West Virginia Department of Commerce Wheeling

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There is no shortage of things to do in this modest-sized city (pop. 30,000.) Wheeling visitors looking for a place to start have access to a wealth of information right at their fingertips.

“First, I would recommend that visitors download our Smartphone App. We are the only municipality in West Virginia that has such an App and it has a plethora of information on things to do, where to go and what to see,” said Joelle Connors-Ennis, development specialist with Regional Economic Development Partnership (RED), a private, nonprofit organization that helps promote business in Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties.

Orrick’s facility office in the historic Wheeling Stamping Building
Orrick’s facility office in the historic Wheeling Stamping Building

If you want to learn about the Mountain State’s origins, start with Wheeling, where it all began during the Civil War.

The West Virginia Independence Hall was the capital of the Restored State of Virginia (which later became West Virginia.) The hall was a key asset for the new state, serving as a customs house, federal court and post office. Businesses could ship goods to the city directly from foreign countries via the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Today the building houses a museum about West Virginia’s path to statehood.

“It’s run by the Division of Culture and History, and it’s absolutely amazing,” said Olivia Litman, marketing director for the Wheeling Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The building’s courtroom has been restored to its original state. Admission is free.

The city strives to preserve its culture while encouraging business growth. Many commercial and residential buildings in Wheeling are eligible for historic preservation tax credits. For instance, in 2002, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe pioneered the concept of consolidating a law firm’s support services when it opened its around-the-clock operation in the historic Wheeling Stamping Building. Business costs are lower; meanwhile, Orrick’s employees enjoy a high quality of life.

“We’re a growing city and a changing city, so it’s always nice to be a part of that change.”

- Olivia Litman, marketing director for the Wheeling Convention and Visitor’s Bureau

Another example of where history and arts merge is Wheeling’s Heritage Port. It was the first “intermodal” transportation system in the area, serviced by river traffic, rail and road. The National Road, the nation’s first federally funded road, terminated and then crossed the Ohio River here, on the suspension bridge. These days, the port is a hub of leisure activity.

“During the warmer months from April until the middle of October, there is always some kind of festival or event going on downtown,” said Connors-Ennis.

Other must-see attractions include Oglebay Resort, home of the Winter Festival of Lights, and Centre Market, with its unique collection of locally owned shops, art galleries and wine bars. “It also has a science center and a community theater. There’s an interesting vibe there,” she said.

In addition to shopping, visitors can try their luck at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack or take in a hockey game. The historic Capitol Theatre, which dates back to 1928, offers regular live music and theater. Outdoor lovers can take advantage of more than 13 miles of railroad beds that have been converted into the Wheeling Heritage Trail for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Wheeling is a nice place to visit, but it’s an even better place to live. In 2011, Forbes magazine listed the city as one of the “10 Best Places to Live Cheaply” in the U.S., citing Wheeling’s highly rated schools and low crime and low unemployment.

Litman says the low cost of living and the city’s central location make Wheeling an ideal place to relocate. The city is centrally located off two major highways and is just 40 minutes away from Pittsburgh.

“The quality of life here is wonderful,” Litman said. “It’s safe, we have a lot of great opportunities going on with the oil and gas industry, and tourism is just through the roof.”

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