A Winter Road Trip Through West Virginia

February 4, 2020

One of America’s hidden gems. West Virginia is a landlocked state on the eastern side of the country. It’s known for its rich coal mining history and hospitality. I’d been once before, to Almost Heaven, but I didn’t have much time to explore the state. I had the opportunity to visit the south and central part for a few days on a winter road trip style itinerary. I’m excited to share this hidden gem! Let’s get to it, shall we?

Day 1: Beckley, West Virginia and Glade Springs Resort

The nearest airport to Glade Springs Resort is Beckley. A small, perhaps one of the smallest I’ve been to, airport. I flew in from Charlotte, North Carolina by way of Portland, Maine. From Beckley airport, Glade Springs Resort is a short 20-30 minute drive. This property is quite expansive. The main lodge area is just that. There are four restaurants on property. I had the opportunity to dine at Glade’s Grill with Chef Jamie for an Appalachia inspired meal. We enjoyed a wild rice and mushroom soup, hint of nutmeg included, with venison as our main dish. This was my first time having venison so I was very hesitant. When I saw the word venison- I panicked- instantly. Chef came out and discussed how hunting is vital to conservation and their economy in West Virginia. And how he’s been hunting since he was a young boy. With this in mind, I talked myself into my first bite of venison. To my, absolute, surprise it wasn’t game-y and quite full of flavor to be honest. Pretty comparable to steak in my opinion. Conclusion: more venison is in my future.

I mentioned how the property is expansive, aside from the cuisine there are trails, a beautiful golf course, bowling alley, fitness center, pool, sauna, and their very own Escape Rooms! One is Alice in Wonderland and the other is Egyptian inspired. I’d never done one before and now I’m hooked. It’s such a fun way to team build and put your investigative abilities to use.

Day 2: Snowboarding Lessons at Winterplace Ski Resort

Will Smith’s ski instructor? Yeah, he used to work at Winterplace. A pretty modest mountain with 27 slopes and a terrain park. They put a lot of focus on their learn to ski/snowboard programs. So, of course I had to partake. I had the opportunity to take a 90-minute snowboarding lesson- they provided the gear (snowboard, boots, goggles and helmet) and I provided the laughs with my nonexistent skills. But seriously, my instructor was so patient and walked us, step-by-step, through the beginning, middle, and end of a run. I still haven’t mastered stopping, my go to was falling (on purpose). I stuck to the less aggressive runs but feel confident enough to do it again! Maybe after another lesson or two I’ll make it up the lift 😉

Day 3: Bramwell, West Virginia + Buffalo Trail Lodge

One of the most historic places I’ve ever been, Bramwell, West Virginia. There is so.much.history.here. And it all began with the coal mines that were located 4 miles away. Coal was a huge driving force of the economy in Bramwell. So huge that at one point there were 14-19 millionaires in a one mile block, the most per capita in the U.S. They dubbed this “Millionaire Row.” Today, Bramwell is a sleepy town and only one of the mansions is in its original family. While the median age of the town is 60 there is a lot of pride and remembrance of the good ‘ol days. There’s a small Corner Shop that serves lunch and homemade ice cream that’s worth stopping at for lunch.

After touring Millionaire Row, head to Hatfield McCoy Trails for a lil ATV experience. Over 700 miles of trails are maintained for ATVers to cruise through. Check into Buffalo Trail Cabins for the night and dine on property. The Mango Habanero wings are something to write home about. There are several lodging options on property from small cabins, to large ones that sleep 14, to treehouses, and more primitive style accommodations.

Day 4: Princeton, West Virginia + Tamarack + Stonewall Resort & State Park

Princeton is a 15-minute drive from Buffalo Cabins! We stopped and walked through the grassroots district and grabbed coffee and scones (yes, gf/df scones!), at Appalachian Coffee House. Back on the road and about an hour away we stopped at Tamarack, known for selling local artisans goods and art! The architecture is interesting and from an outsider’s perspective it seemed temple-esque until I learned the architecture was actually inspired by a quilting pattern. Which makes 100% more sense as it sells local artisan goods! Goods = quilts, dishes, dried flowers, locally made candles, paintings, sculptures, woodworked pieces, pottery- and much more.

Two hours into the heart of Wet Virginia, we arrived at Stonewall Resort and State Park. Another expansive property with a golf course and lake. Yes, a lake. Open to the public too! In the summer, I was told, this place is buzzing with people. Boaters, fisherman, hikers, golfers- you name it. Stonewall really comes alive. And for good reason, not only is the property beautiful it’s not the least bit pretentious. The people are warm (like all West Virginians I encountered) and they welcome you in as family.

I had the chance to experience another Appalachia inspired meal. At this point, you can tell the Appalachia’s are steeped in history and have a strong influence on the cuisine in West Virginia. Incorporating ingredients from the earth- those hearty, rich flavors- is common. I found the palette to be on the sweeter side in comparison to most other cuisines. Chef Nevil Barr curated a delicious menu with the main, again, being a hearty piece of meat. Filet smothered in roasted pumpkin seeds and paprika atop roasted acorn squash. He even incorporated family recipes passed down from generations.

If you can peel yourself away from the property (I know, it’s hard) there are a few fun things to experience. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – the second largest sandstone structure to the Kremlin. Over the years it shifted from an insane asylum to a hospital and there are so many haunting stories told about this spooky place. If you want the full effect, head here for Halloween or spend the night in the enormous building. There’s also clay shooting not too far from the hotel and Lambert’s Winery. The once passion project winery turned into this beautiful space and wine label that’s in over 100 retailers in West Virginia.

Day 5: Charleston City Market + Departure

After a leisurely morning, walking the property at Stonewall we headed to Charleston, West Virginia to catch our outbound flights. But first, we stopped at Charleston City Market. A renovated train station now home to eateries from sandwich shops to sushi, a coffee shop, farmers market alongside other vendors. I love the grab and go style eateries like this and it’s great for groups or when you’re road tripping! Whether you’re continuing on a road trip from Charleston, West Virginia or boarding your outbound flight, stopping at the City Market is a must for some delicious food and any last-minute gifts you might want to buy.

People’s smiles are contagious. The views are breathtaking. The food is absolutely delicious. And people treat you like family. I’m sure that’s not what you would expect from West Virginia because it sure wasn’t what I expected! I have to say, these small, bespoke trips to places unknown by much of the world, always seem to be some of my favorite trips. For more U.S. road trip inspiration head to my summer Colorado road trip and for winter inspiration my guide to Alberta!

This trip was sponsored by West Virginia Tourism, however, as always, my opinions are my own.