Awestruck at Oglebay
Oglebay Resort in Wheeling offers rest and recreation amid luxurious accommodation.
Most tours of Wheeling, begin or end somewhere inside the 1,700-plus acres of Oglebay Park, which—as locals are proud to point out—is the largest self-sustained municipal park of its kind in the country. Oglebay offers many year-round diversions—trails, museums, theaters, fine dining, a spa, ski slopes, a planetarium, a zoo, golf, and the Winter Festival of Lights—and nestled in the heart of the park, just off Route 88, is Oglebay’s 271-room Wilson Lodge.
The resort itself is the result of a tradition started more than 100 years ago at the summer estate of Earl W. Oglebay in Wheeling. For generations, families have visited the resort. A mixture of indoor and outdoor activities makes Oglebay popular throughout the year. As you might expect, the busiest month is June, but Wilson Lodge is also packed in December, as part of the immensely popular six-mile Festival of Lights, which runs November through early January. Listed as one of the “10 Best Christmas Light Displays in the U.S.” by AOL Travel, the Festival of Lights is one of West Virginia’s most popular holiday attractions. Cars and buses from around the country travel to Wheeling each year to tour more than 300 acres of lights in the shapes of reindeer, snowflakes, and even the Peanuts crew, but patrons of Wilson Lodge can see many of those lights from the comfort of their own balconies.
For years, Rocky Burks brought his family from out of state to see the Festival of Lights, and each year he’d catch a glimpse of Wilson Lodge and wonder what it would be like to “live” in the light display. “My children would always ask me what that big building was next to all of the lit-up gingerbread houses, and they had a hard time believing me when I said it was a place where people could stay the night,” he says. “One year I finally bit the bullet and reserved a few rooms overlooking part of the display. You would have thought I had given my children their very own tickets to the North Pole. It’s been a few years since we last stayed there, but they still call the light show ‘our lights’ whenever they see them on TV.”
At Wilson Lodge, anyone can enjoy the comforts of Oglebay Resort—from the in-room fireplace to a massage at the spa or a dip in the pool or Jacuzzi. Parents with children who love trains should proceed with caution—some kids have been known to spend hours riding the tracks around the 30-acre zoo and watching the 1,200-square-foot model train exhibit, named “one of the country’s best O-Gauge layouts” by O Gauge Railroading magazine.
Families or groups may also consider renting one of Oglebay’s many cottages, most of which are a short distance from Wilson Lodge, so its benefits can still be enjoyed even if a little closer to nature. That being said, “rustic” does not describe these beauties. “I only wish my own home were this nice,” is a line frequently heard from guests who stay here for family reunions, graduation parties, or weekend getaways. Oglebay also has four Estate Houses available that feature larger, even more exquisite accommodations. Although these facilities are commonly used for executive retreats, they could turn any average vacation into a first-class escape.
For Daniel Lacher and his family, discovering Oglebay on their way home to Oklahoma from Massachusetts was an accident that started an annual tradition. “Although it’s a little embarrassing to admit it now,” he laughs, “we first saw Oglebay after making a wrong turn off the highway. At the time we were just looking for a place to turn around.” Oglebay’s charm drew them deeper into the park. “We just had to get a better look,” Daniel says. Before they knew it, they were spending the night in Wilson Lodge. “That one night quickly turned into two,” he says, as he, his wife, Katrina, and their two children (Finn and Luna), kept finding reasons to extend their stay. “We’ve made it a point to stay at Oglebay each year during our annual cross-country trip. The kids can’t wait to play at the park and go to the zoo, while Katrina and I look forward to our annual hike around the lake and dinner overlooking the forest.”
For many people, the resort feels a lot like home, except the yard is much more exciting. From the patriotic pyrotechnics in July to the holiday lights in December, the accommodations at Oglebay provide the best seats—and beds—in town.
Oglebay Resort & Conference Center, 465 Lodge Drive, Wheeling, WV 26003; 304.243.4090