Fun things to do in West Virginia

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Most Viewed Things to Do in West Virginia

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    Harpers Ferry

    by traveldave Updated Sep 19, 2014

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    Harpers Ferry is a historic town situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, at a point where the states of West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia meet. Part of the town lies on a flood plain along the confluence of the two rivers, and part is situated on high bluffs above the rest of the town.

    In 1734, the site that would one day comprise Harpers Ferry was ceded by land grant to Quaker colonialist Robert Harper. In 1761 he established ferry crossing on the Potomac River, and a small settlement grew up around the crossing. The Virginia General Assembly established the town of Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper's Ferry in 1763, but the cumbersome name was eventually shortened to Harpers Ferry. (At that time, what is now West Virginia was part of Virginia).

    In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Harpers Ferry became a regional industrial center. The federal government established the United States Armory and Arsenal in the town, one of only two such armories in the nation at the time. (The other was located in Springfield, Massachusetts). Before it was destroyed during the American Civil War to prevent its being taken over by Confederate forces, the armory had produced over 600,000 muskets, rifles, and pistols. The town's importance as an industrial center grew further when it was connected to Washington, D.C. by the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in 1833, and with the arrival of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1834.

    Harpers Ferry, however, is most known for John Brown's raid. Brown, a militant abolitionist, seized the armory along with 20 other men in 1859 with the goal of providing arms to escaped slaves in order to incite a slave revolt. His insurrection failed, and he was tried and hung. A song, John Brown's Body, was written about his corpse, and became popular among Union forces during the American Civil War.

    Nowadays, Harpers Ferry is a popular tourist destination where visitors can enjoy the well-preserved colonial brick buildings, walk the narrow streets, and learn about the rich history of the town and area. Much of the lower part of the town is part of the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, and most of the upper part of the town is included in the Harpers Ferry Historic District.

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    The John Brown Wax Museum

    by traveldave Updated Sep 17, 2014

    Opened in 1961, the John Brown Wax Museum is one of only two wax museums in the world dedicated to the life of a single individual, the other being devoted to Jesus Christ. It is housed in a fine old brick house that was in existence at the time of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. It stands on a block that is part of a National Historic Park.

    John Brown was a militant white abolitionist who believed the only way to end slavery in the United States was through armed insurrection. He is best remembered for his 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry during which 14 men were killed. He and a group of about 20 men seized the Harpers Ferry Armory, which at the time contained over 100,000 muskets and rifles. His plan was to arm slaves with these weapons to start a slave revolt which would lead to the eventual end of slavery in the United States. His group also took the Baltimore & Ohio railroad bridge, a local rifle factory, and the major intersections in the town. Despite its initial success, Brown's insurrection was quickly put down. He was later tried for treason, the murder of five men, and inciting a slave insurrection. Found guilty on all counts, he was hung in downtown Harpers Ferry.

    A marching song, John Brown's Body, was later written about his corpse. Due to its anti-slavery sentiment, it was popular among Union forces during the American Civil War. After the war, the lyrics to The Battle Hymn of the Republic were written to accompany the tune of John Brown's Body.

    Through dioramas containing historically accurate wax figures, the John Brown Wax Museum tells the life story of John Brown, from his childhood to events he witnessed early in his life which turned him against slavery, to his failed raid, and to his trial and hanging. Visitors take self-guided tours which lead them through dark, narrow corridors from the first floor to the third floor, and eventually to the basement. At each diorama, visitors are directed to push a green button which activates an audio tape that explains what they are seeing in each display.

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  • free family time

    by KerriB4 Written Mar 28, 2014

    LOVE THIS PLACE . it's FREE no cost to see this awesome bridge (didn't do the cat walk) to scared. went down the 1 way road to the bottom of the mountain & had a great family time watching rafters go by.

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    Harper's Ferry

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Sep 2, 2013

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    Harper's Ferry is a strategic city at the confluence of the Potamac and Shendoah rivers that played a central role in the Civil war. It changed hands numerous times during the war and conferred a strategic advantage of control of the 2 rivers. Today, the historic section of the town is restored as a National Historic park.

    Harper's Ferry Harper's Ferry Harper's Ferry Harper's Ferry Harper's Ferry
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    Valley Falls State Park

    by traveldave Updated Jul 5, 2012

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    The main attraction of 1,145-acre (463-hectare) Valley Falls State Park is the series of spectacular waterfalls that cascade over Connoquenessing sandstone ledges and stone blocks to create foaming whitewater and clear, deep pools. The Tygart River, which separates Marion County to the north and Taylor County to the south, cuts through the steep-sided valley and forms waterfalls and rapids for almost one mile (1.6 kilometers) through the park.

    In addition to enjoying the waterfalls, visitors can engage in other outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, kayaking, and fishing. There are seven hiking and mountain-biking trails in the park which total about 20 miles (32 kilometers). Because of the steepness and challenging nature of many of the trails, Mountain Biking Magazine rates Valley Falls State Park as one of the top five mountain biking sites in the United States.

    The area that is now Valley Falls State Park was a thriving community in the 1800s. The settlement of around 100 buildings contained a B&O Railroad depot station, a grist mill, sawmills, a post office, shops, and a ferry. However, the town was devastated first by a fire in 1886 and then by a flood in 1888. Although the residents tried to rebuild, the town never fully recovered and was eventually abandoned. Nowadays, all that remains of the town is some stone foundations in the vicinity of the waterfalls.

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    Blackwater Falls State Park

    by traveldave Updated Jul 5, 2012

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    Located in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, Blackwater Falls State Park protects 2,358 acres (954 hectares) of red spruce and eastern hemlock upland boreal forest. Its most popular feature is the Great Falls of the Blackwater River, which is located at the point where the river enters the deep and rugged Blackwater Canyon. The Blackwater River is so named because its waters are stained black by tannic acid in the nutrient-poor local soil.

    With a height of 62 feet (19 meters), the Great Falls of the Blackwater River are the highest above-ground waterfalls in the state. (There are higher waterfalls in West Virginia, but they are located underground in caves). The waters cascade over a Connoquenessing sandstone ledge, and a rocky prominence in the center of the ledge divides the waters. The picturesque waterfalls are one of the most photographed sites in the state. A trail with 214 steps descends 320 feet (98 meters) from the parking area to a wooden walkway and overlook. An easier trail which is wheelchair accessible leads to another overlook.

    In addition to viewing the waterfalls, during the spring, summer, and autumn, visitors can go fishing, hiking, or mountain biking, and during the winter they can go skating on a pond or go cross-country skiing. Other amenities in the park include 39 rental cabins, the 55-room Lodge in the Sky (so named because the state park is the highest in West Virginia), a 65-site campground, picnic areas, a restaurant, and a nature center.

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    The Canaan Valley

    by traveldave Updated Jun 28, 2012

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    Located in eastern Tucker County, the Canaan Valley is one of the most popular areas in West Virginia for outdoor sports and activities. The valley and its surrounding mountain peaks offer hiking, camping, cycling, golfing, fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, cross-country skiing, and downhill skiing. The valley contains two state parks (Canaan Valley Resort State Park and Blackwater Falls State Park) and three ski areas (Canaan Valley Ski Resort, Timberline Four Seasons Resort, and White Grass Touring Area which offers cross-country ski trails). Visitors can choose between the valley's many restaurants, motels, cabins, condominiums, and resorts that cater to many budgets and tastes.

    The stories of how the Canaan Valley came to be named vary. One legend is that a settler, George Casey Harness, was tracking a bear when he came to a point where he could look out over the valley. He is supposed to have said, "Behold, the Land of Canaan!" Another popular story holds that a German settler, Henry Fansler, who was migrating from the Shenandoah Valley, saw the valley from Cabin Mountain and said the same thing Harness said, but in German. The first white men to see the valley were probably surveyors on the famous Fairfax Line survey who crossed Canaan Mountain and entered the valley in 1746 under difficult conditions.

    The Canaan Valley is an upland valley in the higher mountains of the Allegheny Mountain range. It is about 13 miles (21 kilometers) long and is up to five miles (eight kilometers) wide. The valley is surrounded by mountain peaks, most notably Canaan Mountain to the west and Cabin Mountain to the east. The average elevation of the valley floor is about 3,200 feet (975 meters), making the Canaan Valley the largest high-elevation valley east of the Rocky Mountains.

    Because of the high elevation and the configuration of the surrounding mountains, weather fronts are frequently channeled through the valley, making it significantly wetter and cooler than the surrounding areas. The valley's microclimate is therefore different from those of the surrounding areas, and is similar to areas much farther north, such as northern New England and Canada. Much of the valley floor contains extensive boreal wetlands and the headwaters of the Blackwater River. About 70 percent of the land in the Canaan Valley is protected by the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the 500th National Wildlife Refuge to be established in the nation.

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    Seneca Rocks

    by traveldave Updated Jun 18, 2012

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    Seneca Rocks is a steep, exposed crag of rock (or knob) that rises about 900 feet (274 meters) above the confluence of Seneca Creek and the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River in West Virginia's eastern panhandle. It is made up of two sections, North Peak and South Peak, that are separated by Gunsight Notch. Seneca Rocks is at the north end of River Knobs, an 18-mile-long (29-kilometer-long) ridge and series of knobs and cliffs on the west side of North Fork Mountain that stretches from Cherry Grove to Seneca Rocks. In addition to Seneca Rocks, River Knobs contains smaller, less impressive knobs which include Judy Rocks and Nelson Rocks. There are also many caves in the area, some of which are open to the public.

    Seneca Rocks is composed of white and gray Tuscarora quartzite that underlies the region and breaks the surface as knobs. The quartzite, which is about 250 feet (76 meters) thick, is made up of grains of sand that were laid down about 440,000,000 years ago during the Silurian Period on the edge of an ancient sea. Over eons of time, the sand was compressed into rock, and lifted and folded by geologic forces as the sea eventually disappeared.

    Seneca Rocks was named after the Seneca Trail, also called the Great Indian Warpath, that followed the banks of the Potomac River, and was used by the Seneca, Algonguin, and Tuscarora American Indian tribes to pass through the area for either trade or war.

    Because of the steepness and height of the cliffs, as well as the degree of climbing difficulty, Seneca Rocks is the premier rock-climbing location in the eastern United States, with over 375 mapped climbing routes. It is believed the rock was first climbed in 1906. Since 1971, 16 people have been killed while attempting to scale the cliffs.

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  • Backwoods Driving

    by crazyaunt Written Apr 24, 2012

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    The best way to see West Virginia is to have a tank full of gas, a picnic basket and something to drink, and a gps.

    My husbad and I like to explore West Virginia by driving on roads we have never been on, and turn at the next turn that we come upon. We cntinue doing this for miles. We have been connected to towns that we had no idea how we got there, dead end roads where we had to turn back, yard sales you wouldn't expect at all.

    We have met some of the greatest people ever, saw some beautiful lakes, ponds, and mountain streams, and waterfalls in he middle of nowhere.

    The wildlife that roam freely, that will stop and look at you out of curositiy because you may be the first people they see in weeks, and you will see a variety of animals as you travel.

    We take the GPS not to see where we are going, but to see where we are when we get somewhere. Oddly if we can't find our way back to a main road, then we will use it to get back to a town. Take advtanage of the places to eat, no matter how small they are, or how country they look, that is where the good home cooked meals are found. Check out the little stores you find along the way, this is where the unusual things are found.

    We never get tired of exploring West Virginia, each trip we find something different, and take a map with us to mark all the places we have been.

    Smmer is coming again, and I can't wait to get my map and gps and hit the West Virginia Hills again.

    Spring flowers Wild flowers
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    Morgantown

    by Ewingjr98 Written Jan 21, 2012

    Morgantown began as Fort Morgan, which was established in 1772. The town and the fort were named after Zackquill Morgan, who fought in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Originally called Morgan's Town, it was chartered in 1785 and incorporated as a city in 1838.

    Today the city of Morgantown has about 27,000 residents, and is most notable as home to West Virginia University. Interestingly enough, the University has more students (28,000) than the town has residents!

    Located on the Monongahela River, Morgantown's industry relies heavily on shipping coal and other products through Pittsburgh to the Ohio River.

    Morgantown

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    New River Bridge

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jan 21, 2012

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    Long the longest steel-arch bridge in the world, the New River Bridge on Rt 19 was recently surpassed by the Lupu Bridge in Shanghai, China. Completed in 1977, the New River Bridge reduced a 45-minute drive down into the valley to a 45-second sprint over the river with hardly a blink of the eye. At 876 feet above the river and 3,030 feet long the bridge designers overcame such obstacles as abandoned and unmapped coal mines to build a true engineering marvel.

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    The Views Are Awesome

    by lmkluque Updated Oct 29, 2011

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    After congratulating yourself for making it to the top, take a look around. The town and the natural country views are so impressive that just to see this is worth the trip!

    I am not much of an "outdoor/nature" person and I live in an area that people say is very beautiful, but nothing I've seen anywhere is as exceptionally beautiful as the town of Harpers Ferry and it's surrounds.

    Of course, there are shops and dining places, but it is the combination of the old town buildings nestled into the lush hills that is so charming and beautiful. Like the ornaments on a Christmas tree.

    I came here as a daytrip from Washington D.C., but if I had known what I would find I would have planned a longer visit. I just want you to have the option of making this more than a short tourist stop.

    View from the steps of St. Peter's
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    Lower Town

    by lmkluque Updated Oct 29, 2011

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    Not only is the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Armory & Arsenal located here, also this is a wonderful small town in the County of Jefferson.

    It borders the State of Maryland, is surrounded by the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and is the only place in the state of West Virginia where the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River are together.

    Did you know that the song by John Denver, "Take me home country roads" is actually about Harpers Ferry?

    Most people arrive to see the National Park, but the town is charming, offers shopping, dining, the vibe of a small commuinity as well as wonderful hiking, canoing and other outdoor activities.

    Walk around Harper's Ferry and see the views from different levels. This is a charming country town.

    View from the Northeast side of the hill.
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    United States Armory and Arsenal

    by lmkluque Updated Oct 28, 2011

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    The site of the United States Arsenal made famous by John Brown's raid, a critical event preceding the Civil War.

    However, the HF Armory and Arsenal was important on it's own. Not only was this a place where arms and military equipment belonging to the United States were stored, they were also produced here.

    During the Civil War Harpers Ferry changed hands from North to South and back again many times. Of course, eventually it reverted back to Union possession and is now part of the US National Historic Park system for all of us to tour and enjoy.

    Harpers Ferry Armory and Arsenal
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    My Favorite Photo Op!

    by lmkluque Updated Oct 28, 2011

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    St. Peter's is beautiful but I couldn't imagine climbing these steps every Sunday for Mass! It is however worth the climb at least once.

    The first thing that I noticed upon arriving at the top of the hill was the fantastic view. Right here, looking all round the term, "Wild West Virginia," comes to life.

    Though the town is visable just below, it is surrounded by natural elements that seem not to have been disturbed ever. Even the train trestle over the river seems very old and part of the natural scene.

    The priest at St. Peter's played a role in the occupation of Harper's Ferry by John Brown, but I don't think that is why this was the only church to survive. I'm sure that no one wanted to hike up that hill.

    If you happen to be in Harper's Ferry during the first two weekends of December, St. Peter's offers, concerts and other events during the "Olde Tyme Christmas in Harpers Ferry."

    Part of Harper's Ferry National Historical Park
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West Virginia Things to Do

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