West Virginia Travel Guide

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shenandoah valley

shenandoah valley

Fakhria S.

West Virginia is a state in the central Appalachians, with two "panhandles" or long, narrow arms of territory that reach East almost to Washington DC and North almost to Pittsburgh PA.

West Virginia was part of Virginia until 1863 when the inhabitants of the western counties decided to become their own state rather than join the Confederacy.  Slavery was legal in WV, but it was not common.  Most West Virginians lived in small farms or industrial communities, and had no need for slaves.  Also, many of the inhabitants belonged to churches which opposed slavery, and thus abolitionism was strong. 

West Virginia is very different from Virginia.  While Virginia is the home of the planter aristocracy and very English in its customs, West Virginia was settled by the "scotch-Irish" (people born in Ireland but of Scottish descent) and thus the relationship between Virginia and West Virginia is analogous to the relationship between England and Scotland or Ireland.

After statehood, West Virginia boomed.  Coal was king.  Immigrants from Germany, Italy, Ireland, and all over the world moved to the area to work for the robber barons of the Industrial Revolution.  The Organized Labor Movement has been strong in West Virginia ever since.

West Virginia is neither entirely southern nor entirely northern.  The speech inflections and attitudes are reminiscent of the south; the architecture and climate are reminiscent of the north.  It is true that West Virginia is the most rural and isolated state in the region.  It is not true that the inhabitants inbreed.  Many West Virginians have left the state in search of jobs to become prominent in their new locales.  There are many, many West Virginians living outside West Virginia, particularly in Ohio or in North Carolina.

Charleston is the capital and largest city of West Virginia.  It is located in the Kanawha (kah-NAW-ah) Valley, which is heavily industrialized and the home to numerous chemical plants.  Healthcare is increasingly important in the city, with 5 major hospitals which serve the entire region. The city hosts the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, an impressive Capitol building and state museum, and a brand new Cultural Center.  It is located on Interstate Highways 64, 77, and 79.  Amtrak serves the city, as do several major airlines. Most major hotel chains have locations in Charleston, and there is a network of busses (KRT) for public transportation.  The shopping mall is located smack-dab in the middle of downtown, and Capitol Street is an area of Victorian Buildings experiencing an renaissance of commercial activity.

Huntington, 50 miles west of Charleston, was an important industrial center and Ohio River port during the early 1900s.  Today, the city is attempting to rebound from years of job losses and declining industry.  Today Huntington is probably best known as the home to Marshall University and the Thundering Herd.  Interstate 64 serves Huntington, as do Amtrak and several airlines.  Lodging is readily available through major chains or local establishments.

Wheeling, in the Northern Panhandle (about 45 minutes from Pittsburgh, PA) is a small city rich in history.  Strategically located along the Ohio River, Wheeling was the terminus of the National Road in the old days, and retains a charm and character unparralled for a town its size.  The downtown area is simply georgeous, Wheeling Island in particular, and Oglebay Park is an impressive local getaway. 

Other small cities dot the landscape.  Morgantown is the home of West Virginia University and retains the mantra of a college town.  Clarksburg is a fast-growing area and home to a large Italian-American community.  Beckley serves as a cross-roads and staging area for excursions to the scenic parks.

Natural scenery is the biggest draw to West Virginia. The high peaks of the Allegheny Mountains at Spruce Knob and Seneca rocks draw climbers, bikers, and frustrated city dwellers looking for some much needed relaxation.  The New River, an ancient waterway, has carved a great canyon into the landscape creating the New River Gorge National River in the southern part of the state. Not only good for hiking and breathtaking vistas, the rivers in this region are conducive to whitewater rafting.  And many visitors take on the challenge of the rivers each fall.   The Gauley River is second only to the Colorado for its technical difficulty.  Winter brings ski season, and the hilltops get a lot of snow.  Numerous ski resorts are located in West Virginia, for anything from a day-trip on the slopes such as Snowshoe to a week of 5-star relaxation.

Speaking of 5-star, the cultured jetset crowd shouldn't miss the Greenbrier, a 5-star resort in White Sulphur Springs with world renowned accommodations, golf, cuisine, and activities. <a href="www.gladesprings.com?NCK=world66">The Resort at Glade Springs</a> offers luxurious lodging accommodations in Daniels , West Virginia . Vacations at Glade Springs are action packed with skiing, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and more. For more information about the resort call:866-935-8579.

Historic battle sites in the eastern part of the state, such as Droop Mountain, afford gorgeous views in the fall when the trees turn colors. Fireflies abound in summer. Pearl Buck's birthplace is available for viewing in Hillsboro. The Monongahela & George Washington National Forests in the Allegheny Mountains are beautiful, especially close to the Greenbrier River.

To get to West Virginia, you can come by car, train, or airplane.  Driving is the best option to see the sights; West Virginia has invested heavily in roads and bridges and now boasts one of the best highway networks in the country (and the roads are rarely congested, making for great driving. 70 mph speed limits in some areas.)  Only the usual precautions are needed; crime is uncommon in West Virginia. 

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July 01, 2007 change by simplyliv803

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