It was the sign touting the Grave Creek Mound that lured me off the highway, but as I dug into the story of this unique West Virginia town for a PBS movie, I discovered a world of amazing places. Put together, they make for a day or weekend that is fun, fascinating, family-friendly, and the perfect American short trip, with nature, history, culture, and food. And the good news is it’s not far: Under five hours from Washington and a bit over an hour from Pittsburgh. Here’s your perfect day in Moundsville. (Mix and match, or spread over two days as desired.)
1. Have breakfast at Bob’s Lunch. Start your day with some coffee, pancakes, and scrambled eggs at Bob’s, a classic all-American diner that opened in 1947. You’ll also recognize the diner as the setting for Bill Wnek’s interview in the film. (800, 3rd St)
2. At 9 a.m., head over to the Grave Creek Mound for a hike. It’s gated, and you have to walk through the Del Norona museum. Walk up the steps to the top, and take a look at the Ohio River and the town. It’s an incredible view, and a testament to the Adena people who built the mound over 2,000 years ago. (801, Jefferson Ave)
3. Visit the Del Norona museum, which includes the West Virginia state archeological complex. Learn about the prehistoric animals like mammoths, the Adena people, white settlement in the 19th century, and the evolution of Moundsville in the 19th and 20th centuries. (801, Jefferson Ave)
4. Walk across the street to the old West Virginia state penitentiary. Book a tour on the website. See the inside of a classic American prison, site of the last public hanging in America, an electric chair (“Old Sparky”), and where Charles Manson’s mother was held. (818, Jefferson Ave)
5. Make sure you walk around the Central Business District and Jefferson Avenue. Lots of interesting craft, antique and retail shops.
6. For lunch, head over to Acapulco Mexican restaurant for some quesadillas or tacos. (800, Lafayette Ave)
7. Start you afternoon with a visit to the Fostoria Glass Museum. It’s open 1pm to 4pm, Wed.-Sat. (511, Tomlinson Ave)
9. Explore Grand Vue Park, a stunning beautiful place with zip lines, cabins, and a miniature golf course. One complaint about the movie Moundsville was that we didn’t feature Grand Vue, so it’s nice to include it here. (250, Trail Dr)
10. Finish your day at Steve Hummel’s Archives of the Afterlife, a must-see collection of spooky objects and historical arcana. Steve was my first friend in Moundsville, and is a gracious and generous host. He’s in the process of moving the Archives to Cameron, WV. Check out his website for address and hours.
WHERE TO DINE
Head back into town for dinner at the Prima Marina (1501, Water St), where you can sit by the river; Varsity Pizzeria (2203 Ohio St), which is old-fashioned fun; or Mason Dixon BBQ Co (115 Lafayette Ave), a delicious new BBQ joined operated by a veteran.
WHERE TO STAY
Have fun in Moundsville!
John W. Miller