We’re continually on the hunt for experiences that add richness to our lives. In the spirit of the revival of road trips, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston. We feel that our smart and savvy readers will find these trips interesting and entertaining.
Driving 75 minutes North of Charleston, West Virginia brings you to Parkersburg, the third largest city in the state. Once home to the wealthy and a booming oil and gas industry, this part of West Virginia still displays Parkersburg’s historic days in museum fashion. Now, most people travel to Parkersburg for its outdoor activities, history, and a nice getaway from city life. Let’s go to Parkersburg!
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN PARKERSBURG
Parkersburg’s Victorian-era architecture is to be admired in certain parts of town, including the Julia-Ann Square Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. There are more than 100 homes featured, some which host seasonal activities like a Victorian Christmas Tour & Tea.
For those interested in shopping, the Point Park Marketplace is a big draw. It is home to local shops like The Rustic House (antiques and home decor), Village Cakery (sweet treats and pastries), Hot Dog Willy’s, and Maka Miz Pizza (try the cauliflower crust pie). You will find the best selection of yarns and threads at Market Street Yarns & Crafts while Berdine’s 5 & Dime, an original five and dime store, has nostalgic candies and offers a trip down memory lane. Visit the Grand Central Mall for basic mall finds or Gabe’s, a classic discount department store with big name brands that you cannot miss.
Fort Boreman Park, a Civil War fort, allows hilltop views of the scenic valley and the two rivers that join in Parkersburg, the Little Kanawha and Ohio. Point Park is another gorgeous scenic spot right beside the Ohio River for fishing, walking and biking trails, and a 750-seat amphitheater.
A visit to Blennerhassett Island State Park is a must when coming to Parkersburg. You can reach the private island via the Island Belle, a lovely sternwheeler on the Ohio River. This is a great way to see how the elite lived circa 1700 and enjoy the scenery along the way.
A replica of the Blennerhassett family’s mansion is open for tours, both on foot or by horse drawn wagons and with costumed interpreters and docents. While the gorgeous mansion welcomes visitors to see the fine furnishings (many are originals) and learn the history, it wasn’t at all a rosy one, and you might even have a ghost encounter on the island. Learn more about that family’s history at the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History.
Ghosts are a big part of Parkersburg’s scene. The town has even been featured in Southern Living for having one of the nation’s best ghost tours, which I have been on and loved. If your travels bring you to the area in October, check out the Susan Sheppherd ghost tours.
WHERE TO EAT IN PARKERSBURG
Spat’s is an award-winning restaurant inside of the Blennerhassett Hotel offering indoor and outdoor seating. They have amazing food and enticing cocktails. Start your meal with the French Onion Soup or the Fried Green Tomato. For a main entree, try a steak or the Fettuccini with chicken, mushrooms, English peas, and truffle Parmesan cream. Spat’s also has Sunday brunch.
For great burgers, fries, and onion rings, try North End Tavern & Brewery. This casual eatery is also home to amazing craft beer and West Virginia’s first craft brewery. Colombo’s Italian Restaurant, longstanding local eatery (1954), serves up delicious Italian cuisine, something that West Virginia does mighty good. Try the Chicken Cacciatore or Spaghetti Deluxe pasta dishes, served with traditional Garlic bread and house salads. I’ve heard the gelato is to die for!
Be sure to try a piece (or two!) of Holl’s Chocolates during your visit. This small family-owned chocolate shop makes Swiss chocolates as good as any you’d buy in the mother country.
Enjoy a glass of vino at Toscano in Appalachia (inside of Point Park Marketplace) or a beverage of your choice (coffee, wine, craft cocktails) at The Coffee Bar on Market Street, also serving a full menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
WHERE TO STAY IN PARKERSBURG
Parkersburg’s crown jewel is the Blennerhassett Hotel. This beautiful historic hotel has an attractive lobby with an intimate library, along with inviting window boxes full of colorful flowers that greet you upon check-in. Rooms are adorned with old-world charm and are spacious with triple sheeted beds decorated with fine linens. The Italian tiled bathrooms have granite vanities.
A second option is the TownePlace Suites, a Marriott property. Rooms include kitchenettes and flat-screen TVs, while the hotel itself has an indoor pool, patio, and bike rentals. Breakfast is complimentary here.
It is often said that you don’t have to go far from home to have an adventure. Parkersburg is in Charlestons’ backyard, so consider it as a weekend travel spot in your future. Enjoy exploring Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.