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West Virginia Becomes a Travel Destination

New River Gorge National Park


So, what do West Virginia, Serbia, Trondelag County in Norway, Malta, Gabon and Birmingham, Alabama have in common?  They are all on Conde Nast Traveler (CNT) magazine’s list of top 22 places to visit in 2022.

CNT said West Virginia and the 21 other locations were chosen for the best places to visit next year “based on our favorite reasons to travel, from exhilarating food and drink scenes and historic sites to explore, to new places to soak in the great outdoors.”

The magazine’s profile of West Virginia said the “outdoor” category played heavily into the Mountain State’s selection. “Our collective obsession with the outdoors this past year turned out to be fortuitous timing for West Virginia,” said the magazine.

When I interviewed magazine senior editor Megan Spurrell on Talkline Thursday, the first place she mentioned in West Virginia was the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, which received the federal designation earlier this year.

“Over the last year and a half, we’ve all been staying a bit closer to home and rediscovering places right around us and West Virginia is one we got excited about,”  Spurrell said.  “The New River Gorge has become really exciting now that it has become designated as a National Park.”

The Conde Nast Traveler designation is the latest in a series of positive earned media for the West Virginia tourism industry.  Earlier this year, nearly 50 travel writers held their annual meeting at the New River Gorge National Park. Their visit spawned a plethora of stories in travel publications about West Virginia.

Last month, the Washington Post published a story in its real estate section on the benefits of living in the seat of Jefferson County.  “The captivating city of Charles Town, W.Va., 63 miles from Washington, oozes history,” reporter Vicky Moon wrote.

The story reported on how Charles Town was a charming community with reasonably priced housing, all within commuting distance of the city.

Meanwhile, West Virginia is making investments in its popular state parks, which are on pace to attract 10 million visitors this year, three-million more than any of the previous 20 years.  The state is trying to improve visitors’ experiences by making needed upgrades.

Earlier this year the Legislature approved Governor Jim Justice’s proposal to spend $42 million in budget surplus funds on state park improvement and expansion.  Those improvements include 230 new campsites, which will help meet the increasing demand.

Those of us who live here, grew up here, or moved here have always known of the state’s spectacular natural beauty, as well as the ever-increasing outdoor recreational opportunities.  But we have rarely been viewed by travelers and tourists from other places as a destination.

That is changing, and we are just beginning to see the benefits.

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