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Best WV daytrips

By Staff | Jun 30, 2010

I’ve been greedily hoarding books, pamphlets and other things that boast of West Virginia’s scenery and notable attractions, thinking that when I have enough money I’ll start nosing around statewide. Then someone asked for ideas for day trips here in the Mountain State, so I hastily copied over a few.

If you’re within a couple of hours from these places, hopefully one will present something new, and maybe you’ll be a little bit prouder of West Virginia too.

Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold (Northern Panhandle)
A handful of miles outside of Wheeling sits Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, a massive, exquisitely ornamented Krishna Consciousness compound. You really have to visit this place (or at least go to www.palaceofgold.com) to get just how boggling its opulence is. Built to honor Srila Prabhupada, founder of the Krishna Consciousness, it houses adherents to the faith but also welcomes visitors to share its artistic and spiritual splendor. And they have West Virginia’s only resident elephant.

Washington Heritage Trail (Eastern Panhandle)
The Washington Heritage Trail is 136 miles of the Eastern Panhandle put into cultural and natural context for curious visitors. Granted, it could take you more than a day to soak up everything available. Luckily, the trail has been conveniently broken up by location and topic, so whether you’re a Civil War buff, an avid hiker, an arts and crafts enthusiast, or something else entirely, you will have no trouble picking from dozens of activities to pack a day totally full of fun. (www.washingtonheritagetrail.org)

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park (Spanishburg)
And should you prefer your amusement with a side order of ghoulish poignancy, visit the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park near Spanishburg in Mercer County. Presumably only ghosts now enjoy these rides, as calamity and financial woes conspired to shut the park down decades ago and slowly surrender it to the ravages of nature. It’s still a creepy treat to wander through the park’s remains, still mostly intact—especially a massive Ferris wheel swallowed up by vines and speckled with birds’ nests. Oh, and of course it was built on an Indian burial ground. For directions and more information, check out Rick Steelhammer’s excellent “West Virginia Curiosities.”

West Virginia State Capitol (Charleston)
This suggestion might seem a tad obvious, but really—West Virginia’s Capitol building is stunning, a beaming white monument to our state. Voices echo down the length of its marble hallways, and everywhere you look it’s abuzz with the business of law, industry and society. I can’t imagine not wanting little children toddling all over the place (you’d be surprised how at liberty you are to nose around), sharing with them the feeling that they come from a state that can establish such amazing achievements. And then of course walk across the grounds to the Cultural Center, which is chockablock full of art, artifacts and crafts from across the state.

Camden Park (Huntington)
Huntington’s Camden Park is West Virginia’s only amusement park, the last of many that dotted the region a century ago. Most Mountaineers living within an hour or two of Camden Park will have taken it for granted by now, but for those whose typical access to roller coasters entails long hauls out of state to massive outposts of corporate America, the scenic, family-owned little park along the Ohio River will be entirely welcome. It’s not jam-packed with towering colossuses that threaten to make you buy a new lunch to replace the one you just lost, but there remain enough tilt-a-whirling, fluming contraptions to make the day a disorienting delight. (www.camdenpark.com)

Contact Mike at letters@graffitiwv.com