Northern West Virginia: The Mid-Atlantic’s playground

Su Clauson-Wicker

The Mountain State, West Virginia, serves as playground for the Mid-Atlantic. It’s more relaxed, greener, and whiter in winter than its neighbors. It’s also a fun-loving place, with more festivals, fairs, and celebrations per capita than any other state.

Clarksburg is a festival city

16-01 WV Clarksburg festClarksburg is especially fond of throwing a party. Located four hours from Washington, D.C., this northern burg hosts a regional craft beer festival and Beer Judge Certification Program-sanctioned home brew competition on May 21. Within the next five months, the fest is followed by the Greek Food Festival, the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival, the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival, a wine festival, Jesus Fest, and a blackberry festival.

“Clarksburg is absolutely the best place to get pepperoni rolls,” says Anne Barnes, a visitor from Charlotte, N.C., who orders the West Virginia specialty via mail from Tomaro’s Bakery when she’s not in town. The small city boasts the National Pasta Cook-off each August, as well as at least six Italian restaurants.

Clarksburg is an old city, formed in 1785, with links to earlier civilizations through its 2,000-year-old Indian mounds. Some suggest the earthworks were built for astrological purposes because of their alignment with heavenly bodies.

Clarksburg’s more modern downtown retains a 19th-century charm. A good place to start your tour is Waldomore, an 1839 mansion chock-full of museum-quality pieces as well as documents relating to native son Stonewall Jackson. Also of note is the Gray Barker UFO Collection, one of the nation’s largest unidentified flying object exhibits, with a slew of provocative photographs.

Martinsburg boasts history and sweetness

Martinsburg’s current brick roundhouse was built in 1866 after Stonewall Jackson’s troops destroyed the original.
Martinsburg’s current brick roundhouse was built in 1866 after Stonewall Jackson’s troops destroyed the original.

As the northern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley, Martinsburg was in the thick of the Civil War. Its railroad roundhouse was destroyed by Stonewall Jackson’s troops and rebuilt in 1866. The nearby home of Confederate spy Belle Boyd has become a Civil War museum, while the 1778 Adam Stephen House commemorates a time when residents slipped into the natural cave under their basement to flee Indians or British raiders.

Both happening in May, the Martinsburg Heritage Festival and the West Virginia Wine and Arts Fest have gained regional followings.

Any time of the year, shops and restaurants along Queen Street draw visitors like honey, especially DeFluri’s Fine Chocolates. The chocolatier family wins awards for the truffles, creams, and salt caramels crafted in their small factory. Peep through a window in the retail shop to see massive mixers swirl vats of creamy chocolate. Especially popular are prescriptions of DeFluri’s “Behavior Modification Tablets,” doses of dark chocolate that help folks persuade others to give them the cooperation they deserve.

Children (and inner children of older folks) delight in the weekend shows at Wonderment Puppet Theatre. In a whimsical Victorian house on King Street, art teacher Joe Santoro crafts puppets, sets, and props, presenting six original shows annually as well as specially scripted parties. Visitors are invited to explore rooms filled with puppet curiosities after the show.

Canaan Valley hosts natural adventures

Skiing in the Canaan Valley means a choice of nearly 85 slopes and trails, eight lifts, and terrain and tubing parks.

Two Alpine ski resorts, Canaan Valley Resort State Park and Timberline Four Seasons Resort, plus the White Grass Ski Touring Center, make Canaan Valley a prime winter destination. From December to April, snow generally blankets the valley.Tucker Canaan Downhill

Canaan Valley’s weather patterns are directly attributable to its elevation and geographical location in the path of nor’easters. With summit elevations jutting more than 4,260 feet, the valley is guaranteed snow — more than 13 feet each winter.

Timberline boasts the longest run in the Southeast — the 2-mile-long Salamander Run. Canaan

Valley’s array of activities includes cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and snow tubing, as well as skiing and snowboarding.

White Grass Touring Center features cardio-enhancing events every weekend, in-cluding biathlons and snowshoe tours.

As the valley warms up, visitors switch over to golf, mountain biking, hiking, trout fishing, and bird watching. Wildflower pilgrimages and family trail days draw folks into the cool and blooming forests.

After a long day in the woods or on the slopes, visitors can relax in one of Canaan Valley Resort’s 160 new guest rooms, Blackwater Falls lodge rooms, or luxury cabins at either of the ski resorts. Located less than three hours from the metro Washington, D.C., area, the Canaan Valley is the place for affordable winter fun.

Su Clauson-Wicker

Martinsburg’s current brick roundhouse was built in 1866 after Stonewall Jackson’s troops destroyed the original.

Su Clauson-Wicker

You can see Belle Boyd herself at the Confederate spy’s home in Martinsburg.

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