View the resplendent colors of fall at their peak in southern West Virginia in late October. Take a walking tour of the railroad town of Huntington and catch the world-famous New River Train fall excursion to Hinton. View the old world art of glass blowing at Blenko Glass in Milton.
In Charleston, the capitol complex features one of the most beautiful capitols in the country, adorned with gold leaf and marble. Nearby, the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences is a downtown showplace featuring a state-of-the-art performance hall, black box theater, art museum, science center, large-format films, planetarium, gift shop and snack bar.
At Charleston, I-64 intersects with I-77 and leads you to Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia. This unique artisan center features juried West Virginia arts, crafts and food. Fayetteville, north of Beckley off U.S. 19, is the heart of America’s Best Whitewater, set along the spectacular New River Gorge National River. While there, visit the New River Gorge Bridge, the second-highest span in the U.S., or take advantage of miles of hiking and biking trails.
From here it’s eastward to historic Lewisburg, just off I-64, where residences and buildings in this national historic district date from the 18th century. Quaint storefronts, antique shops, gas lamps and the lack of overhead power lines enhance its character. Just down the road in White Sulphur Springs is the world-famous, five-diamond Greenbrier resort that offers luxurious accommodations, haute cuisine, three championship golf courses, a spa, an array of recreational activities and a fascinating tour of a formerly top-secret underground bunker designed to protect the President and both houses of the U.S. Congress during the heart of the Cold War.
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In early October, Victorian Wheeling is an ideal starting point for an autumn excursion that follows the Ohio River. Visit Independence Hall, site of West Virginia’s intriguing separation from Virginia, and take a walk through Centre Market Square, a restored Victorian district with an assortment of unique shops. Oglebay Resort offers fine lodging and dining, three golf courses, indoor and outdoor pools, a 65-acre children’s zoo, a museum and an environmental center. Another Wheeling highlight is Cabela’s, the massive outfitter store and wildlife museum.
South on West Virginia Rte. 2 is the Moundsville Penitentiary, the foreboding former maximum-security lock-up that saw more than its share of prisoner uprisings. Today guests can take guided tours of the prison and the adventurous can spend the night and try their hand at ghost hunting.
Just a little farther south is historic Sistersville, a former oil and gas boomtown that’s home to the elegant Wells Inn and the Sistersville Ferry, which has operated since 1817. In Williamstown, find the finest in hand-blown glass at Fenton Art Glass. Or head East of Parkersburg to bike through towns and 13 tunnels on the pastoral North Bend Rail Trail.
In mid-October, fall color reaches its peak in Parkersburg. In addition to beautiful, late-19th century homes and a carefully restored historic hotel, Parkersburg offers a sternwheeler cruise to historic Blennerhassett Island. Costumed interpreters on the island help weave the tale of Irish aristocrat Harman Blennerhassett and the fascinating tale of an alleged plot with Aaron Burr to create an empire in the Southwest.
Farther south is Point Pleasant, where you may visit the West Virginia State Farm Museum and Tu-Endie-Wei State Park during peak fall color in late October. This town arguably was the site of the first battle of the American Revolution, but it is perhaps now more famous for the Mothman legend, a tale of a mysterious winged creature that haunted the area and has been blamed for the 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge.
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Autumn begins tinting the natural woodlands of Coopers Rock State Forest in late September, when views of the 1,200-foot-deep Cheat River Gorge are breathtaking. Located east of Morgantown, the forest offers hunting, camping and hiking. Nearby is Lakeview Resort, which features championship golf, lodging, fine dining and a variety of recreational opportunities.
The university city of Morgantown offers tours on the Personal Rapid Transit, the first totally automated, computer-operated transportation system in the world. The university also boasts an arboretum showcasing 500 species of trees, wildflowers and plants.
South on I-79, you may step back in time at Prickett’s Fort State Park near Fairmont. This reconstructed 1774 fort is a living historical representation of frontier life, featuring craftspeople in period dress.
In mid-October, the mountains of central West Virginia should be ablaze with color. You may visit Philippi Covered Bridge, site of the first land battle of the Civil War and longest two-lane covered bridge still in use on a federal highway.
General Stonewall Jackson’s boyhood home, with the original family dwellings, may be toured at Jackson’s Mill in Jane Lew. Nearby, visit the 2,650-acre Stonewall Jackson Lake and enjoy casual luxury at Stonewall Resort. Enjoy an Arnold Palmer signature golf course, scenic dinner cruises on the lake, a top-notch spa, organized family programming and fine dining at the resort. Other nearby lakes include Tygart, Burnsville and Sutton.
If you visit West Virginia by RV, the Flatwoods RV Park is an ideal stop, with live entertainment at its amphitheater.
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Crisp, early frosts begin painting the woodlands with color from mid-September to early October, making this an ideal time to visit Canaan Valley Resort and Blackwater Falls State Parks. Canaan Valley is perfect for year-round recreation, from championship golf to skiing. Blackwater is renowned for its spectacular five-story waterfalls and hiking trails. The former lumber towns of Davis and Thomas have become hip gathering spots with dining and nightlife recognized nationally as hidden gems.
Take a scenic drive to nearby Dolly Sods Wilderness Area or over the Allegheny Front for rock climbing and hiking at Seneca Rocks, a 900-foot-tall sandstone outcropping. This area is honeycombed with underground passages, creating such attractions as Seneca and Smoke Hole caverns. Or you may reach for the stars at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, where huge radio telescopes search outer space for signs of intelligent life and a modern interpretive center explains the science.
Just a short drive from Green Bank, Cass Scenic Railroad’s steam-powered Shay locomotives haul passengers nearly a mile high to the top of Bald Knob, offering a perfect view of beautiful fall color. You may also experience stunning autumn beauty by driving over the Highland Scenic Highway, West Virginia Rte. 150, 22 miles of unspoiled, unsettled plateaus and valleys 4,500 feet high.
At the southern end of the scenic highway is Cranberry Glades, a natural botanical garden of unique bog vegetation and plant life living far south of their normal range. To the east, off U.S. 219, is Watoga State Park. The state’s largest park is 10,100 acres and offers vacation cabins and camping facilities. A few minutes’ drive south is Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, West Virginia’s oldest state park and site of the largest Civil War battle in the state, featuring a major battle re-enactment every other October.
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In late October in the Eastern Panhandle, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is an ideal destination for fall color. Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, Harpers Ferry is one of the most scenic towns in the state, and even more beautiful at the peak of autumn.
The panhandle is diversified in its entertainment. From antiquing to the numerous fall festivals, to the excitement of thoroughbred horse racing at Charles Town Races, there is something for everyone.
Steeped in history, the panhandle and Charles Town area are dotted with colonial homes and buildings that now serve as elegant inns and bed and breakfasts. North on West Virginia Rte. 9, Martinsburg is no exception. Equally historic is nearby Shepherdstown, with its 18th century ambience and famous Bavarian Inn, in addition to a handful of spectacular locally owned restaurants.
After driving over West Virginia Rte. 9 to Berkeley Springs, travelers can immerse themselves in the mineral waters of Berkeley Springs State Park or relax with an expert massage. Driving south, you will reach Cacapon Resort State Park, an ideal locale for getting away from it all.
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No matter what area of the state you travel this fall, West Virginia’s state parks and forests offer an unparalleled combination of dazzling color and majestic vistas certain to entrance your senses. Regardless of the driving tour you choose, a West Virginia state park is nearby and a great place to stop along your journey. Many of the parks offer programs tailored to the fall season. Call 1-800-CALL WVA to find out what’s going on at the parks along your trip or visit their web site.