West Virginia Travel Regions
-Wonders of WVA
|West Virginia: Northern Panhandle: Articles|
History Happened Here: West Virginia Independence Hall
Wheeling's West Virginia Independence Hall was built shortly before the Civil War began. Inside it, you can stand in the very courtroom where heated political discussions and constitutional conventions led to West Virginia's statehood. Thanks to a comprehensive new permanent exhibit, "West Virginia: Born of the Civil War," you can actually hear the words.
The exhibit comprises four sections; each designed to vividly illustrate the changes that took place in the early 1860s. In one area, while an audiotape provides the explanation, the western half of "Old Virginia" literally separates and rises several inches above the neighboring territory from the base of a ten-foot-wide relief map, showing the division between eastern Virginia and the new state of West Virginia.
A second section features a timeline with text and graphics illustrating the chronological steps toward statehood. The framed centerpiece is the actual document, "A Declaration of the People of Virginia," that created the Restored Government of Virginia, or West Virginia, on June 17, 1861.
The exhibit also features a lively video re-enactment of the controversy caused in President Lincoln's cabinet by the territorial division, the only change in territory that resulted from the nation's bloodiest war, as well as sections devoted to both Confederate and Union soldiers in the conflict.
A tour of Independence Hall, a site on the national Civil War Discovery Trail, is just one of hundreds of possibilities for a hands-on history learning vacation in West Virginia. Wheeling alone is chock-full of options-from the newly restored Wheeling Suspension Bridge to Victorian house tours to the fascinating Mansion Museum at Oglebay Resort. Call today for details about these and other history leaning adventures throughout West Virginia, at (800) CALL WVA.
Wheeling has long been the hub of the Northern Panhandle. A pre-Revolutionary outpost and stop along the National Road's path to the western frontier, the town was a port of entry during the 18th and 19th centuries and later a Victorian center of glass, steel and textiles.
Today, Wheeling is a gateway to family fun, with a dazzling variety of attractions for visitors of all ages and interests. The new Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center downtown houses a visitors center and interactive exhibits about Wheeling's role in the westward movement of the 19th century.
Country or Classical
Wheeling is a country music destination. One of America's best-known radio stations, WWVA, broadcasts Jamboree USA every weekend. The live show features top names and up-and-coming performers on the stage of the Capitol Music Hall.
The Capitol Music Hall also is home to the Wheeling Symphony. A highly acclaimed metropolitan class orchestra, the Symphony presents both classical and pops concert series, often with renowned classical, popular and jazz artists.
Birth of a State
At West Virginia Independence Hall, you can almost hear the oratory ringing in the corridors where West Virginia was born. Now a center for art and state history, it's also a stop on the Civil War Discovery Trail.
Country, Comedy, or Classical
Country music fans know Wheeling as the home of Jamboree USA, broadcast for more than 50 years by radio station WWVA from Capitol Music Hall. The vintage theater is also a venue for comedy and touring Broadway shows.
They share Capitol Music Hall with the Wheeling Symphony, a highly acclaimed orchestra that presents both classical and pops concert series. Well-known classical, jazz and popular artists often join the orchestra.
Wheeling's riverfront is a window on the Ohio River, one of America's most scenic waterways. To see it up close, join joggers, walkers and bicyclists along a new landscaped and lighted riverside trail.
Or get a bird's-eye view of the city from Point Overlook Museum, high above the city - and learn about Wheeling history from the museum's collection of historic photographs.
The 1849 Wheeling Suspension Bridge is both a National Historic Landmark and a National Civil Engineering Landmark, with good reason: it's the world's oldest major long-span suspension bridge. The handsome bridge - restored to its original colors of red, white and blue - reopens after renovations in late fall of 1999.
On Route 40, Wheeling Park welcomes visitors with an Olympic-sized heated pool and 350-foot water slide, golf course, paddleboats, picnicking, restaurant, playground and aviary. In winter, bring your ice skates.
Cross the bridge to Wheeling Island for greyhound racing thrills, gaming and fine dining at Wheeling Downs Greyhound Racetrack and Gaming Center. There's live racing six days a week, and video slots add to the fun.
Or join the crowds at Wheeling's Civic Center for icy action with the East Coast Hockey League Wheeling Nailers.
A few blocks from downtown, Wheeling's Centre Market caters to lovers of antiques, crafts, gourmet and specialty foods and unique gifts from two historic market houses built in 1853 and 1890. On the National Register of Historic Places, Centre Market also features restaurants and a Victorian-style confectionery.
At the Wheeling Artisan Center, a strikingly restored downtown industrial building, follow Wheeling historical characters through an engaging interactive history exhibit, stop in at Wymer's General Store Museum or browse through a tasteful crafts collection. Then relax in the center's Nail City Brewery, the state's largest brewpub.
Antique and specialty shops are tucked into historic townhouses and mansions in the Old Town neighborhood on Main Street in North Wheeling. You'll find restaurants here as well.
Take in a show at historic Towngate Theatre, or see what's on the walls at Stifel Fine Arts Center, both operated by Oglebay Institute.
Or blast off on an amazingly realistic simulated space mission at Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Don't leave Wheeling without visiting Oglebay Resort and Conference Center. On 1,650 groomed acres, the full-service resort features three golf courses, museums and shops, an outstanding zoo, a planetarium, and nature and garden centers. Oglebay is the glittery centerpiece for Wheeling's citywide Festival of Lights each winter.
River Town Life
Follow the Ohio River north from Wheeling to Wellsburg for a taste of river town life. The historic port town's downtown wharf still welcomes riverboats, including the Mississippi Queen and Delta Queen, with parties, bands, food, arts and boat tours.
In Wellsburg's downtown National Historic District, you'll find shops, riverside greens and restaurants. Or drive to nearby Drover's Inn for a home-cooked meal in an 1848 country inn complete with an Old English-style pub and handcrafted furnishings.
Close at hand is Vandergrift Mansion, a turn-of-the-century country hideaway now open for group tours.
In the hills above Wellsburg, Brooke Hills Park invites day visitors with an array of recreational offerings. Next-door, an antebellum apple barn is the charming setting for Brooke Hills Playhouse, offering summer stock dramas and musicals.
Glass lovers come to Wellsburg for factory tours and outlet shopping at the Brooke Glass Company, famous for lighting fixtures and colorful giftware.
Picture Postcard Towns
The 1783 mansion of Alexander Campbell - statesman, businessman, editor, preacher and philosopher - is a historic jewel in the town of Bethany. Campbell also founded Bethany College.
North of Bethany, Weirton symbolizes the history of the nation's steel industry. You'll find country crafts and collectibles downtown.
Place Settings or Place Bets
At the top of the Northern Panhandle, in Newell, you can tour and shop at the 128-year-old Homer Laughlin China Company, the world's largest manufacturer of dinnerware - from china for White House banquet tables to Fiesta, the Art Deco pattern prized by collectors and recently reissued in new colors.
Nearby, between Weirton and Chester, is one of the nation's most beautiful thoroughbred racetracks, Mountaineer Race Track and Resort. Racing, gaming and video lottery are enhanced by fine dining, golf, swimming, entertainment and luxury lodging in a 100-room hotel.
For fishing and family fun, Tomlinson Run State Park near New Manchester is a favorite. Enjoy 1,400 acres, including 33 acres of fishing lakes and ponds, campsites, hiking trails, swimming, boating and much more in this tip-of-the-Panhandle park.
Back in Time and Behind Bars
WV Penitentiary is now
open for tours
A few minutes south of Wheeling is Moundsville, site of the world's largest Adena burial mound. One of two National Historic Landmark archeological sites in West Virginia, mysterious Grave Creek Mound is 69 feet high and 295 feet in diameter. The adjacent Delf Norona Museum offers an excellent introduction to the Adena life and burial practices with displays of Adena pottery, tools, pipes and ornaments dating from about 1,000 B.C.
Moundsville is also home to the old West Virginia Penitentiary. The forbidding, neo-Gothic structure, built in 1866, was closed to prisoners in 1995 but is now open for tours.
All that Glitters
Southeast of Moundsville, on a ridge just off US 250 at Limestone, you can tour Prabhupada's Palace of Gold, "America's Taj Mahal," where Hare Krishna devotees have handcrafted a dazzling array of turrets, domes, inlaid marble surfaces and cut glass chandeliers in tribute to their beloved guru. And just east of Moundsville, Grand Vue Park offers natural wonders and family outdoor fun, including golf, tennis, swimming, picnicking, hiking and overnight lodging.
Bees and Boomtown History
Head downriver and south toward New Martinsville for a sweet taste of West Virginia at Thistledew Farm, a ridgetop honey farm where beeswax candles and honey-based goodies of all kinds complement an educational tour.
A few miles south of New Martinsville is the 1890s oil boomtown of Sistersville. Its tree-lined National Historic District includes a working turn-of-the-century oil well.
Enjoy a meal or an elegant overnight stay at the historic 1895 Wells Inn, where Victorian furnishings enhance a well-equipped full-service hotel and conference center with an indoor pool, pub and bakery.
Another favorite stop on the town's walking tour is the Townhouse Gallery, where you'll find regional arts and crafts in a restored Queen Anne-style home with plenty of turrets and stained glass.
While in Sistersville, stroll or drive to the dock at the end of Catherine Street for a pleasant, 15-minute river crossing on the little Sistersville Ferry, the last commercial ferry boat on the Ohio River.
From the tip of the Panhandle to its base and continuing into the Mid-Ohio Valley river region, a series of islands dot the Ohio River, forming the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Often mere yards from towns and cities, these border islands shelter hundreds of birds, animals and plants, including some rare species.
Throughout the Northern Panhandle, wildlife for hunters and anglers is also abundant in easily accessible public hunting and fishing areas. Streams are regularly stocked with bass, trout, pike and catfish, and wild geese and ducks flourish along the Ohio and its tributaries.
Drop your line from the public fishing pier into the churning waters of New Martinsville's Hannibal Locks & Dam. A paved access road and accessible walkways for people with disabilities make this a perfect family fishing spot.
Whitetail deer, wild turkey and other small game await sportsmen in the 9,229 acres of the Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area. Near Middlebourne, Middle Island Creek offers canoeing, camping and fishing.
Also nearby, the Jug and Conaway Lake Wildlife Management areas provide outstanding opportunities for anglers.
An American Crossroads
The Northern Panhandle remains a lively crossroads - of highways and rivers, of fanciful Victorian architecture and down-home jamboree, of city treasures and country pleasures, of ancient history and spaceage technology. Let your path lead to this region rich in history, culture, natural beauty and warm hospitality.