“We were provided accommodations and access to some attractions in order to facilitate this story. As always, all opinions are ours”
Keeping a surprise from anyone in my house is nearly impossible, especially with everyone’s busy schedules. I usually find myself trying to plan our trips around soccer practices, games, preschool programs, work schedules and whatever else life throws at us. Which these days, is usually a lot…
Due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to pack up the 2017 Ford Escape the night before, which meant breaking the big secret to the kids ahead of time. Funny enough, it actually worked out to my advantage, as this time around they actually packed their own suitcases! Mom for the win! A few weeks prior we’d headed to Niagara Falls, New York, and we didn’t peep a word. We simply picked them up from school hit the open road!
This time it was different. This time, Jerry and I were able to build up their excitement by filling them in on all of the awesome things West Virginia had to offer. At least the things we were aware of, which as it turns out wasn’t all that much.
Here’s what we learned about West Virginia together as a family:
1. It’s Wild & Wonderful
West Virginia is the third-most heavily forested state in the nation, behind only Maine and New Hampshire. Southern West Virginia is absolutely unforgettable – and perfect for whatever outdoor adventure you can dream of.
My daughter, Nevaeh, and I decided to give white water rafting a shot, and I am so glad we did! To say we had a blast would be quite the understatement thanks to the wonderful people at, River Expeditions. I can honestly say, I am hooked! I have never experienced something so thrilling and action-packed in my life. I was pretty nervous at first, but more so about Nevaeh falling out and me having to jump after her, but thankfully that didn’t happen. Most of the credit goes to our wonderful guide, as she knew exactly what she was doing and directed us in an organized manner the entire time. River Expeditions offers more than just rafting, they have camping, zip-lining and other awesome activities. Check them out, you’ll be glad you did!
Our rafting itinerary took us down the Lower New River Gorge (one of the oldest river gorges on Earth) on ‘Bridge Day,’ which was an experience all in itself. Imagine floating down the river with the breathtaking Appalachian mountains alongside, and just ahead of you there’s a giant bridge with people BASE jumping. Yep, that happened! This event is know as, Bridge Day, and it’s an annual one-day festival in Fayetteville, WV where folks jump and rappel (suspending themselves) 800+ feet into the New River Gorge. I guess we timed our trip just right!
White water rafting isn’t for the faint of heart. Navigating through strong currents avoiding boulders and trying to stay right-side-up is a challenge. Speeds can really pick up and it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but thankfully we survived! Once Nevaeh and I were back on dry land and changed into dry clothes, we met up with Josephine and Jerry for our next West Virginia experience – mountain biking. Like actual mountain biking, and not just what we call it when we ride around on gravel trails back home. To be fair, this was another first for me, and what a great first it was. We strapped on our helmets and hit the trails!
2. Mountain Biking Heaven
Challenging, electrifying, enchanting and so much more. You really learn about yourself when you’re on the side of a mountain without cellular service, let me tell ya. If you’re looking to up your biking game this is the place for you!
While on our way back from the Cunard river access, we noticed a place called Arrowhead Bike Farm, and like you, I wondered what in the world a bike farm was? Clearly they don’t grow bikes, but their business model is equally as cool. If you need to rent a proper mountain bike, gear, have your bike repaired, or simply grab some grub and a local draft beer after a long ride, this is your place.
・・・ Tackled some serious trails in the West Virginia Appalachians today. This little girl bit it hard early in our first trail, but she never gave up. She even had to walk rocky parts of the trail. She's so tough. I love it. @iamspecialized @visitwv #ride #nature #visitwv #gotowv #mountains #trail #foxracing #bridgeday #love #family #travel #bikes #kickbutt #daughter
Jerry and Josephine had brought their bikes along, but I didn’t, so we rented a bike from them for $35 bucks, and gathered some “trail intel” from friendly customers and staffers. We set out on an exhausting but exhilarating 5 mile ride that offered plenty of challenges, and a fair share of nerve-wrecking moments! I even swear I heard a bear, but Jerry says I’m crazy…
3. Rich Coal Mining History
Coal mining has been at the forefront of recent political debates, but let’s face it, what do we really know about coal miners? Personally, I didn’t know much, if anything at all.
The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine is an incredible place to have fun and learn about coal mining. Travel back to a simpler time when the middle-class survived on a couple of dollars per month, and before modern technology took over people’s lives. At the Exhibition Coal Mine we were able to ride through the dark passages of a real (now closed) coal mine and witness the insane conditions. The guides were veteran miners who provided a firsthand account of the daily responsibilities and duties of past and present day miners. It was a humbling experience that made us appreciate modern working conditions.
In addition to the mine, we were able to tour a period-correct mock village, which was made up of various buildings located throughout the grounds. Lovingly restored, the Coal Company House, Superintendent’s Home, Pemberton Coal Camp Church, and the Helen Coal Camp School were all charming and educational. They truly did a good job at representing what the coal mining life was like in the early 20th century.
Traveling to a destination is fun, but learning from such, and teaching kids that they don’t need to travel too far to discover amazing places is priceless. Hope you too, can discover West Virginia!