Are you planning a road trip to West Virginia? Do you want to discover a charming town with a rich history and many activities? Say hello to Wheeling, a city with beautiful natural landscapes, a world-class resort, and noticeable growth that is super exciting. Here are a dozen fun things to do in Wheeling, in West Virginia’s northern panhandle, that you won’t want to miss.
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1. Stay at Oglebay Resort
Whether you’re traveling alone, with your family, or with a group of friends, Oglebay Resort is a fantastic place to stay. This 1,700-acre resort offers year-round recreational activities, from primo golfing to skiing, hiking, fishing, and swimming.
You can also explore the tennis courts, cool off in the enormous outdoor Olympic-size swimming pool and splash pad, go horseback riding, or relax at the West Spa. And take advantage of the flowers and fauna at Bissonette Gardens. Take a ride in the adorable swan pedal boats on Schenk Lake, or try the more daring adventures, such as the rock climbing wall, aerial challenge course, or riding Segways.
At the Good Zoo, admire the adorable red pandas, cheetahs, tamarins, lemurs, red wolves, and more for $13.95 (adults) and $9.95 for children ages 3 to 12.
Oglebay’s property is so beautiful you’ll have no problem unwinding, but a tough time leaving. The amenity list is so long that you truly do not need to leave the property. And speaking of property, Oglebay offers a variety of accommodations, from cozy cottages to luxurious lodges, depending on your needs and preferences.
Fun Fact: Over 500 magazine-worthy flower planters hang around the Oglebay Resort property. They are overseen by the staff at the beautiful Palm Room, a unique glass building built by the same architects who designed Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory, billed with exotic plants. It is another must-see while you are there.
2. Attend the Holiday Festival of Lights
Most people native to West Virginia already know how impressive the Festival of Lights is. This beloved holiday tradition, which takes place from mid-November to early January, makes major magazines year after year and hosts thousands of visitors.
This spectacular event, mentioned in our 100 Things to Do in West Virginia Before You Die book, features over one million lights, animated displays, and a holiday laser show. You can drive through the park and enjoy the festive atmosphere with your family and friends. A donation of $30 per vehicle is suggested, per the website.
Perhaps even Santa will show up for the festivities.
3. Play the Slots at Wheeling Island Casino
If you feel lucky, head to the Wheeling Island Casino and Racetrack, a really fun thing to do in Wheeling. This premier gaming destination offers over 1,100 slot machines, 24 table games, and a sports betting area. You can also catch comedy shows and concerts or watch live greyhound dog racing at the racetrack, Wednesday through Sunday.
I live near Las Vegas and go there weekly; Wheeling Island Casino has slots every bit as impressive. They also have accommodations, in case you want to stay overnight. We scored an excellent room for around $100 using Booking.com.
Come Thursday through Sunday for the lunch or dinner buffet.
4. Grab a Bite at Generations
One of the best restaurants in Wheeling is Generations Restaurant & Pub, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This family-owned eatery and sports bar offers a wide range of dishes, from hearty breakfast burritos and omelets to grilled sandwiches, salads, wraps, pasta, seafood, and steaks. It came highly recommended by friends who frequent Wheeling and live there.
No matter what time of day you visit, there is always a crowd, indoors and out. You’ll see why after dining at Generations, having an adult beverage, or catching a sports event on TV. Try the Jalapeño Cheese Balls, lightly dusted with parmesan and served aside marina or ranch.
Popular mains are wings, pierogis, salads, and burgers, but I tried a WV hot dog, the Pete Rose, with award-winning chili and cheddar.
5. Tour the Oglebay Glass Museum
Wheeling is renowned for its rich history in glassmaking, and you can learn all about it at the Oglebay Institute Glass Museum. Admission prices are $10 for one museum or $15 for both attractions, this one and the Mansion, mentioned below. Ages 17 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.
The glass museum, now home to over 3,000 examples of Wheeling glass, includes some of the most exquisite pieces of locally made glass, including the prestigious Ohio Valley glassware. It took me about 45 minutes to see everything I needed to see and learn a bit about the glass industry in the region. There are live glassblowing demos as you exit.
Shop at The Carriage House, a beautiful glass store selling gorgeous pieces of locally-made glassware, Fiesta dishes, and even Murano Italian glass. They are open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM.
6. Explore the Oglebay Mansion
The beautiful 1846 Victorian Oglebay Mansion was built as the country estate for Cleveland industrialist Earl W. Oglebay. Self-guided tours allow access to 13-period rooms full of silver, glass, china, and gorgeous antiques. Having heard so little about this house museum, I was blown away by how amazing it was inside. It is the gem of Wheeling in my book. You could spend hours soaking up the lovely pieces inside this charming home.
7. Visit the Historic Centre Market
The downtown Wheeling’s Centre Market is a national historic district that dates back to 1853, which makes it older than the state of West Virginia. This indoor market features several locally-owned shops and restaurants, selling everything from fresh produce, meats, and cheeses to beautiful artwork, crafts, and gifts.
Namely, look for yummy fried pies, ice cream, “the best fish sandwich,” coffee, and cheeses.
Centre Market is a great place to experience the local culture, support small businesses, and visit the host of appealing businesses around the market. You can also find international foods, live music, and a bustling schedule of festivals, art classes, and seasonal events.
Around the market are wonderful antique shops, a retro game shop, a craft brewery, wine shop, bakery, clothing boutiques, a bookstore, a candy store, a plant shop, and more. There are also a handful of restaurants.
My favorite place to shop was Under the Elder Tree, a healing arts centre and apothecary. They are closed Sunday through Wednesday.
It is apparent that this area is the primary source of growth in Wheeling, and I can’t wait to see what it will look like in the future. Tour buses are welcome.
8. Hike or Bike the Wheeling Heritage Trail
Are you a fan of outdoor activities? If so, you’ve got to hop on the Wheeling Heritage Trail (Ohio River Trail and the Wheeling Creek Trail). This 5.2-mile trail follows the old Baltimore & Ohio rail line and connects downtown Wheeling with the Elm Grove district. You can bike or walk along the scenic Ohio River and soak up the beautiful scenery and architecture.
The trail also features public art, informational signage, and benches to sit for a bit.
9. Go Shopping
I found some adorable ladies’ boutiques on National Road that must be mentioned. Ditto Boutique was my top pick, with the friendliest shopkeeper, lovely women’s clothing, and some “in good condition” consignment items. Giftware, accessories, and jewelry are also abundant.
On the second floor of a beauty salon, Gypsy Soul is another. Lots of cool treasures to choose from here. In addition to these ladies’ boutiques is Whisk Bakery, where you can stop in and grab a fantastic scratch-made pastry.
This is a part of town you won’t want to miss. Just minutes away, on National Road, is the Madonna on the Trail monument, created by sculptor August Leimbach. It is part of a 12-monuments (from Maryland to California) series dedicated to the spirit of U. S. pioneer women and the only one in West Virginia.
The lovely roadside attractions were commissioned by the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and are also National Historic Landmarks. They are found along the National Old Trails Road, Route 40.
10. Dine at Glassworks Grill
One of the onsite restaurants at Oglebay, also open to the public, is Glassworks Grill in the Wilson Lodge. They’ve created a beautiful space for dining and displaying some of that beautiful Wheeling glassware in this hotel eatery and included modern glass elements that are eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing.
The menu includes bar snacks, pizza, burgers, wings, salads, and more. I had the Oglebay Burger, which was pricey but worth it. This beauty was piled high with bacon jam, gorgonzola, and crispy onion rings, between a toasted brioche bun. My husband chose pizza. Both were excellent choices, and we ate there more than once during our visit.
Glassworks Grill is open daily from 11 AM to 11 PM.
11. See the Wheeling Suspension Bridge
The Wheeling Suspension Bridge is a must-see attraction in Wheeling. This stunning bridge was completed in 1849 and is the oldest existing suspension bridge in the world that still carries vehicular traffic. It spans the Ohio River and connects Wheeling Island with downtown Wheeling.
12. Tour a Train and Toy Museum
Wheeling’s Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum is a well-known and unique point of interest, open since 1998. This former Victorian-era two-story schoolhouse houses nearly 500,000 toys. Take a guided tour of this fully accessible attraction and see the train layouts, a doll and dollhouse room, pinball machines, a miniatures collection, a transportation room, cartoon-themed merchandise, and of course, an enormous amount of trains.
Any Muffy VanderBear collectors? That museum display took me back to when my daughters were really young. Admission is $15 for adults and $7.50 for children ages 4 to 17.