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Tour Iconic West Virginia

Heritage Farm and Museum

Artisans at the Heritage Farm and Museum preserve the knowledge of 19th- and early-20th-century Appalachia by re-creating crafts authentic to the area’s past, among them broom-making, weaving, blacksmithing and woodworking. Classes by these artisans allow groups to resurrect these passed-down traditions themselves.

The open-air living-history museum focuses on Appalachian history and culture with 15 log structures, re-enactor weekends, hiking trails and more than 25,000 square feet of artifacts in seven museums. Each museum chronicles an aspect of the mountain culture: technology at the Progress Museum, retail at the Country Store Museum and jobs at the Heritage Museum. Inside the museums, guests can examine a glassblowing furnace and walk into a barbershop.

Outside, visitors can meander through various reconstructed buildings that not only look like their past counterparts but also function similarly. For example, the blacksmith shop displays a working forge, while the Bread Oven building contains a working wood-fire masonry oven.

Groups can also see an early-20th-century one-room schoolhouse, an operational sawmill and a working potter’s kiln. Even more people and activities fill the park on the first Saturday of the month from May to December. These Way Back Weekends each center around different themes, such as old-time music and Christmas markets.

Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine

A walk through a once-used coal mine brings to life the dark, closed quarters where many coal miners spent most of their days at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. The early-20th-century coal camp originally started shipping coal in 1906. After shutting down operations in 1953, the city of Beckley reopened the site as the first historic site entirely dedicated to educating the public about coal mining in 1962.

The preserved coal mine offers daily tours by veteran miners who give firsthand accounts of what daily mining life was like in the past and what it is like today. Groups ride in a 35-person railcar along 3,000 feet of restored passageways that stay a chilly 58 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

After the tour, groups can learn more about the life of a miner outside the tunnels at the Coal Camp, where there is a restored coal house, a miner’s shanty, a church and a school. A walk through the buildings reveals how the coal company owned the entire community and how working families used the company-owned businesses for everything from groceries to medical aid.

Adjacent to the mine, the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia serves groups of all ages with three rotating interactive exhibits. Tour groups can also view constellations at the museum’s planetarium. Behind the museum stands the Mountain Homestead. This look at the Appalachian frontier consists of eight reconstructed historic buildings, among them the barn, the blacksmith and the general store.

For more information visit West Virginia Tourism’s website at

Eliza Myers

Eliza Myers has worked for The Group Travel Leader since 2007. She is the online editor and associate editor for Select Traveler.