Raleigh County – See it, love it. (2nd in blog/video series)June 9, 2014
Among the rolling rural mountain lands of Southern WV, a center of commerce bustles, the scenic beauty of the state awaiting just along its outskirts.
“Raleigh County is really the commercial center for Southern West Virginia, not only for shopping, and for businesses, but also a lot of other recreational activities that are focused around Raleigh County,” said Doug Maddy of Visit Southern WV.
Other local leaders interviewed for a Raleigh County video agreed that diversity was a key feature of the area.
At its core is the busy Beckley, a small cityscape still full of rural Appalachian character. The diverse dining options include a range of global styles as well as what Jill Moorefield of Beckley Renaissance calls “good ol’ Southern cooking.”
She said the specially prepared WV hot dogs are a state signature people should try.
And food isn’t the only thing that sets Raleigh County apart. The arts of the area also showcase a global perspective, with heavy Appalachian influence, of course.
Tamarack, the “Best of West Virginia” center shows off top artisans from across the state, even bringing some studios in-house so visitors can watch them create, molding different mediums into authentic WV works.
Beckley’s businesses and attractions are all strung together by a strong sense of heritage. To delve deep into that heritage, you have to go underground.
Veteran miners can guide you into the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, snaking down old man-car tracks through an abandoned coal cavern, so you can get a sense of the hardworking values and history that knit Raleigh Countians together so tightly.
Within the town limits lives a thriving community of celebration and camaraderie. Moorefield said it’s really a 4-season destination, always active, with festivals and gatherings year-round.
Fall draws crowds from across the globe to Bridge Day, the world’s largest BASE jumping festival, and The Rocket Boys Festival, celebrating the setting for the bestselling book series that was later compounded in fame by the Hollywood hit film “October Sky.”
“The leaves are absolutely gorgeous in the fall,” Moorefield said. “And then we just go right into Winter with Winterplace and all the wintertime sports you can enjoy here.”
And then in burst the spring and summer, when the open outdoors that surround the city really shine.
“The mountains lend themselves to all different types of outdoor recreation, which is fun for people who love to be outside,” said Ellen Taylor of the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s kind of a mountain paradise.”
Visitors can enjoy lush forests on mountain biking and hiking trails, or off-roading at the Burning Rock Outdoor Adventure Park. In addition, the county is dotted with leisurely family-welcoming lakes for fishing and boating, as well as scenic parks and overlooks.
“I love going to Grandview Park,” said Bill Baker of Forward Southern West Virginia. “The view of the New River, and the horseshoe bend of the New River is prominent there. And when the rhododendron’s in bloom (the state flower)… it’s just an outstanding area for rhododendron. It’s just gorgeous.”
How would you want to explore Raleigh County’s mountain heritage hub and outstretched outdoor paradise?