Seneca Rocks at dusk. Photo by John Clise
An op-ed by Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby
In #AlmostHeaven West Virginia, choosing a favorite season can be next to impossible. Each one seems wilder and more wonderful than the last. Snow-capped winter mountains give way to springtime blooms which transform into the deep and rolling green hills of summertime. But for many of our state’s most devoted fans, one season stands out from the rest. And it’s just around the corner.
Fall brings more visitors to West Virginia than any other time of year. It’s easy to see why. Crisp days. Cool nights. Hills bursting with color. Football. Hunting. Festivals. And that’s just the beginning.
Last June, you took to social media to show the world what you love about West Virginia. This fall, let’s build on that momentum and showcase our state at her peak. Tag your fall adventures #AlmostHeaven, and show the world outside West Virginia what they’re missing.
From mid-September to late October, our rolling hills come alive. Foliage bursts into vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange. The sights are so stunning you have to see them to believe. That’s the message we’re sharing with both West Virginians and out-of-state visitors this season. Each year, the leaves may fall, but the colors will have you remembering your trip to West Virginia and returning again. Bring your family and friends and escape to the mountains of West Virginia. We promise, the views alone will be worth it.
But fall in West Virginia is more than just a celebration of our state’s unmatched foliage. It’s local autumn flavor shared at farm-to-table restaurants and local eateries across the state. It’s farmers’ markets offering the freshest local ingredients. It’s the first day of hunting season, renewing generations-old traditions. It’s family fun with trips to local farms and orchards in search of the perfect pumpkin or basket of apples for famous fall cider. Cozy up and bask in the colors on a hayride, scenic train ride or picturesque drive down one of our many mountain highways.
And did I mention the endless autumn events and festivals? Kick off fall this month with the annual Leaf Peepers Festival in Tucker County. Take in Harvest Day at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, or visit Hardy County’s Heritage Weekend. In October, the events and fun just keep coming, with events like the Mountain State Forest Festival and OglebayFest. Looking for some spooky fun? We’ve got you covered with haunted tours of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and ghost tours throughout Harpers Ferry.
As for West Virginia’s unmatched outdoor recreation, it certainly doesn’t end with the summer season. Just the opposite: In the fall, visitors come from around the globe to experience world-famous attractions like Gauley Season (now underway!), Bridge Day(October 21) and the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System (open 365 days a year).
With so much to see and do, the fall season is a major economic driver for local communities and the state. Each year, West Virginia attracts and hosts 15.9 million visitors, generating $527 million in travel-related taxes, resulting in an economic impact of $4.5 billion. Tourism is big business in West Virginia, and in looking at our surrounding states, we are positioned for tremendous growth. And there is no better time to share our product with the world than fall.
That’s why, again, we’re asking you – fellow West Virginians, annual visitors and lifelong lovers of our mountains – to help us share our color-lined country roads with the world using #AlmostHeaven. In just two weeks in June, we reached over 15 million across all three social platforms. Imagine what we can do throughout an entire season of scenic beauty, festivals and fall favorites?
We’re looking to feature top photos each week and have several exciting fall giveaways in store. We definitely made a splash during summer. Let’s raise the bar as we showcase the very best of an #AlmostHeaven fall in West Virginia.