The Greenbrier is a luxury resort located in the Allegheny Mountains near White Sulphur Springs in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Image credit Mark Winfrey via Shutterstock.

6 of the Quirkiest Towns in West Virginia

The state slogan of West Virginia is "Almost Heaven," a reference to country music legend John Denver. If these quirky towns are anything to go by, Denver and the West Virginia he loved are accurate. Also called the Mountain State, West Virginia's offerings combine fascinating history, resilient people, and a current quest for the economic prosperity of neighboring states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. The state's history is quirky, too: formed in 1863, in a split with secessionist Virginia during the US Civil War, the new West Virginia became the easternmost state to join the Union—even later than western states like California, Oregon, and Kansas. 

Given so many unusual factors in its historical past and current culture, West Virginia's fun, sometimes quirky attractions—such as the "Mothman" urban legend—continue to draw curious visitors of all kinds. 


Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Parkersburg, population 29,200, features some decidedly upscale digs in a state sometimes associated with economic difficulty. Incorporated in 1810, the town in 1870 welcomed the completion of the Parkersburg Bridge, a rail connection across the Ohio River, which brought prosperity and made for what was the longest rail bridge in the world at the time. A later oil and gas boom only increased Parkersburg's fortunes. These days, the town's historic wealth stands on vibrant, sometimes eccentric display. Julia-Ann Square offers extravagant stately homes and joined the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1977. For more history and some time in fresh air, head to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park or Fort Boreman Park (which includes a Civil War fort), both west of town. 


William Avenue (Route 32) in Davis, West Virginia, via File:Davis, West Virginia 2020.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
William Avenue (Route 32) in Davis, West Virginia.

Davis, named after industrialist and statesman Henry Gassaway Davis, counts fewer than 600 inhabitants. The small town in eastern Tucker County, once a logging and mining site, now makes a popular base for weekend skiers and year-round hikers, given its short distances from the Canaan Valley and Timberline ski resorts, the Dolly Sods Wilderness area, and the Monongahela National Forest. The woodlands include Spruce Knob, West Virginia's highest peak, at 4,863 feet. Spruce Knob is sometimes called Spruce Mountain. 

One of Davis' fun quirks is its outsized beer and spirits scene. Travelers can grab a pint or two at Stumptown Ales or taste the spirits at New Heritage Distilling, which is also in town. 

White Sulphur Springs

Greenbrier Resort, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Greenbrier Resort, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

White Sulphur Springs, with a population of a modest 2,200, lies in the southeast of West Virginia. The town's primary claim to fame is the Greenbrier, a luxurious, historic mountain resort. White Sulphur Springs' reputation for spa-like services derives from the local natural springs, which have inspired the town's nickname, "Queen of the Watering Places." 

The town's upscale pedigree goes further, given its links (pardon the pun) with the game of golf. In 1884, a prominent family founded Oakhurst Links, becoming America's first official golf club. Today, the United States runs about 15,500 courses — or 43 percent of the world's total, according to the website In other curious facts, during World War II, the town was selected to host the US Congress in that Washington, DC, would require evacuation or have suffered an attack. America's lucky legislators would have stayed and probably golfed at the Greenbrier. 


Downtown Martinsburg historic district, via File:MartinsburgWV HistoricDistrict.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Downtown Martinsburg historic district.

Martinsburg, with 19,000 inhabitants, is found in West Virginia's eastern "Panhandle," the spit of land between neighboring Maryland and Virginia. The town is considered a gateway into the Shenandoah Valley, part of the more extensive Appalachian range of mountains. The town was once home to Isabelle Boyd, a famous, pro-southern female spy during the Civil War called the "Cleopatra of the Secession." 

For a blend of the outdoors and local history, visitors should seek out the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Parks, which honors the canal project which aimed to build commerce among the locations of the Chesapeake Estuary, Washington, DC, Ohio, and Virginia (which included present-day West Virginia). Architecture fans will enjoy Aspen Hall, a colonial-era mansion that has stood in Martinsburg since 1745, making it the oldest structure in town.


Roadsign is pointing towards Belington and Elkins, West Virginia. Railroad tracks are in the foreground.
Sign for Belington and Elkins, WV in autumn.

Elkins, population 6,800, offers the lively arts in a great outdoors setting. Its name, honoring a West Virginia senator of the Reconstruction era, seriously improved the town's original moniker: Leadsville. Located not far from the state's eastern panhandle, southwest of Davis, and close to the Monongahela National Forest, as well as a trio of ski resorts, travelers in Elkins can opt for hunting, fishing, hiking, or all three.

Elkins likewise offers extensive cave networks for enthusiasts of the natural world. Adrenaline junkies will enjoy the Tygart Valley River, a popular spot for whitewater rafting. Travelers who may prefer the dinner-and-a-show format will find options at the Boiler House Theatre, a part of Davis and Elkins College, or the American Mountain Theater, which focuses on family-friendly shows. 


A very old log cabin, the Toll House, in Barboursville, West Virginia.
An ancient log cabin, the Toll House, in Barboursville, West Virginia.

Barboursville, 4,400 strong, has abundant small-town charm, leading some to describe it as the "best little village in the state." A part of the NRHP since 2008, the southwest town sits on the Ohio River, just across from the state of Ohio. It can trace its roots to American pioneer legend Daniel Boone and other frontiersmen. 

These days, Barboursville's claims to fame are more modest and quirkier. It hosts Huntington Mall—the state's largest indoor shopping mall, with 1.5 million feet of retail surface. When shoppers need a break from all their retail therapy, they should head to the town's gardens and green spaces, like Beech Fork State Park, which surrounds Beech Fork Lake and its marina, a local favorite for fishing, boating, and time outdoors with friends. 

West Virginia may be "almost heaven," but it comes with a quirk or two. From "Mothman" legends to might-have-been places for a Congress in exile, the state has come a long, strange way from its creation in the middle of the Civil War. More modern accomplishments include genteel places such as Parkersburg and White Sulphur Springs, not to mention the performing arts mecca of Elkins. West Virginia's natural beauty is almost everywhere, but towns like Davis show it best. Whatever a traveler's tastes—for eccentric adventure or just some fresh mountain air—they will indeed find it in West Virginia. 

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