Bridge the Gorge and More: Best Things to Do in West Virginia with Kids

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New River Gorge National Park. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

West Virginia is almost heaven – you know how the song goes. If your idea of excellent summer fun is lots of time spent outdoors, then the Mountaineer State is for you. With beautiful rivers, scenic mountains and hiking trails of all levels, there’s plenty of outdoor adventure here to make a family-friendly getaway that keeps everyone outside in the fresh air.  

West Virginia with kids is wild and wonderful and makes the perfect family vacation. Here are some of the fun things you can do.

New River Gorge National Park

Active families will enjoy an adventure vacation in and around New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Explore the Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center to learn about the history of the park and the area. There’s a great interpretive center, a theater, a well-stocked gift shop with tons of books and a porch with scenic overlooks and possibly the best view of the river from above.

Read More: Ultimate Guide to the Best Hotels in Beckley WV – near the New River Gorge

the bow of a whitewater raft heading into a rapid on the New River in West Virginia
Heading into our first rapid on the New River. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

Adventures on the Gorge – Whitewater rafting and more

Adventures on the Gorge is an outdoor recreation resort located inside the park near the small town of Fayetteville, West Virginia. Fayetteville is about an hour’s drive from Charleston. The resort offers cabins, campsites and restaurants, as well as a full section of recreational activities. Adventures on the Gorge is located near the New River and Gauley River, so it is no surprise that world-class whitewater rafting is the featured activity, but there are other activities offered as well, such as rock climbing and a treetops canopy zipline adventure.

Family on the New River Bridge Walk
The New River Bridge Walk. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

Take the walk of your life on the New River Bridge

The New River Gorge Bridge Walk might seem like a slightly terrifying experience. That’s because it’s a one-mile trek across a catwalk that runs 25 feet under the New River Bridge, also known as the Capital Bridge. You’re about 800 feet up in the air, walking along a 24-inch wide catwalk. You’re harnessed in, so the activity is safe. 

Explore Beckley, West Virginia

Beckley is seven miles southwest of New River Gorge National Park. The most popular activities in Beckley are the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, which tells the story of the mining history in West Virginia, and the Tamarack, a showcase of Appalachian arts and crafts.

Read More: 12 West Virginia State Parks the Locals Love


West Virginia’s capital city has museums, restaurants and more.

The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences

The Clay Center is all things art and culture. The complex includes an art museum, a planetarium, a discovery museum and a venue for musical performances.

Tour the State Capitol Building

Take a self-guided or formal tour of the state capitol building and grounds. Tours of the Governor’s Mansion may also be available, but space is limited, so call first.

Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry is full of history, rich in culture,and overflowing with experiences. Situated at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, this spot showcases some of the best views the Mountain State has to offer. Explore the streets of this town while making your way through some key moments of early American history. Experience exquisite dining, locally owned shops and extraordinary museums.

Take in the natural beauty of West Virginia by visiting “The Point,” where you can gaze upon the two rivers and three states below. Another stellar vista view can be seen from the steps of the historic St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church atop Harpers Ferry. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park gives access to endless adventures such as hiking, biking, rock climbing and fishing. Stop by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitors Center to learn about one of the world’s most popular hiking trails. Or check out River Riders, an adventure resort offering ziplining, whitewater rafting, an aerial adventure park and an array of other activities that make for the perfect family day.


Find yourself in cooler temperatures and at higher altitudes when in the charming mountain town of Davis. This slice of Almost Heaven is perched at 3,100 feet, making it the highest incorporated town in the state. Although a tiny town, Davis is perfectly positioned on the edge of the Monongahela National Forest, making it a gateway to West Virginia’s abundance of natural beauty and outdoor recreation.

Blackwater Falls State Park

Home to Blackwater Falls State Park, you are guaranteed to feel refreshed by the mist of this 57-foot, cascading natural wonder. Spend your days in the park hiking trails leading to jaw-dropping overlooks, chasing wonderful waterfalls, biking the mountains, fishing, camping or even geocaching.

Tucked within the park, you’ll also discover a few stops on the West Virginia Waterfall Trail. Find  Appalachian Mountains-inspired restaurants and unique shops dotting the short yet charming streets. Stay overnight in the newly renovated lodge or nestled within the woods in a personal, cozy cabin


Home to West Virginia University, this mountain town continues to grow rapidly while still giving the authentic West Virginia, small-town feel. Here you’re sure to find fun for the whole family.

Gardens and Hiking Trails

Explore an oasis of magical gardens and hiking trails featuring rhododendron, butterflies, hemlocks and more at the West Virginia Botanic Garden. Trek paths that cross streams, circle wetlands and lead visitors through an ever-changing collection of beautiful gardens.

Coopers Rock State Forest

Coopers Rock State Forest boasts some of the most iconic views in the state and is chock full of family-friendly activities. Most popular is the main overlook, which gives way to expansive views of the Cheat River Gorge below. This park also features historical sites, picnic shelters, 50 miles of trails and sandstone cliffs for climbing and bouldering.


Home to the West Virginia State Fair, Lewisburg offers a variety of family-friendly activity options.

Take a cave tour at Lost World Caverns

Take a guided tour and discover the vast wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites that hides 120 feet below the Earth’s surface at Lost World Caverns. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, wild cave tours provide the more adventurous explorers an opportunity to go beyond the standard walking tour and discover undeveloped parts of the cavern.

All the Outdoor Adventure You Can Handle at Nearby Snowshoe Mountain

Snowshoe Mountain is a multi-season outdoor sports lover’s paradise. Enjoy activities such as kayaking, non-motorized boating and standup paddle boarding. If you’re into mountain biking, try your hand – and your wheels – at Snowshoe Mountain’s legendary bike park. And, as the name suggests, you’ll be able to find winter sports options at Snowshoe Mountain.


From the sprawling Oglebay Resort to unique museums, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Wheeling.

Oglebay Resort

Oglebay Resort has golf, a spa and lots of family-friendly outdoor activities, such as picnic areas, playgrounds, pedal boats and more.

Oglebay Good Zoo

Home to 68 species of animals, 20 of which are rare or endangered, the Good Zoo is the only zoo in West Virginia accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

West Virginia’s Scenic Train Rides

Witness West Virginia’s natural beauty against the backdrop of sunny skies on a scenic train ride this summer. Sit back, relax and enjoy time with your family – the sound of vintage diesels is an excitement to adventurers of any age.

Visit Romney for an excursion on the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad. Make sure to watch for American bald eagles when passing through the Trough, one of the train’s most iconic and scenic spots. Have your pick of a full or half-day trip or even be served a premium homemade meal.

Travel back in time to the days when locomotives were a primary source of transportation with a trip to Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. Take in the rich history with a journey along the 11-mile railroad that leads guests through some of the state’s most popular attractions. A multitude of mountain rail adventures begins at Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad. Board the New Tygart Flyer for a 48-mile round trip or the Castaway Caboose for an overnight journey.

Jill Robbins is a freelance writer covering lifestyle, travel, health, and commerce. Her writing has appeared in SheKnows, HuffPost, Tripsavvy, Insider, AARP, and other publications. Jill lives in San Antonio with her husband and two youngest kids, although she’s usually somewhere else. You can find out what Jill is up to by reading her blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.
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