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Thirty of today’s country greats such as Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, and Little Big Town recently remade a 1971 John Denver song that used two words to describe my home state of West Virginia and West Virginia Destinations: “Almost Heaven.”

While I haven’t lived in West Virginia for a lot of years (too many, perhaps), I do frequent the Mountaineer State often. Each time I go, I am reminded why this state, which often gets a stereotypical bad rap, should be at the top of any family vacation list. The natural thrills, the breathtaking beauty, and the awesome adventures will have you humming the tune for days after you’ve hit these six West Virginia destinations.

6 West Virginia Destinations

The breathtaking beauty and the awesome adventures will have you humming the tune for days after you’ve hit these six West Virginia destinations.

Make sure to read these tips on how to keep your kids entertained during long car rides.

Raft the New River

If you have kids ages five and up, this is an absolute MUST for any family when looking at West Virginia destinations. Skip the bigger rapids and go for the class I and II rapids that really should be called “ripples” (I’m not sure why outfitters insist on posting photos of only the big rapids when truly, much smaller rapids exist).

When we rafted, our kids were very young, so we were a bit unsure as to how much they would enjoy this daylong trip. Nearly 12 years later, this adventure remains at the top of our favorite vacation memories.

We used Alpine Ministries as our outfitter, but many other outfitters exist. West Virginia Adventures popped up online as a family favorite.

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Visit the New River Gorge Bridge

As this website suggests, describing the New River Gorge Bridge and actually seeing it are two completely different experiences.

At one time, the New River Gorge Bridge was the longest arch bridge in the world, with the arch measuring 3,030 feet. This guide shows not only the breathtaking views of the bridge, it also tells you where you can capture these views yourself.

Go Underground at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine

Coal makes electricity. Electricity runs your cell phone, your computer, your…well, everything! You’ll find a true appreciation for the men who risk their lives by mining coal so we can light up our worlds when you tour this mine. Don’t worry, though, the exhibition is not risky at all, but going underground keeps things on the cool side, so bring a jacket.

You can also discover what life was like on the Appalachian frontier by touring the camp’s company house, superintendent’s home, a church, and a school.

This video takes you through the mine, beginning at 0:54, and is narrated by a former coal miner.

6 Almost Heaven Like West Virginia Destinations

Get Misty at Blackwater Falls

I grew up going to Blackwater Falls, and recently my mother and I visited this amazing park twice. No, Blackwater Falls is NOT Niagara Falls, but nestled in these mountains, it’s still incredibly breathtaking as the falls drop over five stories of surging water. With the park at an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet and surrounded by 2,358 acres of natural beauty, you might want to visit twice, too.

Nearby town Thomas has a handful of delightful little shops. I, being a bit of a coffee snob, probably enjoyed one of my best cups of coffee ever at the Tip Top. What was equally thrilling is we serendipitously ran into an out-of-this world, award-winning bluegrass band and ended up going to a concert. Who knows what famous person or group you just might run into?

Get Star Struck at the Green Bank Observatory and Telescope

In Green Bank sits the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope as well as 15 other telescopes that allow you to see the constellation Orion in more ways than probably anywhere else. See a movie, tour the telescopes, peruse the visitor center and museum, and enjoy a meal (I read numerous positive reviews about the food there). You don’t have to be a science geek to enjoy this stop; you need only appreciate Planet Earth and outer space.

Come Aboard the Cass Scenic Locomotive

Re-live the steam-driven train days by riding an original locomotive to the restored charming town of Cass. You can choose from a number of rides and tours, but I recommend the entire 4.5 hour trip to Bald Knob, where you reach a stunning altitude of 4,700 feet. Like the previous experiences, you’re immersed in breathtaking mountainous beauty that you can explore.

So there you have it. Water. Outer space. The underground. Mountains. West Virginia truly is “Wild and Wonderful.”

The breathtaking beauty and the awesome adventures will have you humming the tune for days after you’ve hit these six West Virginia destinations.

Tammy Tilley
Tammy Tilley
Tammy Tilley, mom of two adult children, cares deeply about parenting issues. Although she’s looking in the rearview mirror of her hands-on parenting days, once you’re a parent, you’re always a parent. She enjoys sharing a few memories and a touch of advice about spending energy on the things that matter. Tammy has a BA in English from Anderson University (IN) and a MS in Education from IUPUI.