Content Produced in Partnership with Morgantown Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
When people think of rugged alpine areas in the U.S., their mind typically goes to places like Colorado on the west coast. But you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually Wild, Wonderful West Virginia that holds the title of “The Mountain State.” Called the Switzerland of America, West Virginia is essentially where east coasters go to play. Full of rolling green hills and raging rivers, the area is a treasure trove of outdoor recreation. In fact, I can think of a few additional “W” adjectives for the area – wicked, windy, and winding to start.
Smack dab in the heart of mountain country, Morgantown embodies everything there is to love about West Virginia. A college town with an adventure problem, the area encompasses the heart and soul of the state with hardy people proud to show off their hometown, a deep rooted history, Appalachia culture, and outdoor recreation aplenty. Boasting the amenities of a big city without the stress of a major metropolitan hub, it’s a great base to post up and enjoy the area’s natural bounty. With a laundry list of things to do and explore, read on for my must-sees in Morgantown that just may inspire you to plan a trip out east.
Get An Outdoor Education – Morgantown is home to West Virginia University, which is a source of major pride. I’ve never heard of a university having a research forest at its disposal before but they’re not called the Mountaineers for nothing. Technically owned by the forest service, the West Virginia State Wildlife Center maintains and rents the second most diverse forest in the world for an annual fee of about $1 an acre. Used for everything from forensic biology to photojournalism classes, it’s the only college in the nation to operate a zip line on their campus. Also on site is camping, hunting, and high ropes courses, which offer a truly unique opportunity to get an outdoor education with programs that are open for the public to enjoy nature too. Boulder, get on that.
Root, Root for the Home Team – Both the University of West Virginia and the Black Bears, the minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, share Morgantown’s baseball diamond so it’s almost always baseball season. You can catch a game March – September. There’s no bad seat in the house, but if you want the rowdy and raucous baseball experience, post up on the party deck.
Practice Your Paddling – Head down the Monongahela River with Morgantown Area Paddlers (MAP). This section of flat water is perfect for canoes, SUPs, and kayaks to get their stroke on.
Try One of the Best Pepperoni Rolls in West Virginia – A state-wide delicacy since the early mining days, pepperoni rolls are to West Virginia what pizza is to New York or cheesesteak is to Philly. Stuffed with pepperoni and cheese, the doughy creation is similar to a stromboli and Terra Café’s have topped many a list of best in state. A mellow cafe overlooking the fishing pier, their deli delights and decadent desserts aren’t shabby either. Pro Tip: Try the chimichurri roast beef.
Go for a Scenic Drive – The winding, hilly roads were basically made for cruising with plenty of road trip options within a few hours of the city. Depending on your interests, there are historical sites and war memorials, state parks and natural areas, covered bridges, and quirky roadside attractions. Motorcyclists love Morgantown and make the annual pilgrimage every July for Mountainfest, a gathering of bikes, music, and mountain life.
Play a Round of Disc Golf – If you’re not intimidated by harrowing switchbacks and sharp alpine turns, the drive up to Dorsey’s Knob is one of the prettiest in the city. The views extend far beyond the green hills and overlook the entire Monongahela River Valley so your throws best be accurate.
Take in the Views – Cooper’s Rock State Park is on the National Register of Historic Places and boasts a 300-year old gorge overlooking the Cheat River. Keep an eye out for rare wildlife that calls the craggy hills home. The overlook is easily accessible from the parking lot, but if you want to hike around there are plenty of trails to “get lost in the right direction.”
Sign the Wall at Mario’s Fishbowl– As the saying goes, you haven’t been to Morgantown if you haven’t been to Mario’s. The community watering hole for over 60 years, notes are scrawled on every inch of their façade. In fact, Morgantown faithfuls have been coming to Mario’s since the ‘50s. The casual pub has racked up an impressive number of accolades over the years from being named one of the most authentic local spots in North America to one of West Virginia’s greatest hidden gems. After a goblet or two (they each hold two beers or a boatload of sangria, you won’t find any hard liquor here), you’ll be ready to add your own memories to the collection. Enjoy the nostalgia and sentiments, and keep an eye out for my favorite, “Make our livers great again.”
Try a Morgantown Mule – The Iron Horse is just one of the local spots known for its craft beer, but they’re not messing around on cocktail front either. Their signature Mule is with made with moonshine so you know it packs a hearty punch. For a fun pairing, the three-cheese mac and cheese is also award-winning.
Take in a Summer Concert or Movie – Hazel Ruby Mcquain Riverfront Park is a breathtaking waterfront amphitheater surrounded by cherry blossom trees and those highly photographed bridges. They regularly host events in the summer, but any time of the year, it’s a great place to pack a picnic and enjoy the view.
See Why West Virginia is Known for Whitewater Rafting – Whether you want a lazy river-style float or raging rapids, West Virginia whitewater is famous the world over for wet and wild adventures. There are a few options within minutes of Morgantown, Cheat River being a popular day-trip.
Take a .50 Cent City Tour – Computer-operated monorails similar to what you’d find at Disney World, the tiny yellow cars circle the WVU campus making a complete loop in just 11-minutes. It’s a great way to get your bearings and take in the scenery from above. The PRT (personal rapid transit) has been operational since 1975, yet still looks futuristic for its time.
Explore on Two Wheels – Beyond hiking and rafting, the green rolling hills of West Virginia are also a mountain biking mecca. Rent a bike from Wamsley Cycles and Ride the Rails (trails designed for non-motorized vehicles) as far as you can pedal. The Core Arboretum is a popular destination as is Deckers Creek.
Get a Taste of True Appalachian Music – With live music almost every night of the week, Black Bear Burritos is a rocking local hangout. They’re as known for their entertainment as they are their bigger-than-your-head burrito, quesadilla, and wrap creations. Basically made with everything but the kitchen sink, you can mix and match sauces and fillings to create your own Mexican monstrosity with unexpected ingredients like kiwi salsa, garlic potatoes, bleu cheese, Thai peanut curry, and dill sauce.
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