Town guide: Ripley
Visit this eastern city for soul-satisfying cuisine, countless Fourth of July fireworks and genuine Appalachian moonshine.
The Downtowner is locally famous for comfort food, specials (like Baked Steak Day) and attentive, friendly employees. It’s family owned and every meal has that homemade touch. Typical dishes include meatloaf, cheesy potato soup and — a customer favorite — pulled pork barbecue. Downtowner fans also rave about the peanut butter and graham cracker pies.
At Las Trancas, chefs make homemade taco shells and entice your appetite with warmed tortilla chips and fresh salsa.
But be warned: La Trancas’ portions are enormous. You might want to split a burrito, which comes in many styles: California, avocado carne asada and shrimp fajitas. Chefs also serve chile rellenos, tamales, quesadillas and enchiladas, plus many vegetarian options.
Ambitious and inventive, the Fairplain Yacht Club ranks as one of West Virginia’s most unique dining places. Appetizers are anything but humdrum: coconut shrimp with tangy marmalade; spicy “Rings of Fire” jalapeno rings with ranch dip; and pizza quesadillas, to name a few.
You can also order a Pittsburgh-style salad (which comes with fries), Cajun catfish, beef tip sizzlers and sandwiches. It doesn’t stop there, either. The Fairplain serves half-gallon growler fills and boasts an extensive beer selection, too.
Pete’s Hotdogs hits the spot if you’re a lover of all things Americana. It’s a no-frills drive-through and diner, so keep that in mind. But Pete’s genuine West Virginia dawgs (steamed bun, sausage, chili “sauce,” slaw, onions and mustard) attracts aficionados from all over. You can also try regional classics, like a Chicago, and cover it with your choice of more than 20 condiments.
This city may be small, but it definitely has spunk. Locals claim the Ripley Fourth of July is America’s largest small-town Independence Day celebration. Visit and you’ll witness a carnival, many flea markets and a grand parade that lasts for 2 hours. Entertainers and bands perform on a stage by the Jackson County Courthouse, too. Even President George W. Bush paid his respects several years ago. It’s a marvellous event that reaches back to the late 19th century, so take a look.
Another cherished mainstay is the Alpine Theatre, an attraction that’s been around since 1936. Its pilasters and a flat modern roof make a refreshing contrast to today’s utilitarian buildings. Inside, you’ll find nifty historical touches like original “coming attraction” poster frames. Locals still flock to the Alpine for movies and seasonal entertainment. If you’re in the area, drop by for a music act or tribute show.
Now here’s a West Virginia treat: moonshine! Appalachian Distillery, one of Ripley’s top attractions, produces traditional white lightning “from the cornstalk to the bottle.” You can also get exotic flavors like paw paw, strawberry lemonade, blackberry and peach.
Millcreek Trading Company has a cozy country feel. It’s stocked with hanging burlap lamps, primitives, rustic dolls and cheerful home decor. You’ll also uncover West Virginia specialties like pottery and metal art.
Travelling with some girlfriends? Pay a visit to Two Eighteen, a boutique with flair. Browse racks of jeans, cardigans, jackets and trench coats, or try on spiffy accessories like fringed kimonos and jewelry.
Bring your kayak to Mill Creek Water Trail, a tranquil journey that takes you from Ripley to Cottageville. It’s a little more than 20 miles long from beginning to end. You can also camp at Jackson County Fairgrounds.
Cedar Lakes Conference Center makes an ideal vacation spot, too. Play some putt putt, strike up a campfire or wander some trails. If you have friends or family members along for the ride, play some basketball or volleyball. Cedar Lakes even has cottages and 5 lodges, so why not spend the night?
When it comes to traditional recreation, Ripley City Park covers just about everything you’d want. There’s an Olympic-size pool (with a water slide), skateboard park, lit tennis courts, picnic shelters, playground and gazebo. All you need is a packed lunch.
Ripley’s downtown district certainly has its own look and feel. Most buildings date from the 1930s, but a few 19th-century homes round up the collection, too. Altogether, it’s distinctive enough to earn a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
One standout is Clerc-Carson House, a fine Italianate specimen. Its hipped roof, cornice dentils and asymmetrical design have character that modern homes lack. As a locally significant building, this 1880s dwelling also belongs to the National Register of Historic Places.
The 1887 Staats Mill Covered Bridge is another Ripley treasure. When a flood control project threatened its existence at Mill Creek, locals moved the 97-foot structure to Cedar Lakes.
Where to stay
Ripley has hotel chains like Quality Inn, Super 8 and Holiday Inn Express.