Offbeat ideas for solo travelers in the mountains
Looking for solo travel ideas that aren’t run-of-the-mill? Just change your approach!
Traveling by yourself can be liberating. And it also gives you some freedom to soak in your experiences in profoundly personal, and memorable ways. Especially in welcoming places like Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.
Don’t just take a trip. Create a story. These 9 offbeat travel prompts will help you really discover the Mountain State on your solo explorations:
1. Ask a local where you can find the best ice cream.
See if anyone mentions these spots (and if so, take it as a sign to try a scoop!):
- The Ice Cream Shop in Davis’s soft-serve flavors go beyond just plain ol’ vanilla or chocolate.
- Dairy Creme Corner in Fairmont: most likely the home of America’s largest cones!
- Toni’s Ice Cream & Yogurt in Clarksburg has famous raspberry soft-serve.
- Austin’s Homemade Ice Cream in Kenova. Try their fantastic grape-pineapple creation!
- Ellen’s Ice Cream in Charleston has homemade scoops of New England-style ice cream.
2. Taste something utterly new!
Ice cream is always great, but we’ve got some really wild treats you can only try here, too.
For something really surprising, try this: close your eyes and randomly place your finger on the menu. And that’s what you’re eating! No matter where your finger lands, you won’t be disappointed with bold, inventive flavors at restaurants like these:
- Pies & Pints in Morgantown, Fayetteville and Charleston has pizzas with creative toppings.
- Bob’s Hotdogs in Belington has comfort food covered. Order stuffed footlongs, biscuit sandwiches, thick burgers and shakes.
- Bluegrass Kitchen in Charleston serves upscale comfort food crafted with fresh ingredients.
- Lost River Brewing Company has quality beer— no surprise there— but their menu is also loaded with entrees you won’t find elsewhere, like glazed duck breast, bison meatloaf and Asian fusion dishes.
3. Jot down authentic Appalachian recipes
Keep your eyes peeled for tried-and-true West Virginia favorites and take ‘em home:
- Biscuits! A country classic.
- “West Virginia dogs”: hot dogs with slaw, sauce and onions
- Cornbread and beans, which we sometimes serve with ramps (local wild onions)
- Pepperoni rolls, our state secret!
4. Go to a ghost town or an abandoned site
If you really want the experience most people don’t get, start by looking where they don’t.
Rediscover the intrigue of nearly forgotten places. Abandoned sites set a haunting mood for powerful photo shoots. These places are great starting points:
- Kaymoor in the New River Gorge used to be a thriving mine. Uncover faded safety signs for miners, coke ovens, a processing plant and more.
- Fostoria Glass Company in Moundsville used to be a prestigious factory. Though it’s abandoned now, it used to craft fine crystal for presidents.
- The Waldo Hotel in Clarksburg was lavish in the early 1900s. Volunteers are patching it up, but you can still see its old bones.
- Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park in Princeton is famous worldwide for its eerie landscape, rusting rides and deeply haunted past. (Appointment only)
5. Record conversations you hear in your journal
Just like James Boswell, the lively English biographer and diarist! Sample local color and flavor at cafes like these, where folks are likely to be chatting away:
- Cathedral Cafe in Fayetteville has outstanding homemade dishes, baked goods and bold espresso drinks.
- The Wild Bean in Lewisburg brings in upscale hippies with its creative vibes, sophisticated espresso menu and vegetarian fare.
- Moxxee in Charleston packs its menu with fair-trade coffee, tea and artisanal espresso drinks.
- TipTop in Thomas has quality espresso, cold brews, organic smoothies… and a bar in back.
6. Sketch unusual West Virginia landmarks
You can stumble upon odd little attractions anywhere in the state, like:
- The World’s Biggest Teapot in Chester
- The Mothman Statue in Point Pleasant, which honors a legendary local monster.
- Farnham Fantasy Farm’s enormous fiberglass statues, Unger
- Pope John II statue at Generations Restaurant & Pub, Wheeling
7. As you try craft beers, write down reviews
- Bridge Brew Works in Fayetteville has a lengthy list of top-notch craft brews made on site, like creamy local stout and malty Old Burly Barleywine.
- Morgantown Brewing Co. in Morgantown serves distinctive beers like Coal City Stout and nutty, chocolatey Kettle Bottom Brown ale.
- North End Tavern & Brewery in Parkersburg, West Virginia’s oldest brewery, is famous for its award-winning Roedy’s Red amber ale.
- Blackwater Brewing Company in Davis is a nanobrewery with a hefty lineup, despite its size. Order tasty beers crafted with local ingredients like West Virginia honey.
8. Hike a trail and note what makes it unique
Paying attention to the littlest things can completely change your trip.
Describe scents or sounds in your journal as you go. Look for odd Appalachian plant life, wandering critters or just the way the light settles across the valleys of our rolling mountain panoramas during different times of day.
You’re sure to find something at these picturesque destinations:
- Blackwater Canyon Trail in Monongahela National Forest guides you past amber waterfalls, craggy mountains and abandoned coke ovens.
- Overlook Rock Trail in Kanawha State Forest is simply idyllic with moss, creeks and dramatic vistas.
- Long Point Trail in New River Gorge gives you a dramatic overlook of the New River Gorge Bridge.
- Greenbrier River Trail in Marlinton has miles of flat trails and bridges that follow the broad, cobalt river.
9. Stay at a B&B and have a chat with the owner
Our state is a small local business central. Most places you go, you’ll probably meet the owner. Take in the best of that Southern hospitality and warmth at these cozy inns:
- The owner at Cooper House Bed and Cocktails in Thomas knows all about interior design, home restoration and making awesome drinks!
- Sleepy Creek Mountain Inn in Berkeley Springs grows— and sells— Christmas trees. Talk about a conversation starter!
- The Morning Glory Inn in Slaty Fork has oodles of country charm and farm-fresh breakfasts. Ask the innkeepers about where they get their ingredients!
- A Nature’s Song in Mannington is a woodsy retreat where the owner might share some homemade kettle corn.
How do you add some extra excitement to your solo mountain travels?