7 Quaint European Towns That Feel Like A Hallmark Christmas Movie


Travelling can really push you outside your comfort zone, especially when you are least expecting it. Finding a town where one feels at home, despite the distinct cultural differences, is a true reassurance and comfort to the soul. The streets may be crooked, the houses half-timbered, and the singsong of an unfamiliar language fills the air, but something stirs inside you. You could stay a while and settle into local life. Pinch yourself. Have you stepped onto the set of a Christmas movie? These 7 European towns are beyond quaint in appearance with the coziest of ambiances. 

Central street Grand Rue decorated and illuminated for Christmas celebrations in Colmar.
Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock.com

1. Colmar, France

Arriving in Colmar is like walking straight into a fairytale setting. This is true any time of the year. But during the Christmas season, under glowing lights, amidst intriguing market stalls and children singing carols from boats on the canal, it is truer than ever. 

Colmar, situated in the Alsace region of France, celebrates Christmas with six markets full of regional gourmet delights and local artisanal creations. Colmar is the capital of Alsace Wine Country, so celebrate with Christmas cheer from Alsace, including a glass of steaming Alsatian mulled wine. It is tradition to decorate the Christmas trees in Alsace with gingerbread, so it is no surprise that a variety of gingerbread treats are available. Known for its gastronomic traditions, you’ll find foie gras, Munster cheese, and if you are a meat lover, the classic “choucroute” with plenty of meat and sauerkraut. 

Stroll the medieval center with its colorful, crooked half-timbered homes, and admire snowflakes and angels decorating shuttered facades. Does it get more picturesque than this? Maybe a little. With tresses built across the canal topped with red baubles and pine boughs, Colmar is the ultimate in festive atmosphere. 

Pro Tip: Don’t miss these two treats only available during the Christmas season: Bredele, Christmas biscuits which come in many flavors, and Manelas de Saint Nicolas, a yummy, buttery brioche in the shape of a little person!

Tourists walking in the Christmas market of Montepulciano in Tuscany.
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2. Montepulciano, Italy 

Montepulciano in Tuscany, Italy was just a name in a guidebook. After my visit, it remains my favorite hilltop medieval town in Tuscany. This beautiful, walled Italian town just south of Siena, is one of those special places that touched my heart. Could it have been the gorgeous views over the Val d’Orcia and Val di Chiana, the rolling, lush valleys that surround it? Could it have been the elegant squares or the Renaissance buildings? Perhaps it was the numerous wine cellars and tastings of the local Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that the town is known for and the pride with which it was shared. Perhaps it was the local Pecorino cheese drizzled with spectacular homemade honey. Maybe, it was more of a feeling. Something from another century, straight out of a movie. 

With a chill in the air, Montepulciano has a marvelous Christmas market right in the main piazza, Piazza Grande. Explore the wooden chalets bursting with local Tuscan goods and don’t miss Santa’s workshop set up in the Montepulciano Fortress.

Pro Tip: How about timing your visit with the traditional annual barrel rolling competition (Bravio delle Botti) on the last Sunday in August? This historical challenge between the eight districts of Montepulciano has been going on since the 14th century. I can’t imagine the excitement surrounding pushing 196-pound wine barrels uphill and the medieval costume parade. 

Visitors drink gluwein on a winter afternoon at the Christmas market, Rudesheim, Germany.
Steve Estvanik / Shutterstock.com

3. Rudesheim Am Rhein, Germany 

The village of Rudesheim am Rhein, known simply as Rudesheim, is beyond charming. Situated in Germany’s Rheingau wine region, just a short trip from Frankfurt, Rudesheim is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Rhine Gorge. 

Rudesheim cascades down a hill towards the Rhine River, its steep cobbled streets lined with medieval half-timbered houses. In the heart of the Old Town, the narrow and picturesque Drosselgasse lane is filled with shops and restaurants. Accompanied by chiming church bells or an accordion tune, savor the local bratwurst and schnitzel along with a stein of beer or the local wine, Rheingauer Reisling. A trip to Rudesheim is not complete without sampling the local specialty coffee drink, Rudesheimer Kaffee. Locally distilled Asbach Uralt Brandy and whipped cream make this coffee cocktail unforgettable. 

In any season, take a ride on the Rudesheim Seilbahn, a cable car that takes you to the Niederwalddenkmal, a monument that commemorates the Unification of Germany. Be prepared to “ooh” and “ah”; the views over the surrounding vineyards, the town, and the Rhine River are magnificent. 

A trip to Rudesheim necessitates a boat cruise down the Rhine River to witness the impressive castles perched on hilltops that hold legends of the area.

Rudesheim is known for its Christmas market, which attracts vendors and guests from all over the world. With snow crunching underfoot, stroll through the 120 market stalls with a cup of steaming Gluhwein, hot mulled wine. It’s the perfect place to purchase that elusive Christmas gift. 

Pro Tip: Hotel Zur Rose, just a few minutes’ walk to the Old Town, is a lovely, welcoming hotel. 

Saint Antonin noble val village, Tarn, Midi-Pyrénées, Occitanie, France.
AWP76 / Shutterstock.com

4. Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, France

Situated in the gorge of the Aveyron River and backed by the steep cliffs of Roc d’Anglars is the charming medieval town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. With the church spire stretching towards the heavens, a maze of cobbled streets, and a lively Sunday morning market, you may think you have walked onto a movie set. And that you have. Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val was the setting for the 2014 movie The One Hundred-Foot Journey with Helen Mirren. The picturesque village depicted in the movie is just as delightful, or possibly more so, in real life. In 2016, the French voted Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val one of their top three favorite villages. In a country full of quaint towns, this is quite the honor. 

Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val is full of interesting facades and historic buildings. Don’t miss the oldest civil building in France, Maison Romane, which hails from 1120. Pop into the artisan shops and then stop by a cafe in the main square, Place de la Halle, and soak up the relaxed local vibe.

Pro Tip: Drive up to Roc d’Anglars for spectacular views over Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val and the Aveyron Valley.

St. James' Church, Shere, Surrey.
St. James Church (Photo Credit: Alison Avery / Shutterstock.com)

5. Shere, England

Nestled in the rolling Surrey Hills, just 35 miles from London, is the darling town of Shere. This small village with its thatched roof and timber frame cottages is picture-perfect. Take a walk along the well-marked trails of the Surrey Hills and nestle back in Shere for a soothing cup of tea and freshly baked scones at Hillly’s Tea Shop. Wander up the cobbled lane through the roofed gateway to Saint James Church (1190) with its striking spire and down Rectory Lane to the bubbling River Tillingbourne. It’s no wonder that charming Shere has been used as a location in countless movies, my favorite being The Holiday (2006). If you love traditional British pubs, stop by The White Horse, a former 15th-century farmhouse, where Cameron Diaz met up with Jude Law and the sparks of romance took off!

Pro Tip: With Christmas lights twinkling in the lead paned windows, snowflakes falling. Don’t miss Carols in the Shere Square on Christmas Eve.

Santa Llucia christmas market at night.
Alberto Zamorano / Shutterstock.com

6. Sitges, Spain

Sitges, a short 25-mile trip from Barcelona, is nicknamed the “Saint-Tropez” of Spain. Located on the Catalan coast, the swaying palms, narrow charming streets, 17 pristine beaches, and elegant architecture make it unforgettable. This Christmas movie setting mingles sandy beaches, glitz, bohemian flare from its long-standing artistic vibe, and old-world charm to create a unique experience. Sitges, one of the best-known LGBTQ+ travel destinations, is filled with rainbow-colored flags. Wander past white-washed buildings in the ancient core boasting artisanal shops and lively bars and restaurants. Spanish tapas and sangria anyone? How about a glass of local Malvasia de Sitges, a sweet dessert wine? Stroll along the pedestrian boulevard, Passeig Maritim, and marvel at the glittering Mediterranean Sea and the mild temperatures. Visit the Christmas market right in Sitges or take a short train ride to Barcelona and wander the 300 stalls of the Christmas market, Fira de Santa Llucia, dating back to 1786. Don a pair of ice skates and twirl around the rink in Plaza Catalunya in Barcelona or head to the small town of Vilanova il a Geltru and skate with the locals. 

Pro Tip: Don’t miss Mama’s Picanteria for a delicious combination of international flavors concocted by the creative chefs from their worldly travels. 

Cityscape and main square in Bruges (Belgium), Belfry Tower.
Silvan Bachmann / Shutterstock.com

7. Bruges, Belgium

Just the canals meandering through the medieval city of Bruges evoke a sense of romance and wonder but the “piece de resistance” is Grote Markt (Market Square). Grote Markt has been the beating heart of Bruges since 958. Stand before the impressive colorful-stepped facades and the 272-foot belfry tower with its carillon chiming a gentle tune and be immediately transported a few centuries back. Float along the canals under ancient stone bridges, admiring medieval buildings and spires at every turn. Bruges is the ultimate experience for curious souls. Search out the quiet squares, the oldest tavern from 1515, boutique chocolate-makers, some strong Belgian beer and you’ll be left feeling right at home. In December, the seasonal buzz is infectious. Shop windows glitter with Christmas lights and unique artisanal gifts while Grote Markt hosts a Christmas market including an ice-skating rink. And just to add to the ambience, tuck a blanket over your knees as you clip-clop down the cobbled streets in a horse-drawn carriage. 

Pro Tip: Climb up the 366 stairs of the belfry tower for panoramic and magnificent views. Can you see the windmills and the North Sea? The staircase gets quite narrow the higher you climb.



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Virginia’s quaint fishing village Tangier Island: Step back in time.



Social Butterfly checks one off her bucket list: Meets Mayor ‘Ooker’, eats a fried flounder sandwich to die for, and drives a golf cart at warp speed.

On a summer day that felt more like fall, I finally made my way to a tiny island in the Chesapeake Bay. Tangier aka the “soft-shell crab capital of the world” located off the Eastern Shore in Accomack County, Va. was delightful.

The five-mile-long island between Virginia and Maryland is home to more than 600 people. Tangier is actually three tiny islands connected by tidal flats. 

My trip to Buzzard’s Point Marina located at the tip of the Northern Neck in Reedville, Va. took less than two hours. The Chesapeake Breeze ferry owned by Captain Linwood Bowis departed sharply at 10 a.m. 

Eighty-one passengers seated themselves either on the upper deck or inside the cabin of the cruise ship. I very carefully navigated myself around both.

The Captain, who also served as the cruise narrator, provided interesting tidbits while manning the helm. He gave me a thrill and let me start the engine, blow the horn, and steer the 100-foot vessel. 

Bowis informed me that the journey would take a wee bit longer due to the three-to-four-foot swells. 

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There was a crisp fall breeze so I took my scarf out of my tie-dyed backpack and tossed it around my neck. Since the boat was rockin’ and rollin’, I had to plan my movements wisely so as not to take a tumble. 

On the upper deck, I mingled with members of Kingsland Baptist Church which is located in Chesterfield. Kingsland’s social butterfly Delores Carnes organized the bus trip for 25 of their “Silver Saints.”

Deacon William Pearce checked an item off of his bucket list. He had lived in Virginia all of his life and had never been to the quaint island.

“The Lord blessed us with a beautiful day,” said Pearce.

Carnes, who ventures to the island three or four times a year, commented on how the Island has gotten a lot smaller over the years.

According to an article published this year on storymaps.arcgis.com written by Millie Thompson, Tangier Island is slowly being washed away due to climate change and erosion. She predicts that islanders’ homes will more than likely be underwater and unlivable in the next few decades.

Gloria Ollice from the Shenandoah Valley traveling to Tangier for the seventh time is fearful that it won’t be around forever.

“We love it out here. It’s a fascinating place,  and we want to enjoy it before it’s too late,” said Ollice. “I’m 75, so it probably won’t happen in my lifetime.”

Before making my way over to meet a new fur friend, I mapped out a safe route with objects to grab to keep myself steady.

New Yorkers Alex and Yelena Timashu and their 4-month-old Boxer Eva vacationing in Virginia added Tangier Island to their itinerary. The motionless canine looked as nervous as a cat in a room full of rockers. I wondered if she was feeling a wee bit nauseous like some of the other passengers.

First Mate Raymond Palazzo made frequent rounds offering Emotion Eez to anyone who felt like tossing their waffles. “We’re going to keep your bellies full,” he said.

Susan Kalanges and her daughter Susie both of Chester rubbed the oil behind their ears and reported that the essential oil worked immediately.

Plastic chairs which were screwed together and bolted down by their back legs kept trying to take flight. The seas were so rough that I got sprayed in the face a few times. 

Palazzo assisted at least one person to the stern, rear of the ship, to help control the passenger’s seasickness.

Thank goodness I never felt like pitching my cookies. I actually ate some delicious gluten-free ones baked by passenger Joe Crowley of Bon Air. He made them with toasted coconut, cream cheese, and a lime juice glaze. 

Land ho!

Waterman’s crab shanties stacked with crab pots lined the shoreline as we approached the island. The airstrip was visible in the distance. Seagulls were either soaring or perched on pier posts keeping a close eye on the next wave of tourists.

After the ship docked at the Tangier Island Parks Marina, I walked a short distance and was greeted by friendly islanders offering $5 tours in Tangier taxis. I politely declined and hustled a few feet to the Four Brothers Crabhouse restaurant to rent a golf cart. There weren’t any available, so I took advantage of the 15-minute tour.

Tazewell native Sylvia Parks Bonniwell was my guide. It was money well spent, but she was so speedy that taking quality photos was impossible. We drove by three different great white herons strolling along, but “lead foot” was on a roll.

It was really quite unusual how gravesites were located in islanders’ yards. According to Bonniwell, they still have the option to bury loved ones on their own property.

After the tour, I walked around the narrow streets all snap-happy capturing its beauty and scenes from the tight-knit community.

Golf carts, scooters, and bicycles are the main mode of transportation. Locals zip around town waving and talking to each other in Old English dialect.

The Tangier History Museum has a $3 admission fee, but you won’t be disappointed. It is full of artifacts, photos, and you can watch a 17-minute video to learn about Tangier’s role in our Country’s history, their unique language, and how they face the challenges of a shrinking island and dwindling population.

On a map hanging on the museum wall, Polly Burns and her daughter Elliana Burns placed a pushpin on their hometown Reed City, Mich. 

The kind Tangier History Museum volunteer Andy Langley loaned me his golf cart. This was a major score! Thanks to his generosity, I was able to make the best out of the two-and-a-half-hour visit.

If there were speed limit signs, I zipped right past them. Having learned from Bonniwell that the island doesn’t have a police presence, I got gutsy and traveled at warp speed. Ha!

After my self-guided tour, I headed to Lorraine’s Seafood Restaurant to try some fresh seafood. On the way there, an ambulance turned onto Main Street. I felt pretty confident that stumbling upon an ambulance in action on Tangier Island was pretty rare.

Everyone calls me ‘Ooker’

Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge who was seated upon his scooter toting a basket containing his Chesapeake Bay harvest informed me that a local had died a few days prior. The ambulance was picking up her body to carry to the mainland on the mail boat.

Having embraced the small-town vibe, I asked Ooker if it was Emma. You’re probably wondering how in the world I knew the deceased’s identity. I read a notice posted on the church door about the viewing, funeral, and luncheon.

Ooker was headed home to his crab shanty on the south end of the island after he picked up items delivered by the mail boat that he had ordered from the mainland.

“The mail boat leaves at 8 and returns around 1:30,” said Ooker. “They deliver hardware, groceries, passengers, whatever needs to come and go.” 

Sixty-three-year-old Ooker who was born and raised on Tangier Island has been mayor for the past 14 years. Since nobody seems interested in being mayor, he doesn’t have to spend any money campaigning.

“I’m a crabber first…oysterman, crabber, fisherman. Being mayor doesn’t pay the bills,” said Ooker. “I’m not really busy up at the town office. We have a wonderful town manager, so he gets into the nuts and bolts of everything.”

The mayor spends his time trying to get the story of Tangier out there. His favorite things about the island are the people and their way of life and of course crabbin’ and fishin’.

Ooker shared their harvest seasons: hard crabs – March into December, soft-shell crabs May into October, and oysters December through February. 

“There’s very little time off…but you know…we’re our own boss and captain, so if we want to take a few days off sometimes, we do it,” shared Ooker. “That’s one of the benefits of being a captain.” 

Ooker laughed when a local drove by on her golf cart and said, “Believe nothing he says.”

The Mayor asked tourists that had jumped in on our conversation if the boat ride over was a little rolly. “Did you put your sea legs on before you left,” asked Ooker.

“I didn’t take any Dramamine, but I should have,” said a tourist.

Petersburg native Jim Smith of Chester visiting Tangier for the first time found it very interesting, and he fell in love with the crab cakes at Lorraine’s Seafood Restaurant.

“He’s been to New England and lived in Boston, and he thought they were the best that he’s ever eaten,” said Smith’s wife Karen. “We both enjoyed the golf cart tour and listening to their accents.”

Seafood to die for

Ollice highly recommended that I try the crab cakes at Lorraine’s, however, since I’m allergic to shellfish, I opted for a fried flounder sandwich. It was the best I had ever eaten…I kid you not. As I was eating it, I seriously was thinking about ordering a second one to go. Don’t even get me started on Lorraine’s waffle sweet potato fries.

After I woofed down my scrumptious meal, I headed back to the ship. I met a local along the way…third-generation islander Richard Brown whose ancestors were from Baltimore and not England. “We’re the only Browns on the Island,” said Brown who was sporting a Trump hat.

Most everyone is related and shares one of a handful of surnames that trace back to the island’s settlement in 1778. Three last names dominate in Tangier: Crockett, Pruitt, and Parks.

Deborah Seargeant of Chester was relaxed on the dock sipping some Orange Crush taking in every second before she had to board the ship.

“I went into the Methodist Church and the gift shops,” said Seargeant. “People were really friendly. I bought some t-shirts, a coffee cup, and a Christmas ornament.”

Seargeant, not wanting to get wet again, rode inside the cabin on the way back to Reedville.

Susan Kalanges commented that she would like to have had more time to spend in the museum. I, too, would like to explore it more.

Since the pandemic, the “Silver Saints” were the first group on the Chesapeake Breeze in two years. 

The 90-minute trip took an extra 10 minutes. I highly recommend the Tangier Island Cruise. It has been family-owned by the Captain’s family for 50 years…and it shows. 

The next time I visit, I will more than likely spend the night so I can take my time taking it all in. The town has markers placed throughout the island that I would love to read, and I would definitely visit their beach.

Whether you travel to the unspoiled fishing village Tangier Island listed on the National Register of Historic Places by air or sea, you are sure to remember your trip for a long time to come.

Ferry reservations are recommended. Chesapeake Breeze carries passengers daily from May through October. Round-trip ticket prices: Ages 13+ $28, 4-12 $13, and 0-3 free. One-way ticket: Ages 13+ $20, 4-12 $10, and 0-3 free. Food and drinks are permitted on the boat. There is a small add-on charge to store your bike.

Visit tangiercruise.com to learn more about the Chesapeake Breeze and tangierisland-va.com for information about Tangier Island. Read this story online at progress-index.com to view more photos.

– Kristi K. Higgins aka The Social Butterfly columnist is the trending topics and food Q&A reporter at The Progress-Index. Have a news tip on local trends or businesses? Contact Kristi (she, her) at [email protected], follow @KHiggins_PI on Twitter, and subscribe to us at progress-index.com.



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11 Quaint Small Towns To Visit In West Virginia


Wild, Wonderful West Virginia, the Mountain State’s slogan, is a key to what’s in store as soon as you cross the state line. For years, some have either ignored the beauty of West Virginia or embraced it and kept the allure of its small mountain towns to themselves for safekeeping. 

Either way, with the New River Gorge becoming the 63rd park in the National Park System, it will gain many new visitors. Here are some quaint small towns to visit in West Virginia as shared by a local to enhance your visit. These are towns I have personally been to and raved about to others somewhere down the road.

Outdoor dining in Fayetteville.
Outdoor dining in Fayetteville (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)

Fayetteville

Fayetteville was voted one of the Coolest Towns in America by Budget Traveler. Here, you’ll find a Bohemian spirit with oodles of outdoor opportunities. If you’ve ever wanted to go whitewater rafting, this is your chance. You’ll find some of the best rapids in the country and instructional teams at Adventures on the Gorge to ease your beginner fears or bring out the daredevil for experienced rafters. You can also find lodging (cabins, glamping, RV sites, campgrounds, and vacation homes) for every budget. Enjoy a fantastic gourmet sandwich from Secret Sandwich Society and a side of Pimento Cheese Fries. The Truman is my fave, with turkey, peach jam, blue cheese spread, and crispy onions.

Pro Tip: Views from Adventures on the Gorge’s pool are breathtaking.

The Billy Motel in West Virginia.
The Billy Motel (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)

Thomas/Davis

I visited Thomas a few months ago after hearing some pretty cool things about it. Thomas is a charming little gem with one of the state’s best (if not the best) music venues, The Purple Fiddle, offering a house band that plays mountain and bluegrass sounds. Eat slow-cooked carnitas tacos or a bowl with rice, beans, queso fresco, pickled slaw, and a fried egg from Picnic, a takeout place with a massive lawn for picnicking. Bonus, there are 50 buildings in the area listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Three miles away in neighboring Davis is an adorable retro-chic motel that I didn’t have the chance to stay at, but not for lack of trying. The Billy Motel and Bar is highly popular and looks like it belongs on Route 66 rather than rural West Virginia. Have drinks at the bar and take in the cool ambiance. 

Shepherdstown

One of West Virginia’s oldest towns is Shepherdstown in the panhandle region of Jefferson County. Enjoy scenic views of the Potomac River or soak up the wonders of the town that was a runner-up for our nation’s capital. I enjoy staying at the Bavarian Inn Resort & Brewing Company, with award-winning German cuisine (think schnitzel, apple strudel, and sausages), comfortable, elegant rooms, and a fantastic infinity pool. Shepherdstown has a colonial feel to it, which you’ll notice at once. Stop in Dickinson & Wait Craft Gallery for your viewing and shopping pleasures, and O’Hurley’s General Store for a stroll down memory lane. 

Shepherdstown is 10 miles away from historic Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park, where one of the most precipitating factors of the Civil War took place. 

Boats at the lake in Summersville, WV.
Boats at the lake in Summersville (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)

Summersville

Calling all you boaters and campers … Summersville (Nicholas County) is the place to be in West Virginia. You’ll be in awe of the beauty of this popular human-made (rock-fill dam) 327-foot-deep lake only 20 to 25 minutes from Fayetteville. Find yourself a quiet cove for fishing or relaxing, or you can get out on the vertical cliff-surrounded lake for ultimate boating fun. Summersville Lake has a full-service marina and public beach area.

Camp on your own or rent a cabin or yurt at Mountain Lake Campground, which is also pet-friendly and offers golf rentals. Sarge’s Dive Shop is open for paddleboard and kayak rentals as well as diving excursions. Pontoons and speedboats are also available for rent at Summersville Lake and make for a great day on the beautiful clear water. If you’ve ever considered getting scuba certification, Summersville is an excellent place to do it. 

White Sulphur Springs

White Sulphur Springs is a pristine community with my favorite resort in the country – The Greenbrier, America’s resort since 1778. This place will literally knock your socks off with its luxury accommodations, high-end shopping, gambling, historical tours, golf, and sprawling grounds with incredible pools. White Sulphur Springs itself is a picturesque town with adorable little shops and quite a few festivals. If fishing is in your wheelhouse, cast your line and be prepared to pull in some tale-worthy big ones. 

If you feel like more pampering (it’s been a rough year, right?), a few miles away is Salt Cave & Spa, where you can relax in the man-made cave lined with Himalayan salt. Follow up with lunch and a photo-worthy Bloody Mary from 50 East Casual Dining & Spirits.

Fun Fact: Jerry West graduated from my high school. Honoring the NBA legend and man’s silhouette that still graces the basketball, Prime 44 West at the Greenbrier is a top steakhouse in the state. 

A parade in Marmet, West Virginia.
A parade in Marmet (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)

Marmet

A few minutes from Charleston, WV’s capital city, is Marmet, population 1,625. Besides having the best West Virginia hot dogs of all at Chum’s (you’ve got to try the yellow mustard slaw!), it is a town with a timeless annual tradition that is worth a visit. 

Join the locals and visitors in Marmet as they roll out the red carpet for the Marmet Labor Day festivities and parade. Gather around MacCorkle Avenue to watch a small-town American parade honor the labor workers with bands, nearby fire departments, politicians and labor party representatives, children’s organizations and church groups, candy-tossers, and much more. Following the parade are fireworks, carnival-style fun and games, music, and good home cooking at Ben Morris Field.

Pearl S Buck Birthplace Museum, WV.
Pearl S Buck Birthplace Museum (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)

Seebert

One of my favorite towns in West Virginia is Seebert, in Pocahontas County. This friendly community is nestled around the Greenbrier River and Watoga State Park. Stop by Jack Horner’s Corner for kayak and tubing rentals, as getting out on the water is a way of life here. If you’ve not had the pleasure of river tubing, put on your swimsuit and water shoes and grab a tube to float down the river. You can also pick up groceries, pizza, and other convenience items. 

You can camp in the state park or stay in the charming waterfront Greenbrier River Cabins for lodging. Motorcycle touring is another popular way to see Seebert, with fantastic scenery and some of the curviest roads in the state. Nearby, in the town of Hinton, is the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Museum, though currently closed due to COVID. 

Ca crepe at Cafe Cimino.
A crepe at Cafe Cimino (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)

Sutton

Located in Braxton County, Sutton is an adorable small town with the best restaurant in West Virginia, Cafe Cimino. Feast on a charcuterie platter, homemade pasta dishes, and mouthwatering steaks prepared by Chef Tim. Make an overnight of it and stay in the onsite Cafe Cimino County Inn situated along the scenic Elk River.

Nearby is the paranormal giant, the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Formerly the Weston State Hospital, this 160-year-old asylum is where countless lobotomies were performed. And if you hadn’t guessed, it is highly haunted and featured on several Ghost Network shows. I highly recommend a tour of this National Historic Landmark. 

Bingo cards in Dunbar, WV.
Bingo in Dunbar (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)

Dunbar

Dunbar is a stone’s throw from Charleston, with the best bingo in the state. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill bingo hall. The Dunbar Athletic Boosters Bingo Hall has hundreds of people cashing in on big jackpots, pulling tips (if you know, you know), and munching on homemade pies, cakes, and a wide array of dinner options. Saturday nights, you can play bingo for less than $35, which lasts several hours into the evening. Funny, this thrilling weekly entertainment and camaraderie is the one thing I miss most about living in West Virginia. 

For overnight accommodations, the vibrant Mardi Gras Casino & Resort is 10 minutes away. 

Lewisburg

The setting of downtown Lewisburg is about as American as you can get, with locally owned shops, restaurants, vibrant flower displays, whimsical street flags, and manicured parks lining the main drag amidst the Allegheny Mountains. Here you can enjoy high brow shopping for ladies apparel at Wolf Creek, shoes at Yarid’s, upscale kitchen items at Bella the Corner Gourmet, and eclectic gifts (and wine!) at Harmony Ridge Gallery. Visit Carnegie Hall or Greenbrier Valley Theatre for performing arts and concerts. Then, rest your head in a beautiful room at the elegant 1929 General Lewis Inn, serving amazing craft cocktails. 

Pro Tip: Don’t miss Lewisburg’s Carnegie Hall — one of the four remaining Andrew Carnegie centers in the world. 

The Palace of Gold in Wheeling, WV.
The Palace of Gold (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)

Wheeling

Wheeling is well-known for Oglebay Resort, a year-round resort with cottages and a lodge that really comes to life at Christmas when the Winter Festival of Lights offers some of the best holiday displays in the country. Oglebay’s grounds are immaculate — you may not want to leave. A few miles away in Moundsville is the Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold (Hare Krishna devotees), easily one of the best religious wonders in the country. Wheeling is great for leaf peepers, a perfect Italian dinner at Undo’s, and playing the slots at the Wheeling Island Hotel Casino and Racetrack

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