Give your kids a magical, memorable childhood: A West Virginia guide

kids having fun at the barn

We all have special memories from our childhood that we cherish.

When we grow up, we find that making special memories with our kids is just as meaningful for us as it is for the little ones. Kids never forget the simple memories of feeling love and being with family and friends. Here in West Virginia, you can give them a sense of wonder as you create those memories together.

Here’s our West Virginia guide to making cherished childhood memories:

1. An Oglebay Lights Wonderland

Drive the little ones through a glittering wonderland. The Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights is one of the nation’s largest holiday light shows, and an annual tradition at the Oglebay Resort. The lights cover more than 300 acres on a 6-mile drive throughout the resort, and there are trolley tours as well.

2. Wild Amusement Park Fun (Without the Wild Lines) at Camden Park

This old-timey amusement park is reminiscent of the West Virginia State Fair’s hometown carnival atmosphere, but it’s open every day of the warm season. It’s all of the fun of a sprawling theme park, you just get more of it with shorter lines. A toy train steams to life around the park, rolling your wide-eyed little ones past the mini golf, log flume and swan paddleboats. Kiddie Land beckons in the tiny tikes with a carousel and games, and the older kids will love the rush of the rollercoasters and high-flying rides.

Clay Center

3. Play smart at the Clay Center

Science is incredible, no matter what age you are. The Clay Center’s interactive exhibits engage the kids with hands-on fun, and inspire adults by challenging your understanding of the world around you. Various rooms will invite you inside a geo-cave to learn more about the Earth, to go head-to-head with the human body in a gameshow-style quiz, or learn and grow along with your littlest ones. There’s an art gallery and performance hall, too!

4. Up-close with the animals West Virginia Wildlife Center

Children of all ages love animals, and being able to see and learn about wildlife is a very unique experience. Dedicated to presenting a realistic and factual understanding of West Virginias wildlife, the West Virginia Wildlife Center in French Creek offers kids an up-close view of wild animals from furry raccoons to fierce mountain lions. Your kids can observe these native creatures in their natural habitat, and learn about the history of the animals, their behavior and biology.

5. Explore the marvel of the Mystery Hole

The Mystery Hole is hard to describe, but we guarantee that you won’t find another place like it anywhere. Folks of all ages have enjoyed “defying the laws of gravity” in this kitschy and intriguing roadside stop.

Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park offers excursions that transport you back in time and let you relive an era when steam-driven locomotives were an essential part of everyday life. Trips to Cass are filled with rich histories of the past, unparalleled views of a vast wilderness area, and close-up encounters with the sights and sounds of original steam-driven locomotives. The town of Cass remains relatively unchanged. The restored company houses add to the charm and atmosphere of the town. From the company store and museum to the train depot, you'll find an abundance of things to do prior to your departure on the historic Cass Railroad. The Cass Scenic Railroad is the same line built in 1901 to haul lumber to the mill in Cass. The locomotives are the same Shay locomotives used in Cass, and in the rain forests of British Columbia for more than a half-century. The passenger cars are old logging flat-cars refurbished and made into passenger cars. Once you board the train, the real excitement begins! The great pistons of the carefully restored Shay locomotive will start pulsing, driven by hundreds of pounds of steam pressure. The shaft begins turning, the wheels find traction, and the locomotive begins to move. With thick, black smoke belching from its stack, the train pulls away from the station, passing the old water tower from which the locomotive tanks are filled. As the train rounds the curve up Leatherbark Creek, you'll pass the Cass Shop, where the locomotives are serviced and repaired, and a graveyard of antiquated, but fascinating equipment on sidetracks. As the pressure builds, the locomotive is driven at full steam, and the laborious journey up the mountain toward the two switchbacks begin. The loud huff of the stack, the clanking of gears and pistons, the furious scream of the whistle at the crossings, and the ever present clackety-clack of the rails will indeed make you feel as if you have been transported back i

6. Tracing the tracks on Cass Scenic Railroad

The Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, offers daily excursions, special events and overnight trips. You and your kids will be transported back in time to an age when steam-driven locomotives were a part of everyday life. The rail line was built in 1901, and the Shay locomotives are the same ones used more than a half a century ago. Junior engineers and train enthusiasts of all ages will enjoy the rides and the beautiful mountain scenery.

7. Old-fashioned fun at Bramwell Corner Shop

Bramwell is a quaint town with cobblestone streets, a train station and charming little shops. The Corner Shop is a preserved soda fountain that offers great lunches for the whole family, and candies, desserts and house-made ice cream for the kids. After ice cream you can pop across the street to the train station and museum, or stroll Millionaire Row’s mansion-lined streets.

ACE Lake

8. Take a splashing leap at ACE Lake

With ziplines, giant inflatables and a waterslide, this adventure lake could keep you and the kids busy for days. “The blob” is the main attraction: one person sits on the edge, and another leaps onto the other end— sending that first person flying into the water for a big splash! Who in your family can soar the highest?

9. Get lost at Cooper Family Farms

When the fall leaves set ablaze, this family farm starts building a maze. It’s a true autumn adventure. A quick zipline over the farm can give you a sneak peek at the patterns of the maze. Get lost together in the labyrinth, then reward yourselves for completing the puzzle with a seat by the fire for s’mores.

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10. Rediscover simple wonder at the West Virginia State Parks

There’s nothing more awe-inspiring than the wonder of Mother Nature. Take the kids to play in the most pristine, open playgrounds in the state— back where we keep the hidden waterfalls, sweeping vistas and rolling hiking trails.

11. Be part of the ballpark crowd

Whether you’re rooting on the Appalachian Power or the Black Bears, a day at the ballpark is good old-fashioned fun. Share the pride of watching your team triumph. The fun goes beyond the sport itself; Enjoy the goofy games between innings (sometimes calling the kids out to participate), and indulge in a West Virginia slaw dog.

What memories have you and your kids made in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia?

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