If you've never been to West Virginia, you might have some thoughts about what the state is like. Most people who don't know much about the region think of coal mines and bluegrass. And some people think of the numerous studies that position the state near or right at the bottom of happiness indexes. And it's not for nothing.
From self-reported life evaluation to physical health, West Virginia often falls behind. (Let's not even get started on the regional economy, dismal politics, and the opioid epidemic for now, okay?) But with all of this said, there's much more to West Virginia than you might assume. That the state is more interesting, exciting, and fulfilling than you may know is one of its best-kept secrets.
We talked to some locals to give you a different picture of what life is like in West Virginia—something that recent studies or quick-draw stereotypes can't represent on their own.
"Whether you're from West Virginia and have an established history here or you move in and discover it for the first time, there is a strong sense of community here that encourages people to put down roots." —Lauren
"I didn't entirely choose WV when I left NYC, but have definitely decided to stay, even after having toured in 2016 and 2017. I considered moving elsewhere for different reasons at several points, but I kept coming back here because I like it so much. There is a special community here in Thomas and Davis." —Chuck
The Great Outdoors
"I personally think that a West Virginia autumn is the most beautiful. An out-of-towner should definitely visit Canaan Valley, Blackwater Falls, Seneca Rock, Dolly Sods, Oglebay Park, the New River Gorge, and go white water rafting on the Gauley River." —Emily
"With such a unique and beautiful landscape, it's easy to see why people feel such a sense of coming home when they're here. I love hiking, camping, and wildcrafting with my friends and family, so I definitely recommend checking out Seneca Rocks, Spruce Knob, and Blackwater Falls. I personally love Morgantown! We have lots of diversity and things to do in town, plenty of arts and culture, and you need only drive a short distance out of town to get to the woods!" — Lauren
"Simply put, West Virginia is a beautiful state with beautiful people. The state has suffered a lot over the years, and everybody knows that those who suffer together are the closest and relationships are deep as a result. West Virginians know how to stick together. They've learned how the hard way. They know how to clean up when it's needed; how to rally. They know how to help their neighbors without their neighbors asking. It's in their blood. I tell people that I spent my 20s trying to get out of WV and my 30s trying to get back." — Todd