Opening a map of West Virginia and deciding to take day trip can lead you to find some unique places. Unusual, unique and sometimes weird and wonderful things are found in our home state. Our first stop on Roaming West Virginia took us to Wheeling, located in Ohio County.
Wheeling was founded in 1769. Trade along the Ohio River made it a popular frontier town, and later it was known as West Virginia’s capital.
National Road, the nation’s first roadway, was created by an act of Congress and reached Wheeling in 1818 from Cumberland, Md. National Road was the most important avenue of commerce and, as such, Wheeling became known as the “Gateway to the West.”
People will recognize the wire suspension bridge that spans the Ohio River. The wire suspension bridge opened for traffic in 1849. It was the longest clear span bridge in the world. Just more than 1,000 feet. The bridge still serves local traffic and has been designated a national landmark.
Your next stop could be Oglebay Resort and its Good Zoo.
The concept for a zoo in Wheeling was conceived in 1971 by Larry and Barbara Good as a memorial to their seven-year-old son Philip. In 1972, monies from the Good family, The Wheeling Park Commission Trust Fund, the Federal Appalachian Regional Planning Commission, and the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation established the seed money for the zoo.
Opening in 1977, the zoo exhibits animals native to North America and endangered species from around the world. The zoo is one of only a handful of AZA institutions that receives no endowments, or state, city or county support, and operates only on earned revenue.
“When we plan out the zoo and our exhibits we try to prioritize endangered or rare species that we can assist with, manage in human care or assist in conversation programs in the wild,” said Joe Greathouse, zoo director.
Greathouse said passion drives the staff in caring for these animals. In 2016, the zoo also partnered with West Liberty University in the initiation of a new zoo science major, training students to become future zoo keepers, curators, and educators. The major is one of only four of its type in the United States, and the partnership between the zoo and the university is the only formal partnership between an AZA-accredited zoo and an institution of higher learning for such a major.
“Most of our team is strictly here because of the passion of getting to take care of these animals, helping to conserve these rare species, and teach guests what you can do at home to help conserve some of these species as well,” Greathouse said.
Recalling childhood memories or making memories with your own children or grandchildren will be easy once you visit the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum. It’s an oasis taking up residence in a restored Victorian schoolhouse. The museum staff said that all of us are children at heart.
“We’re completely hands on with things, old school type of things. That we can show ‘hey, kids still really enjoy playing with dolls and slot cars and geo tracks,’ so we’re kind of a break from that for a lot of families, which is neat to be that, “said Lynn Maguire, staff worker.
You get hungry after all the sights you see. So why not visit a place known for its burgers? Avenue Eats is located within a few miles of most of Wheeling’s major attractions.
Avenue Eats’ Diner Burger, was recognized by Thrillist as one of the “33 best burgers in America.” The owners also run a bakery and catering service a few blocks away from the restaurant. Desserts such as cupcakes, cheesecake, and ice cream make up the menu as well.
“It’s our family owned business that we decided to create in Wheeling to give a little taste of what it might be to eat at a small restaurant maybe outside a big city.” said Laura Graves, co-owner.
“Just as much as people recognize us for our food, our service is also is top in the area, our servers know our people, and our people know them and become an extended family,” Graves said.