West Virginia: A Stellar Year for Celebration and Exploration. (Special Advertising Section)

Article excerpt

New and fascinating experiences are as easy to gather in West Virginia as -water from its sparkling waterfalls, lakes and mountain streams. The state's collection of contrasts satisfies travelers who seek natural and manmade wonders, excursions into history, lively entertainment, culinary variety, recreation and relaxation.

West Virginia reveres its past and embraces the present, and visitors find both intertwined along trail routes designated by the West Virginia Division of Tourism. A trio of anniversary celebrations makes a trip to the state especially memorable this year.

The transcontinental explorations of Lewis and Clark were launched 200 years ago, with strategic supply stops in West Virginia along the Ohio River. Historic reenactments, ceremonies and displays at Harpers Ferry National. Park, Wheeling, Wellsburg and Huntington mark the state's connection with the 6,000-mile expedition as part of the National Lewis & Clark Bicentennial.

A chance to experience the 1950s-era Big Dipper, one of the nation's few remaining wooden roller coasters, draws visitors from around the world to Camden Park in Wayne County. A multigenerational favorite for 100 years, the park features rides, entertainment and a prehistoric American Indian burial mound. The seasonal park opens in April and begins a whirl of summer centennial festivities on West Virginia Day, June 20.

The 70,000-acre New River Gorge National River was established as a national park 25 years ago. Its silver anniversary is a perfect time to experience its ancient and rugged whitewater river and spectacular vistas, as well as Native American and coal industry heritage.

Parkersburg/Wood County

Favorite and family-friendly heritage travel sites abound in Parkersburg and Wood County. At Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, a stern-wheeler transports visitors across the Ohio River to the park's trails and elegant 19th-century mansion. Blenner-hassett Museum of Regional History in downtown Parkersburg offers intriguing archaeological and historical exhibits. …

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