A golden-era getaway

The Durbin Rocket locomotive, Elkins, WV

 

Want to step back in time to a golden age of steam-driven trains, Victorian inns, variety shows and Appalachian string music? Elkins is just the place for all that and more.

West Virginia has no shortage of unique towns tucked away in the mountains, with trails, rivers, great restaurants, and many other fun things to do. But the town of Elkins, situated on the edge of Monongahela National Forest, has more. With several standout attractions like the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, the Gandy Dancer Theatre, and the Graceland Inn, Elkins is not just beautiful– it’s historical. Take a trip here, walk through the historic district of its small college, and you’ll swear that you stepped back into a turn-of-the-century town.

The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad

The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad specializes in historic trains that take you into some of West Virginia’s most beautiful high country. Through summer and most of fall, you’ve got a lot of options. The Cheat Mountain Salamander is a 1920s-era train that creeps up the headwaters of the Cheat River, past falls and abandoned townsites for a 128-mile epic round trip. If you want a bit more comfort, the climate-controlled New Tygart Flyer is a more modern option, or if you really want to splurge, check out the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train. Don’t forget to drop by for the holidays too– the railroad has special seasonal “Polar Express” trips.

The Gandy Dancer Theatre

This relatively new theater and conference center is also West Virginia’s only Branson-style dinner theater, with space for 400 guests to sit back, enjoy fine food, and experience a variety show that is truly unforgettable. Hearkening back to both vaudeville times and even some gospel-style revivals, the Gandy Dancer Theatre has stomping renditions of icons like Elvis and Dolly Parton, interspersed with quick-witted comedy acts and impersonations. It’s a great combination of traditional and modern music, with hearty food thrown in as well.

The Graceland Inn and Conference Center

Despite all our talk about music, this inn is not named for Graceland Inn and Conference Center, WVElvis Presley’s home; it’s much older. Going back to the 1890s, this 3-story mansion was named for Grace, the daughter of its original owner, Henry Gassaway Davis, a Gilded Age politician. The stately house stayed in the family for a couple generations, exchanging ownership, and was even a residence hall for Davis & Elkins College during the 50s and 60s. In 1996, newly restored, this National Historic Landmark became an inn, and it is definitely the most historic and luxurious place to stay in Elkins. If you enjoy being surrounded by Victorian elegance while still connected to Wi-Fi, this is the place to be.

The Forest Festival

Lumberjack competitions, arts and crafts, parades, and rides are highlights at West Virginia’s oldest event. It’s not a little community gathering, either. Roughly 125,000 folks visit the Forest Festival each year. That number shoots up if a president visits, which isn’t impossible. The celebration has expanded since its creation in 1930, too. More than 100 activities— including the Coronation of Queen Silvia— now fill the schedule.

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