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Theatre West Virginia – A Family Tradition

by: Lisa Strader

Everyone has family or friends that visit on occasion, and of course, when they do, they rely on you to tell them what to see and do in your area. Do you have that one, tried and true tradition that you share? Well I do, and I want to share it with you.

Honey In The Rock

Southern West Virginia is fortunate to be the home of Theatre West Virginia (TWV). This year they will open for their 52nd season of entertaining and educating the masses under a canopy of stars.

As a child I remember my Mom packing us up for not one, but two ‘past our bedtime’ nights out. We would see both “Honey in the Rock” and the “Hatfields and McCoys” every summer. It was a good lesson in our state’s history, a great introduction to live theatre and an economical family night out. I remember learning about the Civil War and how West Virginia became a state and watching the family feud of the Hatfields and McCoys play out on stage.

As I got older, the time just wasn’t there for our annual visits to Grandview’s Amphitheatre so the tradition was passed down to my children. Mom/Grandma got to introduce the same experience to my two sons. They, like me, have fond memories.

At the time TWV produced only these two dramas. Each year there were new actors and directors so it was always like seeing it again for the first time but we were still excited when TWV added to their play bill. The last few years they have produced additional plays and I’ve added a daughter to go along with the two boys. We’ve enjoyed Cinderella, (even had breakfast with her), High School Musical and we can’t wait to see the Wizard of Oz which will be performed this summer.

The 2013 season will kick off June 11th with the “Honey in the Rock” and “Hatfields and McCoys” alternating on the

Hatfields and McCoys

schedule. “The Wizard of Oz” debuts on July 12th then, what appears to be becoming a third staple for TWV, “Rocket Boys – The Musical” will be performed from August 15-25th. “Rocket Boys”, is a musical based on the 1998 New York Times #1 bestseller by West Virginia native and NASA engineer Homer Hickam Jr. (also immortalized in the 1999 film October Sky),

TWV is closed on Mondays.

If you have never visited the Amphitheatre at Grandview for one of TWV’s performances then I invite you to share in my family tradition. If you have . . . I hope you have made it a tradition of your own.

Fall in Southern WV

Fall in Southern WV is one of our favorite times of the year. Lots of good things are happening, from a change of scenery to a change in  whitewater.  Here are some of the highlights:

Fall Weather

Fall has, by far, the best weather for visiting southern West Virginia. Don’t get us wrong; we love our hot summer days and awesome ski weather.  But temperatures in the 60′s and 70′s during the day

Babcock's Glade Creek Grist Mill

are just delightful.  Cooler weather  also means open cabin windows, cool breezes, and crackling campfires.

Fall Colors

Much of WV is covered by deciduous hardwood forest. Hundreds of species of trees that, as temperatures begin to cool, start preparing for a winter hibernation by pulling the chlorophyll out of their leaves and into their roots.

In layman’s terms, this is what happens when leaves change colors. Because of West Virginia’s vast number of tree species, the colors of the forests are remarkable. From bright yellows to deep dark crimsons, a fall West Virginia forest is a beautiful sight.

And southern West Virginia has plenty of areas to take in these colors. State parks like Pipestem, Hawks Nest, Babcock and Bluestone offer hiking trails and scenic views that are only more special thanks to the fall color display.

Fall Festivals

Southern West Virginia towns take advantage of the great weather and great views to stage some wonderful fall festivals. From Bramwell’s Oktoberfest to Railroad Days in Hinton, this area is celebrating the fall season somewhere almost every weekend in October. We’ve got a complete list of all the festival opportunities southern West Virginia has to offer.

Fall whitewater

Raft guides from all over the world get excited for fall in WV because it means that Gauley season is here. If you’ve ever rafted in this area  (or anywhere on the east coast, for that matter) no doubt you’ve heard of the Gauley River.

For 6 weekends in September and October, the Army Corps of Engineers draining of Summersville Lake creates one of the best whitewater runs in the world. It features 27 miles of whitewater.  The first 9 miles drop over 70 feet per mile and contain five class V rapids.  It’s no wonder that over 60,000 people come here over the 22-day Gauley Season to get their whitewater adrenaline rush.

What’s your favorite part of fall in West Virginia?

Why Southern WV is the Best Place For Your Family Reunion

Families, no matter where they are from, are diverse. There are older members, younger members, wild members, calm members, go-getters, and slow-movers.  It is this diversity that makes families fun and unique.

But diversity can also present a challenge when trying to organize a family get-together. All kinds of

Family Time in WV

people can make it hard to find activities to satisfy everyone.

So when it comes to things to do, Southern WV is hard to beat. Whether you’re into high-adventure sports or relaxing leisure activities, this area provides great opportunities for all.
Let’s look at how the diversity of this area makes it a great place for a family reunion.

Getting The Family Together

Depending on the size and make-up of your group, getting everyone together can often be tough. Southern West Virginia has many large campgrounds and cabin rentals.  If some of the family likes to camp and others don’t, many of the cabins are extremely close to campgrounds. There  are also many hotels in the area.

Some of the adventure resorts in the area even have both campgrounds and cabins located on their property. Keeping the group together and everyone comfortable is an easy task if you let the resort professionals help you through the process.

Keep The Family Entertained

Even if Aunt Barb thinks everyone in the family would love a group outing to look at the world’s biggest rubberband ball, chances are you’re never going to get everyone in a large group to do everything together.  So having a plethora of things to do makes it much easier to keep everyone entertained. Here’s a list of just some of the activities families can do (together or on their own) in southern West Virginia.

* Rafting
* Hiking
* Mountain Biking
* Rock Climbing
* Fishing
* ATV riding
* Zip lining
* Swimming
* Boating
* Horseback Riding
* Caving
* Paintball
* Golf
* Antiquing

(And no, the world’s largest rubberband ball is not here in southern WV.  But we do have the longest steel arch bridge in the western hemisphere.)

Look To Resorts for Convenience

One of the best options to consider is a package that includes lodging, activities, and meals.  Many area resorts are now packaging all of these options together to make planning easy.  Some even provide discounts depending on group numbers and length of stay.

So when you start planning your family reunion, remember southern West Virginia. You’ll make memories that will last a lifetime.

When was your last WV reunion?

Beyond the Bridge – 14 Must-Try West Virginia Adventures

Since the New River Gorge Bridge was completed in 1977, it has been a marvel admired by millions.  1977 was a time even before whitewater rafting was a  popular tourism

Ranger Led Hike - Enjoying the View

activity.  The completion of the Bridge was a very significant step in the progress of southern West Virginia becoming a substantial outdoor vacation destination.

The present day New River Gorge area is abundant with a multitude of outdoor activities to keep the adventurous (and even the not so adventurous) vacationer busy.  Even if you’ve vacationed in this area for years, you may be surprised to find new activities popping up all the time.  Below is a list of adventures that can be enjoyed all within a 20 minute drive of the New River Gorge Bridge.

  •   Whitewater Rafting- Some rafting companies offer packages that include many other adventures.
  •   Canoeing and Kayaking- Our rivers have sections that will allow the most novice or expert paddler to enjoy themselves.
  •    Rock Climbing- Either on your own or a guided tour, this area offers climbing for any level of experience.
  •    Mountain Biking- Trails from beginner to advanced, the Gorge will test the mettle of even the best bikers.  Lots of outfitters even offer bike rentals.
  •   Hiking- There are trails for all ages and fitness levels.
  •   ATV Riding- We have some of the most beautiful riding scenery you’ll find anywhere in the United States
  •   Horseback Rides- A wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of the Gorge.
  •   Heritage Tourism - There are a multitude of historical areas to explore in southern West Virginia.
  •   Fishing- From floating the rivers to boating the lakes, the area fishing spots won’t disappoint.
  •   Boating- There are lots of beautiful lakes to enjoy here.
  •   Zip lines- They’ve popped up everywhere in the Gorge; you’ve gotta give zip lining a try.
  •   Camping – From state parks to private campgrounds, you can find an area that best fits your camping style
  •   Skydiving- Get a birds-eye view of the Gorge while trying not to scream.
  •   Bi-plane rides- See the description above.

While many of these activities can be done on your own,  most can also be arranged with a guide.  Many companies are activity specific and specialize in making sure their guests have an enjoyable, safe experience.

So what are you going to try?

Going Rafting? Tips for your Trip . . .

So you’ve planned a rafting adventure, but you’re uncertain about what to wear to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip.  We can help.  

Rafters stopped for lunch and watching the action

Here’s a list of necessities and comfort items that you should think about bringing, depending upon the season.

Appropriate Clothing

In the summer, this means wearing swimming trunks or a bathing suit.  It’s fine to wear cotton fabrics at this time of year, but some synthetic fabrics are actually much cooler and comfortable when wet.

When rafting in the spring or fall, think about renting a wetsuit if you don’t have one. Synthetic materials, such as those found in polar fleece or even a wool sweater, will serve to help keep you comfortable. Cotton is to be avoided due to its inability to dry quickly or help retain body heat. Also, a water proof rain jacket can mean the difference between being comfortable or cold. Most outfitters also rent these if you don’t have one.

Footwear

Anything from your old lawn mowing tennis shoes to a slip-on water shoe will work, but try to avoid flip flops or sandals that don’t have a heel strap.  Trust us, you’ll lose these on the river.

You can combat colder water with a neoprene bootie or a thick pair of wool or synthetic socks with your shoes or sandals.

Other tips:

Wear sunscreen, even if the weather is going to be cool.
Sunglasses should be secured with a strap; otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll lose them in the river.
A hat  is always a good idea.  In colder months, a synthetic beanie is your best bet.
In cold weather, gloves are a must.  Look for a thin synthetic or neoprene pair.
If you have longer hair, you’ll most likely want to pull it back while rafting.

Most guides have a dry bag or box where you can store items, such as the rain jacket or an extra synthetic shirt.. Also, don’t forget to bring any necessary medications and mention any pertinent medical conditions (no matter how minor they may seem to you) to your Trip Leader and your specific guide.

What else should you bring?  An enthusiastic attitude and the idea that you will enjoy yourself. Our whitewater is some of the best in the country and no matter what stretch of which river you are on, it all flows through some beautiful scenery.

So don’t forget to look up from the water every now and then and enjoy this part of West Virginia.

Your Guide to this Spectacular Waterfall Season

Spring is a great time to get outside and enjoy Mother Nature’s handiwork.  Whether

Cathedral Falls Raging photo by Leann Arthur/The Register-Herald

you’re taking just a short trip down a path or going on a longer day-hike, Southern WV is full of great places to explore.

Here a nice spring full of rain makes for one fantastic waterfall season.  Most waterways are running at their peak for the weekend and offer some of the prettiest scenery WV has to offer.  If you have a few hours to kill and would like to see some of this breathtaking country – here’s an itinerary just for you:

1) Hinton, WV
Exit 139 off of Interstate 64
Follow Route 20 South into Hinton and onto River Rd (co rt 26)
Here lies Berry Hollow and the Big Branch Trail, with its own tale to tell. A steep hike leads to several waterfalls; parking for this hike is shared with the overlook for Brooks Falls.  This entire area is known to locals for lots of Native American legends.

2) Continue following River Road to experience the railroad town of Hinton, you’ll want to cross the river to experience Southern WV’s biggest waterfall — Sandstone Falls.  This beauty spans an impressive 1500 feet across and signs point out native birds.

Sandstone is one place that the insertion of a nice boardwalk opened up this beauty to the world.  The boardwalk, built in the 1980s by the National Park Service, is a great addition to the park area.  This is also a place where the water is impressive no matter the rainfall.

3)Continue back to Interstate 64
Follow Interstate 64 W to Beckley
From Beckley, follow US. 19 north toward Oak Hill, then drive north on WV Route 41 toward Prince, turn right onto Glade Creek Road, follow road for 7 miles to trailhead.
For smaller yet more serene viewing, the Glade Creek Area Trail is a must.  The trail offers views of some great cascades and small waterfalls, where in season you’re bound to catch a kayaker or two playing in the holes.

Glade Creek is also known for its great trout fishing – where watching a true angler can be like watching the ease of a conductor of a symphony orchestra.

To us, this would be a perfect Chasing Waterfalls weekend.

Secrets in the World of Cabin Rentals

If you’re thinking about getting away this spring, there are lots of options for you here in Southern WV including some great cabin rentals.  Some are rustic, some more modern.

Inside View of Modern Cabin

Some include a full list of amenities, and some amenities can be added …if you know to ask for them.

Here are some secrets (ahem..tips) for knowing what to ask for when booking your trip:

Modern vs. rustic.  To some of us, a cabin is a cabin is a cabin.  But there are actually lots of different types depending on the experience you’re looking for.  Be sure and ask about things like electricity, televisions, phones, etc.  Some have them, and some are happy to offer you cabins without modern technology disruptions.

Must Haves. Must haves vary from person to person. Some people will only rent cabins with fireplaces, some have to have an outdoor hot tub, others just want their rental to be tucked away in the woods (that’s an easy order here in southern WV).  Knowing  what you ‘must have’ will help you make a decision when it comes to choosing your vacation cabin.

Late arrival. We’re fortunate in WV to have a warm hospitable spirit.  So much so, that if you are running late to your cabin, many owners will hide a key for you so that you don’t have to do the official check-in that night.

Outside view of Southern WV Cabin

Views. If you want to look out at an incredible view in the morning or sit in the hot tub with only trees surrounding you – just ask for it.  Many reservationists are used to travelers asking for rooms and cabins with the best view and are happy to oblige if it’s available.

Want extras upon arrival? If you’re planning a romantic getaway or a trip with your children, ask the owners or reservationists to help you out by placing a bottle of wine, flowers or teddy bear in the cabin as a surprise.   Many places are used to this type of request and can easily add it on to your bill.

DiscountsWV State Parks offer some great discounts if you do your homework.  These include discounts for Active Military and spring specials.  Other area cabins offer off-peak and multi-day rental rates.

Hope to see you soon!

Traveling the Springs Trail

While most everyone has heard of spa resorts like  The Greenbrier and the Homestead, you may not know that at one time more than 50 different springs and spa resorts dotted the countryside of what is now West Virginia and Virginia.  While all that remains of most are stone ruins or single structures, they provide a fascinating story of what was once a thriving tourist market …even in the late 1700s.

Today the  Springs Trail , a driving tour among the mountains, details little known facts of several of the former spa resorts.  Places like Blue Sulphur Springs, where an impressive

Mineral Springs Resort - Salt Sulphur Springs

Grecian springhouse still stands, and Sweet Springs (now being restored).

Lured by advertising and the “healing” powers of the waters (touted by doctors), visitors came in droves during the early 1800s. Why make such a long trip by carriage?  Two reasons, really – the healing qualities of the waters and the social aspect of being seen among the wealthy and socially prominent.  While it was unclear if the waters were truly “healing”, many prominent physicians touted their powers and the power of the cleaner, cooler air found in the mountains.

Prominent visitors to the springs and resorts is duly noted in historical documents.  Guests included Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Martin Van Buren, as well as Levi Morton, VP under Benjamin Harrison. Robert  E. Lee and his generals even stopped in.

If you’re considering driving along the Springs Trail, take your camera.  Beautiful stone springhouses, cottages, and buildings will make for some fascinating photos. The route mostly follows easy two-lane roads and meanders the countryside of Greenbrier, Monroe and Summers counties.

The 5 Best Reasons To Spend Spring In The Mountains

If you ever needed a reminder about how great life is, do this:   Come to southern West Virginia in the spring.

Pinnacle Rock in "Spring Green"

Because this is hands-down, without-a-doubt the best time to be in the mountains.

Here are 5 reasons why:

•    The Green: The green that pops up during springtime isn’t just green.  It’s spring green.  So special they designed a crayon color for it.  And you can’t see it anywhere else like this.  Heck, even if you could, nowhere has the background of the ancient mountains to really draw it out.  Spring green in southern WV is truly like no other color on earth.

•    All The Other Colors: What isn’t green is every other color that’s bright, new, or refreshing.  The redbuds burst.  The forsythias pop.  The mountains reinvigorate all of your color sensibilities, and make you feel alive and awake in a way that a museum masterpiece never could.

•    The White Water :  Okay, okay… white water rafting isn’t for everyone.  Only 93% of you.  We understand.  If you think the mountains are pretty while driving down the road in the spring, wait until you see them from a wild river like the New or the Gauley.  Even if you don’t go to a wild section of a wild river, i.e. you like family floating more than white knuckle white water, it doesn’t matter.  Spring doesn’t care, and neither do we, as long as you’re having fun.

•    All The Other Adventures :  We like to say that, if you can do it outside, you can do it in West Virginia.  So spring is our chance to rediscover all that wildness and excitement.  Even if excitement is mushroom hunting instead of rock climbing, or antiquing instead of, say, ATV riding.  It doesn’t really matter how you define adventure, as long as you’re doing something that makes you feel adventurous.

•   The People:  You didn’t think we’d leave out the key ingredient, did you?  Mountaineers haven’t exactly been holed up all winter (we’re always free, remember?)  Still, spring unleashes a whole bunch of happiness in the Mountain State, and we’re going to celebrate it.  Our yards get the attention we’ve dreamed about.  So do our grills.  We get outside and stretch in the spring sun, and if that’s not a good time to visit somewhere, it’s going to be pretty hard to figure out when is.

Need another reason?  You.  You make spring here in West Virginia better.  Time to get outside, don’t you think?

7 Spring Flowers To Look For In Southern West Virginia

Spring hits Southern West Virginia like it’s really, really mad at winter.

Rhododendron - WV State Flower

One day, brown hills.  The next -BAM- green.  Everywhere.  And the only things that are breaking up all that new spring green (except a lot of mud) are our beautiful spring wildflowers.

The Beginning

In the beginning, there was brown.  All of a sudden, flowers come from everywhere.  That’s a typical West Virginia Spring.

And leading the pack are the deep green and bright yellow daffodils.  Daffodils happen to be some of the easiest flowers in the world to grow.  Since they grow from bulb and from seed, they end up literally all over the place.  Lucky us.

Right there in the running for first is the hardy little crocus.  Crocuses (crocii?) have all kinds of different colors, but the shapes are generally the same among species.  Also, the yellow stamen of the, um, crocii are collected to make the spice saffron.  Yum!

The Trees
There might not be any tree with a more appropriate name than the redbud.  Making red buds is what the redbud does.  Everywhere.  If you drive around the mountains of southern West Virginia in the spring, you’re going to see three things:  cliffs, waterfalls, and redbuds.

Right along with the redbud are the beautiful swaying chains of lilac-colored Pawlonia blooms.  The Royal Paulownia, or princess trees, are spread around the Mountain State for two reasons:  They were adopted as ornamentals around the turn of the century, and the seed pods were used as packing peanuts for everything that was shipped by rail.  Great way to proliferate.

Two More
Another early bloomer isn’t quite a flower.  Instead, look for spring green to be complimented everywhere by the bright, bright yellow of the Forsythia.  These bushes are great yard ornaments, and are also found around the edges of river corridors.  If lemons were leaves, it would look like a F0rsythia bush.

Spring flowers get rounded out when the roadways and walkways of the state get taken over by the chest high blooms of the wide spread tiger lily.  There might not be another flower that better shows off the state in spring.  They’re wild, they’re everywhere, and they’re beautiful.

Actually, there’s one more that might show off the state even better than the tiger lily.  It’s the state flower: the rhododendron.  This one will be in full flower right around Mother’s Day in colors from white to flaming pink.  The stand at Grandview Park in the New River Gorge National Park are the prettiest ones in the state.

Hope you get a chance to see some spring flowers this year.  What are your favorites?

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