John Denver sang, “Almost heaven, West Virginia.” Tucked in the Appalachian Mountains, this state is a lush playground prime for outdoor fun, exploration, and unforgettable experiences to share with a loved one. Pair any of these four West Virginia experience gifts with a heartfelt card, and you’ve got yourself a match made in (almost) heaven.
1. Give adventure
If you’re in search of the perfect gift for an adventure-lover, look no further than white-water rafting on the rapids that run through West Virginia. Although some bodies of water in the area are calm and offer an ideal introduction to the sport for beginners, the 105-mile-long Gauley River that flows through the state was named one of the top nine best white-water rafting experiences in the US by Fodors.com. Marked by more than 100 rapids and beautiful scenery, rafting along the Gauley River is considered a rewarding challenge. Outfitters such as River Expeditions and ACE Adventure Resort offer white-water rafting trip packages that make a thrilling gift experience for anyone ready to take on the rapids.
2. Give flavor
Devouring delicious food is undoubtedly an experience in itself. Try a taste of West Virginia and dig into the state’s staple snack, the pepperoni roll, which is exactly what it sounds like—a pillowy bread roll enveloping savory, slightly spicy slices of pepperoni. Country Club Bakery, in Fairmont, is where it all started. Coal miner Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro created the delicacy in the 1920s, and in 1927, he opened up Country Club Bakery, where they still bake the rolls fresh daily. You can order these addictive treats online by the dozen from Country Club Bakery and ship them to anywhere in the US. It’s the perfect way to share the flavor of West Virginia.
3. Give views
The Mountain State boasts tens of thousands of acres of natural beauty and outdoor space ripe for adventure. The Seneca State Forest, in Dunmore, is West Virginia’s oldest state forest and offers campgrounds, hunting, and fishing at its four-acre lake. For breathtaking 360-degree views and a truly unique experience, rent the room at the top of the 65-foot-tall Thorny Mountain Fire Tower, overlooking the surrounding trees and mountains that pepper the forest’s 11,000-plus acres. The tower—which has room for four people and is listed in the National Historic Lookout Register—became available for overnight rental after its renovation in 2015 by the state’s Division of Natural Resources. This experience gift would be perfect for a romantic couples’ mountain escape or a fun getaway with friends and family.
4. Give tours
West Virginia offers plenty of opportunities to tour historic places, whether your gift recipient is passionate about architecture, intrigued by natural formations, or interested in the state’s coal mining past.
The Bramwell Christmas Tour of Homes happens each December on the second Saturday of the month. A self-guided tour costs $15 and includes access to select mansions in Bramwell, formerly the stomping grounds of the most millionaires per capita of any US city thanks to its coal mining history. The quaint town is a scenic mix of old-fashioned charm (indulge in a soft drink from the antique soda fountain at The Corner Shop) and impressive Tudor-style mansions.
If you’d rather explore below ground, gift your loved one a self-guided tour of Lost World Caverns. The half-mile loop takes visitors 120 feet below ground, where it’s always a brisk 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Enjoy perusing otherworldly formations such as the Bridal Veil, a shimmering calcite column, and the Snowy Chandelier, said to be one of the country’s biggest stalactites weighing in at 30 tons.
For more underground adventure, check out the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, a formerly operational mine that is now open for tours. You and your giftee can ride down into the mine for a 35-minute tour that offers an up-close and personal look into the state’s coal mining past. And bonus—the guides are former miners, so you’ll get to hear firsthand about the life of a coal miner.
Keep this list of West Virginia experience gift ideas handy for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas presents, graduation gifts, or those days when you just want to treat yourself to an experience in (almost) heaven on Earth.