Tourism is among the essential businesses in West Virginia. In 2020, more than 65 million travelers visited the state, providing West Virginia with $4.6 billion in traveler spending and $534.5 million in revenue. In addition, West Virginia has plenty of state parks, towns, and historical sights that you’ll find challenging to visit all in one day. If you’re bringing your kids along for the trip, you’ll need more than a day to provide them with a fun time.
What are the best places to visit for a seven-day trip to West Virginia with the kids? When is the best time to go there? Are there any good, family-friendly places to stay in West Virginia? How can you prepare for a trip to Virginia? Are there travel essentials you should bring, especially since kids will go on the trip with you?
If you’re planning to tour West Virginia with the family, this guide provides an itinerary that’s good for seven days. This article also discusses the best time of the year to visit West Virginia and where you can stay with your family.
Are you looking for the best places to eat, shop, or stay in West Virginia? Visit Area Guides to ensure that your itinerary is something your family will love.
The West Virginia Road Trip Itinerary
This seven-day West Virginia itinerary starts from Morgantown and ends in Charleston. Throughout your journey, you’ll be passing by several scenic views, historical spots, and exciting places that should bring delight to your kids and pique their interest.
Day One: Morgantown
Morgantown is the home to West Virginia University and provides scenic views and local West Virginia cuisine. Within the last two decades, the city reinvigorated its wharf district, featuring the Morgantown Event Center and Waterfront Place Hotel. Situated along the Monongahela River, the district features steakhouses, restaurants, and access to the Caperton Trail and Decker’s Creek Trail systems. Start your day by having breakfast in downtown Morgantown. The place is home to 35 restaurants, cafes, and clubs and has an award-winning main street organization. Afterward, you can stroll around the city for an hour or two. Whether you’re a lifelong Morgantown resident or a tourist visiting the area, the city has plenty of activities to make your experience enjoyable for the family. The town has plenty of parks, activities, and kid-friendly restaurants to keep you occupied during your trip.
Morgantown has two dog parks and 15 neighborhood playgrounds and parks. These places are excellent for your family and kids to relax, play, and enjoy the outdoors. Those who prefer spending their day indoors can head to the Morgantown History Museum. The museum promotes and preserves local and regional history through permanent and rotating exhibits. You can also go to the Mountaineer Mall and visit the Spark! Imagination & Science Center, where your kids can experience interactive and hands-on exhibits and events for children six months to seven years old. If you want to include a quick outdoor adventure outside Morgantown, go to Coopers Rock state forest, about 15 minutes outside the city. Check out the overlook, which provides a great view of the Cheat River and neighboring mountains.
Days Two to Three: Canaan Valley
On the second day of your West Virginia tour, explore the Canaan Valley in Tucker County in northeastern West Virginia. The valley is situated in the Allegheny Mountains and is three to five miles wide and 13 miles long. Canaan Valley has an average elevation of 3,200 feet (975.36 meters). Head to the Blackwater Falls state park lodge and have breakfast at The Smokehouse. This full-service restaurant has a breakfast buffet and snack bar, and the lodge’s back patio provides scenic views. If your kids are up for a quick hike, go to Elakala Falls, reachable through a wheelchair-accessible nature trail near Blackwater Falls lodge. Follow the trail until you reach the bridge that goes over the falls.
You can also visit the park’s namesake, Blackwater Falls, which can appear as a broad, giant waterfall or several streams of falls, depending on when you’re visiting. Blackwater Falls gets its name from the water’s amber color due to the tannic acid from the fallen red spruce needles and hemlocks. In some cases, the falls can look clear, but you can still see the tint in the river where the falls land. If you’re traveling in your vehicle, you can park at the lodge’s trading post and walk down the trail to two different viewpoints of the falls:
- One of the spots gives you a good view beside the falls.
- The other spot is a little higher but provides a more head-on view of the falls.
After your Canaan Valley tour, head to Thomas for lunch or a coffee break and walk around town to visit its shops and galleries. This small city, a former coal town, has plenty of history, culture, shops, and restaurants to offer your family. Thomas is also close to many beautiful state parks and outdoor adventures in West Virginia. Thomas’ historical architecture has an influence on the town’s development. Taking the kids on a trip around town should be the best way to experience the city’s atmosphere and buildings.
Day Four: Seneca Rocks
On the fourth day of your West Virginia tour, head south from Thomas to the Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob recreation area. Seneca Rocks is a high rock formation nearly 900 feet above the North Fork River. This formation is one of West Virginia’s best-known landmarks and has been a scenic attraction popular with rock climbers. If you and your kids aren’t into rock climbing, you can settle for hiking along the Seneca Rocks trail. Start from the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center and cross Seneca Creek to the picnic area. Afterward, climb to the observation platform near the top of Seneca Rocks. The trail is 1.3 miles (2.09 kilometers) long and has steps and switchbacks to attain over 700 feet in elevation. The trail is steep but easy enough to follow, so visitors of all ages can enjoy it.
For your and your kids’ safety, don’t venture outside the observation platform unless you’re bringing climbing gear and know how to use it. Keep the young children close to you when hiking through this trail. The observation platform atop Seneca Rocks gives a fantastic view of the North Fork river valley below. To see the vast expanse of the leaves changing color, visit Seneca Rocks during fall. Alternatively, you can still enjoy the view of the surrounding valley from the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center if you prefer not to hike up to the observation platform.
Next, continue heading south to Spruce Knob, an area offering day hiking and backpacking opportunities for visitors looking for a splendid view of the natural scenery surrounding the area. Spruce Knob is West Virginia’s highest point at 4,863 feet (1,482 meters). Although you can go hiking through the mountain trails, you can also settle for some relaxed nature viewing. After you and your kids had your fill of hiking and watching the scenery, head to the New River Gorge. The trip is scenic but quite long, so be sure to pack some snacks and drinks to keep you and your kids filled up.
Days Five to Six: New River Gorge
There are plenty of things to do at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Your limit is the amount of time you have to spend here. If you plan your itinerary for a one-day trip to this place, consider the following activities as recommended by the National Park Service (NPS):
- Walk along the boardwalk to view Sandstone Falls. Afterward, check the Sandstone Visitor Center’s floor map to learn about watersheds.
- Schedule a whitewater rafting trip along the Lower Gorge or hike along Glade Creek Trail’s scenic, cascading stream.
- Visit the coal town ruins at Nuttallburg for a history-filled trip.
- Bring the kids along for a guided hiking activity led by a park ranger.
If you’re staying around for two or more days, the NPS recommends the following destinations:
- Drive along the African-American Heritage Auto Tour route and set up camp in one of the campgrounds.
- Visit Gauley River National Recreation Area and Bluestone National Scenic River in Southern West Virginia.
- Take the kids biking on the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve for recreation and adventure. If you’re bringing an e-bike, you can only bike along Stonecliff Trail.
- Hike along Kaymoor Miners Trail to Kaymoor or head off the beaten path to visit the Trump Lilly Farm. If you’re bringing a vehicle, ensure it has a high ground clearance.
- Schedule a peaceful family boat ride along the Gauley River or New River for a more kid-friendly activity.
Day Seven: Charleston
Charleston is home to the West Virginia State Capitol’s 23.5-karat gold dome, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Aside from this eye-catching dome, the State Capitol complex is an excellent destination for visitors who enjoy history, art, and architecture or those who prefer to slow down and relax outdoors. Among the best things in Charleston is its accessibility to various biking and hiking opportunities. Not far from downtown Charleston is the Kanawha State Forest which provides nine trails covering more than 25 miles (40 kilometers). One of these trails is the Spotted Salamander, a paved and level walkway with nature stations designed for physically challenged and visually impaired visitors. Next to the trail are vernal pools where you can encourage your kids to look for, but not touch, frog eggs.
You can visit the park office for maps, and naturalists provide visitors with wildlife programs and regular guided hikes. Afterward, you can head toward South Charleston for some outdoor family fun. Visit Little Creek Park and enjoy its playgrounds, trails, picnic shelters, and soap box derby track. If you prefer less crowded trails, consider taking the Rock Ridge, Loop Trail, or Little Creek. Head to the Loop Trail and stop by the Devil’s Tea Table, a beautiful rock formation along the trail. While in there, make sure to take a few pictures with the kids. If your kids are likely to run around, bring extra shoes for them. Your kids can enjoy dipping their feet into the water on a creek that runs along the trails.
One of the most beautiful parks in Charleston is Coonskin Park, located 10 miles from downtown. The park has picnic shelters, horseshoe pits, and a modern playground where you can celebrate a birthday party or reunion. Children can also have fun riding paddle boats in a pond full of fish. If you and your children want to explore a bit, head to Coonskin’s riverside and woodland trails by foot or bike, then stop by the grotto to snap some pictures for more memories. Other places within the park include:
- An amphitheater
- A wedding garden
- An Olympic-size pool
- An 18-hole par three golf course accessible to disabled visitors
When you return to the city, stroll to Haddad Riverfront Park, the town’s amphitheater. The place provides family-friendly and free concerts every Friday evening from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you’re in town at this time of the year, bring chairs or blankets for your family so you can relax while having fun with the festivities. Do you want to give sweet treats to your kids? Stop by The Peanut Shoppe, Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream, or Rock City Cake Company. If you’re into antiques, walk along Quarrier Street to visit woodworking shops and antique stores. This street is also home to the Art Emporium, which has provided the town with original artworks from West Virginian artisans and custom framing services since 1985.
If you’re looking for specialty shops, turn the corner at Hale Street to find hidden gems like Tony the Tailor and Stray Dog Antiques downtown. For dinner, consider walking along Virginia Street to Summers Street and head to Black Sheep Burritos and Brews. This place serves a tasty menu and is a favorite hangout among locals. You can also eat at Noah’s Restaurant & Lounge for a diverse fine dining experience in a comfortable atmosphere. The place can get quite packed, so make your reservations early.
Where to Stay While in West Virginia
Consider the following places to stay with your family in West Virginia:
- La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Morgantown: This place is a 20-minute drive from Morgantown Municipal Airport and a 16-minute walk from the university town center. La Quinta is pet-friendly and provides parking, air conditioning, breakfast, free WiFi, and extra beds.
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Charleston South: Country Inn & Suites is 10 minutes away from Charleston’s Yeager Airport and about six minutes from the state capitol building and museum. The place has breakfast, parking, a hot tub, and free WiFi.
- Embassy Suites Charleston: This hotel is a seven-minute drive from Yeager Airport and only two minutes on foot from the town center. Embassy Suites has a grocery, extra beds, free WiFi, room service, and toys and games for kids.
Getting to West Virginia
Yeager Airport in Charleston is West Virginia’s only major airport. Delta, American Airlines, United, and Spirit fly to and from this airport and has non-stop service from:
- Atlanta, GA
- Charlotte, NC
- Chicago, IL
- District of Columbia
- Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Myrtle Beach, SC
- Orlando, FL
- Philadelphia, PA
Yeager Airport is 2.5 hours away from Morgantown, where this itinerary starts. Despite this distance, the airport is only a few minutes from Charleston, making it convenient for you and your kids to fly out after your seven-day trip. Alternatively, you can fly to and from Morgantown Municipal Airport, which has non-stop flights to Pittsburgh, PA, and Baltimore, MD. While flying to this airport will be convenient when starting your West Virginia tour, you’ll have limited flight options when you leave. Another option is to fly to Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania. This airport gives you a better chance of getting a more affordable or non-stop flight. Pittsburgh International Airport is about 1.5 hours from Morgantown and 3.5 hours from Charleston, so carefully plan your flight details and itinerary.
When Is the Best Time to Travel?
West Virginia’s weather varies a little across the state, but you can visit any time of the year and still have a great time.
- Winter: West Virginia’s winters are cold but tolerable, and the state offers plenty of fun winter activities like skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and tubing. You can also get the chance to see frozen waterfalls.
- Spring: The temperature starts warming up, and wildflowers start coming out. The melting snow will also cause the waterfalls to start raging, although this season is among the quieter times of the year to visit. If you prefer fewer crowds, consider visiting West Virginia in spring.
- Summer: The state’s temperatures during summer are relatively mild compared to other regions in the United States, although the season can be humid. People are also having their summer vacations at this time, so you can encounter larger crowds. But summer should be an excellent time to visit if you prefer hiking or being out on the water.
- Fall: Toward the end of September and early October, you and your kids can see plenty of fall foliage across West Virginia. The change you’ll see on the leaves varies depending on where in West Virginia you’re in. Some areas are at their most colorful during late September to mid-October. Because of such views, visitors can get pretty hectic during fall and overcrowd the popular spots with lots of foliage.
Interesting Facts About West Virginia
Now that your backpack and the kids are ready to explore the different scenic mountain views and outdoor activities of West Virginia, here are some facts that you might find interesting about this magnificent place.
- The state was originally going to be named “Kanawha” in honor of a native Indian American tribe living there. The river running down the area was also called Kanawha. This name was canceled when some delegates expressed concern that having a state with a county of the same name would create confusion. Lawmakers started to suggest different names, such as Augusta, Allegheny, and West Virginia. Residents of the state’s western half retained an affection for the name Virginia, as many of them had been born and raised there. Virginia is named after Queen Elizabeth I of England, also known as “The Virgin Queen.” With the voting process receiving 30 votes out of the 44 casts, on June 20, 1863, by proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, West Virginia became the nation’s 35th state.
- The Greenbrier Resort has a declassified bunker. Construction of this bunker began in 1958 and was completed in 1961. It became a common talk that the government had been building top-secret oversized bunkers during the Eisenhower era for all 535 members of Congress. Within 30 years as a working facility, its physical facility and technology were constantly updated, so the bunker was always ready for use in an emergency. The bunker’s location, crucial to its effectiveness, has remained a mystery for over 30 years.
- Eastern West Virginia has the largest “quiet zone” in the country. The local government introduced the Quiet Zone to locals and tourists to reduce radio interference on the Green Bank Telescope. At about 500 feet tall and weighing about 17 million pounds, it is one of the largest objects on earth. The Green Bank Telescope receives radio waves from space, and even the slightest interference cannot decipher the meaning of the radio waves from space. With no cell phones or Wi-Fi, this part of West Virginia is truly unique in today’s modern world.
- West Virginia is the third largest forested state. The Monongahela National Forest covers about 1 million acres across ten counties. West Virginia is within a day’s drive of 75% of the US population but remains a pristine gem among outdoor enthusiasts. To have a clearer comparison of how big West Virginia is, this state is similar in size to Latvia and Lithuania.
This guide is one of many potential itineraries you can make when visiting West Virginia. You can consider other places, mix and match them into this list, or make up an entirely new itinerary. Contact a travel consultant to help you plan your trip to West Virginia to ensure you, your family, and your kids have a fun travel experience.