Since its opening in 1928, this grand Beaux-Arts theater has played a vital role in Wheeling's economy and image. Support from local donors and a $200,000 Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Service helped the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation bring the Capitol Music Hall back to life.
The theater, reopened in 2009, lures today’s theater-goers to historic Wheeling with the elegance and grandeur of the 1920s. The theater is home to the legendary Jamboree USA, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, and other theatrical and dance groups.
West Virginia's beautiful mountain areas afford fine recreational opportunities. Favorite sports include fishing and hunting. The state also has winter sports areas for skiing, tobogganing, and ice skating. Mineral springs, principally those at White Sulphur Springs and Berkeley Springs, have attracted visitors since colonial times.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has been the backdrop to several themes of American history. The city developed as an important transportation crossroads, and it was here in 1859 that abolitionist John Brown led a raid on a national armory and arsenal in the hopes of securing weapons for slaves he was certain would then rise in rebellion.
Set amidst striking scenery, many of the buildings in the town are part of the national park. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park preserves another transportation facility important during the country's early development. In addition to many of the canal's original structures, the old towpath provides a nearly level trail through spectacular scenery along the Potomac River on West Virginia's border with Maryland.
Several stretches of West Virginia's rivers have been set aside for recreation or to preserve their beauty. Under supervision of the National Park Service are the Gauley River National Recreation Area, the New River Gorge National River, and the Bluestone National Scenic River.
National and State Forests:
The federal government administers three national forests in West Virginia that have facilities for outdoor recreation. Monongahela National Forest includes Spruce Knob. George Washington National Forest, which is shared with Virginia, includes part of the Appalachian Trail. A small part of Jefferson National Forest, most of which is also in Virginia, is located in Monroe County.
Most of the nine state forests have facilities for outdoor activities. The largest, Cooper's Rock State Forest, covers a large expanse on Cheat Mountain. Kumbrabow State Forest in east central West Virginia features a skyline drive over Point Mountain.
West Virginia's state parks system, regarded as one of the finest in the nation, had its beginnings in 1929 with the establishment of Droop Mountain State Park, which includes the site of one of the major Civil War battles fought in the state. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Services during the Great Depression in the 1930s, West Virginia began to capitalize upon its abundance of scenic locations and historic sites through the development of a system of state parks and vacation areas.
The largest of the state parks is Watoga State Park, which includes Brooks Memorial Arboretum. Blackwater Falls State Park, in northeastern West Virginia, offers year-round recreation. The park includes a wooded canyon into which the Blackwater River drops 19 m (63 ft). Babcock State Park is a rugged area providing scenic views along the spectacular New River Canyon. The great forest at Cathedral State Park has been entered in the National Registry of Natural History Landmarks. The stand of virgin hemlock and hardwoods constitutes one of the most accessible stands of old growth forest in North America.
Grave Creek Mound is noted for the Adena burial mounds. Not only is it the largest example of construction by the Native American Mound Builders civilization, but it is the largest conical type of such structures. On November 6, 1863, the largest Civil War engagement of West Virginia's history occurred on Droop Mountain Battlefield, a mountain plateau overlooking the Greenbrier Valley. Part of the battlefield is restored and marked for visitors, and a small museum contains Civil War artifacts. One of the most interesting of the historical parks is Blennerhassett Island, located in the Ohio River a short distance below Parkersburg. The island is the site where it was alleged former Vice-President Aaron Burr and Harman Blennerhassett conspired in 1805 to seize land in the Southwest to create a new republic. Visitors reach the island, which features Blennerhassett's elegant mansion, by way of a sternwheeler.
West Virginia has a number of state monuments. Morgan Monument at Bunker Hill marks the site traditionally considered the first settlement in the state. In Shepherdstown, Rumsey Memorial Monument commemorates the construction and successful demonstration of a steam-propelled boat by the inventor James Rumsey in 1787. A monument in Tu-Endie-Wei Park at Point Pleasant commemorates the bloody battle of Point Pleasant, fought between settlers and Native Americans in 1774.
Other Places to Visit:
Historic places in West Virginia include Jackson's Mill, near Weston, the boyhood home of the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. At White Sulphur Springs is Greenbrier Resort, one of the world's great resorts. The area developed as a fashionable resort for rich planters of the Old South. In the 20th century the Greenbrier has attracted visitors from all parts of the world. During the 1950s bunkers were constructed beneath the Greenbrier Hotel for members of the United States Congress to use in the event of a national emergency. The existence of the shelter was once one of the nation's best-kept secrets. Near Malden is the African Methodist Church where noted educator Booker T. Washington taught Sunday School as a young man. The church is now undergoing restoration.
Seneca Rocks, in Pendleton County, is a mass of white sandstone towering to almost 300 m (1000 ft). Nearby Seneca Caverns contains many beautiful rock formations.
Numerous factories in the state offer guided tours to observe the glassmaking process. Real miners lead visitors to Beckley on a tour through mines where workers dug out their living with picks and shovels. Bramwell community, with its fairy tale architecture featuring turrets, gables, and leaded and stained glass, is a well-preserved example of the mining boomtowns of West Virginia's Gilded Age. At Beckley is Tamarack, an arts and crafts center designed to give the state's artists a new outlet for their products. Visitors may also tour the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a space-research center at Green Bank.