West Virginia holds the unique distinction of being the only state designated by presidential proclamation (that would be courtesy of Abraham Lincoln). But that's not the only unique quality of the Mountain State. It's where the first steamboat was launched (1787) and where the first "Mother's Day" was observed in 1908. For shoppers, West Virginia was (sadly) also the first state to have a sales tax. To take the stress off, it's also where the country's first spa was established in 1756.
There are a ton of fantastic attractions in West Virginia, ranging from natural wonders to historic sites and astounding manmade creations. Here are 20 to check out.
It's been a pre-eminent resort since opening in 1778, and is a National Historic Landmark. Almost every president has stayed there; during the Cold War, it was re-fashioned as a secret alternate location for Congress - just in case. Whether you actually book a stay or not, its worth having a look around. (White Sulphur Springs)
Ever since the days of the earliest settlers, the springs have been known for their healing powers. Even George Washington took a dip.
As far back as the 1400s, the Seneca people used these enormous limestone caverns for shelter and ceremonies. Today, you can tour them, descending 165 feet below the ground. (Riverton)
The New River is one of the five oldest rivers in the world, and the overlook of this bridge - which stands about 876 feet over the water -- offers some pretty spectacular views. No wonder the bridge is one of the most photographed sights in the state. (Fayetteville)
This over-the-top structure was meant to be the home of the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, but he died before he could move in. Since opening in 1979, tourists come to gawk at this American version of an Indian palace, with its many stained glass windows, inlaid marble floors and lush gardens overlooking the mountains. (Moundsville)
This historic town was a flashpoint during the Civil War, first, when abolitionist John Brown attempted a slave uprising - then when its strategic location led to it changing hands eight times during the conflict.
The "black water" moniker comes from the waters being colored by tannic acid from falling hemlock needles. Then the waterfall plunges five stories in a dramatic display from Mother Nature. The falls are a hugely popular destination for photography hounds. There's also camping and hiking if you're so inclined. (Davis)
Go underground to the site where the remains of one of the most unusual prehistoric critters in the U.S. were first discovered (back in the 1700s). Even from that day, there are still hundreds of miles to be mapped. But go explore the ones that have been discovered. (Ronceverte)
This clear, clean enormously popular lake attracts everyone from swimmers and boaters to divers who love to explore its 300-foot depth. It's also the largest lake in the state. Dive in!
These four distinctly different waterfalls attract photographers, as well as hikers, who take on the challenge of reaching the next one (each of which is progressively more difficult). So you have nature….beauty….and a physical test, all in one. (Davis)
This amazing "footpath" is a little over 2,000 miles, winding through several states- but you can check in for a taste of it in West Virginia. Much of it winds through some of the most historic parts of the state - and you'll get some epic views of fall foliage.
Green Bank is home to one of America's biggest telescopes (nearly 500 feet tall). But amateur astronomers can set up shop in its shadow, checking out the skies above.
It opened in 1864 and closed in 1994, and in that time, has built up a crazy amount of spooky energy. There are ghost tours available.
At 62 feet high and at approximately 2,000 years old, this is one of the most interesting aspects of the West Virginia landscape. The on-site museum traces the history of this prehistoric wonder. (Moundsville)
It's become one of the most visited attractions during the fall. Over 3,000 pumpkins are hand-carved by volunteers and set alight. What a fun way to celebrate Halloween. (Kenova)
Learn more about the Nobel-winning writer ("The Good Earth") through the home she grew up in. It's a long way from West Virginia to the China she wrote about in her most famous novel. (Hillsboro)
Coal mining and West Virginia are forever intertwined. This attraction provides a taste of the lifestyle that has defined the region for decades. (Beckley)
If skiing, tubing or snowboarding is your thing, here's where to start. If not, there are plenty of non-snow things to do in this fun mountain resort (like an amazing spa).
The charming Swiss-style village of Helvetia makes a practice of sending Ol' Man Winter down the chute by burning him in effigy. If you're totally over the cold and ice, join them for a festival that includes music, dancing and yodeling. (Helvetia)
There are few things prettier than the sight of candles gently lit through the filter of paper bags. Right before Christmas on that last Sunday, Bruceton Mills lights up the town by adorning a long stretch of road with 2,500 luminarias, leading to a local church. This is something everyone should experience to capture that warm feeling inside.