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7 Most Charming River Towns In West Virginia to Visit In 2024

by Staff

Although West Virginia is known as the “Mountain State” since it is located completely within the Appalachian Mountains, the state is also home to numerous rivers. These waterways run through charming river towns from Harpers Ferry in the Eastern Panhandle of the state to Parkersburg, nestled along the confluence of the Ohio River and Kanawha River in western West Virginia. These towns boast unique museums, such as the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, and eclectic art festivals, like ArtSpring in Davis. For those looking for wild and wonderful outdoor adventures, American history, and vibrant art events, these seven charming river towns in West Virginia are the perfect places to visit in 2024. 

Harpers Ferry

Historic buildings and shops on High Street in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

Located along the confluence of the Potomac River and Shenandoah River, Harpers Ferry is one of the most charming river towns in West Virginia to visit. Outdoor enthusiasts can white water raft, white water kayak, or tube along the picturesque rivers. The beauty of the confluence was even remarked on by President Thomas Jefferson in 1785 when he wrote, “The passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.” Visitors can stand along Jefferson Rock where the president wrote these words. Located on the Appalachian Trail, hikers can also enjoy the scenic views on the famous trail. 

More history can be explored at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The park showcases the vital role the town played in the Civil War at various sites, including John’s Brown Fort where Brown led a raid against slavery in 1859. The national park is located near the historic downtown area, featuring local shops and restaurants, such as the Coach House Bar and Grill with delicious food and local drinks. The town also hosts several festivals throughout 2024, including the inaugural Harpers Ferry Film Festival on March 22 and 23, and the 7th annual Blue Ridge Arts and Crafts Festival on April 7.

Shepherdstown

Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
German musical band preparing for Oktoberfest performance in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Editorial credit: Evgenia Parajanian / Shutterstock.com.

Established in 1762, Shepherdstown is one of the oldest towns in West Virginia. Situated along the Potomac River, the historic town featured one of the first steamboats in the country in 1787. Invented by James Rumsey, history buffs can view a replica of the steamboat at the Rumsey Steamboat Museum. The steamboat replica can be found near the Historic Shepherdstown Museum located in the 1768 Entler Hotel. Situated in the historic downtown, visitors can view 19th-century items on display at the museum and then enjoy a self-guided walking tour along the well-preserved area. The historic district played a role in the Civil War, when most of the buildings served as hospitals for over 8,000 Confederate soldiers wounded at the Civil War Battle of Antietam.

Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy visiting Shepherdstown due to the many outdoor adventures. A favorite pastime is enjoying the Potomac River, a great spot for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. Along the river is the C&O Canal, a biking and hiking trail that features the Shepherdstown River Lock. The town also boasts several annual festivals, including the howling DogFest in June, the 4th of July parade and community picnic, and Christmas festivities from the day following Thanksgiving through the end of December.

Point Pleasant

Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Sternwheeler Queen of the Mississippi docked on the Ohio River in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Editorial credit: Jack R Perry Photography / Shutterstock.com

The charming town of Point Pleasant is one of the best river towns in West Virginia to visit in 2024. Nestled along the confluence of the Ohio River and Kanawha River, Point Pleasant provides the perfect blend of nature and unique history. Visitors can explore the Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, located at the confluence of the rivers. The park commemorates those who fought in the 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant with an 84-foot granite monument. Located nearby is Riverfront Park, which offers stunning views of the rivers, an amphitheater, and murals and statues dedicated to the 1774 battle. The town is also home to Fort Randolph, a fort that served frontiersmen 1776-1779. In 2024, step back in time on May 18 during the Siege of Fort Randolph or take a self-guided tour of the fort during the summer months.

Point Pleasant is also known for its local legend from 1966, the Mothman, a red-eyed creature seen flying in the sky. The town boasts the World’s Only Mothman Museum, where adventurers can view local mothman souvenirs and props from the movie, The Mothman Prophecies. For those wanting to fully experience the legend of the Mothman, stay in town on September 21 and 22, 2024, for the annual Mothman Festival. 

Wheeling

Aerial view of Wheeling, West Virginia.
Aerial view of Wheeling, West Virginia.

The birthplace of West Virginia’s statehood, Wheeling is a charming town located along the Ohio River. Visitors can enjoy the waterfront and experience lively festivals at Heritage Port, located along the river. The site is home to the second largest Italian festival in the country, the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival, held in July. From August 9-11, music lovers can enjoy the annual Heritage Music BluesFest at the waterfront park. More exciting events take place at Oglebay Institute, a complex that includes the Oglebay Mansion Museum, Glass Museum, and Wheeling Park. In 2024, the complex will host the delicious Maple Sugaring Festival on March 2, the 11th annual Wheeling Polka Festival on March 22-24, and Paws in the Park on September 7.

Steeped in cultural heritage, Wheeling is one of the best river towns in West Virginia to learn more about the state’s history. On June 20, 1863, West Virginia officially became a state during the signing at Wheeling’s Independence Hall, where history enthusiasts can learn more about the area’s past on a tour. Prior to statehood, Wheeling was an important transportation hub and aided in the westward expansion by being part of the National Road in 1818. Today, visitors can drive along the historic road on the iconic Wheeling Suspension Bridge which spans the Ohio River. Built in 1849, the bridge is the oldest vehicular suspension bridge in the country still used for traffic.

Davis

Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia.
The scenic Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia.

At 3,520 feet above sea level, the picturesque river town of Davis is the highest incorporated town in West Virginia. Davis is one of the best river towns to visit in the state in 2024 due to its eclectic art community, scenic outdoor activities, and central location. The town is a short drive from Washington D.C., Baltimore, Maryland, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Situated along the Blackwater River, Davis provides outdoor adventures throughout the year. Nature enthusiasts can hike and mountain bike on 20 miles of trails at Blackwater Falls State Park, which also boasts incredible views of Blackwater Falls, a 57-foot waterfall. Visitors can also stroll along the banks of the river and enjoy a picnic at Davis Riverfront Park.

For more exciting adventures, explore the vibrant art scene in the quaint town. In 2024, Davis and neighboring communities will host the annual ArtSpring festival, May 24-26. Art enthusiasts can view art exhibits and visit local galleries, such as the WV Highlands Art Gallery, on a gallery walk during the festival. In the fall, art lovers can participate in art demos and an art market at the annual Artober Fest, October 4-6.

Parkersburg

Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Editorial credit: Malachi Jacobs / Shutterstock.com

Situated along the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers is Parkersburg, a charming river town that is one of the best places in West Virginia to visit for natural beauty and American history. In the 1800s and 1900s, the town played a vital role in the oil and gas industry. Today, visitors can explore Parkersburg’s role in the Appalachian Basin, the largest international reserve of oil and gas, at the Oil and Gas Museum. The museum also boasts Civil War memorabilia, showcasing the part that the town played in the war. More Civil War history can be discovered at the Fort Boreman Park. Located on a hilltop, the park provides scenic views of the confluence.

The town of Parkersburg also played a unique role during the Aaron Burr conspiracy. In 1805, a local family, the Blennerhassetts, allowed Burr to use their large estate as his headquarters on Blennerhassett Island. Today, history buffs can tour the island, visit the family’s mansion, and explore the Blennerhassett Museum at Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. On October 26, 2024, visitors to the park can view history in action at the Necessity of Independence: Dunmore’s War, Stepping Stone to the Revolution. More festivals will take place in downtown Parkersburg in 2024, such as the Mid-Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival from June 21-23, the Honey Festival August 24 and 25 at Parkersburg City Park, and Winterfest on December 7.

Morgantown

Aerial view of Morgantown, West Virginia.
Aerial view of Morgantown, West Virginia. Editorial credit: Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

One of the best river towns in West Virginia to visit in 2024 for history is Morgantown. Located along the Monongahela River near Pennsylvania, the charming town was officially established in 1785 after the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1763. History buffs can explore 18th-century architecture in town, including the Old Stone House from 1795, the area’s oldest stone dwelling. The Morgantown History Museum is also a great place to discover regional art and items from the hometown actor Don Knotts. A statue of the actor is outside of the Metropolitan Theater, which first opened its doors 100 years ago in 1924. In 2024, the theater is hosting several bands and musicals, including Peter Pan on March 23 and Beauty and the Beast on April 11.

Beyond its history and theatrical performances, Morgantown is known for its natural beauty. Nature enthusiasts can take a stroll on 4.5 miles of trails and eight gardens at the West Virginia Botanic Garden at Tibbs Run Preserve. In 2024, the garden will host its summer concert series on June 21, July 11, August 22, and September 19. In the fall, families can build fairy houses, paint pumpkins, and create crafts on October 6 at the annual Fall Children’s Festival.

Wild And Wonderful River Towns

These wild and wonderful river towns provide exciting annual festivals, unique outdoor activities, and picturesque nature views to tourists in 2024. From the theatrical performances in Morgantown to the Wheeling Polka Festival, West Virginia’s charming river towns provide something for everyone. Whether hiking along the Appalachian Trail in Harpers Ferry or enjoying the tastes of Parkersburg’s Honey Festival, these river towns provide an enchanting getaway to all visitors in 2024.

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