Nestled in the heart of the Ohio Valley, Parkersburg, West Virginia, is a historical gem that offers natural beauty, a one-of-a-kind state park, and many exciting things to do. From exploring the enchanting Blennerhassett Island to feasting on a delicious pasta dish at Colombo’s Italian, Parkersburg packs a powerful punch.
In this blog post, we’ll discover some of the best things to do in Parkersburg and the surrounding area, including must-visit attractions, local shops, and restaurants for road-trippers and out-of-towners. I hope you enjoy reading about it even half as much as I did exploring it all.
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Experience Blennerhassett Island
Blennerhassett Island State Park is one of Parkersburg, West Virginia’s top attractions, and it’s easy to see why. This stunning island on the Ohio River features a beautifully restored mansion built in the early 1800s. It sits on 500 acres of land and has been visited by famous historical figures, US presidents, actors, and more.
Oh, and it requires a fun sternwheeler boat ride to get there.
The site was where the alleged plot by Aaron Burr and Harman Blennerhassett was to establish a new “country,” or southwest empire. Visitors can take a narrated horse-drawn wagon ride around the island to explore its lush gardens, stunning views, and exhibits. There is also a concession stand, hiking trails, and picnic facilities. Disc golf is coming soon.
The Blennerhassett Island State Park Museum also houses some fascinating exhibits and artifacts that give visitors an insight into the region’s history. Take a guided tour of the Blennerhassett Mansion and see the extraordinary furnishings and period pieces.
Past special guests include George Washington, Meriwether Lewis, John James Audubon, Ulysses Grant, James Monroe, and Daniel Boone, to name a few.
The mansion has several special events, including Mansion by Candlelight each October.
Hungry? We’ve got you covered with these awesome eateries around Parkersburg.
Ride Through a Haunted Tunnel on the WV Rail Trail
Adventure enthusiasts cannot miss exploring the West Virginia Rail Trails, and one exciting part of it is the haunted Silver Run Tunnel #19. The trail area boasts a spooky atmosphere, perfect for those seeking a thrilling experience.
The Silver Run Tunnel is approximately 3,122 feet long. Legend has it that at the end of the tunnel, there is a ghost town that people claim to have heard and seen. I didn’t experience any hauntings, but my photos have some strange orbs.
Sample Holl’s Swiss Chocolates
Holl’s Handcrafted Swiss Chocolates provides a taste of Switzerland with its homemade chocolates and decadent truffles. You can stop in their shop and have a sample, but there is no guarantee you will make it out without a purchase. I love every Holl’s chocolate I’ve tried, but my favorites are the passionfruit and maple truffle.
You can also visit Holl’s second location at the Capitol Market in Charleston.
Play at Discovery World on Market
The whole family can enjoy this incredible interactive museum located on Market Street. Explore the Mid-Ohio Valley’s past, present, and future through numerous exhibits and hands-on learning activities. The museum is done in a grand color scheme with much attention to detail, unlike any other children’s museum I’ve visited nationwide. To say it is aesthetically pleasing would be an understatement.
As I mentioned, Discovery World on Market is a wonderful addition to the downtown Parkersburg landscape. It draws from a larger area due to its significant exhibits, hands-on activities, and stellar programming. This curiosity treasure trove was created by the same company that did COSI in Columbus, if you are familiar with it.
I walked through the exciting museum, and a few of the offerings really caught my eye. The Ball-O-Meter Factory is so much fun, unlike anything I’ve seen. I thought the River Adventure, understanding the animals and plants of the local region, was brilliant. And the water station play had the most adorable smock dryers and changing area.
Shop For Flowers and Treat Your Sweet Tooth
On Grand Central Avenue, Scot’s Marketplace & Greenhouse offers products ranging from gourmet foods and seasonal products to holiday decor and artwork. And then there are the flowers, the star of the shop. We can sum it up as things to make your life happier and more aesthetically pleasing.
Scot’s is closed on Sundays.
Just a hop, skip, and jump away is Sugar Grove, their cutesy sweet treats shop that rivals a ’50s ice cream parlor. Choose from ice cream, shakes, sundaes, and baked goods like pies, cookies, and scones.
Experience Greater Parkersburg’s local culture by participating in the annual Parkersburg Paddlefest, offering an excellent opportunity to participate in a kayaking race through the scenic Ohio River. This two-day event in mid-September is filled with fun, entertainment, and food trucks. Kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and canoes are all welcome.
I’ve heard the glow paddle in the Little Kanawha River looks fabulous at nighttime!
Tour Henderson Hall
Escape into the past and explore the grandeur of yesteryear at Henderson Hall in nearby Williamstown. This remarkable Italianate mansion in the heart of the Little Kanawha River Valley features stunning architecture and a fantastic collection of period furnishings.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the 29-room, three-story Victorian-era mansion. Then, feel free to stroll around the 20 acres of manicured grounds, see the beautiful gardens, and experience the charm of this historic property. You’ll also learn how Henderson and Blennerhassett Island’s famous families meshed.
Special events take place in one of the outbuildings. On my visit, famed glassmaker Dave Fetty of the Fenton glass family was there for glassblowing demonstrations.
Parkersburg was a hotbed of wealth long ago, and touring these properties is a must when you visit.
Stay at Blennerhassett Hotel
For a truly memorable experience, book a stay at the Blennerhassett Hotel. This luxurious hotel, in the heart of downtown Parkersburg, features 86 elegantly appointed guest rooms, top-notch amenities, and impeccable service. From the moment you step into the beautiful lobby and see the whimsical and colorful dog prints of the cozy lounge, you’ll feel warm and welcome.
Enjoy the hotel amenities, like the well-stocked library and state-of-the-art fitness center. Schedule a spa treatment, buy some beautiful flowers from the floral cart, and have a glass of wine or craft cocktail in the Lounge as you participate in trivia night.
The restaurant at Blennerhassett Hotel is the most upscale in Parkersburg, and the food is as delicious as it is beautiful. For lunch, feast on a wedge salad and French onion soup, or indulge in Steak Au Poivre, a cracked peppercorn-crusted filet topped with a decadent demi-glace for dinner. Make sure to add the jalapeño creamed spinach as one of your side choices.
Blennerhassett Hotel has a unique offering. They are ambassadors for pet adoptions (Humane Society of Parkersburg) and have a resident pet in the lobby for adoption. You can even spend time with said dog. We took “Millie” up to our room for cuddle time, went on walks, and were so happy when, two days later, she was adopted.
Eat Pasta at Colombo’s
Satisfy your craving for delicious Italian cuisine at Jimmie Colombo’s Italian Restaurant. This family-owned restaurant serves up some of the best pasta dishes in the area, and it’s perfect for families, date nights, and even special celebrations.
I highly recommend the pasta dishes, such as spaghetti with meatballs or spaghetti deluxe (with garlic bread and salad), or indulge in Colombo’s famous pizza. They are closed on Mondays.
Explore Smoot Theatre
Experience live performances at the Smoot Theatre, a previous historic Vaudeville property. The Smoot has been entertaining audiences for over 100 years. Guests can enjoy a variety of shows and events, including ballet performances, concerts, and plays, in this beautifully restored venue.
The Smoot Theatre is also great for catching a classic movie or enjoying a comedy performance.
Ride the Valley Gem Sternwheeler
Hop aboard the Valley Gem Sternwheeler and enjoy a spectacular ride along the Ohio River. The sternwheeler, built in 1988, allows visitors to glimpse into the history of sternwheel steamboat transportation.
Enjoy an educational tour of the Ohio River’s history and soak in the mesmerizing views of the Mid-Ohio Valley. The boat offers a range of cruises, such as lunch tours, dinner cruises, and relaxing sunset cruises.
See the Weeping Woman
One of the off-the-beaten obscure things to do in Parkersburg is to head over to the Riverview Cemetery to pay respects to the “weeping woman.” Jackson, buried here, died in 1928 and may have designed the stunning, intricate tombstone herself.
The cemetery has other interesting gravesites to notice, as well, such as governors, General Stonewall Jackson’s relatives, and local congress members.
Have a Drink at North End Tavern
Quench your thirst and enjoy some local flavor at North End Tavern or NET. This iconic bar in Parkersburg’s North End neighborhood has been serving cold beers and delicious pub food for over 120 years. It is the oldest in the state of West Virginia.
Try the house-favorite Honey Blonde Ale or award-winning amber ale (Roedy’s Red), enjoy a classic burger, or mingle with the friendly locals.
Drive Through Julia-Ann Square
If you’re a fan of architecture and history, you’ll fall in love with Parkersburg’s Julia-Ann Square. This stunning neighborhood features over 200 homes (yes, you read that right) that date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Julia-Ann Square’s streets are lined with historic homes with intricate woodwork, stained glass windows, and unique architectural details. Visitors can take a walking tour of the neighborhood and immerse themselves in the charming atmosphere of Julia-ann Square.
Come during the holidays and experience the Victorian Christmas Homes tour.
Get Outdoors at Point Park
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and venture into the great outdoors at Point Park. This popular park, located on the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers, features stunning views of the surrounding mountains and river valleys, plus ADA-accessible fishing.
Take a relaxing stroll down the park’s many walking trails, picnic by the river, or soak up the area’s natural beauty. A boat landing and kayak/canoe access are available.
Check out the amazing artwork that went into adding such beauty to the flood walls.
Fun Fact: Come for the free Concerts on the River on the first Friday of the month (June, July, and August).
Prospect Berdine’s Five and Dime
Step back in time and experience the nostalgia of Berdine’s Five and Dime in Cairo, WV. This classic five-and-dime store will wow you with a vast assortment of toys, gifts, souvenirs, books, and penny candy. I can guarantee you will fall into this treasure trove’s rabbit hole.
Check Off North Bend State Park
The North Bend State Park (Cairo, WV) is a 2,400-acre park home to stunning nature views, biking and hiking trails, and a gorgeous lake. Whether you are looking to explore the park’s natural beauty or relax with your loved ones, North Bend State Park is a perfect address.
Immerse yourself in an array of activities, including boating, fishing, and nature programs. You can also enjoy the onsite restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition to the regular menu, there are also daily specials.
Shop Mulberry Lane Country Store
Find the perfect souvenir or gift at Mulberry Lane Country Store, a charming boutique offering a wide selection of handmade crafts, home decor, and locally made products. Visitors can browse the store’s extensive collection of candles, pottery, and jewelry or soak up the warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Parkersburg: A Town Worth Exploring
Parkersburg, WV, is a city full of surprises and hidden treasures. From historic mansions and charming neighborhoods to delicious restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops, you will be pleasantly surprised at the great strides in this area, which has grown by leaps and bounds.
Be sure to put Parkersburg on your list of must-visit destinations. You won’t be disappointed!
Did you know that you can go to the Visitor Center or Greater Parkersburg Convention & Visitors Bureau at 113 Ann Street to ask questions, pick up pamphlets and flyers, and see a mini-museum dedicated to the area. There are also some cool t-shirts and souvenirs for purchase.
Thanks to the Greater Parkersburg CVB fro hosting my visit, some meals, and attractions. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% my own and unbiased.
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