Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia travel’

With Fall just around the corner here is a great place to visit during that time of the year.
I was once playing a trivia game and the question was, “What state is called The Mountain State?”  Naturally I started thinking Wyoming or Colorado, but I was wrong.  The correct answer which shocked me was…West Virginia.
The state is nestled in the Appalachian Mountains which are the oldest mountain chain in North America.  Because of that you don’t see a lot of tall mountains.  The average is probably 3,000-5,000 feet with a few over 6,000.
But what makes West Virginia “The Mountain State”?   They say they have more mountains in their state than any other state east of the Mississippi.  This state has had its share of troubles from Civil War battles, mountain feuds, and coal mining labor disputes.
But today its scenic beauty, especially in the fall, has made it a haven for skiers, white-water rafters, hikers and anyone who loves the outdoors.  There are covered bridges, caves, and an extensive railway system that was once used for transporting lumber and now carries passengers who want to enjoy the state’s scenic wonders.
And that is the reason I am writing this article.  I wrote a previous piece on West Virginia Autumn Foliage and that is truly a wonderful time to visit the state.  But our new tour, with Mayflower Tours, runs both in the summer and fall.
The tour is called “West Virginia Mountain Rails and Trails” and you are treated to four different train rides in the state on this seven day adventure.  You fly into Pittsburgh which is another Eastern city that has made a turn around and is quite beautiful.
From there you transfer to your hotel in Morgantown.  We ride a prototype people mover around Don Knott’s hometown and see all the sights where he grew up.
Later that day we have dinner aboard the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad.   This excursion follows the South Branch of the Potomac River through a scenic valley and steep mountains filled with evergreens.  You may even spot a bald eagle along this journey.
The next day is on to the Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area and later we board the Cass Scenic Railroad for a journey up the mountain to Whittaker Station and a logging camp.  Old steam Shay or Heisler locomotives, that once hauled the logging trains, will take us on this adventure.
The Greenbriar with the Bunker is one of my favorite places to visit.  This stop awaits us the next day.  I wrote about this place extensively in my other West Virginia article if you would like to read more about this stop.
We continue on to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine where we travel underground in authentic mining cars.  The New River Gorge, one of America’s newest National Parks, is our next stop.  We even ride a covered jetboat on the river.
Finally our last day is full of adventure.  First up we ride the steam-powered Durbin Rocket along the Greenbriar River.  A Climax 1910 steam locomotive takes us on a 10 & ½ mile 2 hour journey with both scenic mountain, as well as river views.
Next up have a hobo lunch while we climb Cheat Mountain aboard the Salamander and finish the day with dinner at the Railyard Restaurant and ending with an evening of live entertainment at the American Mountain Theater.  At the theater we are treated to a mixture of country, gospel, bluegrass, pop, and patriotic music.
There is definitely a lot of adventure on this tour as well as scenic beauty that will take your breath away.  Whether you take an escorted tour or make up your own with Fall nearly here you may want to definitely consider visiting the “The Mountain State.”

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

            St. Augustine, FL is another city I like with lots to do.  It is the oldest occupied European settlement in the US.  In April of 1513 Ponce de Leon landed in the area looking for the Fountain of Youth.  Although it was claimed by the French, the city was eventually given to England.  In the 16th & 17th centuries, pirates sacked the city and due to its strategic coastal location forts were built around the area.
            This town was very quiet until the 1880’s when Henry Flagler began to develop the area as a winter playground for rich Easterners.  He built the Ponce de Leon hotel, which has now been turned into Flagler College.  There are 79 Tiffany stain glass windows and today you can tour the college to see what it looked like in the early days as a resort.
            Flagler was an interesting man.  First he built the railroad stretching from the North to St. Augustine.  His hotel was beautiful and many of the rich and famous stayed there in the winter but it never really caught on because the city is in northern Florida and the temperature wasn’t overly warm in the winter.  Eventually, Flagler built hotels and extended the railroad all the way down to Key West.
            If you like visiting churches the Cathedral-Basilica is right downtown facing the plaza.  It was originally built in the 1790’s but reconstructed after a fire in 1887.  Then there is the Old City to visit.  This is a pretty fun area with narrow streets filled with old homes, museums, stores and restaurants.   We had a winter tour to St. Augustine and I did several tours there so I was able to explore the Old City region.  There are the typical tourist places like several places to tour, the oldest school house, the oldest house, a wax museum, a pirate museum, the Old Jail complex, the original Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, a Lighthouse, and the list goes on and on.  And, of course, one must not forget the Fountain of Youth.
            Naturally I stopped there and it was kind of a neat place but trust me—the water doesn’t work.  Not only am I not younger but the water tasted like rotten eggs with a soda taste.  But if you visit, I’ll bet you will try a taste from the spring hoping that it might work!
            The best thing to do, which my company did, is to take the Old Town Trolley Tour.  It starts where the Old Jail is located (you can leave your car here) and they take you on an open trolley ride for 70 minutes pointing out all the sites and giving you background information.  The cost is over $20 but it includes admission into the Heritage Museum and it’s good for 3 days.  There are 22 stops and you can hop on and off.  Since the streets are narrow and parking at a premium this is really a great way to get around the city.  Trolleys run every 15-20 minutes and they are easy to flag down.  If you stay at a hotel downtown, you can keep your car at the hotel and use the trolley instead.
            We also took a scenic one hour cruise on the harbor and saw dolphins while we learned more history.  We took the motorcoach a little farther afield and went to the golfing and outlet areas.  And then one day we went up to Amelia Island.
You have to pass through Jacksonville, FL (where we went to a dinner theater one night) to get to Amelia Island and that was a beautiful area.  Fernandina Beach was named one of the top twelve vacation destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Once a vibrant Victorian seaport village, there is a fifty block historic district with many original structures dating back to the 19th century with many Victorian style mansions and cottages well preserved.
            The Visitor Center, located in a downtown train station, can give you all kinds of information and don’t forget to take a picture of the pirate Pegleg Pete outside the Palace Saloon.
            And, if you are going back to St. Augustine when you drive through Jacksonville, there is Anheuser-Busch that gives tours and sampling.  Some of my travelers really enjoyed that stop, especially the free sampling part.
             If you can help it, I would avoid this area in the summer when it can be very warm and humid.  But perhaps you like that kind of weather.  I guess anytime you can visit St. Augustine is a good time.    Florida beckons………   

Read Full Post »

Have you ever heard of the New River Train?  This special train only runs 4 days–Sat & Sun of 2 fall weekends in October.  This is a great trip either to take as an escorted tour or on your own.

You board the train in Huntington, WV.  You may remember Huntington from the tragic plane crash that killed most of their football team on November 14, 1970.  It was the only chartered flight that year since most of the schools they played were in easy driving distance.  Seventy-five people died in the crash.  Many boosters and prominent citizens were on that plane as well as thirty-seven team members & eight coaches.  Seventy children lost one parent in that crash and eighteen were left orphaned.  Today as you drive through the campus, there is such a peaceful look, you would never know the tragedy that struck the town .  Perhaps you even saw the movie with Matthew McConaughey that came out in 2006 called “We Are Marshall.”
Huntington is a pretty little town, near the Ohio and Kentucky borders on the Ohio River with a population just under 50,000.  Eleven miles of floodwalls protect the city.  The town was founded in 1871 by the president of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railiroad and is a busy industrial area with the railroad contributing greatly to its growth.
Since 1968, the New River Train has been taking travelers on an annual fall excursion through the scenic New River Gorge in West Virginia to view the beautiful autumn foliage. The round-trip train runs from Huntington, WV to Hinton, WV and back with a 65 mile long stretch through the New River Gorge.  The New River Gorge folows the Kanawha River and is one of our newest National Parks, often referred to as “The Grand Canyon of the East.”  Much of this stretch of the New River Gorge is inaccessible by car, making the trip an excellent opportunity to view ghost towns and old coal mining sites tucked deep into the Gorge. Guides onboard each car point out the various sites still visible along the route of the railroad.  If you are on an escorted tour, we only take the train one way to Hinton and the motorcoach catches up with us there.  But whether you go one way or roundtrip there is a stop in Hinton (3 hours if you are going back on the train) where Railroad Day festivities include food, arts and crafts, and entertainment.  The festival is small–only 2 blocks long– but lots of food booths pack both sides of the street.  The train borrows old railroad cars from many midwest train towns, so you are riding in vintage cars on this journey and it’s a leisurely way to see some beautiful sites in the Mountain State.
Next up on tour is the town of Beckley, W.V.; a town of less than 20,000 in the heart of West Virginia’s coal mining region.  You can tour a coal mine which is really quite fascinating.  But a must stop is definitely Tamarack.     You can see artisans at work making quilts, pottery, glass and woodworks and crafts native to West Virginia.  I like to stop here for a dinner stop, too.  The restaurant is set up cafeteria style and is very reasonable.  They train the chefs here for one of my favorite places, The Greenbriar and so the food is always exceptional.
The Greenbriar Resort,  A National Historic landmark in White Sulphur Springs, is a definite favorite of mine.  I think I like it better than the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  Dorothy Draper decorated the place in the 1920s and you find room after room to marvel at as you walk throught the place.  Even the public bathrooms are awesome!  For most of its history, the hotel was owned by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway and the Duke of Windsor with Wallis Simpson, members of the Kennedy family, Bing Crosby, several presidents and vice presidents and foreign dignitaries such as Nehru, Gandhi, & Prince Rainier & Princess Grace of Monaco have all stayed there.  There are wonderful restaurants and a championship golf club, Sam Snead was connected to.  But, one of the most fun things about the resort is the Bunker.  The Bunker was built under one of the hotel’s wings in secret.  It was built during the Cold War & was designed to house members of Congress in case of nuclear attack.  It was never used, although it was stocked with supplies for thirty years.  In the 1990’s a reporter from the Washington Post broke the story, thus compromising the place.  Today you can do the Bunker Tour, which is fascinating.  It makes me wonder where the new Top Secret place for Congress is now located after touring here.

Read Full Post »