***This post was created in sponsorship with the West Virginia Tourism Office, but as always, all opinions are my own and I would never promote anything I don’t freaking love.***
If you’ve never stepped foot in West Virginia, then I’m willing to bet that you’re not sure what to think of it at all. It’s a state that doesn’t come with too many preconceived stereotypes — in fact, it’s kind of mysterious in that way, a hidden gem that flies under the radar. Even for someone like me who spent my entire childhood on the Eastern side of the U.S. and the better part of the last year basing myself out of WV’s sister state Virginia, I still had never crossed the state line. So when I received the invitation from the West Virginia Tourism Board to spend five days exploring the best of West Virginia winter, my curiosity was piqued.
We spent a jam-packed five days basically exploring the state from top to bottom and visiting three different areas where the best of the best winter activities were on offer. I typically like to share my exact itineraries with you guys, but for those just looking for a relaxing vacation, I’d recommend splitting these up into three separate trips to give you proper time to truly enjoy each, or book a longer trip to the state to cover it all.
Whichever trip you choose, I know you’ll be pleasantly surprised by many things that West Virginia has to offer. Probably the most striking discovery to me was how much of the state’s natural land is still undeveloped and yet to be explored. It truly still has that slow placed feel, with snowy rolling hills punctuated by small towns, where you can feel the local sense of pride and camaraderie everywhere you go.
Quick Tips Before Your West Virginia Trip
- To get to West Virginia it’s easiest (and cheapest) to fly into Washington D.C. and rent a car from there — refer to the map at the bottom of the post for a helpful visual.
- Cell service was pretty limited during much of our drives through the countryside across all service providers, so plan accordingly.
- Bring layers! We experienced a range of temperatures throughout our trip, so you’ll want to be prepared for all conditions.
Trip Idea #1: Soak in Mountain Culture at Snowshoe Mountain
Snowshoe Mountain is an awesome winter destination that offers a ton of activities whether you’re a beginner, old pro or have no interest in going down the slopes at all. Here are a few ways to make the most of a trip at Snowshoe Mountain and make sure to check out their website for a full guide to all of the activities on offer.
Skiing/Snowboarding at Snowshoe Mountain Resort
I grew up skiing regularly, but hadn’t done so in about five years before this trip to West Virginia. To be honest, I had a bit of nerves at first, but Snowshoe Mountain proved to be the perfect place to get reacquainted with the slopes.
We actually hit some pretty terrible weather (it was non-stop sleeting and raining the day we bought ski passes), but I was SO impressed by the snow quality and how well Snowshoe maintained the mountain even in the worst possible conditions. In any other scenario, we might have done one icy run and called it quits, but we were so pleasantly surprised by how smooth and fun the runs were even in the nasty weather that we skied for several hours before heading to the lodge for lunch. Apparently the mountain recently invested in state of the art snow guns to keep the trails covered in top-notch powder, and it shows.
Enjoy All Things Après Ski
One very cool aspect of Snowshoe is that the ski village is situated at the top of the mountain rather than the bottom like at most ski resorts (or at least all of the ones that I’ve been to). This makes for a cool vibe where you enjoy your mountain dinner or happy hour hot toddy without having to work for it first. Post-ski drinks are great at The Junction, but my favorite restaurant on the mountain was Appalachia Kitchen, which is the perfect last night dinner at the resort to enjoy a delicious charcuterie board, great wines and an elegant meal before you depart.
Don’t Miss a Romantic Hut Dinner via Polaris RZR
For those looking for a bit more adventure and a unique experience, make sure to sign up for the mountain’s Backcountry Hut dinner which takes place in the snowy backwoods at a romantic log cabin about 2 miles off the resort. Your mode of transport? Polaris RZR. Yep, you’ll drive one of these powerful vehicles through the snow-packed back trails and arrive at your cabin to a home-cooked meal prepared by Snowshoe’s amazing staff. This is a must-do!
Trip Idea #2: Take a Winter Retreat at the Historic Greenbrier Resort
The Greenbrier is truly unlike any hotel I’ve ever experienced. The resort has been welcoming guests since 1778 and feels like stepping back in time to another era of iconic southern hospitality. The sheer history alone of this property is awe-inspiring. Not only has the hotel hosted over half of our country’s presidents, but it has welcomed the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bob Hope, Princess Grace of Monaco, Eleanor Roosevelt and many more famous faces.
The Greenbrier was also home to a secret bunker for 30 years in the aftermath of the Cold War that was meant to act as a safe haven for Congress should any potential threats to the government occur in the nation’s capital. Fortunately it never had to be used, but it’s now a fascinating part of the hotel for guests to discover and tour as a way to dive deeper into the history of this area.
Probably the most notable aspect of the hotel is its punchy decor imagined by Dorothy Draper, an interior designer with a love for bold prints and patterns. Between the pink wallpaper, banana leaf motifs and upholstery favoring stripes and floral prints, you’re simply not going to get bored here taking in all of the design details — and believe me when I say this place is huge, so there’s a lot to take in!
The expansive mineral spa and MedSpa at The Greenbrier have been a huge draw for visitors for many years and is the perfect way to relax and escape the winter blues. It’s been named one of the best spas in the world by Conde Nast Traveler and offers a slew of luxurious treatments from massages and facials to hydrotherapy and even spray tanning.
The Little Details
Traditions like daily afternoon tea and twice daily dance performances (one during tea time and another during their 10 pm champagne toast in the casino) provide ways for returning guests to feel right back at home with each new visit. To truly soak in the essence of The Greenbrier, don’t miss these little moments sprinkled throughout your stay.
Tour the Property by Horse Drawn Carriage
The hotel has over 50 indoor and outdoor activities on offer, but one of the highlights of our stay at The Greenbrier was an hour-long carriage tour around the stunning grounds. Our driver and guide was well versed in the history of “America’s Resort” as The Greenbrier is called, and he was eager to share his insider knowledge spanning 30 years working for the resort.
PS – When booking, make sure to ask about their special offers during winter as the hotel offers a lot of great incentives to guests who book during the colder months!
Trip Idea #3: Get Out in Nature in Beautiful Tucker County + Blackwater Falls State Park
For true nature lovers, Tucker County, located just south of the Maryland border, is the place to be in West Virginia. I was blown away by the fact that about 50% of the land in the county is publicly owned and features endless amounts of outdoor adventures whether it be in the county’s State Parks, Fish and Wildlife Refuge, National Forest or Federal Wilderness. When John Denver sang about West Virginia being “almost heaven,” this is surely what he was talking about. Below are just a few of the things you can experience in this area, but visit the Tucker County tourist website for the full spectrum of activities you can enjoy during your visit.
Enjoy Quiet Cabin Life
Want to hide away and dive into a slower pace of life surrounded by snow-topped trees? This is the place to do it. Book an authentic West Virginia cabin with Canaan Luxury Cabins and clear your schedule, because this is the perfect place to catch up on your reading list or sip a hot chocolate by the fire.
Explore Blackwater Falls State Park
Kick off your day with a hearty breakfast at the Smokehouse at Blackwater Falls which features stunning views overlooking the canyon. Then take a quick drive to Blackwater Falls where you can take an easy hike to the base of the waterfall to take in more of the natural views. Next, visit the park’s famous sled run where adults and kids alike get hauled up the hill via a handy conveyer belt and then self-sled down for an epic joyride. If you want to feel like a kid again, this is a must.
Explore Downtown Davis
Get a taste of small town life in Davis, a town with a population just over 600 people. We enjoyed lunch here one afternoon in between activities, and I could instantly feel how strong the community camaraderie was within the town — it’s one of those places where literally everyone knows each other’s names. For such a small area, I was super impressed with the pizza at Sirianni’s Cafe and there was even a brewery and organic, all-natural goods shop all on the main street downtown.