We’re continually on the hunt for opportunities to add richness to our lives. In the time of the road trip revival, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston that make for a great getaway. We feel that our worldly and devoted readers will find these places interesting.
Driving 75 minutes north of Charleston brings you to Parkersburg, West Virginia. Famous for its oil and gas history, Parkersburg is also the point where the Little Kanawha and Ohio Rivers converge. A haunted hotel, beloved Italian restaurant, unique museums, and a gorgeous, historic state park make this town a perfect weekend getaway destination. You can also do it without breaking the bank at the gas pump.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN PARKERSBURG
I’m not mentioning Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park only because it will be in my upcoming book, 100 Things to Do in West Virginia Before You Die, but it truly is a gem in the Mountain State. This fun and full-of-history attraction must be visited by boat. Buy your tickets for the Island Belle Sternwheeler, taking you on a 20-minute scenic boat ride on the Ohio River. Once there, you can choose between the activities you want to do—tour the mansion, take a horse-drawn wagon ride, participate in a walking tour, or walk/bike/explore the scenic hiking paths of the beautiful island. The state park has a snack bar, too. Please note that Blennerhassett Island closes for the season the last weekend of October.
Enjoy free music at the Point Park Concerts on the River on the first Friday of the summer months. You can also reserve a chair on a first-come, first-serve basis for a nominal fee. Explore the outdoors even more at the Fort Boreman Historical Park, formerly a Civil War defense site, which is great for a stroll or picnic lunch.
The Oil and Gas museum tells the interesting story of how the state’s natural resources (oil and gas) produced incredible wealth for Parkersburg and the state of West Virginia. A second downtown museum, Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History (where you buy the boat tickets), is also worth a look.
Don’t stop with just history; stay on the museum track and view the beautiful art displays at the Parkersburg Art Center, the PAC. It also has a clay studio where you can try your hand at different pottery skills such as sculpting or wheel-throwing.
Through self-guided tours, history lovers will appreciate seeing the 125 or so picturesque Victorian-era historic homes in the Julia-Ann Square Historic District, the state’s largest and oldest.
Are you traveling with kids? Enjoy some old-school faves like bowling at Emerson Lanes Bowling Center or catching a movie at Regal Cinema 12.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
At breakfast, grab a tasty crepe or waffle and coffee drink at Unity Cafe, which is also open for lunch. Parkersburg Omelet Shoppe is another choice, serving honkin’ big omelets, biscuits & gravy, and a wide array of sandwiches. This restaurant is open 24 hours, 365 days a year.
North End Tavern & Brewery, WV’s oldest restaurant, is a bucket list restaurant (circa 1899) with sports bar-style food and craft beer. The burgers come highly rated and are recommended. A restaurant with international cuisine, Cham’s, is Parkersburg’s top-rated restaurant per TripAdvisor. Serving Lebanese, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisine, the chicken shawarma and hummus at Cham’s are excellent.
A beloved Italian restaurant in Parkersburg, Jimmie Colombo’s, is a must. This family-owned eatery has fantastic pasta dishes and pizza. My pick is the Spaghetti Deluxe (peppers, meat sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, and melted cheese) paired with an antipasto salad.
JR’s Donut Castle has been a Parkersburg institution since 1977. Try the yummy donuts, apple fritters, and plethora of scratch-made pastries to satisfy your sweet tooth. Ten minutes away in Vienna, sink your teeth into a luscious handmade Swiss chocolate at Holl’s. A few pieces to tempt you are milk chocolate cherry cordial, maple truffle, dark chocolate almond rocher, and hazelnut gianduia.
WHERE TO STAY IN PARKERSBURG
Blennerhassett Hotel is in the heart of downtown Parkersburg. This historic hotel offers 86 rooms (some with a record of paranormal activity), a relaxed bar area, and a full-service restaurant featuring weekend brunch. Blennerhassett’s rooms are spacious, and wifi and parking are complimentary.
For a mainstream hotel/motel experience, consider the Red Roof Inn (if you haven’t checked them out in a while, you’ll be very surprised), the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown, or the Wingate by Wyndham, all of which have pools.