West Virginia takes pride in being an authentic state where what you see is what you get. Humility is honored and one-upmanship is left to the neighboring states with gargantuan, sprawling metropolises. Instead, West Virginia is an authentic state with small towns dispersed among natural parks, historical sites, and friendly people.
If you want to explore relics of the Civil War, witness incredible colonial architecture, attend quirky festivals that don’t take place anywhere else, and connect with nature, head to West Virginia. This list will feature small towns that once sheltered the family of famous presidents, have celebrations devoted to fictional characters, and are hubs for white water rafters. No matter what type of travel you’re into, there’s sure to be the perfect small town for you.
Lets explore the best small towns to visit in West Virginia:
Hinton was once a railroad town, where train led its complete economy and development. Today, Hinton retains its interesting railroad history by preserving its unique architecture and offering regular cultural tours. You can even take a ride on the old timer train during Railroad Days and visit the Hinton Railroad Museum for even more historical fun.
Hinton is also a great place for outdoor recreation. The New River Gorge National Park and the Bluestone National Park are close by where you can camp, fish, whitewater raft, hike, and cycle all throughout the region. In the winter, the town is nearby the Winterplace Ski Resort, one of the best ski resorts in the area.
2. Berkeley Springs
Berkeley Springs is a colorful mountain town where you can experience the best of all four seasons. It’s famous for its mineral springs, hot water that is thought to have healing properties. It is even thought to be America’s first spa.
Interestingly, despite its small size, the town has nearly 100 venues where you can buy and admire local artwork. There are also a variety of other quirky shops, spas, and all types of accommodation choices.
Many passing through use Berkeley Springs as a base for the Cacapon Resort State Park, an area that has a golf course, trails for exploring, and even a sandy beach to sprawl out on. You can also use it as a peaceful and less hectic base to see Washington DC or Baltimore, as it’s only an hour and a half away.
3. White Sulphur Springs
White Sulphur Springs is small town to visit where you can get a glimpse into American history, visit nature parks, and experience luxury.
Outdoorsmen and women will love its proximity to the Monongahela National Forest and explore the Greenbrier Valley Trail, where all types of activities are possible. Think fishing, hiking, canoeing, swimming, cycling, all among natural beauty. Every year, there is even a Dandelion Festival that features games, Veteran’s Celebration, parade, a fishing derby, a vehicle show, art exhibits, pet competitions and more. There is also the Freshwater Folk Festival in autumn.
If you’re a history buff, stick around for the 1862 Battle of Dry Creek re-enactment that takes place every summer that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back into the Civil War Era.
4. Point Pleasant
Have kids? Then Point Pleasant is a small town you can’t miss while traveling through West Virginia. Older children will love attending the zany Mothman Festival, a weekend of festivities devoted to a creepy yet legendary winged and mysterious character. If you miss the festival – no worries, there’s an entire museum devoted to him too. Keep in mind that he might scare the tiny kids, though!
All other times of the year, visit the West Virginia State Farm Museum, the Point Pleasant River Museum, and the Tu-Endie-Wei State Park. You’ll love this fun town filled with lighthearted locals who know better than to take life too seriously.
Head to Elkins for a glimpse into America’s interesting past. The unique architecture and odes to times gone by make Elkins unlike any other small town in the state. You can really get the full experience by taking a ride on the New Tygart Flyer, a train that weaves through mountains and lush terrain. For cultural kicks, watch a variety show at the American Mountain Theater or witness funky choreography at the Gandy Dancer Theater. With sites like these, you’ll never get bored in Elkins.
Not only is Elkins great for history and cultural touring, it’s also a wonderful base to explore the three nearby major sky resorts and national parks where you can go birding, hiking, rafting, biking, climbing, and more. Adventure travelers especially love exploring the caves and rafting down the Tygart River.
Davis is a small town at 3,200 feet, the highest elevation in the state, that is hidden among beautiful mountains. Many come here just to escape the heat during the hot West Virginian summers. It has the best of all four seasons but without the pain of extreme temperatures.
It once was a lumber town, and still maintains its old-style architecture and atmosphere. Many of the nearby sites were once key components to the Civil War.
Many love Davis because it’s located within ten miles of the Canaan Valley State Park and wildlife refuge, where you can swim, fish, go water skiing, and even white water rafting.
Located on the Potomac River just an hour and a half away from Washington D.C., Shepherdstown is a cultural hub with the heart of soul of West Virginia. There’s a strong café culture, where locals and visitors alike often spend the entire day lounging around Shepherdstown’s many interesting cafes. Once the sun goes down, there are often live performances and bands playing at the town’s bars and restaurants.
Civil War history fanatics will love touring the many museums, battle sites, and watching re-enactments. Since the architecture has been so well preserved, you can fully immerse into the past by staying in one of the town’s historical inns.
Like to shop? Then you might love Lewisburg, a small town well known for its assortment of antique shops and clothing stores dispersed between funky art galleries. Many come to Lewisburg in pursuit of their creative passions as its home to a variety of musicians, painters, live performers, and more. There is even a handful of performance venues to be entertained at during your stay. The most notable venue is Carnegie Hall.
While in Lewisburg, you have to visit the Spring House, a stunning architectural site and important point in Civil War history.
Visit during the Chocolate Festival for an overload on all things chocolate – think tastings, workshops, paired wines, and more.
Thomas is a small town that was once known for simply being an old coal mining hub without any glitz or glamour. Interestingly, the buildings that might have been considered bland at the time are now what make Thomas one of the most beautiful towns in West Virginia. After all, it has over fifty buildings listed on the National Historic Register!
Many of these buildings have been turned into cafes, antique shops, and art galleries. Locals tend to gather at The Purple Fiddle, a venue serving sweet tunes and even sweeter homemade ice cream. You can also have a great time at the Mountain State Brewing Company, a local craft beer brewery serving fresh golden ale.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an area with more resident artists in West Virginia, a small town conveniently located on the West Virginia Artist Gallery Trail. Buckhannon is where you can try all of your own creative endeavors, or simply witness the brilliance crafted by others. Watch indie and cult films at the Lascaux Theater, shop at the antique mall, and head to the Wesleyan Planetarium for an out of this world experience.
Buckhannon also has Nerducopia, a haven for all geeks that sells sci-fi toys, collectibles, giant robots, and more. Its tagline is even, “For nerds, by nerds!” Need we say more about how this small town takes pride in living your passion?
Kingwood’s colonial style architecture and manicured gardens make for an aesthetic treat for travelers looking to photograph beautiful destinations. Even the old gas station still has Mae West pumps and the McGrew house looks like it belongs in another century.
Kingwood is also near the Monogahela National Forest where you can do all these outdoors around and along the Cheat River. If you’re wanting a retreat nearby a natural atmosphere, the Buckwheat Retreat makes for a relaxing getaway.
If you can, head to Ripley for the 4th of July, where the town has one of the largest patriotic celebrations in the country. This festival includes a two hour parade, fireworks, live gospel performances, a 5k race, and more.
Though it might just seem like a typical small town, Ripley is worth visiting because of its friendly locals. All throughout the state, Ripley is known for its hospitality and warmth towards all who visit.
Ripley has the Appalachian Distillery, a locally owned and operated distillery where you can taste moonshine and even take a few bottles to go.
13. Charles Town
American history buffs need to make Charles Town a priority stop on their way through West Virginia. This little destination was named after Charles Washington, George’s little brother. He used Charles Town as the site for his personal home and safe haven, and it was a frequent gathering point for the entire Washington family at times.
Charles Town also has areas that important Civil War battles took place and even more interestingly, was the site of a huge abolitionist raid.
Today, people also love visiting the Bloomery Plantation Distillery for a fun and tasty experience, trying their luck at the Hollywood Casino, visiting the Old Opera House, and hopping on a ghost tour.
14. Harpers Ferry
Harpers Ferry is a small town dropped right where there the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet. Most visit to see the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park which includes much of the town itself. Harpers Ferry changed hands fourteen times during the Civil War, meaning its steeped in history and significance.
When you leave the park, be sure to walk along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, stop by the St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, and walk to the top of Jefferson Rock. There are many other monuments to go to like John Brown’s Fort, The Point where three states come together, and the Harper House. You can also see how old antiques are restored at the Restoration Museum. If you’re into beauty and the past, then Harpers Ferry is an obvious stop for you for your trip.
15. New Martinsville
On the banks of the Ohio River is New Martinsville, a small town with a courthouse that looks like it belongs in a fairytale book or in a land of castles rather than West Virginia. It was once an oil and gas town but now thrives with smaller industries.
New Martinsville has a great café and restaurant scene. Check out Quinet’s Court, Dos Hermanos Mexican grill, PJ’s Pizza, and the Barista’s Café and Pub. Come hungry and leave extremely satisfied.
If you love spending time outside, the Beaver Creek Reservoir is the perfect place to swim, fish, hike, and even rent canoes. You can back a picnic and paddle yourself to a remote part of the reserve for a romantic getaway that’s cheap and easy to do.