Wild and wonderful West Virginia is most widely known for the diversity of its outdoor offerings, but group travelers will find more to love within its spectacular confines than natural splendors.
Along with the achingly lovely landscapes of places like New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the state offers oodles of elevated cultural experiences at destinations ranging from the Capitol Theatre to Tamarack Marketplace. History awaits discovery here, too, at Harpers Ferry, where John Brown made a stand against slavery, and Capitol Market, which continues to make upgrades in its quest to be one of the country’s best. With lodging and dining options as revelatory as its attractions, West Virginia promises groups a trip as beautifully well rounded as it is thrilling.
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
The 70,000-acre New River Gorge National Park and Preserve offers a wide array of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, rafting and climbing. Groups can even traverse the catwalk of the 876-foot-tall New River Gorge Bridge, the longest single-span arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Or leaders may want to plan a stop at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, located outside Fayetteville. Informative exhibits and a short film about the area will captivate travelers; ranger talks and a guided walk to overlooks are dependent on staffing.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Perched on the state’s eastern panhandle, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park tells stories as gripping as they are varied. Within the park’s borders, groups can relive change-making events such as the legendary raid by abolitionist John Brown on the U.S. armory; visits by history makers such as Meriwether Lewis; and the founding of Storer College, one of the country’s first higher learning institutions to educate Black people. Tours run about two and a half hours and are available to group visitors through the Harpers Ferry Park Association.
Tamarack Marketplace in Beckley is a true shopper’s paradise, offering more than 20,000 objects crafted by juried artisans hailing from all of the state’s 55 counties. But there’s more in store for groups here, including artist-guided classes in disciplines like glassblowing, painting and pottery. Tamarack also boasts a fine on-site eatery, providing Appalachian-inspired fare such as rainbow trout and fried green tomatoes. Or leaders can schedule a customized catered meal served alongside a murder mystery theatrical event or a musical performance from a local band.
Up and Coming
Housed in a former train depot built before the turn of the 20th century by Kanawha and Michigan Railroad, Capitol Market honors its storied past while wholeheartedly embracing its future. With help from $600,000 in grants, the market has undertaken a wealth of new improvements groups will appreciate, including renovated restrooms and upgrades to the lighting and exterior. Still to come in 2024 is the installation of solar power, which will provide backup electricity in case of an outage.
Almost Heaven Swings
Groups are going to really love getting their ‘Gram on in West Virginia thanks to last year’s debut of the Almost Heaven Swings. Crafted by the state’s tech students, the super-sized wooden wonders have been strategically placed in 18 supremely scenic spots. Group visitors can look for them at several state parks including Cacapon Resort, Babcock and Bluestone. Swings have also been positioned overlooking the State Capitol near the University of Charleston boathouse, and at the lovely Philippi covered bridge, just off U.S. 119.
The Capitol Theatre
Built in 1928, Wheeling’s Capitol Theatre will get an overhaul in July 2024 that will help keep groups filling the seats for years to come. In recent years, the Capitol has been unable to book some big theatrical events due to its antiquated rigging equipment, which is original to the building. After a two-month closure and a $500,000 update, the theater will debut an automated system of weights, counterweights and pulleys able to bear the weight of the heaviest modern sets, ushering in a new era at this historic gem.
Renowned as one of the world’s finest historic resorts, the Greenbrier welcomes groups with special rates, packages and the opportunity to indulge in more than 55 activities spread over the magnificent property’s 11,000 acres. That includes everything from a tour of the on-site Cold War fallout shelter built for members of Congress to a falconry demonstration. With roots dating back to 1778, The Greenbrier, dubbed “America’s Resort,” is a must-visit destination for groups touring West Virginia’s southeastern region.
There’s nothing quite as wonderful as a grand old hotel lovingly restored to its former glory, and that’s exactly what travelers will find at Morgantown’s Hotel Morgan. Opened in 1925, the property was meticulously renovated in 2021 and once again offers the kind of sophistication that greeted guests like Eleanor Roosevelt and President Harry Truman. The 83 rooms and suites feature plenty of thoughtful, modern touches, like plush bedding and blissfully luxurious bathrooms, but historic charm reigns supreme at the Morgan.
The Wonder Bar Steakhouse
A historic Clarksburg favorite that started off as a small dancehall morphed into the Wonder Bar Steakhouse way back in 1946. Private rooms are available for groups, which can choose from dishes including hand-cut steaks flavored with signature seasonings, like the 10-ounce, center-cut filet mignon; jumbo lump crab cakes, which are made daily; and South African rock lobster tails. Or, group travelers may dine outside on the expansive patio, which affords an especially stunning view of the city at sunset.
Tucked away within the Adirondack-style Stonewall Resort, which is surrounded by the lush landscape of Roanoke’s 1,900-acre Stonewall Resort State Park, Stillwaters restaurant specializes in offering locally sourced meat, fish and produce. Menu highlights include summertime burrata, served with poached aromatic peaches, pickled fennel, and local infused oil and balsamic reduction; and the molasses bourbon glaze New York strip, crafted with beef from an area farm. Group guests are sure to enjoy the sweeping vistas of the park, which are visible while dining inside or out.