Town guide: Beckley
Beckley is southern West Virginia’s largest population center, and a major shopping and entertainment center for thousands of the Mountain State’s rural residents. If you’re a tourist taking in the natural beauty of this region, you’ll be missing out if you don’t check out these attractions in this cool little city — or is it a big town?
For those craving familiarity, Beckley has a lot of the big-name franchise restaurants that don’t make it to smaller West Virginia towns. But its local flavor is pretty good, too! Calacino’s Pizzeria is a Beckley institution that serves up great Italian food in a sports-bar style environment, with occasional live music. The Char is a classic high-end steakhouse surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Kimono Kin specializes in Japanese BBQ and sushi that is much better than anything you’d expect to find in Appalachia. And for the most authentic regional food, don’t forget that the Tamarack art center has its own excellent restaurant with local trout and fried green tomatoes.
There’s a lot to do around Beckley. The city’s Exhibition Coal Mine and Youth Museum, where visitors can tour an actual mine, is a must-see. Theatre West Virginia, a beautiful outdoor theater on the rim of the New River Gorge a few miles outside town, puts on great plays and musical acts all summer. You can also drop by the Tamarack center for a Sunday afternoon concert or an evening dinner theater production. Or, if you want to see the best of local music and nightlife, check out the historical landmark of Foster’s Main Street Tavern.
Tamarack exhibits all sorts of West Virginia-made art. It’s an amazing facility, which is why it’s listed in this article for entertainment, food, and yes, shopping! If you’re looking for high-end Appalachian furniture, local history books, unique pottery and more, come spend an hour or three at Tamarack. The Beckley Antique Mall has over 12,000 square feet of obscurities and curiosities for die-hard antique collectors. If your tastes are a bit more modern, never fear, the Crossroads Mall is one of southern West Virginia’s largest shopping centers.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Beckley is surrounded by some of the finest fishing, rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing, and hiking in the entire eastern U.S. Just head into the New River Gorge, less than a half hour from downtown. The nearby Glade Creek trail follows an old rail line through a beautiful creek canyon. If you are involved in the Boy Scouts, the recently completed Summit-Bechtel Reserve is the BSA’s hub for national-level jamborees in the East. There are also excellent golf courses in the region, especially at The Resort at Glade Springs to the south. If you like winter sports, Winterplace Ski Resort is less than 20 minutes away, with well-lighted runs for after-work night-time ski sessions.
Beckley has been an official town since 1838, although initially it was just a deed on a piece of paper claimed by founder and future Confederate commander Alfred Beckley. By 1850 it was the county seat of Raleigh, but local newspapers still couldn’t figure out if it was called Beckley, Beckleyville, Raleigh County Courthouse, or something else!
The city really began taking off with the post-Civil War Coal boom around the turn of the century, and as any visitor to its Exhibition Coal Mine can attest, coal defined everything about Beckley. Today the city is fairly small, the 8th largest in the state with around 17,600 residents. But, as a commercial hub in the middle of a hugely rural area, it is a vital shopping center for folks from all over southern West Virginia.
Whatever your preference, Beckley’s got you covered for lodging. Outdoorsy types will head north towards the campgrounds along the New River near Glade Creek. Want rustic cabins in the woods? Check out Cabins at Pine Haven; they even have luxury treehouses. If you want a full resort experience, check out The Resort at Glade Springs. It’s a beautiful wooded retreat.