do you have anything to add to my list? Let me know in the comments!
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*This post is sponsored by the West Virginia Tourism Board, however all opinions and recommendations are my own.