The wild and wonderful state of West Virginia delights visitors with its rugged terrain, historical significance, and unique architecture. The only state located completely within the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia is known as "almost heaven" due to its mountain peaks, scenic views, and natural beauty. Throughout the Mountaineer State are several small towns that are top-rated for their Civil War history, vibrant art communities, and breathtaking landscapes. From Harpers Ferry in the west to the central Swiss town of Helvetia and the southern college town of Bluefield, here are seven top-rated small towns in West Virginia that provide a perfect getaway for all visitors.
Settled in 1730, Shepherdstown is the oldest town in West Virginia. With cobblestone streets and 18th-century architecture, visitors can take a self-guided walking tour of the town's historic district. The tour features the Mecklenburg Inn, an 18th-century building and previous home to John F. Hamtramck, one of the town's military heroes. Today, the inn is a pub where tourists can enjoy a delicious meal and pint. Nearby in the Entler Hotel is the Historic Shepherdstown Museum, featuring local history, artifacts, and furniture displays from the 1800s and early 1900s.
Since Shepherdstown is located along the Potomac River, water enthusiasts enjoy boating, tubing, and kayaking in the calm waters. For more outdoor adventures, tourists can hike or bike along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. After a day of discovering history and enjoying the great outdoors, stay at the historic Shepherdstown Inn, located in a building from 1868.
Nestled along the confluence of the Potomac River and Shenandoah River, Harpers Ferry offers whitewater rafting, hiking along the Appalachian Trail, and a stroll through American history. Along the Appalachian Trail, outdoor enthusiasts interact with Civil War history at John Brown's Fort and the ruins of St. John's Episcopal Church. Built in 1852, the church served as a hospital during the Civil War. The nearby fort was used as a prison during the war and where the abolitionist John Brown fought against slavery in 1859.
For more history, downtown Harpers Ferry offers a step back in time with buildings from the 1700s and 1800s. Visitors can enjoy a delicious breakfast at Battle Grounds Bakery and Coffee, shop for local artisanal items at Vintage Lady, and stay at the 1799 Inn at Harpers Ferry, which was originally part of the National Armory commissioned by George Washington.
Situated along the border of Virginia, Bluefield's unique history and scenic outdoor activities offer the perfect getaway. Located 2,655 feet above sea level, the town can be viewed atop the East River Mountain Overlook. The scenic overlook was previously home to the Ridge Runner Train, the world's smallest interstate railroad. Today, visitors can ride the miniature train at Bluefield City Park. For outdoor adventurers, the park provides 10 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing.
The history of Bluefield is alive in its Downtown Historic District. Tourists can also take a scenic self-driving tour of 250 residential homes on the National Register of Historic Places. For even more history, stay at the Bluefield Inn. Built in 1904, previous visitors to the inn include President Woodrow Wilson and President John F. Kennedy.
The quaint town of Davis is the highest incorporated town in the state, at 3,520 feet above sea level. With a population of only 660 people, the small town is known for its vibrant arts scene and incredible outdoor adventures. Art lovers can view works by local artists and artisans at the WV Highlands Art Gallery. The town, along with its neighbor Thomas, also hosts the annual three-day ArtSpring festival in May and the annual Artober fest in the fall.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Davis offers top-rated outdoor activities during all four seasons. Blackwater Falls State Park boasts the Blackwater Sled Run in the winter, the longest sled run on the East Coast. The park is also home to 20 miles of hiking trails, mountain biking trails, and several waterfalls that can be viewed year-round. A great place to relax after exploring art and nature is the Bright Morning Inn.
Neighboring Davis is Thomas, an equally charming town that was once a coal mining town to European Americans. The town's architecture reflects its European heritage, and visitors can view the Thomas Commercial Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town also has an eclectic art scene, visible along its historic district. Visitors can experience local art events at Gradient Projects and view Appalachian art at Invisible. While strolling the historic streets, stop by the Purple Fiddle for a delicious dinner, local brew, and incredible live music.
The town also offers scenic outdoor adventures. Nature lovers can hike or mountain bike along five miles of trails at Thomas City Park, as well as the Blackwater Canyon Trail that runs along the North Fork Blackwater River through the town. After hiking and experiencing the vibrant community, stay and unwind in the historic downtown at the Dandy Flats.
For those looking for an unforgettable stay, Helvetia is top-rated for its unique cultural heritage and events. Founded by Swiss and German immigrants, Helvetia retains its European charm. The town celebrates annual festivals year-round, including Fasnacht at the start of Lent and the Helvetia Community Fair in the fall, one of the oldest agricultural fairs in the state that began in 1917. The charming town also hosts the annual Helvetia Historic Walk on October 20th, marking the town's founding in 1869. Throughout the year, visitors can take a self-guided walking tour along the 2.5-mile Historic Helvetia Hiking Trail.
For an authentic Swiss-American meal in Helvetia, enjoy a bite at the Hütte Restaurant. The town also offers a unique lodging experience at the Czar Haus. Travelers can go fishing, hiking, or horseback riding along the Buckhannon River while staying in an enchanting mountain cabin.
Located on the Ohio border, Parkersburg blends elegance, history, and natural beauty. The town is located at the confluence of the Ohio River and Little Kanawha River, making it a haven for boating, fishing, and kayaking along the Ohio River Water Trail. A great hilltop view of the rivers and the picturesque town is at Fort Boreman Park, the site of a Civil War fort. To learn more about the town's history, visit the Oil and Gas Museum in downtown Parkersburg. After exploring the area, enjoy a relaxing stay at the Historic Blennerhassett Hotel, built in 1889.
One of the most top-rated activities in Parkersburg is exploring Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. After taking a sternwheeler riverboat to the island from Point Park, visitors can tour a replica of the Blennerhassett Mansion from 1800, discover regional artifacts at the Blennerhassett Museum, and take a covered wagon tour of the island.
For those looking to experience Appalachian charm, these small towns do not disappoint. Each top-rated small town in West Virginia provides wild and wonderful adventures. Whether exploring an eclectic arts community, interacting with Civil War history, or experiencing the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains, these West Virginia towns are ideal destinations for any getaway.