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Enjoying a boat trip on Summersville Lake in West Virginia
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Views of the dramatic forested cliffs surrounding Summersville Lake in West Virginia
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The West Virginia State Capitol building in Charleston
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Browsing Taylor Books in Charleston, West Virginia
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Live on the Levee open-air weekly concert in Charleston, West Virginia
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A local band performing at Live on the Levee in Charleston, West Virginia
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Dining at Lola’s in Charleston, West Virginia
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  • States:
    West Virginia

As we are driving along leisurely, the road curves through a gorgeous hilly West Virginia landscape. Soon, a turn reveals Summersville Lake with its crystal-clear water and dramatic cliffs right in front of us.

You can hardly imagine nature more majestic than this. Only hours later I find myself sitting at an open-air concert among hundreds of locals at the waterfront in the city of Charleston amid festive dancing. This is West Virginia, a place where nature and one-of-a-kind experiences are abundant.

Summersville Lake: Shining Jewel Among the Lush Green Forest

“Many people don’t know it yet, but their favorite color is green,” says Steve, who together with his wife Donna runs Summersville Lake Retreat and Lighthouse, one of the many wonderful accommodation options in West Virginia’s mountains. I step out on the lighthouse’s observation deck and marvel at the stunning scenery below: green hills as far as the eye can see and glistening amidst it all is Summersville Lake. It may not help ships find their way to the coast, but the lighthouse does serve as beacon for passing airplanes. It‘s also a big attraction for visitors thanks to its unforgettable views and unique location in the mountains.

Back on the Retreat grounds, you can stay among idyllic surroundings with easy access to the lake. Summersville Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. Its comfortable temperatures mean there are many ways to enjoy it such as fishing, swimming, scuba diving and more.

Touring the lighthouse at Summersville Lake Retreat and Lighthouse

Touring the lighthouse at Summersville Lake Retreat and Lighthouse
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Kanawha State Forest: Recreational Paradise at the Doorsteps of the Capital

From West Virginia’s capital city Charleston, you don’t have to go far to enjoy authentic nature at its best: Kanawha State Forest is only a few minutes from downtown Charleston via car. It welcomes visitors with 14 designated hiking trails and 9 trails especially for mountain biking. I love watching people relax and recharge at the many picnic stations, enjoying family time over a good meal.

Cycling through Kanahwa State Forest

Cycling through Kanahwa State Forest
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Charleston: Culture, History and Trendy Fun

The draw of West Virginia’s capital is a mix of small-town charm with a vibrant art and culinary scene. A leisurely walk through its historic downtown is a must. I planned mine so I could end up on Capitol Street, where I listened to street artists and sampled the legendary cold treats of Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream. While there, hop across the street to Taylor Books which not only hosts a hip bookshop but also a lovely café to lounge and a gallery featuring local art. I was especially taken by the work of local artist Charles Jupiter Hamilton whose distinctive art can be found all over Charleston: not just in galleries, but on walls, shop windows and restaurant menus.

In terms of restaurants, Charleston offers everything from down-to-earth eateries to fancy gourmet spots. I went to Lola’s, a cozy restaurant only few minutes from downtown. Here, you can dine with friends under lanterns and lush trees and enjoy farm-to-table cuisine. My visit to Charleston ended on a high note: watching the sunset over the Kanawha River while listening to music and mingling with locals at the Live on the Levee open-air concert. It takes place every Friday night between late May and early September.

It’s this mix of warm hospitality, fascinating art and culture, as well as breathtaking natural beauty that makes West Virginia a truly special and off-the-beaten-path destination. I for one can highly recommend it.

A farm-to-table salad at Lola’s in Charleston

A farm-to-table salad at Lola’s in Charleston
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