Mission: Family Vacation
Destination: Greater Parkersburg in West Virginia
Total Number of Must See Spots: Infinite … but, fine, if you’re making us narrow it down, it’s definitely these five …
1. North Bend State Park
North Bend State Park has a wide variety of outdoor activities and adventures ranging from mild to wild. It’s the perfect destination for friends and families who love the natural world (that’s everyone, right?).
We’re not saying you have to spend an entire week here to enjoy it to its fullest, but with miles of hiking and biking trails in the park, the adjacent 74 mile long North Bend Rail Trail, and North Bend State Park Lake and its water related activities … well, you just may want to stay the week!
So maybe you love the idea of new outdoor activities, but have been hesitant to jump in (we’re not calling you a chicken, we totally get it).
Enter North Bend’s QUEST Program.
QUEST provides a fantastic way for a person (or couple or family or…well, you get it) to try new outdoor experiences while learning new skills under the guidance of an experienced teacher. QUEST experiences include backcountry camping, people-powered paddle sports (like canoeing and kayaking), mountain biking, backpacking, hiking, yoga, navigation, nature interpretation, and more!
Did we mention the park has camping, lodge, and cabin options, too? They can accommodate everyone from hard-core camping enthusiasts to those who want a nice cozy room or cabin at the end of the day (looking at you, glampers). The near-by towns of Harrisville and Cairo offer interesting side trips featuring quaint shops and attractions.
North Bend State Park could be your whole vacation (and we definitely understand if you do it that way), but we’re just getting started …
2. Henderson Hall
Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, The Henderson Hall Plantation served as home to five generations of the prominent Henderson family. Deeply rooted in American history, the Hendersons had links to George Washington, and they played a key role in thwarting the Aaron Burr plot to secede from the nation. Since you’re not royalty and thus can’t afford Hamilton tickets for the whole family, this is the perfect way to get your American history on (rap battles not provided). (Side note: if you are royalty, let’s talk.)
The River Road Henderson mansion—which is a 29-room perfectly preserved Victorian-era Italianate style home—stands on a terrace overlooking the Ohio River. Also located on the property is a primary school house where the children would have studied, as well as a ceremonial Indian mound.
Throughout the year, events are held on the property and include an Antique Car Show in May and Civil War reenactments in June (Oh, you thought Southerners reenacting wars was just a cliché? Silly you).
3. Holl’s Chocolate
A must stop for any traveler with a sweet tooth (raises hand), Holl’s has specialized in creating traditional Swiss Chocolates since 1986. They draw on the expertise of three generations of Swiss-trained chocolatiers (that’s legit, y’all), and the family still imports ingredients from Switzerland for the most authentic taste possible.
With over 30 different chocolates and seasonal items, there is something for everyone at Holl’s. Wait, what’s that? You want all 30? No judgement here.
4. The Smoot Theatre
A gorgeous historic theatre in the heart of downtown Parkersburg, The Smoot was originally built in 1926 as a vaudeville house. It was purchased by Warner Brothers in 1930, and converted into a movie theater, which is what it acted as for the next 50 years. This beautifully restored theatre is home to all kinds of music, live theater, one-man shows, lectures, conferences, and more. Click here to see what’s going on now.
5. Blennerhassett Island State Park
Before your visit to the Island, start at the Blennerhassett Museum. Its extensive collection sets the stage for your journey and provides a window into life here on America’s first frontier: the beautiful and dangerous Ohio River.
Take a ride back in time aboard the graceful sternwheel paddle boat Island Belle to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. Here, you can tour the historically accurate re-creation of a mansion that became known in the early 19th century as “Eden on the River”. And to really drive the history lesson home, listen to the tale of the star-crossed Irish aristocrats whose world came crashing down after they became involved with Aaron Burr and his infamous plan. Ya’ know the one that was called treason by President Thomas Jefferson.
After you visit the mansion, take a narrated tour of the island on one of the horse-drawn covered wagons. Or, if biking is more your thing, rent one and explore on your own.
With its amazing history and unique island setting, Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park is a one-of-a-kind destination.