20 Interesting And Fun Facts About West Virginia [Explained]

Please note that some posts may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission should you choose to purchase using these links but at absolutely no extra cost to you.

Nestled among the picturesque Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia is a hidden gem in the United States. From vibrant cities to charming small towns, West Virginia captivates with its unique blend of scenic landscapes, historic landmarks, and interesting local traditions. There are many fascinating facts about West Virginia, where natural splendor and rich history converge.

Quick Statistics And Facts About West Virginia

  • Capital: Charleston
  • Population: 1.783 million (40th Most Populous State in the U.S) 
  • Land Area: 24,038 mi² / 62,259 km² (41st Largest in the U.S) 
  • Nickname: The Mountain State
  • Abbreviation: WV 
  • Statehood: June 20, 1863 (35th U.S State) 
  • State Bird: Northern Cardinal
  • State Flower: Rhododendron

Historical Facts About West Virginia

West Virginia Broke Off From Virginia During The Civil War

As you can guess from the name, a rather evident fact about West Virginia is that it was once part of Virginia. It wasn’t until the American Civil War that West Virginia broke off from Virginia and was officially accepted as the 35th state of the United States on June 20, 1863. Political and geographical issues, particularly slavery, fueled this division. 

County districts in western Virginia, with less reliance on slavery as well as contrasting economic and cultural traits, disagreed with secession. The Wheeling Convention established a Reorganized Government in Virginia, which declared secession illegal. After legal challenges and voters’ approval, West Virginia officially formed as a separate state.

The Greenbriar Resort Has Significant History In Regards To WW2

The Greenbrier, a luxurious and significant resort located in White Sulphur Springs, has an intriguing history. During World War II, the U.S. government chose the resort as an internment center for diplomats from Axis countries. 

From 1942 to 1945, it was changed into “Ashford General Hospital” and provided comfortable living quarters for the diplomats and their families under tight surveillance. The decision to use The Greenbrier for this purpose stemmed from requirements to protect these important personnel during wartime. That legacy contributes to its attraction and reputation today.

George Washington’s Brothers Played A Role In The States History

George Washington’s brothers, Charles and Samuel, contributed to the establishment of estates and towns in present-day West Virginia. Charles Washington built the Happy Retreat estate, in 1780 and set aside land for the creation of Charles Town, founded in 1786. Samuel Washington constructed Harewood, an estate where James Madison and Dolley Payne Todd were married in 1794. 

These estates and towns, including Charles Town, have endured and hold historical significance in West Virginia’s history. George Washington surveyed the region as a young man and acquired land in present-day Berkeley County. 

The Greenbriar Was Also Important During The Cold War

Another cool fact about West Virginia and The Greenbriar Resort is that during the Cold War, there was a hidden underground bunker beneath it. Starting in 1958 and completed in 1961, the top-secret bunker was designed as an emergency relocation site for the U.S. Congress in case of a nuclear war. The facility remained on constant alert, equipped with supplies, communication systems, and living quarters. 

However, the Washington Post exposed the bunker’s existence in 1992, leading to its decommissioning. Today, the bunker is open to the public for tours, offering a glimpse into the secretive world of Cold War preparations.

The Coal Mining Industry Witnessed Labor Movements And Strikes

The coal mining industry in West Virginia witnessed significant labor movements and strikes in the early 20th century. Miners faced harsh working conditions and organized labor unions to fight for better rights. The Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921 became a historic event as one of the largest armed labor uprisings in U.S. history. 

Thousands of coal miners clashed with coal operators and law enforcement agencies in a bid for improved pay and working conditions. Although the miners did not achieve all their immediate goals, the battle raised awareness about the issues.

Cultural Facts About West Virginia

The Appalachian Region Influenced The State Culture

A well-known fact about West Virginia is that they embrace a strong sense of community, close-knit relationships, and a willingness to help one another. The state’s natural beauty fosters a deep appreciation for nature, leading to activities like hiking and gardening. Music plays a significant role, with a rich Appalachian folk music and storytelling heritage. 

Resourcefulness and self-sufficiency are prized, reflecting the historical isolation of the region. Faith and religion are integral to Appalachian culture, and a resilient spirit pervades, with pride in the heritage and traditions that shape the state’s identity.

Square Dancing Holds A Cherished Place In The Cultural Landscapes

The spirited “hoedowns” accompanying this dance form bring community members together in a hearty, joyful environment. Regardless of age or skill level, anyone can soak in the fun and entertaining atmosphere established by these festive gatherings. 

By continuing to host and participate in traditional square dancing, residents can pass down their cultural heritage. They also enjoy the live music and movement indicative of West Virginia’s lively social scene.

Coal Mining’s Influence Has Affected The State’s History, Culture, And Economy 

People have formed strong social connections due to living and working together in coal mining towns. You will find plenty of art and literature highlighting the difficulties miners have faced and their strength and perseverance. 

Coal mining remains a major source of income for West Virginia’s residents; generations have been employed in this industry.

Unions are an important part of the region’s labor history, with industrial action taken to safeguard worker rights since the beginning. As the energy landscape shifts, the state faces challenges transitioning from relying on coal while preserving its legacy and cultural significance.

West Virginian Cuisine Is Renowned For Its Hearty And Comforting Dishes, Reflecting The Background And Resourcefulness

Staples like ramps (wild onions), pepperoni rolls, apple butter, and cornbread showcase the unique flavors and culinary traditions. Ramps add a distinct garlicky taste to various recipes, while pepperoni rolls are an iconic local creation originating from the coal mining era. Apple butter, made through a communal process, offers a rich and caramelized spread for bread and pastries. 

Cornbread serves as a versatile side dish, embodying the practicality and simplicity of Appalachian food. West Virginia foods celebrate the cultural heritage of the state through their flavors.

West Virginia Celebrations Are Full Of Life, Allowing People To Come Together And Enjoy The State’s Heritage

Examples of these events include the State Fair of West Virginia, the Mountain State Forest Festival, and the West Virginia Strawberry Festival, all with activities like farming, music, artistry, and handcrafted objects. Jamboree in the Hills invites country music lovers from near and far.

During the wintertime, there are also festive light displays at Oglebay Resort for their special festival. All these festivities promote community spirit and protect heritage values while offering a chance for locals to express their customs with pride and joy.

Simple Facts About West Virginia For Kids

The Green Bank Telescope (GBT) In Green Bank, West Virginia, Is The World’s Largest Fully Steerable Telescope

Standing 485 feet tall and weighing nearly 17 million pounds, it boasts a collecting area of 2.3 acres. The GBT serves various scientific purposes, including radar, astronomy, chemistry, and physics. It aids in radar research, observes celestial bodies, and contributes to astrochemistry studies. 

With its immense size and advanced technology, the GBT is a vital tool for scientists and researchers, enabling them to gather valuable data and deepen our understanding of the universe.

Anna Jarvis, A Woman from Philadelphia, Created Mother’s Day 

In 1907, Anna Jarvis, a woman from Philadelphia, organized a day to commemorate her mother, who had dedicated herself to building a supportive community for women and promoting friendship. Interestingly, the first Mother’s Day celebration occurred as a church service in West Virginia, where Jarvis’ mother lived. 

People all over America supported the idea, which led to the national celebration of this occasion, which is now a well-known tradition around the world. Another fun fact about West Virginia, you know, is that it claims the honor of being the birthplace of the initial Mother’s Day ceremonial event.

The Coal House in Williamson Is Constructed Only From Coal

Coal is one of the many things West Virginia is known for, so it makes sense they have monuments designated to celebrate its history. The Coal House in Williamson, West Virginia, is a one-of-a-kind structure constructed entirely from 65 tons of coal in 1933. It serves as the town’s chamber of commerce and attracts tourists due to its unique design and historical significance. 

In 2010, the building experienced a devastating fire that resulted in significant damage. However, the Coal House was rebuilt the following year, ensuring its preservation. This distinctive landmark is a testament to the region’s coal mining heritage.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads,” The Iconic Song By John Denver, Has Become The State Song 

The song, released in 1971, captures Denver’s deep connection and affection for the state. Its sentimental lyrics and memorable melody have struck a chord with West Virginians and people worldwide. 

In 2014, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was officially recognized as one of West Virginia’s state symbols, alongside songs like “This is My West Virginia” and “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home.” This designation solidifies the song’s status as a cherished anthem that embodies the love and pride of West Virginia.

Natural Features Define The Borders With Neighboring States

The Ohio River and the Appalachian Mountains serve as prominent natural boundaries, separating West Virginia from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. These geographic features contribute to the state’s scenic beauty and rugged terrain. In the southwest, the Big Sandy River and the Tug Fork River create a natural border with Kentucky. 

These natural borders demarcate the state’s boundaries and shape its landscape, culture, and identity. Another interesting fact about West Virginia is that its natural borders highlight its mountainous character and offer a glimpse into its rich natural heritage.

Useful Facts About West Virginia For Travelers

West Virginia Captivates Travelers With Its Stunning Natural Beauty

Nestled within the Appalachian Mountains, the state offers breathtaking landscapes of rolling hills, dense forests, and picturesque valleys. Visitors can immerse themselves in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and whitewater rafting. With a kaleidoscope of colors during the fall season, the foliage transforms into a picturesque wonderland. 

Majestic landmarks like Blackwater Falls and Seneca Rocks add to the state’s allure. Whether hiking along scenic trails, camping in tranquil surroundings, or braving whitewater rapids, West Virginia’s natural wonders provide an unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts.

West Virginia Offers Something for Everyone

The state’s many parks, forests, and wildlife management areas give nature lovers a plethora of outdoor experiences to explore. Hikers can traverse the Appalachian Trail, while anglers can fish in its vibrant waterways. Hunters will love all the games available here, and birdwatchers will revel in the amazing avian population. 

Activities like mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, and camping also cater to adventure seekers. West Virginia’s natural beauty beckons outdoor lovers to immerse themselves in its awe-inspiring landscapes.

Poor Cellphone Reception Is Common In West Virginia 

One of the more inconvenient facts about West Virginia that all visitors should know is that poor cell reception may be experienced due to the state’s mountainous landscape. We recommend planning and having alternative navigation methods ready to prevent any disruption in navigation. This includes printing maps and directions or downloading GPS systems onto your device before departure. 

Being prepared with such resources will guarantee a more enjoyable trip, even in areas without strong cellular coverage. 

Be Careful What You Call Locals

As a traveler to West Virginia, you might be tempted to make an assumption or throw stereotypes at the locals and give them labels such as “rednecks” or “hillbillies.” For obvious reasons, the locals would be offended if they overheard someone calling them those names. Instead, they should be known as Mountaineers, proudly exhibiting their distinct identity and loyalty towards the region. 

Individuals in West Virginia are noted for their amicability, willingness to help, and fondness for where they were born and raised. It is one of the proud facts of West Virginia people.

Harper’s Ferry Is An Experience Like No Other

Situated where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet, this quaint town has a captivating atmosphere of history and natural beauty that makes it especially charming. Vibrant green landscapes fade into the background of majestic mountains, creating a scene worthy of an idyllic postcard. 

From exploring centuries-old buildings to taking in all the historical significance, a visit to Harper’s Ferry will provide an unforgettable blend of culture and scenery for everyone who visits.

Discovering More Facts About West Virginia

West Virginia is a captivating destination that seamlessly merges natural beauty, cultural heritage, and warm hospitality. From the vibrant cities like Charleston and Morgantown to the charming small towns that dot the landscape, West Virginia charms visitors with its unique blend of scenic wonders, historical landmarks, and friendly communities. 

With its stunning vistas and fascinating facts about West Virginia, it is truly a treasure to be explored and cherished.



Book Your Flight

I usually use a combination of 2-3 of the following search engines to find cheap flights: Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights

Find Your Accommodation

Booking.com is my usual platform for finding accommodation options as they have one of the largest selections. Hostelworld is great for booking hostels. For more private or long term accommodation, Airbnb is my go-to platform.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important for to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. I usually look at a few insurance companies depending on my travel needs.
  • SafetyWings for Travel Health Insurance
  • IMG Global for added Insurance when doing activities outside of usual coverage
Packing for your trip? Check out the packing list for ideas on what to bring

For more travel resources, check out my resources page for best platforms and companies to use when you travel.

More Adventures


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


other stories