West Virginia

The Mountain State


West Virginia is located in the upper Southern region of the United States. Spring, summer and fall are the best times of the year to visit and appreciate the beautiful, rural landscape the state offers. Colder, snowy conditions are common in the mountains during winter, but, the winter months also bring excellent skiing conditions. Charleston is the state capital and cultural center of the state. Some of the state's most popular attractions include Blackwater Falls State park, Monongahela National Forest, Organ Cave (a natural landmark) and the ski resorts in the Allegheny Mountains. To travel around the state, you will need to rent a car or book a bus or train ticket. For more information visit: wvtourism.com.


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Jump to: Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions | Arts & Culture | Sports & Recreation | Outdoor Activities | Food | Local Festivals | Housing Resources | Transportation | Health & Safety | Help Your Community

Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions

Cass Scenic Railroad

Cass Scenic Railroad. Photo by Ron Cogswell.

Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.

Cass Scenic Railroad Park has many historical sites and attractions, including original steam locomotives, a museum, guided tours and a trip on the historic Cass Railroad. The train travels between Cass, Whittaker Station and Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia. Reservations are recommended.

The Clay Center in Charleston has many arts and science attractions for kids and adults including art exhibits, live performances and a planetarium. Many educational programs for children and adults are also available in the center and at the Clay Center Gardens.

The Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley allows visitors to ride through an underground coal mine with former miners as their guides. Learn about the history of coal mining in West Virginia and how the Exhibition Coal Mine once worked. A recreated coal camp is also at the mine and gives visitors an idea of what life was like for a miner in the early 20th century. The mine is open from April to November. A similar attraction is the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine & Museum.

The Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex is the largest burial mound from the Adena culture, an Indian tribe living in the area in approximately 250-150 BC, and one of the largest mounds of its kind in the United States. The Delf Norona Museum features exhibits about the Adena, the construction of the mound, archaeology in the region, information about prehistoric cultures, and other exhibits about the art, culture and heritage of West Virginia. Outdoor exhibits are also available and visitors can climb to the top of the mound when visiting the complex.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland at the intersection of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Harpers Ferry is the site of the famous incident called John Brown’s Raid, in which an abolitionist named John Brown lead an attack on an armory in an attempt to start a rebellion against slavery. Many other historical sites, buildings, museums and attractions can be found within Harpers Ferry and the park. Hiking is also a popular activity in the area thanks to about 20 miles of hiking trails in the national historical park.

The John Brown Wax Museum in Harpers Ferry also teaches visitors about the John Brown Raid through wax figures, exhibits, films and animation.

The West Virginia State Museum at the Cultural Center in Charleston focuses on the history, heritage and culture of the state of West Virginia, with exhibits on archeology, art, geology and much more. The museum is open 6 days a week and is closed Mondays.

Tour Companies

Tourism Websites

Arts & Culture

The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to experience the U.S. and its culture.

Art & Cultural Museums

Performing Arts

Sports & Recreation

Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.

Minor League Sports

There are no major league professional sports teams in West Virginia, but international visitors can enjoy professional minor league sports and catch some popular American pastimes—often at a much lower cost than the major leagues:

College Sports

The Marshall Thundering Herd at Marshall University and the West Virginia Mountaineers at West Virginia University have some of the top college sports programs in the state. Other college sports programs in West Virginia include:

Outdoor Activities

Babcock State Park

Babcock State Park. Photo by ForestWander.

The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.

Hike a small section of the Appalachian Trail in West Virginia (the trail only crosses through the state for about four miles). You can also check out the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in Harpers Ferry for information and tips on hiking the trail, which extends up the east coast of the United States from Georgia to Maine.

Babcock State Park near the New River Gorge has many outdoor activities, from camping to hiking to outdoor sports like swimming, basketball, tennis and volleyball.

Berkeley Springs State Park is known for its warm mineral waters and the Roman Baths within the park. Relax in the spa or enjoy the town’s swimming pool. Browse a map of other state parks in West Virginia and explore the outdoors of the Mountain State.

There are many opportunities to try water sports like kayaking, canoeing and white water rafting in areas like: Bluestone River in Athens, Pipestem and Hinton; Gauley River near Summersville; or New River Gorge National River near Beckley. Other popular activities in these areas including fishing, swimming and camping. International visitors may wish to use an adventure tour company when participating in water sports like kayaking and white water rafting.

Try out skiing and snowboarding in West Virginia at Canaan Valley Resort, Snowshoe Mountain, Oglebay, Timberline Resort or Winterplace Ski Resort. Other winter activities like snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are sometimes available at these resorts. Blackwater Falls State Park and Pipestem Resort State Park have cross-country skiing and sledding in the winter.

Visit one of the cave systems in West Virginia, like Lost World Caverns, Organ Cave, Smoke Hole Caverns or Seneca Caverns. Take a tour and explore these underground environments, including the oldest caves in West Virginia at Seneca Caverns.

Food

For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.

As part of the Southern United States, West Virginia cuisine includes many staples of Southern cooking, like fried chicken and biscuits and gravy, but it is more commonly associated with Appalachian cooking. The cuisine of Appalachia includes foods that are produced locally, like chickens, fish, wild game and homegrown vegetables. Visitors can also check out a list of 101 unique places to eat in West Virginia!

Farmers’ Markets

Buy fresh fruit, vegetables and artisan goods at local farmers’ market in West Virginia. It’s also fun to go to pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms for produce like berries, tomatoes, apples and pumpkins.

Food Festivals

Local Festivals

For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.

The Augusta Festival celebrates Appalachian heritage with artisans, music, dancing, food, crafts and cultural activities each August. The Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College, located in Elkins, WV, organizes the Augusta Festival.

The State Fair of West Virginia is an annual tradition in Lewisburg. Running for 9 days in August, the fair includes agricultural exhibits, carnival rides, live music, animals, family activities and much more.

Pickin’ in the Panhandle is a bluegrass, barbecue and country music festival in Shiley Acres. The event features many bands and musicians, BBQ cook-offs, food vendors, arts and crafts, artisan products and other fun events each September.

The infamous rivalry between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s is put aside at the Hatfield and McCoy Reunion Festival, a June festival and marathon that brings the community and the two formerly-feuding families together for family activities, food and entertainment. Guided tours of the area also teach visitors about the historical feud and the history of the Matewan area.

FestivALL is an arts festival in Charleston, West Virginia featuring art, music, dance, theater, films and other cultural entertainment from the local community. Many events and exhibits are presented during the festival, including concerts, theater performances, food festivals and wine festivals, and many of the events are free.

The RoadKill Cook-off & Festival in Marlinton is a one-of-a-kind event with food made from animals that aren’t usually eaten for dinner, like squirrel, opossum, bear and porcupine. More traditional wild meat, like venison and rabbit, are also popular dishes. The festival also features a country fair, arts and crafts, live music, games and other fun activities.

There are several cultural festivals to celebrate the different cultures and groups within the state, such as the Scottish Festival & Celtic Gathering in Bridgeport, the Irish Spring Festival in Ireland, West Virginia, and the Greek Festival and Oktoberfest on the Square in Huntington.

Housing Resources

Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.

It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.

General Housing Information

West Virginia Housing Resources

Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for West Virginia participants include:

Transportation

Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.

Public Transit Systems

Visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in West Virginia communities, including:

Bus

Bus travel offers an inexpensive but lengthy way to travel around West Virginia and other areas of the United States:

  • Greyhound
  • Megabus travels between Morgantown and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania or Washington, D.C.

Train

Amtrak operates two train routes with stops in West Virginia: The Capitol Limited travels from Washington, D.C. to Chicago and makes stops in Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry, and the Cardinal route stops in White Sulphur Springs, Alderson, Hinton, Prince, Thurmond, Montgomery, Charleston and Huntington while traveling between New York and Chicago.

The MARC commuter rail travels between Washington, D.C. and Martinsburg on the Brunswick Line, making stops in Harpers Ferry and Duffields. The train stations in Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry also connect to Amtrak trains.

Health & Safety

Participants in West Virginia can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:

Emergency Management Agencies

FEMA

Weather Information

Help Your Community

Photo via FEMA.

Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.

Volunteermatch.org, Idealist.org and Serve.gov are three general volunteer websites that match local organizations with volunteers in their communities.

Build a low-cost home for a family in need with Habitat for Humanity in West Virginia. No building or volunteer experience is required to sign up, and both individuals and groups can help out at a home build. Learn more from one of the West Virginia local affiliates in your area.

Volunteer West Virginia encourages volunteerism in the state by connecting individuals and groups with organizations looking for help. Search by location and interest to find a local volunteer opportunity in West Virginia.

United Way of Central West Virginia connects multiple organizations with volunteers looking to make new friends and help out in their local community. Browse the list of organizations and volunteer opportunities on the United Way website to get started today. Other United Way organizations can be found in Southern West Virginia and Harrison County.

Feed hungry families and individuals at a local food pantry in West Virginia. Volunteers are needed to help with tasks like preparing meals, sorting through donations, serving food and other important tasks. Learn more by contacting a local food pantry or food bank.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation