Groups rafting on the Lower New River in West Virginia
Travel | Long Weekends

Experience Summer in West Virginia

Whether you’re looking for family fun and relaxation, history and music, or whitewater rafting and outdoor adventure, these four Mountain State spots deliver.


Both experienced rafters and those taking to the river for the first time can find some of the best whitewater that West Virginia has to offer near the city of Beckley. Oak Hill, a small community located less than 20 miles north of Beckley, offers a range of outdoor excursions guided by Ace Adventure Resort, including rafting trips for adults and children ages 6 and up.

“It is a great way to spend a day or a couple days,” says Bryant Baker, Ace Adventure Resort river operations manager. “We will do everything from a relaxing float trip through a beautiful gorge to high adrenaline, big waves and drops.”

Although the rapids are thought to be more relaxed during the summer months after the heavy rains of spring have subsided, Baker said that is not always the case.

“In July and August, you have lower water levels, and the rapids get a little more technical, but it is a lower water volume, which makes it a little easier to deal with as a guide,” Baker says. “We will take more younger folks during those summer months than we do in the spring months.”

Along with rafting, travelers looking to enjoy some dry-land activities along the New River Gorge can check out the zip line and canopy tours, ATV tours and mountain biking offered by River Expeditions, also located in Oak Hill. Ace Adventure Resort, 1 Concho Rd., Oak Hill, West Virginia 25901, 844/895-4176,; River Expeditions, 900 Broadway Ave., Oak Hill, West Virginia 25901, 800/463-9873,

Girl feeding a kangaroo at petting zoo (photo courtesy of Oglebay Resort)

Nestled in West Virginia’s Ohio Valley along the Ohio River, the city of Wheeling offers visitors an idyllic combination of history and opportunities for rest and relaxation.

Oglebay Resort traces its roots to 1926, when Cleveland industrialist Earl W. Oglebay gifted his property to the city of Wheeling upon his death with the condition that the land be used as a city park.

Today, Oglebay Resort is a beloved destination for summertime fun along the Ohio River, with its 250-room Wilson Lodge and 55 guest cottages, championship golf courses, historic hiking trails, horseback riding and aerial challenge course. Those looking to leave dry land can explore Schenk Lake, where visitors can take to the water in a swan paddle boat, aqua cycle or kayak.

“We have equestrian activities, we have a zoo, we have playgrounds … a couple of swimming pools, it is really a spectacular place,” says Bob Peckenpaugh, CEO and president of the Wheeling Park Commission, which oversees Oglebay Resort.

History buffs can enjoy views of the Ohio River from the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, located about a 10-minute drive from the resort. Built in 1849 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976, the dark stone bridge carried vehicular traffic for around 170 years but is currently dedicated only for use by pedestrians and bicyclists exploring the city. 465 Lodge Dr., Wheeling, West Virginia 26003, 304/243-4090,

World War I exhibit at West Virginia Culture Center and State Museum (photo courtesy of West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History)

Located across from the shimmering gold dome of the state capitol in Charleston, the West Virginia Culture Center and State Museum documents the history of the Mountain State.

Founded in 1894, the institution has a long history, but it is also a modern facility that features interactive exhibits and interpretative displays, making for an enjoyable, engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

Beginning with prehistoric times and winding its way through frontier history, Civil War and statehood to industrialization and modern times, The Show Path leads visitors through a series of Discovery Rooms, including a re-creation of a company store, a sight once common throughout the coal camps of Appalachia.

West Virginia State Museum director Charles Morris says some of his favorite artifacts from the museum’s collection include the telescope used by George Washington while surveying land in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley and a rifle that belonged to the American frontiersman Daniel Boone.

“People come through this museum, and they tell us it is one of the best museums in the country,” Morris says. “But they also tell us that once you go through this museum, you know what West Virginia is all about.”

Those looking to enjoy some live entertainment while visiting Charleston should plan on taking in a show at Mountain Stage. Located at the Culture Center Theater on the state capitol grounds, this two-hour live radio program is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and NPR Music distributes it to 280 stations nationwide. The show features a variety of performers, from Americana and folk to rock ’n’ roll and world music. West Virginia State Capitol Complex, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E., Charleston, West Virginia 25305, 304/558-0220,,

Hillbilly Hotdogs exterior decor (photo courtesy of Hillbilly Hotdogs)

From ramps to buckwheat pancakes to morel mushrooms, West Virginia offers a wide variety of local culinary staples to enjoy while exploring the Mountain State. The humble hot dog is one of the lesser known, and no one serves them up better around these parts than Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage, West Virginia.

Located about 12 miles outside Huntington, visitors to Hillbilly Hot Dogs will first be struck by the eclectic decor, ranging from the giant hot-dog-shaped sign to an assortment of hillbilly accessories displayed throughout the restaurant, but the food is the real draw here.

The spot serves around 35 different kinds of hot dogs, ranging from a taco dog to an egg dog to a pizza dog. The standard West Virginia dog is the most popular item on the menu and comes topped with chili, mustard, onions and coleslaw.

Perhaps the most iconic creation at Hillbilly Hot Dogs is the Homewrecker — a 15-inch, all-beef hot dog that, with bun and fixings, weighs in at a whopping 3.5 pounds.

“We have a challenge for it. If you can eat it in 12 minutes or less you get a free T-shirt,” says Shannon Swallow, manager at Hillbilly Hot Dogs. “Our current record is 2 minutes and 34 seconds.”

Visitors to Huntington should also check out Heritage Farm Museum and Village. Opened by Mike and Henriella Perry in 1996, the museum features a Children’s Activity Museum, Schoolhouse Museum and Transportation Museum.

The destination also gives visitors a look at early pioneer life in the wilderness that was rural West Virginia. Hillbilly Hot Dogs, 6951 Ohio River Rd., Lesage, West Virginia 25537, 304/762-2458,; Heritage Farm Museum and Village, 3300 Harvey Rd., Huntington, West Virginia 25704, 304/522-1244,