The Best of West Virginia Awards 2013

The votes are in! Readers from all corners of the state have weighed in on their favorite eateries and entertainment venues, celebrities and care providers, shopping spots and scenic escapes.


Published:

Food & Drink

BEST CHEF- It's a tie

Dale Hawkins

He’s a celebrity in West Virginia—a household name. Dale Hawkins grew up in Rock Cave and while he collected education and training from across the country, he brought his expertise home. With a style he coined New Appalachian Fare (local ingredients used in global dishes with a regional interpretation), Dale owns and operates Fish Hawk Acres, his family’s farm, and has devoted himself to developing a strong food network in the Mountain State. His latest endeavor, a community-supported kitchen, brings freshly prepared meals into West Virginia’s homes. Fish Hawk Acres

1 Fish Hawk Drive, Rock Cave, WV 26234; 304.924.9880; wvfishhawkacres.com

Tim Urbanic

Tim was an early proponent of the farm-to-table movement in West Virginia, supporting local farms since he opened Café Cimino Country Inn in 1999 with his wife. Tim cites his grandmother, an immigrant from Calabria, and his mother as the most formative influences in his culinary style, instilling an early understanding of the difference fresh ingredients make and immersing him in the flavors of Southern Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. These flavors continue to inform many of his award-winning recipes, and his restaurant draws droves of people from around the state to the tiny town of Sutton.

616 Main Street, Sutton, WV 26601; 304.765.2913; cafeciminocountryinn.com

 

BEST PLACE TO ORDER COMFORT FOOD - It's a Tie

Bluegrass Kitchen

Bluegrass Kitchen serves up comfort food for the savvy eater, prepared with healthy ingredients that are locally sourced. Each creative twist, like Fish and Chips breaded with craft beer and served with homemade tartar sauce or Short Ribs rubbed with sassafras and slow-braised, feels like a responsibly delicious return to the dishes that your grandma made. Don’t miss Sunday brunch, but get there early, as the bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas are in high demand.

1600 Washington Street East, Charleston, WV 25311; 304.346.2871; bluegrasswv.com

Diehl's

At Diehl’s, comfort food is exactly how you remember it—except maybe a little better (sorry, Mom). Family-owned and operated for more than 50 years, the food is savory and homemade. Doled out in huge portions, Diehl’s offers classic dishes like fried chicken and pot roast with homemade rolls and all the country sides you could want. The deep-fried sage stuffing is a must-have.

152 Main Avenue, Nitro, WV 25143; 304.755.9353

Photographed by Elizabeth Roth

BEST PIZZA

Pies and Pints

In 10 short years, Pies & Pints has become one of the state’s most popular eateries. After washing down your first slice of Grape Pie or Cuban Pork Pie with a Bridge Brew Works beer, you’ll already be planning your next visit. But it isn’t just the artisan pizzas and craft brews that keep people flocking through the doors. The hip, inviting environment somehow makes the pies and the pints taste even better.

piesandpints.net
219 West Maple Avenue, Fayetteville, WV 25840; 304.574.2200
222 Capitol Street, Charleston, WV 25301; 304.342.7437
1002 Suncrest Towne Centre Drive, Morgantown, WV 26505; 304.777.4749

 

BEST PEPPERONI ROLL

Colasessano’s

Fairmont was the first place Guiseppe Argiro sold his now-famous coal miners’ snack, and that’s where Colasessano’s began selling their version of the state’s official food more than 50 years ago. The pepperoni bun is a huge chunk of freshly baked bread filled with long strips of pepperoni. If you want, you can get them sliced open and stuffed with Oliverio peppers (out of Clarksburg), provolone cheese, and homemade sauce. What’s not to love?

506 Pennsylvania Avenue, Fairmont, WV 26554, 304.363.9713; colasessanos.com
9705 Mall Loop, Fairmont, WV 26554; 304.363.0571
6120 Mid Atlantic Drive, Morgantown, WV 26508; 304.241.4917

 

BEST ICE CREAM

Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream

When Ellen Beal isn’t playing flute for the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, she’s whipping up the state’s favorite homemade ice cream. Fourteen standard flavors are fixed on the regular menu. The Raspberry Chocolate Chip and Mint Oreo are customer favorites. Each week Ellen rolls out new flavors to keep customers happy. The seasonal creamy pumpkin is anticipated all year.

225 Capitol Street, Charleston, WV 25301; 304.343.6488; ellensicecream.com

Photographed by Carla Witt Ford

Café Cimino Country Inn

BEST BED & BREAKFAST

In the historic P.J. Berry estate in downtown Sutton, Café Cimino Country Inn is a purveyor of genuine Southern hospitality. Its quaint, secluded location on the banks of the Elk River doesn’t impede owners Tim and Melody Urbanic from offering one of the most refined destinations in the state. Melody takes care of the guests, treating them to lavish, unexpected personal touches, while Tim prepares his award-winning cuisine for breakfast and dinner. Guests leave feeling like family.

BEST FINE DINING

The Urbanic family has made Café Cimino Country Inn a culinary destination, with elegant dishes composed of fresh, local ingredients prepared by Tim and son Eli. Dishes like Shellfish Pescatore (shrimp, clams, scallops, mussels, and calamari in a white wine-tomato sauce) and Filet Mignon Gorgonzola (a black angus filet served with potatoes and sautéed spinach atop a creamy Gorgonzola sauce) bring in classy culinary aficionados from across the state. It’s not just the food, though—the gracious brand of hospitality, overseen by Tim’s wife Melody, makes each guest a loyal guest.

616 Main Street, Sutton, WV 26601; 304.765.2913; cafeciminocountryinn.com

Photographed by Nikki Bowman

BEST HOT DOG

Hillbilly Hot Dogs

Before you step through the doors of Hillbilly Hot Dogs, you know you’re in for a unique experience. Every inch of this eatery’s buildings are covered in the owners’ quirky brand of rural charm, and the hot dogs are more of the same. Where else can you sit in an outhouse and eat a 15-inch, 3.5-pound hot dog called The Homewrecker?

6951 Ohio River Road, Lesage, WV 25537; 304.762.2458; hillbillyhotdogs.com
1501 3rd Avenue, Huntington, WV 25701; 304.522.0044

BEST COFFEE SHOP

Cathedral Café

The most unique feature of Cathedral Café? It isn’t the whimsical hand-painted tables or the quirky selection of gifts. It isn’t the shelves stuffed with used books for buying and browsing. It isn’t the tortellini salad or the sweet potato pancakes (local favorites), or even the coffee. It’s the location. Housed in an old church in downtown Fayetteville, Cathedral Café has a distinct ambience with its domed ceilings and streams of colored light shining in through stained glass windows.

134 South Court Street, Fayetteville WV 25840; 304.574.0202

FIRST RUNNER UP
Moxxee

Coffee at Charleston’s Moxxee rivals the most sophisticated cafés in New York City. Assuming the principles of the Third Wave of Coffee, Moxxee approaches coffee with an artisanal flair. Beans are bought in small batches, roasted to exact specifications, and prepared using the latest technology—via vacuum with specially filtered water.

301 Morris Street, Charleston, WV 25301; moxxeecoffee.com

SECOND RUNNER UP
Taylor Books

Taylor Books is a Charleston institution. Tin ceilings, hardwood floors, and exposed brick feel trendy but inviting, and many residents start their day here at 7 a.m. with a cup of coffee and a fresh pastry. Customers are often seen enjoying their coffee while perusing the books, collections of specialty cards, or local art in the Annex Gallery.

226 Capitol Street Charleston, WV 25301; 304.342.1461; taylorbooks.com

BEST DRIVE-IN RESTAURANT

King Tut’s Drive-In

Owned and operated by the McKay family since 1955, King Tut’s is so much more than traditional fast-food fare. A relic of a bygone era, guests are served homemade food by a carhop after they’ve parked. You can snag an award-winning pork barbecue sandwich on a homemade bun for less than $5 and finish up with a slice of coconut cream pie—also homemade, of course. Eating in your car is respectable—even cool—again.

301 North Eisenhower Drive Beckley, WV 2580; 304.252.6353; kingtutsdrivein.com

Photo Courtesy of Muriale's

BEST ITALIAN

Muriale’s Italian Restaurant

Sitting inside one of the cozy dining rooms at Muriale’s, slurping down noodles coated with the deliciously complex red sauce, you’ll be so busy savoring each bite you might not notice how well you’re being treated. A doting service staff bustles about, ready to fill your glass or offer you to-die-for dessert. The homemade lasagna is famous amongst regulars, cooked in layers with the artfully blended house red sauce.

1742 Fairmont Avenue, Fairmont WV 26554; 304.363.3190; murialesrestaurant.com

 

BEST ​WINERY

Forks of Cheat Winery

The wines at Forks of Cheat have won numerous awards, and after one visit, you’ll know why. Nestled among the hills outside Morgantown, visitors are welcomed, given a tour, and offered recommendations based on their preferences. Tastings are free, so discover a bottle you like—the Black Jewel Port and the Vidal Blanc are award-winners—and settle down on the deck with some cheese from local Green Glades Creamery.

2811 Stewartstown Road, Morgantown, WV 26508; 877.989.4637; wvwines.com

FIRST RUNNER UP
Lambert’s Winery

A beautiful estate with hand-cut stone buildings, Lambert’s Winery invites guests in with roaring fires, friendly faces, and, of course, wine. With more than 15 varieties and free tastings, it’s easy to find a bottle to enjoy in front of the fireplace. On Wednesdays they offer wood-fired pizza and entertainment.

190 Vineyard Drive, Weston, WV 26452; 304.269.4903; lambertsvintagewine.com

SECOND RUNNER UP
Heston Farm

A winery, distillery, restaurant, and concert venue—the folks at Heston Farm wear many hats. They offer nearly a dozen wines, varying from sweet to semi-sweet to dry, as well as an array of unique moonshines. Stop in for a tasting, then enjoy some of the farm-to-table fare at Foxfire Restaurant while listening to live music on the deck.

1602 Tulip Lane, Fairmont, WV 26554; 304.366.9463; hestonfarm.com

BEST BBQ

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint

Low heat and slow smoke are what distinguish Martin’s as authentic Southern barbecue. With the smell wafting down West Virginia Route 705 at 8 in the morning, travelers often find themselves awkwardly fantasizing about barbecue for breakfast. The Redneck Taco is too unique to pass up—barbecue rolled up in a cornmeal cake with Sweet Dixie sauce, a tomato-based sauce with a cayenne pepper kick.

368 Suncrest Towne Centre Drive, Morgantown, WV 26505; 304.777.4227; martinsbbqjoint.com

FIRST RUNNER UP
Blues BBQ

Don’t let the unassuming little building in Spring Hill fool you. The pulled pork sandwich is not to be missed. You get your choice of sauce—the sweet but spicy Blues Original, true to the Kansas City tradition; the spicy, vinegary-based Carolina; or the Williamsburg, a little tangy and a little sweet with a touch of tomato.

1109 Jefferson Road, Charleston, WV 25309; 304.744.8335

SECOND RUNNER UP
Buddy’s All-American BBQ

Slow-cooked, hickory-smoked barbecue made your way—with a Southwest dry rub or sweet barbecue, tangy Carolina, or Buddy’s Bomb, if you’re brave enough to handle the heat. Buddy’s barbecue is best enjoyed on the porch while listening to live music. A cold brew is optional but encouraged.

1537 Third Avenue, Huntington, WV 25701; 304.522.9869; wvbbq.com

BEST BREWERY

Mountain State Brewing Company

Owners Willie Lehmann and Brian Arnett started brewing beers at home out of curiosity and, of course, an appreciation for beer. They sold their first brew in 2005. Now they are the largest full-scale microbrewery and distributor in West Virginia. Whether sipping on Cold Trail Ale or Seneca Indian Pale Ale in Thomas, Morgantown, or Maryland, you’ll enjoy every last gulp.

1 Nelson Boulevard, Thomas, WV 26292, 304.463.4500; mountainstatebrewing.com
54 Clay Street, Morgantown, WV 26505, 304.241.1976
6690 Sang Run Road, McHenry, MD 21541, 301.387.3360

BEST BAKERY

Spring Hill Pastry Shop

Known throughout the Metro Valley for consistently fresh, delicious pastries, Spring Hill Pastry Shop has been whipping up the same recipes since 1948 and still has lines out the door. Classics like doughnuts and éclairs are available, but the one-of-a-kind Hot Dog is not to be missed. A bun-shaped pastry stuffed with sweet cream and confectioners’ sugar, it is a Spring Hill specialty. Get it with everything and enjoy chocolate drizzled on top.

600 Chestnut Street South Charleston, WV 25309; 304.768.7397; springhillpastry.com

 

Arts & Entertainment

 

photographed by aampd photography and nikki bowman

BEST PARADE

Mountain State Forest Festival Grand Feature Parade

Feared and respected by marching bands across the state, the Forest Festival winds on for more than two hours as it snakes over two miles of downtown Elkins. Mountains coated in leaves at peak color surround the parade route. With more than 100 entries participating each year, it’s no wonder thousands of people bring lawn chairs and settle in each October to watch the fun.

304.636.1824; forestfestival.com

BEST FESTIVAL

FestivALL

Every June, West Virginia’s capital city becomes a work of art for 10 days. Music, dance, theater, and visual art displays crowd Charleston’s streets as nearly 50,000 people meander through the city, taking it all in. Every corner of Charleston’s is included, and mini-festivals like Wine and All That Jazz, Smoke on the Water Chili Cook Off, and Blues, Brews, & BBQ share the spotlight, providing a nearly endless supply of entertainment.

304.470.0489; festivallcharleston.com

BEST ARTIST

Ron Hinkle

Just outside the small town of Buckhannon, down a long gravel road, Ron Hinkle blows glass the old-fashioned way on his family farm. He uses traditional techniques to create his gems, but his designs are anything but conventional. The gallery next to his studio is full of original designs in vivid colors. And West Virginians aren’t the only ones who appreciate Ron’s work. He has been commissioned to create for the White House Christmas Tree and the Olympics.

Sago Road, Buckhannon, WV 26201; 304.472.7963; ronhinkle.com

BEST MUSEUM

West Virginia State Museum

Recently renovated and remodeled, The West Virginia State Museum will make you proud to be a West Virginian. The museum is arranged on a time continuum, beginning in The Coal Forest millions of years ago and continuing along to present day. With more than 60,000 artifacts in 26 discovery rooms, including George Washington’s telescope and Daniel Boone’s rifle, visitors emerge hours later from the self-guided tour in a state of awe.

The Culture Center, Building Nine, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston, WV 25305; 304.558.0220

BEST CONCERT VENUE

The Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences

Acts that inspire and entertain perform at the Maier Foundation Performance Hall at The Clay Center. Between the Woody Hawley Concert Series and the Clay Center Presents Performances, many popular entertainers have come to Charleston—Diana Ross, The Beach Boys, and the Doobie Brothers in 2013 alone. Dance and theater acts also grace the stage. The Clay Center is also home to the phenomenal West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

One Clay Square, Charleston, WV 25301; 304.561.3570; theclaycenter.org

 

BEST HISTORIC ATTRACTION

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry is brimming with history—it was home to the first successful American railroad, John Brown’s attack on slavery, the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War, and one of the earliest integrated schools for former slaves in the country. Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, this town offers more than living history museums and exhibits. Beautiful hiking trails wind around town, and the overlook on the Maryland Heights Trail is not to be missed.

304.535.6029; nps.gov/hafe

BEST ANTIQUE STORE

Stray Dog Antiques

Gina Puzzuoli is an avid antique shopper who scouts junk shops, estate sales, and antique shops for fun. After seeing a sign on the storefront next door to her Hale Street loft, she decided to buy the space and display the eclectic finds she’d amassed. Shoppers at Stray Dog Antiques get a peek into Gina’s world as they browse fine art, jewelry, furniture, books, fabric and clothing, and much more. Every inch of space on two floors is covered with her treasures—all of it unique, imaginative, and evocative.

219 Hale Street, Charleston, WV 25301; 304.346.1534; straydogantiques.com

>BEST WOMEN’S CLOTHING STORE

Geraniums

A treasure in Charleston’s Bridge Road Shops, Geraniums has been dressing ladies in the finest clothing for more than 20 years. With a selection of clothes both tasteful and hip, classic and contemporary, women of all ages can find something on the racks at Geraniums. The store carries popular names in accessories like Pandora, Lilly Pulitzer, and Brighton.

1011 Bridge Road Charleston, WV 25314; 304.344.1350; geraniumsboutique.com

BEST GIFT SHOP

Tamarack

Tamarack is more than your average gift shop—way more. A mecca for Mountain State arts and culture, Tamarack has welcomed millions of guests since opening in 1996 to experience and showcase the best of West Virginia. Juried arts and crafts are sold throughout the building, with artist demonstrations frequently held in the studios. This one-of-a-kind inventory—the largest collection of its kind in the state—ranges from musical instruments to clothing, glassware to pottery, furniture to books. Grab a bite to eat from the cafeteria, which offers traditional Appalachian food prepared by Greenbrier chefs.

1 Tamarack Park, Beckley, WV 25801; 304.256.6843; tamarackwv.com

BEST SHOPPING MALL

Charleston Town Center Mall

Boasting more than 130 shops on three floors, the Charleston Town Center Mall is one of the largest indoor shopping centers east of the Mississippi. Conveniently located in downtown Charleston, the mall is adjacent to many more shopping and dining options in the area. Center Court features a three-story atrium and a fountain—an idyllic spot to stop and sip on a Starbucks latte in between shops.

3000 Charleston Town Center, Charleston, WV 25389; 304.345.9525; charlestontowncenter.com

 

Recreation & Outdoors



photgraphed by carla witt ford

BEST STATE PARK

Blackwater Falls State Park

One of the most photographed areas in the state, Blackwater Falls State Park is located on 2,500 beautiful acres in the scenic Potomac Highlands. The overlook at Blackwater Falls is one of the most popular spots in the park, as the amber water of the Blackwater River tumbles down many stories before winding through an eight-mile gorge. It’s beautiful throughout the year, and it’s stunning even in winter—the water freezes in a 63-foot ice sculpture.

1584 Blackwater Lodge Road, Davis, WV 26260; 304.259.5216; blackwaterfalls.com

BEST LOCAL PARK

Ritter Park

Impeccably maintained, this 75-acre park on the south side of Huntington was recently designated one of the 10 Great Public Spaces by the American Planning Association. Walking trails loop around the park, and the rose garden is home to more than 3,500 rose plants. The playground is exceptional, offering a dinosaur sand pit, climbing boulders, and a zip line for tots with expendable energy. Towering shade trees, friendly squirrels, a creek full of ducks, and a large fountain provide plenty of photo ops.

Between 8th and 12th streets on 13th Avenue, Huntington, WV 25701; 304.696.5954

BEST SUMMER STAYCATION

Canaan Valley

The mountains surrounding Canaan Valley keep summers cool, making it an ideal spot to enjoy the outdoors without suffering from the heat. For an area known for premier skiing, there is no shortage of outdoor adventure in the summer or fall—camping, biking, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing are among the options. Nearby towns of Thomas and Davis offer hip eateries and laid-back diversion, and a number of popular destinations are within an hour of Canaan Valley—Blackwater Falls, Dolly Sods, Otter Creek Wilderness, Seneca Rocks, and Spruce Knob, to name a few.

Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau; 800.782.2775; canaanvalley.org

BEST BODY OF WATER

Summersville Lake

Not only is Summersville Lake the largest body of water in the state, offering more than 60 miles of shoreline, it is also one of the cleanest. Boating is a classic pastime on the lake, with rentals available at the Summersville Marina. The manmade beach at Battle Run Campground is a top spot for swimming. The lake offers much more than that, though—rock climbing, camping, fishing, kayaking, and even scuba diving are also popular.

Summersville Convention and Visitors Bureau; 304.872.3722; summersvillecvb.com

BEST SCENIC VIEW

New River Gorge

It’s an iconic image. The New River Gorge Bridge spanning across mountains with the New River chiseled into the bottom of the canyon. Fall foliage is a nice complement to an already spectacular view. However stunning the views from above, it’s a shame to only see this sight from the top. A windy trip down old Route 19 will take you to the bottom of the gorge and give you a deeper appreciation of just how big the bridge is—and how long it took to cross the gorge before the bridge was open to traffic in 1977.

Canyon Rim Visitor Center, 162 Visitor Center Road, Lansing, WV 25862; 304.574.2115; nps.gov/neri

BEST OUTDOOR ADVENTURE

White Water Rafting

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of white water rafting—the view of the mountains rising up around the river, the challenge to ride each rapid successfully. Southern West Virginia offers some of the best white water in the country—there’s something for everyone on the New River or the Gauley River, with rapids ranging from moderate to extreme. Licensed outfitters guide trips that last hours to days and even include fun bonuses like paintball and rock climbing.

New River Gorge Convention and Visitors Bureau, 310 Oyler Avenue, Oak Hill, WV 25901; 800.927.0263; newrivergorgecvb.com

Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort

BEST PLACE TO SKI & BEST WINTER WONDERLAND

It’s no surprise hundreds of thousands of skiers pour into this resort each year. Perched nearly 5,000 feet in the air, Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort is one of the top skiing and snowboarding resorts in the Mid-Atlantic. With 180 inches of snowfall each season and almost 250 skiable acres, there’s enough going on to keep any snow bunny satisfied. Three ski areas offer visitors different experiences—there are even black diamond and double black diamond designations on the 57 trails looping down the mountain. But there’s much more going on besides skiing and snowboarding. The Hare Racer Zipline sweeps through Snowshoe Village, offering an unparalleled view. Two hours at the Coca-Cola Tube Park, whizzing down the six-story-high tubing hill, never passed so fast. After the sun’s down, explore the slopes on a snowmobile tour.

10 Snowshoe Drive, Snowshoe, WV 26209; 877.441.4386; snowshoemtn.com

 

The Greenbrier

Unparalleled accommodations, more than a dozen dining options, a casino with world-class gaming, the only five-star mineral spa around, exceptional golfing and recreational opportunities—is it really any surprise The Greenbrier snagged Best Resort? Steeped in history, brimming with Southern hospitality, it is the gem of the Mountain State.

BEST GOLF COURSE

Home to three 18-hole championship courses and a short drive from the first golf course designed and built in America, The Greenbrier is an oasis for golfers, and the PGA TOUR FedEx Cup—The Greenbrier Classic—brings big names to Greenbrier County every summer. Improve your game at The Faldo Golf Center with assessments and clinics.

BEST ROMANTIC GETAWAY

No detail is overlooked during a romantic weekend at The Greenbrier. The cottages are a luxurious but private option with special touches like a rose petal turndown or a miniature cake. Days at the spa soaking up the benefits of the sulfur springs and evenings dining by candlelight will do wonders for your relationship.

BEST PLACE TO GET MARRIED

With more than 20 indoor and outdoor locations that accommodate anywhere from 50 to 1,000 guests, The Greenbrier can host the wedding of your dreams. The location is just the beginning—the resort can also provide the food, flowers, photos, even the tuxedo rentals, to assure the smoothest planning possible.

BEST SPA

Mineral springs have been enjoyed for their healing properties for almost 250 years. Today, The Greenbrier Spa is the only five-star mineral spa in the world. Enjoy a soak in mineral water infused with real silk, fruit, and coconut milk, followed by a Mountain Hot Stone Massage. There are even special services to introduce children to the joys of spa treatment.

300 West Main Street, White Sulphur Springs, WV 24986; 855.453.4858; greenbrier.com

BEST PLACE TO HIKE

Dolly Sods Wilderness

Almost 50 miles of trails cut through the pristinely preserved Dolly Sods Wilderness, offering hikers views of open expanses of cranberry bogs and heath barrens; stunted, wind-battered enclaves of red spruce and pine trees; and gusty mountain plateaus. Red Creek Trail is one of the most popular options, with waterfalls dotting the trail on the way to Lion’s Head Overlook. The trails are not color-blazed, so a map and a keen eye are necessities—it’s easy to lose the trail, especially at creek crossings.

304.257.4488; fs.usda.gov/mnf/

BEST PLACE TO LEAF PEEP

Canaan Valley

Canaan Valley offers one of the best fall vistas—the leaves glow in hues of gold, amber, and crimson amidst the deep, rich needles of the evergreens. The mountain foliage pops a bit before the rest of the state, so prime leaf peeping season is mid- to late-September. The last full weekend of September, the Leaf Peeper’s Festival in Davis celebrates the temporary burst of color each fall with music, craft shows, a parade, and more.

Leaf Peeper’s Festival; 304.259.5315; canaanvalley.org

BEST NATURAL WONDER

Seneca Rocks

Soaring above the confluence of Seneca Creek and the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River, a series of unique rock outcroppings jut out from the mountain. The view from the valley is great, but if you want to be stunned, you have to get to the top. Rock climbing is an option, but if you like to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, you can hike to the top in a little over a mile on a self-guided interpretative trail.

County Route 28/18, Seneca Rocks, WV 26884; 304.567.2827

 

This & That

Lewisburg

BEST TOWN TO RETIRE

Lewisburg offers its residents the best of both worlds—all the perks of a small town with plenty of opportunities to stay active—making it a prime location for retirement. Downtown offers a variety of restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and cafés, and the surrounding area is a haven for golf enthusiasts. History lurks in every corner, and cultural preservation is at the core of the community. All it takes is one visit to get hooked on Lewisburg’s lively yet laid-back charm.

BEST DOWNTOWN

Lewisburg was named one of the coolest small towns in America by Budget Travel magazine in 2011, and the heartbeat of the city is its vibrant downtown. A stroll down Washington Street yields an eclectic, award-winning assortment of nearly 50 restaurants and cafés, galleries and venues, boutiques and shops—not to mention historical attractions. Grab a latté at The Wild Bean and sip as you explore the antiques, art, and eateries.

Greenbrier Valley Convention and Visitors Bureaul, 200 West Washington Street, Lewisburg, WV 24901; 304.645.1000; greenbrierwv.com

BEST LOCAL NONPROFIT

Read Aloud West Virginia

How do you raise a state full of lifelong readers? Read Aloud West Virginia has assumed responsibility by answering that question with real solutions. This nonprofit recruits and trains volunteers to visit classrooms, daycare centers, and after-school programs to read and instill a love of literature at an early age. Formed in 1987 by a group of parents from Kanawha County, the organization has grown to encompass almost half of West Virginia’s counties.

1700 MacCorkle Avenue, Room 179, Charleston, WV 25314; 304.345.5212; readaloudwestvirginia.org

Morgantown

BEST PLACE TO RAISE KIDS

You may think of Morgantown as a college town, but this thriving community is also a great place to start a family. There are plenty of family-friendly things to do—celebrate curiosity at the Children’s Discovery Museum of West Virginia, enjoy art at The Wow! Factory or one of the many WVU exhibits, go to a WVU sporting event, or spend all day at one of the parks or pools maintained by BOPARC. Add award-winning schools and a low crime rate to the mix and you’ve got a no-brainer.

304.292.5081; tourmorgantown.com

BEST PLACE TO START YOUR CAREER

Consistently hailed as one of the best economies in the nation (Forbes cited it as a Top 10 City for Business and Careers in 2012), Morgantown offers many opportunities for young professionals in fields like health care, technology, and education. The unemployment rate hovers around 5 percent, a number that many economists agree is ideal. The largest employers in Morgantown are the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Mylan Pharmaceuticals, and West Virginia University, but small business is also booming.

City of Morgantown; 304.284.7405; morgantownwv.gov

 

 


 

 

Community & People

BEST LOCAL PHARMACY

Loop Pharmacy and Home Medical

In 1984, Bill McFarland opened a pharmacy with a plan that was a little different. He wanted to take comprehensive, compassionate care one step further by compounding medication, or making it from scratch. This gave him many unique advantages—offering tablets in liquid form, covering bitter tastes, honoring prescriptions for discontinued medication. Loop is the only pharmacy in the area certified for compounding, and that coupled with personal attention to detail makes them a local favorite.

72 6th Avenue, St. Albans, WV 25177; 304.727.2233; looppharmacy.com

BEST LOCAL RADIO STATION

WVAQ

Whether you catch The Kevin Connoley Show in the morning, Katie Richter in the afternoon, Lacy Neff in the evening, or Jason Knight at night, tuning in to WVAQ means hearing the hottest hits with hosts who feel like friends. WVAQ was selected as a Contemporary Hits Radio/Top 40 Station of the Year in 2007 and 2009 by the National Association of Broadcasters.

1251 Earl L. Core Road, Morgantown, WV 26505; 304.296.0029; wvaq.com

BEST LOCAL TV NEWS

WSAZ

WSAZ has been broadcasting for more than 60 years, starting in 1949 when television was a new format. Back then, WSAZ only offered local programming—think local residents singing and dancing. Since 1951, they have been offering the quality news residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio expect. The station’s come a long way since the beginning, when there were only a few hundred TV sets in the area, to their modern broadcasts in high definition to viewers in 33 counties.

645 Fifth Avenue, Huntington, WV 25701; 304.697.4780; wsaz.com

BEST NEWSPAPER

The Charleston Gazette

For more than 100 years, The Charleston Gazette, the state’s largest daily newspaper, has been the state’s leading voice on everything from current affairs to politics to business to sports. Publisher and President Elizabeth Chilton says, “We try to earn this sort of respect by covering all topics important to West Virginians, and by crusading constantly for humane efforts to improve life for average families.”

1001 Virginia Street East, Charleston, WV 25301; 800.982.6397; wvgazette.com

BEST WEST VIRGINIAN

Robert C. Byrd

Highways, schools, research facilities, scholarships—across the state, these and more bear the name of Robert C. Byrd, the late senator who represented West Virginia with a fiery passion for more than half a century. His faithful advocacy resulted in more than a billion dollars of federal funding poured into the infrastructure of the state. His death in 2010 felt like a personal loss to many West Virginians.

 

BEST CELEBRITY

Jennifer Garner

Arguably the most beautiful ambassador West Virginia has ever had, actress Jennifer Garner is an ardent advocate of her home state. She frequently mentions her love for West Virginia —she sang the state song on Conan O’Brien’s show—and Charleston locals are used to seeing her at the shops and restaurants on Capitol Street. In July 2013, she was sighted with hubby Ben Affleck celebrating their anniversary with Pies & Pints and Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream.

 

BEST HOSPITAL - It's a Tie

Charleston Area Medical Center

It’s no surprise the state’s two largest health systems were neck-and-neck in readers’ votes. The Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) Health System is the largest health system in the state, with 838 beds between its three hospitals—CAMC General Hospital, CAMC Memorial Hospital, and CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital. It is home to one of the largest heart programs in the country, the only kidney transplant center in the state, and the highest volume trauma center in the area.

3200 MacCorkle Avenue SE Charleston, WV 25304; 304.388.5432; camc.org

Ruby Memorial Hospital

Nearly 30,000 patients from across the state receive care at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown each year. This year, the largest of the WVU Hospitals celebrates its 25th anniversary as well as its designation as #1 hospital in the state by U.S. News & World Report. Ruby Memorial was also recognized for high performance in 12 specialties, including cancer, cardiology, pulmonology, and neurology.

1 Medical Center Drive Morgantown, WV 26506; 304.598.4000; wvuhealthcare.com

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