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Get off the beaten path!

By Staff | Jun 29, 2011

Some might say that the entire state of West Virginia is full of oddities from the mildly bizarre to the downright ridiculous — and they’re probably correct — but that’s what makes us interesting, right?

– Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold and City of God

I, myself, have ventured to one of the strangest, if not creepiest, places in the state back when I was an impressionable teenager. The halls of the New Vrindaban Palace of Gold were eerily quiet, I remember that. It felt like another world high in the mountains, but a tourist attraction nonetheless. I remember picking up some cheap gold bangles at the gift shop that flaked off by the time I got back home. I also remember posing with a statue of a cow or something.

New Vrindaban is a Hare Krishna community that was founded in 1968 to fulfill the founder’s dream of “an ideal society based on Krishna Consciousness, or love of God.”

Yep, right here in good ‘ol Appalachia. Definitely worth a look-see just to be able to say you’ve been there.

– Location: Palace Rd., New Vrindaban, WV

– Phone: (304) 843-1600

– Hillbilly Hot Dogs

I remember seeing a piece on this place on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and thinking “I have got to get myself there!” Well, the trip hasn’t happened yet but just thinking about it makes me wanna pick up and go on a Weenie Road Trip.

Where else can you eat a sloppy, falling apart hot dog, topped with everything but the kitchen sink — in the kitchen sink? OK, maybe it’s not a sink but word has it you can eat your chow in a bathtub or in a school bus. I mean, who does that? Only in West By God…

Husband and wife team of Sonny and Sharie Knight opened their Weenie Stand in Lesage a little over a decade ago and now there are three locations to lose yourself in weenie heaven. From the Home Wrecker to Rahall’s Red Hot Weenie, named for the Congressman, from slaw to habanero sauce, there is a weenie for every hillbilly.

– Locations: 6951 Ohio River Road, Lesage, WV, 1501 3rd Ave, Huntington, WV, 110 Rockwood Avenue, Chesapeake, OH 45619

– Phone: (304) 762-2458, (304) 522-0044, (740) 867-3500

– Mummies of Philippi

This is definitely an attraction that borders on the unique … and bizarre … and creepy. And probably not for the squeamish if you aren’t into that whole dead body thing.

The legend goes that in 1888, farmer and amateur scientist, Graham Hamrick, bought two two female cadavers at the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane for the purposes of testing his patented embalming potion.

The ladies have been through floods and wars, a stint in the circus and several moves and can now be found in a converted bathroom at the Barbour County Historical Museum.

– Location: 146 N Main St, Philippi, WV 26416

– Phone (304) 457-4846

– Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine

For a state built on the backs of coal miners, perhaps this attraction isn’t so much an oddity as a reminder of the men, women and families who have struggled to make a living and, in many cases, have passed down a family tradition.

The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine is not a carnival or amusement ride but actually used to be a real working mine and the tour is lead by those who can tell the real stories.

Probably not for those suffering from claustrophobia or a fear of tight places because of the low ceiling and being 180 feet underground and all. But definitely worth the trip if you are at all interested in West Virginia and Appalachian history.

– Location: 513 Ewart Ave., Beckley, WV

– Phone: (304) 256-1747

– Mystery Hole

People standing sideways, balls rolling uphill, the laws of gravity dumped upside-down — is it Mother Nature’s ultimate trick or an elaborate hoax?

Well, you’ll have to find out for yourself as this reporter has not been there nor are the owners too keen on revealing much information, which is obvious from their website. No doubt it’s all in an attempt to preserve the mystery that has been baffling visitors since the early 1970s.

Visitors of the New River Gorge area should definitely include a side trip to the Mystery Hole in their itineraries. Word has it that the building is impossible to miss. Don’t bother with the camera, however, as they aren’t allowed…oooh, spooky.

– Location:16724 Midland Trail, Ansted, WV

– Phone: (304) 658-9101

– WV State Penitentiary

This is probably the closest most people will ever get to doing hard time, hopefully.

Once used to house the baddest of the bad, the dregs of society, the West Virginia Pen is now a tourist attraction, known for hosting overnight ghost hunts.

Visitors are also able to view some prison “memorabilia” in the form of confiscated shanks and a letter from Charlie Manson who had hopes of returning to his childhood home of West Virginia.

“Old Sparky” is also on view, but don’t ask to sit in it. Eww. Talk about heebie jeebies.

– Location: 818 Jefferson Ave., Moundsville, WV

– Phone: (304) 845-6200

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