West Virginia Bars Nightlife and Entertainment.
West Virginia. Almost heaven, West Virginia. Blue Ridge mountains, Shenandoah river. Life is old there, older than the trees. Younger than the mountains, growing like a breeze. John Denver sung these words from the heart. West Virginia truly is one of the most breathtaking states of the USA; beautiful and hospitable – an outdoor lovers paradise – and in the main resorts and towns, the night life isn’t half bad either!
The recreation capital of the East, Virginia – aka The Mountain State – has world famous whitewater rivers, fantastic skiing, superb mountain bike routes, miles of walking trails and parklands, plus hunting and fishing galore. And all that exercise works up a serious appetite and thirst! West Virginia is an alcoholic beverage control states. However, unlike most others, it no longer operates retail outlets and only retains a monopoly on distilled spirit wholesaling. Neither does there seem to be any particular restrictions on liquor sales hours (7am-3am Monday to Saturday and 12noon-3am Sunday). So – well geared up for the needs of tourists – if you have the energy, West Virginia is one state where you can party most of the night.
West Virginia is called such because it broke away from Virginia during the American Civil War (mostly down to arguments over slavery), being admitted to the Union in 1863 – one of only two states to join during the troubles. It is the only state that became so by presidential proclamation – and also claims other firsts such as forming the first proper golf club in America and inventing the Golden Delicious apple. It’s also known for its historical logging and coal mining industries, as well as tourism.
Bordered by Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia, with the Ohio and Potomac rivers forming part of the boundaries, West Virginia is positioned within the Appalachian Mountain range (hence its nickname). With a population of almost 2m, only 1.1% of West Virginia’s residents were born outside the US and less than 3% speak a first language other than English. Within the state there is some division as to which region West Virginia belongs – some consider it is part of the American South, others associate themselves with Washington DC and Pittsburgh, others that they are part of Appalachia. What is true, however, is this is one of the most hospitable states in the US.
The capital is Charleston and other main towns are Huntington, Parkersburg, Wheeling and Morgantown, though naturally a lot of the ‘trendier’ nightlife is based at tourist resorts such as Snowshoe mountain or Fayetteville, Beckley and the general New River Gorge area – the heart of rafting and rock climbing country. At Snowshoe, you’ll find a great choice in restaurants, bars and clubs – try the Foxfire Grille for spectacular views and regional beers from the West Virginia Brewing Company; the classic ski bar Hoots at the top of the Soaring Eagle Express; Ember with its extensive Martini menu; or The Connection in Shavers Centre, where live bands and DJ’s will keep you on the floor most of the night. (Note that these are generally winter ski places and not always open in the summer.)
In Fayetteville, try Elliott’s Whitewater Bar & Grille, which offers satellite sports TV; the Red Dog River Saloon, claimed to have the area’s largest beverage selection; the Sedona Grille on Maple Avenue or Dirty Ernie’s Rib Pit. Head north and you’ll find the Tractor Bar, a landmark tractor dealership turned into tavern with dancing and regular live performances by decent country and ‘oldies’ bands. Beckley is a quaint village with a lovely historic village (especially if you’re into coal mining) and, again, the bar/restaurant choice is friendly and varied – although there are fewer late late options here. Foster’s Bar on Main Street is popular with locals and visitors alike or if you’re into karaoke, Macado’s is apparently the place to be mid week.
The Metro Valley region is where you’ll find most of the City lights, including Charleston and Huntington – both towns made beautiful by the broad rivers that bisect them (the Kanawha and Ohio respectively) and offer a wide range of both cultural and sporting recreation choices. Here you’ll find plenty of clubs and bars open til 3am, but bear in mind that several admit over 21s only (the Rebels and Redcoats Tavern and Tap Room in Huntington or the Back Door club in Morgantown a couple of examples), as well as good restaurants and friendly pubs.
Charleston’s late night spots include Legends on Kanawha Blvd and Banana Joes – a themed nightclub open til 3am from Tuesday to Sunday. The Bridge Road Bistro/bar on Bridge Rd is a great choice for a snack or full menu with fare that is based on traditional American, but with a definite flavour of West Virginia. Allies American Grill in the Marriott offers both good food and a great cocktail choice – plus dancing every night til around 10pm.
Huntington is a vibrant city with an equally vibrant night life – probably helped by the local university and its resident Thundering Herd football team. The Monkey Bar, across from Marshall University, is one of the ‘in’ places for live music while popular sports bars (complete with Thundering Herd gear of course) include the Buffalo Wild Wings Grill, Marshall Hall of Fame Café and Gino’s Pizza Parlor & Pub.
Another university town is Morgantown – the population of the Uni practically doubles the usual size of the town – and naturally, where there are students, there is usually a good range of bars and clubs. The High Street and immediate surrounding area is where you’ll find most of the action, but it’s worth visit the charming recreated Wharf District along the Monongahela river. Morgantown is also home to the West Virginia Brewing Co, so expect a decent choice of beers round here! The Brew Pub, on University Avenue, brews its own beer – Appalachian Ale and Ned’s Pale Ale, two examples. For live music, try Rhythm and Brews or for clubbing Vice Versa, Club Z and the Back Door.
West Virginia offers just about every cuisine that you might crave, from ‘good ol’ Southern home-style to fine dining, with state specialities such as pepperoni rolls and ‘ramp’ dinners. Buddy’s Bar-B-Que on 3rd Avenue, Huntington, is well known for its hot wings, ribs and ice cold beer. If you’re in Summersville, try the Country Road Inn – a Civil war era farmhouse serving superb homemade pastas, sausage, pies and cakes, or The Feedbox Saloon & Grill at Good Evening Ranch just 10 minutes from Summersville Lake. Apart from good food and fabulous views, the 1100 gallon saltwater fish tank full of eels, shark and coral is a good talking point!
Smoker? There are local smoking bans of some sort or another in all 55 counties, so check locally.
West Virginia, we reckon, is a pretty cool state to visit. We can see why John Denver sang about it so often!