Cheap flights to West Virginia

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Its unofficial nickname may be the Switzerland of America, but West Virginia is nowhere near as wealthy as its namesake. It is one of the poorest states in the US. The mountains, though, are picture-perfect, and although coal mining still dominates the economy, tourism is booming.

The first stop-off on the tourist trail is the little town of Harpers Ferry, now the picturesque centrepiece of a National Historic Park. It was here, in 1859, that abolutionist John Brown seized the federal arsenal, an incident that would help to spark the Civil War.

Next, stop for a soak in the thermal waters at Berkeley Springs. A fashionable spa resort in the 18th century, its visitors included George Washington. These days, it’s also home to a thriving artistic community.

To the west, in the Allegheny Mountains, is Monongahela National Park. Miles of trails show off its caves, forests, blueberry thickets and rivers, and it has two downhill ski resorts.

In southern West Virginia, the terrain is even wilder; the New River Gorge National River, a 305-metre deep canyon, offers superb white-water rafting, as well as hiking and gorge climbing.

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West Virginia climate

West Virginia has four seasons and very diverse climates. In the valleys, western regions of the state, and Eastern Panhandle, winters are mild and summers warm. In the central, more mountainous areas, winters are quite cold, with greater amounts of snow, but summers are pleasant and mild. Annual rainfall ranges from about 76cm (30 inches) in the Shenandoah Valley to over 152cm (60 inches) in the southwestern mountains.

When is the best time to fly to West Virginia?

Peak Season:
Summer and winter are the peak seasons and when most visitors step off their West Virginia flights.

The annual State Fair of West Virginia is held in mid-August in Lewisburg and features farm-animal exhibits, a carnival, concerts, food, and other fun. On West Virginia Day, commemorating the date the state was granted admittance to the Union (June 20, 1863), celebrations, concerts, parades, and fireworks are staged in various cities all over the state.

Winter brings the skiers and advance reservations are a good idea.

Off Season:
Many visitors prefer planning their trips during the marginally less crowded and expensive spring off-season.

Autumn presents a nice alternative for visiting West Virginia as the mountains display lovely gold and copper colours.

Getting around West Virginia

To get around the state and travel its narrow, winding roads, you need a car, bicycle, or motorcycle. There is some bus and train service, but it is limited.

The old town section of Harpers Ferry has very little parking, and there are shuttle buses from the visitor centre to the old town. Harpers Ferry is serviced by trains from Maryland and Washington, D.C.

What is good to know if travelling to West Virginia?

  • The Gothic-style West Virginia Penitentiary at Moundsville is on the National Register of Historic Places. The mighty fortress, complete with turrets and battlements and electric chair (Old Sparky), opened in 1876, built by convicts. It is said to be haunted, and visitors on ghost tours claim to have heard voices, footsteps and experienced cold spots.
  • The small town of Harpers Ferry, in the northeast, is situated beautifully on the banks of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, the meeting point of three states: Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. It is famous for the 1859 raid by John Brown, the abolitionist, who captured an arsenal there. Surrounding the town is the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park with hiking and biking trails, historical tours, museums and restored 19th-century streets.
  • Cathedral State Park, in Preston County, is hemlock forest, one of the last remaining tracts of virgin timber in West Virginia. Trees soar up to 27 metres (90 feet) in height. In the shade of the old trees, there are hiking trails and plenty of picnicking spots.
  • Spanning the New River, the New River Gorge Bridge was the world’s longest steel-arch bridge for many years. Every October, the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce has a “Bridge Day” when about 200,000 people tour the gorge and some BASE jump from the bridge.
  • Ride an old lumber train to the summit of Bald Knob. The journey takes five hours and the views from the 1.47km (4,842 feet) mountain are breathtaking.
  • West Virginia is coal-mining land. The Coal Heritage Trail links Beckley and Bluefield, through four southern West Virginia counties – Mercer, McDowell, Wyoming, and Raleigh – and there are walking tours of Pocahontas, the town that was the start of the area’s coal boom, that takes in the Silver Dollar Saloon, Old Company Store and the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine and Museum.

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