What Is West Virginia Known For?

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Famous for rugged landscapes and the Appalachian mountains, West Virginia is one of America’s most underrated states. Most people are familiar with West Virginia thanks to the classic John Denver song, ‘Country Roads, Take Me Home’ but the state has lots to offer visitors. The state capital, Charleston, has great restaurants and museums, while outside of the cities, West Virginia’s incredible landscapes, which include mountains, rivers and gorges, offer the perfect space for outdoor enthusiasts to go hiking, climbing and camping. This has also led to West Virginia having a strong culture of hunting and fishing, with lots of lakes and rivers perfect for anglers and big game in the forests and countryside.

The Appalachians are important to West Virginian history, as they’ve led to the development of traditional mountain music, along with strange things like the infamous Mothman legend. West Virginia also has a rich history, particularly in relation to the Civil War and the thriving agriculture and craft industry, which produces products like apples, glassware and coal. Although the state might be under the radar, you’ll be surprised to realise just how many famous things in West Virginia are common knowledge and that the state has some of the best scenery, cities and attractions around.

What Is West Virginia Known For?

Top Tours

West Viginia Autumn
Stunning fall colours is what West Virginia state is known for.

New River Gorge Waterpark – a full day of fun and excitement for all the family.
Huntington: App-Based Murder Mystery Detective Game – an interesting way to explore this city.
National Park Whitewater Rafting – get an adrenalin rush in New River Gorge.

1- Charleston

Charleston, West Virginia Skyline
Charleston is what West Virginia is known for.

If there’s one thing West Virginia is known for, it’s probably the state capital of Charleston.

A lively, fun city with loads to see and do, Charleston sits right on the Kanawha River.

A few of the best things to do here include visiting the city’s Capitol Building, where you can explore the full complex, including the West Virginia State Museum, to learn about the history of government and politics in the area.


For food and drink, look no further than downtown Charleston, where you’ll find a huge range of shops, bars and restaurants to enjoy.

Music and celebrations are a big part of Charleston life, with festivals like the West Virginia Dance Festival and Vandalia Gathering happening each year with tons of entertainment and events.

2- Huntington

Huntington is West Virginia’s second-largest city and follows close behind Charleston in terms of fame.

The city lies on the Ohio River in the western part of West Virginia and is extremely picturesque, thanks to the many waterfront neighbourhoods and outdoor activities you can enjoy here.

Make sure to check out Pullman Square for all the city’s best shops and restaurants, and visit the impressive Huntington Museum of Art, which houses hundreds of years of paintings and other exhibits.

For entertainment, the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Centre is a great place to spend the evening watching a performance, but if it is sunny, take advantage of the weather with a picnic in Ritter Park or Harris Riverfront Park or a cycle by the water.

Boats and fishing are very popular.

3- Take Me Home, Country Roads State Anthem

From country classic to a remixed song often heard in bars and clubs, the famous song ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ was penned by musician John Denver and is known worldwide.

Thanks to its popularity, it quickly became West Virginia’s own state anthem as it talks about the state’s beautiful landscapes, hills and mountains.

Although you’ll often hear the song played in various establishments, and most people who hear it assume it’s about the state of West Virginia, not many people know that the locations in the song, such as the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River, are actually part of both West Virginia and the state of Virginia itself.

Before you visit, make sure to brush up on the lyrics because you’ll undoubtedly be singing it a lot while in West Virginia!

4- Appalachian Mountains

Scenics Along Blue Ridge Parkway In West Virginia
The Appalachian Mountains is what West Virginia is known for.

The Appalachian Mountains are a huge mountain range in America that covers not only West Virginia but also 13 other states, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina.

They’re one of the most beautiful ranges in the world, covered in lush forests, lakes, waterfalls and, in winter, a thick carpet of snow, making them popular with hikers, climbers, winter sports enthusiasts and anyone who loves getting outdoors.

In West Virginia, the highest point you can reach in the Appalachians is Spruce Knob which has incredible views over the surrounding area, or if you’re a climber, head to Seneca Rocks for sheer cliffs, which can challenge even the pros.

The biggest and most famous hiking trail is, of course, the Appalachian Trail, which most people hike in tiny or multi-day parts.

The full trail, if you’re brave enough to join the few who attempt it, takes an average of between 5 to 7 months to complete from start to finish!

5- Coal Mining

Monongalia County Mine In The Fall Countryside Around Wana
Coal mining is what West Virginia is known for.

West Virginia has a few different industries that it’s famous for, one of which is coal mining.

Coal mining has played a vital part in the state’s history and economic situation, thanks to the abundant reserves of coal and landscapes perfect for mining.

There are a variety of coal towns scattered throughout West Virginia, mainly in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, which focus solely on mining to this day.

If you’re curious to know more about the often harsh reality of coal mining, you can visit the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, where you can learn about the history of the industry and how difficult it can be to work in the mines, there’s also the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum.

Although many places are leaning towards other fuel options and the question of sustainability is constant in West Virginia, coal mining is more advanced than ever and still plays an important part in the state’s economy and culture.

6- New River Gorge

New River Bridge Scenic
The New River Gorge is what West Virginia is best known for.

New River Gorge is part of the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve and is one of the prettiest natural wonders in the whole of West Virginia.

The gorge looks not dissimilar to the Grand Canyon – deep canyons run through the park with rushing rivers, forests and stunning lookout points to explore.

The activities here are endless, with white water rafting, kayaking, hiking and more; plus, there are plenty of photography opportunities, such as at the famous steel arch bridge, which is often shrouded in mist.

If you’re in need of a day or multi-day escape in West Virginia, then the New River Gorge is perfect, as it has everything from camping spots to luxury accommodation and activities for both kids and adults, beautiful road trips, waterfalls, panoramas, lakes and more.

7- Mountain Folk Music

This might be a surprising one for people not familiar with West Virginia, but with the Appalachians running through the state, a strong, local musical heritage has developed.

Mountain folk music normally features deep, meaningful lyrics which talk about the ups and downs of living in the mountains.

The state holds events like the Appalachian String Band Music Festival to promote this music scene, where hundreds of people come together to share their songs and music.

There’s also the West Virginia State Folk Festival, which also showcases this style of music, which includes genres like Bluegrass music that has fun rhythms and uses stringed instruments like banjos.

The Mountain Music Festival is more like a traditional festival with a range of bands and acts, plus workshops, activities, food, drink and more that takes place each year in New River Gorge.

8- Mothman

Mothman With Demonic Wings
The legendary Mothman is what West Virginia is known for.

Have you heard of the Mothman? A little bit like the legend of the Yeti or the Loch Ness monster, the Mothman is a strange and spooky part of West Virginia history and no one knows quite what to believe.

The Mothman is supposedly a mystical winged creature with glowing red eyes that lives around the area of Point Pleasant, and there have been many apparent sightings over the years.

The rumours about the Mothman only began in the 1960s and have only grown since, leading to a small industry popping up around the subject.

Monster hunters are drawn to the area to try and seek out the Mothman and see if the stories are true.

Nowadays, Point Pleasant even holds a Mothman Festival, which has loads of attractions and events to celebrate the creature.

To learn more, you can also visit the Mothman Museum, which dives into the folklore surrounding the legend, its history and the supposed sightings that have happened over the years – you might even spot him yourself!

9- Bridge Day

If you want to visit the New River Gorge, the best time to go is to coincide a visit with Bridge Day, which takes place each year on the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville in West Virginia.

You don’t need to take part, and you certainly may not want to, because Bridge Day is one of the biggest extreme sports events in the world.

Thousands of thrill seekers flock to West Virginia for the event, where BASE jumpers, rappellers and more throw themselves off the bridge and into the gorge below.

For those less daring, there’s also lots of fun music, food, activities and entertainment to enjoy, which are much safer.

Even just the bridge itself is impressive, offering amazing views over the whole area.

Bridge Day takes place every year on the third Sunday in October and is the only day of the year where you can walk across the bridge and watch jumpers – last year, there were 350 people who made more than 700 jumps, and over 140,000 people attended.

10- Civil War

There are many states people associate with the Civil War, but West Virginia is usually not one, despite having a fascinating and rich history during the period.

The American Civil War was actually vital to the state, as the conflict led to the withdrawal of many counties from the state of Virginia.

As Virginia decided to join the Confederacy, these counties opposed the decision, leading them to become what is now the state of West Virginia in 1863.

You can explore lots of interesting Civil War sites while visiting, such as battlefields and monuments, along with museums such as the West Virginia State Museum and West Virginia Independence Hall Museum.

Other places of note include the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park and the Rich Mountain Battlefield, where notable battles took place.

11- Hunting and Fishing

what west virginia is known for
Hunting and fishing is what West Virginia is known for.

Unsurprisingly for a state with epic landscapes like rivers, mountains and lakes, hunting and fishing have grown to be a core part of the culture in West Virginia.

There’s a whole range of wildlife living in the state’s mountains and forests, while the waterways are teeming with thousands of fish, making it a perfect spot for anglers.

In autumn and early winter, deer hunting is particularly popular, and there are many established sites for the activity in order to preserve the wildlife population.

Other species to look out for include white-tailed deer, black bears, turkeys and grouse, and in the designated areas, a number of hunting events take place each year that you can join if you know what you’re doing.

In terms of fishing, trout streams are very common, but you can also catch species like catfish and bass in West Virginia’s lakes, like Summersville, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.

12- Glass Industry

Hands Of A Man Making A Glass Subject
The glass industry is what West Virginia is known for.

Another under-the-radar industry that’s booming in West Virginia, although few know about it, is the glass industry.

West Virginia’s glass industry is focused around the Parkersburg area and can be traced back to the 19th century when the first glass factories started to pop up.

West Virginia has lots of natural resources like silica sand and natural gas, which are needed to produce glass, which has led to some of the biggest glass manufacturing companies taking root here.

Big names include the Fenton Art Glass Company, Blenko Glass and the Viking Glass Company, which provide glassware both in the US and overseas.

The best place to learn about all the glass making in the state is at the West Virginia Museum of American Glass, which is located in Weston and not only hides a huge selection of beautiful glassware but also informs visitors about the industry’s history.

You’ll spot many stunning products in shops when visiting West Virginia, from glasses and vases to ornaments, so make sure to pick something up as a souvenir.

13- Golden Delicious

Golden Delicious Organic Fruit Growing On A Cultivated Or Sustainable Farm
Golden Delicious apples are what West Virginia is known for producing.

Although other states might be more famous for growing apples, West Virginia is particularly well known for one famous variety: Golden Delicious.

This variety of apple was founded in West Virginia back in 1912 and is one of the most notable products that contributes to the state’s agricultural industry.

The apple is named for its beautiful yellow colouring and isn’t just eaten but used in a number of sweet recipes like apple sauce and apple butter.

The Golden Delicious is now the official state fruit of West Virginia, but is shipped worldwide and almost everyone knows the name of this tasty fruit.

One of the best things to come out of the discovery was the Clay County Golden Delicious Festival, which is held every year and has fun events and activities like a 5K apple dash, fireworks and a baking competition!

14- Pepperoni Rolls

When it comes to state foods, West Virginia doesn’t only have apples but also pepperoni rolls, which are a delicious culinary tradition dating back to the days of coal mining in the early 20th century.

The rolls are made from a soft yeast dough filled with slices of pepperoni, and they were small and convenient for miners to take down for lunch.

However, nowadays, they’ve become a much-loved comfort food for West Virginians that are sold almost everywhere, from restaurants to diners and at local bakeries, although most places have their own twist on the classic recipe, drawing on the state’s unique Italian heritage.

If you’re visiting West Virginia, you can’t miss trying this delicacy, and there are plenty of good spots in Charleston, Huntington and Fairmont to seek them out.

15- The Greenbrier

If only we could all stay at the beautiful Greenbrier, which is a sprawling, luxury historic resort in the Allegheny Mountains in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The resort is renowned for its opulence and hospitality, having been founded in 1778 and since welcomed some esteemed guests, including royalty, celebrities and multiple United States presidents.

The building itself is also one of the state’s most recognisable landmarks thanks to its appearance, which is very similar to the White House.

You can choose to stay here, although it is expensive, as it has stunning rooms, suites and cottages to choose from, as well as incredible dining options with world-class chefs, an award-winning spa, a championship golf course and more.

If you can’t quite break the bank, you can also take a tour of the resort, which has a hidden underground Cold War bunker, a nuclear shelter and a rich history involving politicians and spies.

Map Of United States With West Virginia Highlight
What is West Virginia known for?

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India-Jayne Trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK.