To many, West Virginia is synonymous with mountains, which is understandable since the state’s nickname is The Mountain State. However, West Virginia is so much more than that. It was the home of George Washington and the site of many Civil War battles. With countless rivers, mountains, museums and historic sites, there is something for every student travel group.
Clay Center in Charleston is a complex with exhibits, workshops and performances. The Juliet Museum of Art features exhibits from artists all over the country. The permanent art collection has over 900 pieces, and there are multiple traveling exhibits, too. The Avampato Discovery Museum has over 12,000 square feet of interactive exhibits on topics like earth science, health and wellness, and physics. The museum also inspires students through its workshops on predators and prey, animal architecture and genetics. Planetarium shows and other large-screen films are shown at the Digital Dome. After a day of discovery, enjoy one of many the productions at the Clay Center’s theater.
Mountaineer Military Museum in Weston was started by Ron McVaney as a promise to his childhood friends to “never let anyone forget you guys” after they died in war. The museum has recently expanded and created more than 18 new exhibits on the Korean, Vietnam and Civil wars, each containing personal and historic artifacts.
Learn about the history of toys at the Kruger Toy and Train Museum in Wheeling. The museum offers a wide variety of programs for students at any grade level. Program topics include transportation, geography, economy and the evolution of toys. Certain programs allow students to try their hand at creating their own toys, similar to ones discussed in the workshops, to take home.
Get in Touch With The Great Outdoors
Experience heart-racing adventure at Harpers Ferry Adventure Center. Spend your time out on the water with whitewater rafting and kayaking, tubing, flat-water kayaking and canoeing. If you prefer to stay dry, they have zip lines, an aerial adventure park, off-road Segway tours and hiking. No matter what adventure you choose, students are sure to have a blast as they work on their team-building skills. If you wish to extend your stay, they have cabins and camping sites.
Whether you pronounce it “Apalatchin” or “Appalayshun,” The Appalachian Trail is a great hiking destination. The trail goes through 14 states and is about 2,180 miles long. While hiking the whole trail may seem daunting, taking a short walk through the mountains is well worth it. Be sure to head over to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s headquarters and visitor’s center in Harpers Ferry. It is the trail’s halfway point and a great photo opportunity for your group.
Washington Heritage Trail goes through three counties in West Virginia’s panhandle — Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan. The trail provides a timeline of American history that includes a colonial spa town, early industrial sites, railroad landmarks, Civil War sites and special locations where George Washington lived or visited. Along the trail you can find mountains, limestone caves and sandstone outcroppings. There are also outdoor activities like whitewater rafting on the Shenandoah, golf courses and horse racing tracks.
The Resort at Glade Springs, with more than 4,100 acres in the Appalachians, provides visitors with hiking, biking and horseback riding opportunities. During the summer, the resort offers tennis courts, golf courses, an outdoor laser tag arena, fishing, paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and archery. In winter it works with a nearby ski resort to host groups.
Bolivar Heights Battlefield in Harpers Ferry witnessed five battles during the Civil War. Not only was it a major battlefield, it was also used as a corral and wagon yard to provide supplies to the South, and it was a temporary cemetery for soldiers who died in battle and of disease. The site is a National Historical Park.
West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling is known as the birthplace of West Virginia. The building, authentically restored to the period, served as a meeting place for the constitutional convention that created West Virginia and political conventions centered on slavery and the Civil War. Groups can view videos discussing the state’s history and take tours through the exhibits with costumed guides.
On a guided tour at the West Virginia State Museum at the Cultural Center in Charleston, history comes to life through recreations of important events and first-person narratives. The museum contains 26 Discovery Rooms that let students interact with the art, stories, music and film clips they experienced on their tour. Connection Rooms contain state-of-the-art technology that provides students with access to photographs, articles and journals detailing the state’s history. These rooms also give students a behind-the-scenes look at how museum artifacts are cared for.
Learn the unique history of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, formerly known as Weston State Hospital. The hospital served the mentally ill in the mid-1800s and was the site of Civil War raids and a gold robbery. Hear about the supposed curative effects of the building’s architecture and what treatments were thought to be the best at the time. Historic tours are available for groups wishing to learn more about the medicine behind the hospital and the effects the Civil War had on it. A paranormal tour is available for groups who want to see if the hospital is haunted.
With so many student-friendly destinations in West Virginia, there is something for every itinerary. If you know of any great student travel locations in West Virginia, tell us about it below!