Singer John Denver might have had Beckley in mind when he sang about West Virginia being “almost heaven.” Let’s take a day to explore Beckley, W.Va., and its spectacular surrounding area. We’ll get an in-depth look at working in a coal mine and come back up for some deep breaths of clear mountain air.
If you’re ready for a perfect day in the lower part of West Virginia, just follow us to Beckley. Let’s go!
About Beckley, W.Va.
With a population of about 15,500, Beckley isn’t a big city, but it’s in an area where there aren’t any. So that makes it one of the busiest places in southern West Virginia. The closest “big city” is Charleston (three times its size), which is 61 miles up the West Virginia Turnpike. Named for a U.S. politician and Civil War commander, Beckley was established in 1838 and is the county seat of Raleigh County.
Traveler’s Tip: Explore the beauty of this region of the U.S. by visiting these 6 amazing southeastern national parks.
We’ll start our day at one of Beckley’s favorite breakfast spots. Then we’ll get an insider’s look at how these hard-working people made their living for many years.
Enjoy Breakfast at Omelet Shoppe
Address: 2001 Harper Rd, Beckley, WV 25801
Menu Options: The Omelet Shoppe is a 24-hour diner that has burgers, sandwiches, and salads, too, but let’s focus on some early morning favorites. The world “omelet” is right there in the name, so feel free to select your own ingredients or go with one of their classic combinations. Their omelets (half price on Tuesdays) come with tasty sides like hash browns, grits, or a bowl of fresh fruit. The waffles are a big hit, too, especially the ones with cranberries and pecans.
Reasons to Love It: It’s hard to go wrong with a restaurant that steadily gets four-star-plus ratings, but the smiling faces inside tell the real story. It’s a casual place where business is always brisk, but you won’t feel like they’re trying to rush you out the door. It’s also the kind of place you’ll want to make time for when you’re passing through on the interstate.
Visit the Exhibition Coal Mine
Descending into an actual coal mine will shed light on this critical industry that was the main livelihood here for decades. An experienced miner leads the Exhibition Coal Mine tour, which takes you into a gritty underworld hundreds of feet below ground.
You’ll ride a cart through old tunnels and get an idea of what it’s like to work in total darkness. There’s also a reproduction of a typical coal camp, complete with an authentic 1940s-era schoolhouse and a museum for kids and teens.
We’ll kick off the afternoon at Beckley’s centerpiece. It’s a bustling community hub named for a native tree.
Eat Lunch at Tamarack Marketplace
Address: 1 Tamarack Park, Beckley, WV, 25801
Menu Options: Tamarack is a showplace for artists and artisans, and it also shows off local and regional flavors in a low-key, quick-service setting. You can dine inside or out after choosing fresh, chef-prepared dishes and sides. Entrees might include rainbow trout, marinated chicken breasts, or meatloaf with gravy, and there’s a big selection of sandwiches and wraps. Accompaniments include fried green tomatoes, pinto beans and ham, and pickled eggs and beets.
Reasons to Love It: One look at the pointy peaks of the roof tells you right away this could be the community’s crown jewel. The marketplace, which opened in 1994, does a great job of showing off much of what Beckley, W.Va., has to offer. These include local and regional flavors at an excellent value, and you can dine inside or out.
Shop Local at the Tamarack Marketplace
Tamarack is much more than a place to eat lunch. Under the same distinctive roof, you’ll find the works of hundreds of artists and artisans. Many of them are on hand to personally reveal their techniques and inspirations.
Mosey around and see what catches your eye, and take home your own piece of West Virginia. It could be pottery or some other kind of hand-crafted art or craft, including woodwork, glassware, and quilts. Some of the art pieces are permanent, part of an open-air gallery.
Sometimes you need to reward yourself with an elegant dinner and drinks afterward. Tonight’s the night for that.
Enjoy Dinner at the Char
Address: 100 Char Dr., Beckley, WV 25801
Menu Options: Steaks are the main draw at the Char, but the swordfish reels customers in, too. Start with a soup du jour or another popular appetizer like the eggplant tower or pecan caramelized brie. Beef cuts include a filet mignon, a rib-eye, and a New York strip. The Char also offers authentic Italian dishes like a stuffed brascioli and your choice of spaghetti or rigatoni with meatballs. Save room for a decadent dessert, like their bread pudding with brandy or cream sauce.
Reasons to Love It: From the road, the Char kind of looks like a low-slung lodge made of wood and stone. Leave the parking to the valet and, inside, you’ll enjoy the dim lighting and romantic candlelight. Wide windows offer a calming view of a pond, fountain, and woodlands. Dress up a tad – at least put on your best jeans.
Drinks at Fosters
Address: 121 Main St., Beckley, WV 25801
Drink Options: This repurposed classic hardware store downtown on Main Street is the go-to watering hole for locals and visitors. You’ll feel right at home as you explore the three different levels decorated with vintage photos, posters, knick-knacks, and whatnots. Shoot a game of pool and have a beer, glass of wine, or cocktail. For more of a taste of Beckley, grab a flight of local craft brews while at Fosters.
Reasons to Love It: Stepping into Fosters, you might have to do a double-take and make sure you’re not in your own hometown. It’s a classy place with a warm, friendly, familiar feel. You may not want to leave.
Play a Night Game of Hillside Miniature Golf
Address: 1818 Harper Rd., Beckley, WV 25801
Don’t call it a night just yet. We have one more diversion you won’t forget. The Chocolate Moose offers specialty coffee drinks, teas, and smoothies, but they’ve got other tricks up their sleeve. This beloved coffee shop is also home to an outdoor miniature golf course and an indoor climbing gym. Pick your putter and shoot the 18 holes on the hillside or bone up on your bouldering and top-roping skills.
Where to Stay
After all this activity, you’ll need a place to lay your head down for a good night’s sleep in Beckley. We have two fantastic options for you, and neither is very far away.
Beckley Parks and Recreation
Address: 513 Ewart Ave, Beckley, WV 25801
About the Park: New River Park, operated by Beckley’s Parks and Recreation Department, has 17 full hookup RV sites for rent. This municipal park is next door to the Exhibition Coal Mine and Youth Museum that we visited earlier. There are bathrooms and showers on site.
Why You’ll Love Staying Here: The campground is clean and well maintained, and it’s right in town. Guests also have the run of the park itself, which means you can enjoy the playground, pavilion, and hiking and biking trails.
Lake Stephens Campground & Marina
Address: 1400 Lake Stephens Rd, Beckley, WV 25802
About the Park: Twelve miles from Beckley via State Highway 3, this sprawling campground on a 270-acre lake has 100 RV sites and 27 tent sites. The RV sites have full hookups and gravel pads. Other amenities include a concession stand, beach, and marina.
Why You’ll Love Staying Here: It’s a gorgeous drive out to Lake Stephens, and the campground is on the site of a former hunting camp. You can do some swimming, boating, or fishing on the lake, and there’s also a water park and splash pad.
A Day in Beckley, W.Va.
The stunning scenery here can certainly leave you longing for more. You might also feel like you belong here and decide to stay a little longer. Just like the locals, you’ll find comfort in the mountains and rivers.
What are your favorite small towns in the Appalachians?