The Mountain State is the name that most people associate with West Virginia, a state that’s closely linked with the Appalachian Mountain range and wide, open, beautiful sceneries. Bordered by Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio, West Virginia is the tenth smallest state in the US, but a trove of interesting facts and things to do. What is West Virginia known for?
West Virginia is known for the Civil War, the popular John Denver song, and its mountains. It has a lot to offer outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and those just interested in discovering something new.
Discover more about West Virginia, the “Mountain State.”
What Is West Virginia Known For?
1. The Greenbrier Is One of the World’s Best Resorts.
Built in 1778, the charming resort of Greenbrier is located in White Sulphur Springs. It is a national historic landmark and among the best destinations in the world. Set against the Allegheny Mountains, it’s an ideal place to play golf, lounge in luxurious rooms, or go for old-fashioned carriage rides.
For a full-on historical experience, go to the mineral spa and play blackjack at the huge 10,000-acre casino. Several fine dining restaurants are also on-site.
2. It Has the Record-Breaking New River Gorge Bridge.
One of the best-known facts about West Virginia is that it’s home to the longest steel span in the western hemisphere – the New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville. At 1,700 feet, this is one of the highest bridges in the United States and a highly photographed site.
The bridge was completed in 1977, connecting two sides of the steep mountain and making a 40-minute winding drive a 1-minute crossing. West Virginians celebrate Bridge Day each October, closing the road over the bridge and letting people parachute or bungee jump off it.
Extra fun fact: The New River is among the oldest rivers in the world. It usually flows south to north because it was formed before the mountains around it.
3. West Virginia’s nickname is “The Mountain State.”
Calling it the Mountain State makes perfect sense: it’s the only American state situated within the Appalachian Mountain range. West Virginia is also among the topmost forested states in the US, with the Monongahela National Forest covering almost a million acres of land, spanning across ten counties.
4. It Has the Largest Hand-Cut Stone Masonry Building in North America.
You might not think to visit a mental illness facility, but it’s the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, a National Historic Landmark, that holds some interesting records. It’s the largest hand-cut stone masonry building on the North American continent. It is also second only to the Kremlin in Russia at the world level!
A mental health institution in the 1800s, the colossal building has a rich history, including Civil War raids, various influences, approaches in treating mental problems, and lots of interesting personal stories. It can now be visited through history tours.
5. The Greenbrier Also Hosts a Bunker.
If you want to visit a declassified bunker during your fancy stay, here’s your opportunity. The bunker within the grounds of the Greenbrier was built between 1958 and 1961. It was destined to house the 535 members of Congress during President Eisenhower’s mandate. It was an active facility for around 30 years, consistently maintained in case of an emergency.
This was a secret location for decades but can now be visited and marveled at.
6. The Golden Delicious Apple Comes From West Virginia.
Clay County in West Virginia is the birthplace of a famous type of apple: the Golden Delicious variety. Discovered in 1912 by Anderson Mullins, it became a massive part of the state’s agricultural identity – all the way to being named the state fruit in 1995. Today, there is a Clay County Golden Delicious Festival to celebrate its heritage and uses.
7. The State Has the Most Cities Named After Places in Other Countries.
These include Athens, Beirut, Calcutta, Cairo, Geneva, and Shanghai.
8. West Virginia Is the Only State Admitted to the Union by Proclamation.
President Abraham Lincoln added the state on June 20, 1863. It is the only state with this record.
9. It Has the Biggest Steerable Radio Telescope in the World.
A Quiet Zone was named in West Virginia to reduce radio interference for the Green Bank Telescope, the biggest steerable radio telescope in the world, which began regular science operations in 2001. It is almost 500 feet tall and weighs 17 million pounds, making it one of the biggest objects on the planet.
The role of the Green Bank Telescope is to pick up radio transmissions from outer space, so it mustn’t encounter even the slightest interference. This is why, in the Quiet Zone, no cell phones or wi-fi are allowed, making it a pretty unique place to be.
10. The Capital of West Virginia Moved Around a Lot.
It was originally located in Wheeling, Ohio County. Then, Charleston became the state capital, only for it to be replaced by Wheeling again, and then once again to switch to Charleston.
It’s in Washington Hall, in Wheeling, that the “birthplace of Virginia” is meant to be.
11. It Was Almost Named “Kanawha.”
When the state was created through secession from the Commonwealth of Virginia, it was almost named “Kanawha” – in honor of a local Native American tribe. However, officials still wanted a link with the original Commonwealth, hence why it is called West Virginia.
12. The First Rural Free Mail Service Took Place in West Virginia in 1896.
It was in Charles Town, through a pilot program run by the Post Office Department to determine the feasibility for rural delivery into the rest of the country.
13. The Oldest Dime Store in the US Is in West Virginia.
You can find the oldest operating dime store in the country, Berdine’s Five and Dime, in Harrisville, West Virginia. It’s been open since 1908 without interruption.
14. Diamond History Was Made Here.
The largest alluvial diamond in North America was found in Peterstown. Named after William “Punch” Jones, who found it along with his father, the Punch Jones Diamond saw the light of day in 1928.
15. West Virginia Has a Historic Governor.
When Cecil Underwood became governor of West Virginia in 1956, he was the youngest governor of this state at 34. But, in 1996, he was elected to serve again in the same role, which made him the state’s oldest governor at 74 years old!
The 5 Must-See West Virginia Destinations
If you’re heading to the Mountain State, now you know the top facts about West Virginia, here are the unmissable attractions for a visit over there.
Prickett’s Fort and State Park
This 188-acre state park houses Prickett’s Fort, an excellent destination for history lovers. West Virginia was a frontier, and Prickett’s Fort served as a shelter for settlers in the face of raids from Native Americans in the 1700s. This is now the reconstructed fort, but it’s a great place to relive the history of early settlements and hike and bike along the Mon River Trail within the park.
The Mothman museum
Mothman is West Virginia’s urban legend, based on a story from 1966, when two couples claimed to have encountered a black figure, seven feet tall with enormous wings and red glowing eyes, outside the small town of Point Pleasant. After the movie The Mothman Prophecies made this story even bigger, the monster became a local celebrity.
You can now find out more about this legend, take photos with a creepy statue, and more at the museum in Point Pleasant.
New River Gorge
We’ve mentioned the fantastic New River Gorge Bridge, but the whole area is worth a stop to admire the beautiful landscapes and explore on some hikes. It’s a National Recreation Area offering biking and rafting as well, so it’s worth a detour if you’re into outdoor pursuits.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
During the Industrial Revolution, West Virginia saw a population boom, including loggers that would come to clear-cut the mountains. You can learn more about them at the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, complete with unique mountain views and a ride on a steam engine train. You can even stay over in what was a company town and now has opened for accommodation.
Another one of the many nature hotspots you must visit in West Virginia, the Seneca Rocks are part of the Monongahela National Forest, rising 900 feet above Seneca Creek and offering fantastic views as well as a fun hike to the top. Local guides provide assistance climbing the rocks, too.
The Seneca Rocks Discovery Center holds more information about these landmarks and the area.
Conclusion – What Is West Virginia Known For?
There are many more interesting facts about West Virginia. From its history to its scenic landscape, the Mountain State has a lot to offer. There are also lots of fantastic places to visit, so be sure to take a trip and enjoy.