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10 Offbeat Towns to Visit in West Virginia

by Staff

Exploring somewhere a little different can be a rewarding experience. Avoiding big cities, giant attractions, and expensive exhibits can save money but also provide the chance at a truly remarkable situation. West Virginia is full of small towns that are a little out of the ordinary. Build life-long memories by getting off the main track and venturing somewhere different. From natural hot springs to historical forts, art centers, or impressive scenic views, these small towns across West Virginia are well worth traveling to. There is so much to see off the beaten path.

Buckhannon

Historic building along Main Street in Buckhannon, West Virginia, USA. Editorial credit: Roberto Galan / Shutterstock.com

The town of Buckhannon is a charming town with a vibrant art scene. Murals from acclaimed artist Charlie Harper can be spotted all over town, giving a bright and cheerful atmosphere. Galleries and art shops are also standard throughout the town, adding to the eclectic feel. Buckhannon is also home to the only micro theater in West Virginia, the Lascaux Micro-Theater. Visitors can enjoy a show in this underground venue for a truly unique arts experience. Another unusual attraction in the area is the Alum Cave Trail.

Hikers can travel through the smoky mountains, including following a hiking trail under a long cliff edge known as the Alum Cave. Nearby Audra State Park is also an excellent option for those looking to take in the beauty of West Virginia and its impressive landscape.

White Sulphur Springs

Exterior entrance of Greenbrier Hotel resort with landscaped flowers, lawn, and cars in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, USA.

Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, USA. Editorial credit: Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com


White Sulphur Springs is another town in West Virginia that is perfect for outdoor lovers. The beauty of The Greenbrier draws many visitors and includes more than 78 miles of riverside trail. The vast wilderness is an excellent option for those looking to get away from it all and immerse themselves in nature. Rolling hills and meadows expand across the horizon, with walking paths and trails winding throughout. One of the more unusual attractions in the area, though, is the Cold War Bunkers.

The bunkers were unknown to the public until 1992 when their existence was uncovered by the Washington Post. The bunker was a secret for roughly 30 years but is now a must-see underground city complete with sleep quarters, a power plant, Senate and House chambers, and an eating area.

Lewisburg

Greenbrier County Courthouse in Lewisburg, West Virginia, USA.
Greenbrier County Courthouse in Lewisburg, West Virginia, USA. Editorial credit: ThomasPerkins.org / Shutterstock.com

Lewisburg is near the town of White Sulphur Springs and is also part of the larger Greenbrier Valley. Visitors can enjoy rafting along the Greenbrier River in canoes, kayaks, or multi-person rafts. Like its neighboring town, there are also a variety of hiking trails in the area that showcase the town’s scenic views. A rare attraction in Lewisburg is the Carnegie Hall. It is unique as it is one of only four such halls still in use today.

Both the Carnegie Hall and the local Greenbrier Valley Theatre are great options to take in some of the arts and culture of the area. Watch a show, check out a music performance, or admire the history of the iconic building. Other historical attractions include the Greenbrier Historical Society & North House Museum, which showcase Civil War artifacts and exhibits.

Shepherdstown

German musical band wearing traditional Bavarian costumes preparing for an Oktoberfest performance in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA.

German traditional musical band in Shepherdstown, WV, USA. Editorial credit: Evgenia Parajanian / Shutterstock.com


Shepherdstown is located along the border of Maryland and West Virginia on the Potomac River. Like Lewisburg, this town also has a historical background connected to the Civil War. The Historic Shepherdstown Museum includes a recreated Little House and Barn in the style of the 1920s, where visitors can immerse themselves in history. Similarly, the town honors the inventor of the steamboat with a statue of James Rumsey known as the Rumsey Monument.

Cultural attractions specific to the area include the Contemporary American Theater Festival, which is the heart of the arts and culture scene in the area. The festival showcases six contemporary American plays. Throughout the year, visitors can visit one of the many other Arts Centers and theaters, such as the Apollo Civic Theatre or the Black Box Arts Center, to enjoy a show.

Harpers Ferry

Sunset view of Harpers Ferry National Historic Park from Maryland Heights Overlook.

Sunset view of Harpers Ferry National Historic Park from Maryland Heights Overlook.


Harpers Ferry is a town like no other. It is also located along the Potomac River, where it meets the Shenandoah River. The town has a tiny population of only around 300 people. Though small, its history is large. The Harpers Ferry National Park is one of the most visited in West Virginia. The region is most well known for being the location of the John Brown raid. During the Civil War, the abolitionist named James Brown stormed the armory, claiming it as the northernmost post in the then Confederate territory.

Visitors can explore the John Brown Fort, which dates back to 1799 and includes the old arsenal and armory. The Civil War Museum also consists of a variety of exhibits that dive further into the history of the Civil War in the town.

Helvetia

Helvetia Tavern on Helvetia Road in Helvetia, Oregon.

Helvetia Tavern on Helvetia Road in Helvetia, Oregon. By M.O. Stevens – Own, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10297871


If Harpers Ferry is a tiny town, then Helvetia is downright teeny. This attractive little town has a population of roughly 60 people. Despite its small population, it has a lot of culture and passion for its roots. The original settlement of Helvetia dates back to 1869 and was formed by both German and Swiss immigrants. It is this heritage that shines through here, as it showcases Swiss and German architectural styles, as well as traditional foods and festivals. Heritage holidays are a great time to visit, and traditional fare, music, and dance can be seen throughout the town. Popular festivals include the Follow Your Bliss festival, the Helvetia Community Fair, and, of course, any national holidays.

Berkeley Springs

Street view of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, USA, during the day.

Street view of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, USA, during the day. Editorial credit: Alejandro Guzmani / Shutterstock.com


Berkeley Springs is another town that is popular with travelers looking for something a little out of the ordinary. What makes this town special is that it is home to the hot springs themselves. Berkeley Springs State Park is a protected area that includes the region’s natural hot springs. Visitors can enjoy mineral spas and warm water baths naturally heated by the thermal hot spring. From traditional Roman bathhouses to modern-day treatments, the springs are an excellent place to relax and unwind. Even George Washington has been cited as visiting the springs for their seemingly restorative powers.

The Washington Heritage Trail also includes his former plot. For those more interested in active vacationing, Cacapon Resort State Park offers more traditional ways to enjoy nature, including hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and mountain biking.

Elkins

Tourists ready to board the Tygart Flyer for a trip into the mountains of West Virginia by the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad in Elkins, West Virginia, USA.
Tourists get ready to board the Tygart Flyer in Elkins, West Virginia, USA. Editorial credit: Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Elkins is another excellent option for those looking for outdoor adventure. The town is a gateway to Monongahela National Forest and is a must-visit. Take in the beauty of West Virginia in Mon Forest, which includes nearly a million acres of land to explore. The Bickle Knob Observation Tower is not far from Elkins. Experience a one-of-a-kind panoramic view of the forest and the mountains beyond from this vantage point, or hike along the Otter Creek Wilderness trails. Elkins also houses the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad. Historic passenger trains still depart from the station, taking visitors on journeys up into the mountains. This is a fantastic way to see the area and enjoy an unforgettable experience.

Barboursville

Vineyards in Barboursville, Virginia, USA, with people relaxing by the picturesque view of winery grape rows.
Vineyards in Barboursville, Virginia, USA. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Barboursville is a village of many firsts. This small, picturesque town has a number of distinct historic buildings that stand out in history, making it a great place to visit for those looking to learn more about West Virginia’s past. The majority of these buildings are located within the Barboursville Historic District, which itself was named on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the oldest buildings is the Miller House, which was built in 1835 by one of the local pioneer settlers. Another must-see building is the Thornburg House, which dates back to 1901. The town also houses the First United Methodist Church Parsonage, which was built in 1925, and the First National Bank from 1870.

Bramwell

View along Main Street in Bramwell, West Virginia, United States. Buildings on the left are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as contributing properties in the Bramwell Historic District.

Main Street in Bramwell, West Virginia, United States. By Brian Stansberry, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons


Another town to visit in West Virginia is Bramwell. Like Barboursville, it has an exciting past; however, this history is linked to the coal mining industry. During the booming coal mining era of the early 1800s, Branwell snowballed. In fact, it was home to the most millionaires per capita at the time. Visitors can explore many of these millionaire’s homes. Hewitt House, Pack House, and Perry House are but a few. These homes are now living exhibits that offer a window into the past. More on the history of the town’s coal mining can be discovered at the Coal Heritage Trail Interpretive Center.

Explore the Unique Charm of West Virginia’s Lesser-Known Towns

West Virginia has countless interesting small towns to visit and discover, from the popular to the more offbeat. From outdoor adventures like hiking and kayaking to taking in a truly unique festival, there is so much to see and do here. Ride old train lines or explore the homes of mining millionaires. Taste traditional Swiss foods, or take in a show at one of the last operating Carnegie Halls. West Virginia has so many special and rare experiences to enjoy, as well as sights to see. Try something a little different for your next trip with one of these lesser-known small towns.

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