West Virginia is quickly becoming one of our family’s favorite places to visit. As a family who loves the outdoors and gravitates toward drivable vacation destinations during this phase of life with three young boys, West Virginia checks so many of our boxes!
Earlier this month, over Labor Day weekend, we loaded up our car and made the short 2.5 hour drive to Mercer County, West Virginia where we spent the long weekend exploring, fishing, eating, hiking, s’mores-making and enjoying time away together as a family. In today’s blog post, I’m breaking down our visit and detailing where we stayed, what we ate and what we did during our time in Princeton, Bramwell and Camp Creek, West Virginia.
Where We Stayed
When we drove up the gravel path to our secluded cabin in the middle of a forest, Chase exclaimed, “This is my kind of place!”
The Lodge where we stayed was surrounded by trees and located in a little clearing with two other cabins but felt isolated in a way that made our time in this home feel like an adventure. It was a perfect house for our family of five with cozy bedrooms and a living area outfitted with tons of games and activities for the boys. (They fell in love with Battleship during our stay!) Though the cabin was clean and welcoming and outfitted with everything our family needed for a weekend away, we spent most of our time outside of the cabin, eating our meals on the patio and enjoying the large fire pit (perfect for nightly s’mores) and the trails around the area that begged to be explored!
What We Did
Explored Downtown Princeton (First Fridays!)
Princeton is a small but lovely little town in Mercer County and actually ended up being our first destination since we passed through the town on our way to our cabin on Friday night. Our arrival time was perfect because we ended up catching the start of the town’s First Friday’s event! On the first Friday of the month, local musicians play on a small stage above a grassy lawn where local artists set up little tents to showcase their work. It was such a nice way to kick off our weekend getaway and our boys loved coloring on the community chalkboard and dancing their faces off!
We also enjoyed walking along the main street of the town and checking out the beautiful murals painted by local artists. The butterfly mural was clearly a favorite among our creature-loving crew!
Shopped at Blue Ridge Bee Company
This adorable shop was located a super-short walk from the lawn where we hung out and enjoyed live music on Friday night. A friend of mine was actually born and raised in Princeton and said we had to make sure to visit this shop and she was right! Not only was it beautifully charming with exposed brick walls, a community chess set and rocking chairs to encourage visitors to hang out, but the shop had so many fun finds from local vendors. We left with flavored honey sticks for the boys, a fresh loaf of sourdough bread, locally made beeswax soap and fry pies I am still dreaming about!! I didn’t know what a fry pie was but the man working at the counter spoke so highly of them that we couldn’t resist and now I’m kicking myself for not buying a bunch to bring back home and freeze for the future. I need them in my life again!
Explored Bramwell + Millionaire Row
On Saturday morning, we explored the trails around our cabin before loading the boys up for an adventure in Bramwell, a nearby historic town known for having the most millionaires per capita than any other town in the United States in the early 1900s. We went on a walking tour of “Millionaire Row” to view 14 of the beautifully preserved homes and each picked out our favorites!
(This home has a ballroom on the third floor!)
Our boys were more into fishing than the houses (of course) so we made it a point to carve out some time for fishing at a small reservoir a man we chatted with at a coffee shop told us about earlier that day.
The boys also loved checking out the Bramwell Depot as it was home to a few older trains, a model train and plenty of lollipops and keychains… aka all the important stuff.
Visited Camp Creek State Park and Forest (2x!)
This place won first prize from our boys during our weekend getaway! Our whole family is an outdoor-loving bunch and Camp Creek State Park was overflowing with family-friendly hikes, waterfall views and a gentle-flowing creek shallow enough for hours of crayfish and tadpole hunting! This is the spot our boys begged to return to the day after our first visit so we spent a LOT of time at Camp Creek State Park!
Ryan and I loved checking out the waterfalls at Mash Fork Falls and Campbell Falls and the boys could not get enough of catching and releasing crayfish in the creek with their nets and playing on the playground. Camp Creek State Park is stunningly beautiful and Ryan and I commented more than once that we need to return to this state park for camping with the boys since it’s only 2.5 hours away and has so much to offer.
Fished at Dan Hale Reservoir
Fishing is always high on our boys’ list of things to do so when we planned our visit to Mercer County, fishing was a must. We took the boys to Dan Hale Reservoir on Sunday morning and fished for a few hours in one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen.
The reservoir is surrounded by a thick blanket of trees and feels isolated from everything. It’s quiet and picturesque and we only saw three other people during the three hours we spent at the reservoir. Though bass eluded us, the boys caught a bunch of bluegills but enjoyed netting small fish and crayfish from the shore the most! (Can you tell crayfish were quite the novelty for them on this trip!?)
File this under “Super Random Vacation Stops” but when Ryan and I saw a sign for “pet shop and tax service” out front, we were intrigued. An odd combination for sure but why not lean into your talents, right!? Haha! Well, clearly this place knows what they’re doing because the pet shop was easily one of the best pet stores we’ve ever visited. They had a large variety of well cared for reptiles (our boys’ favorites), birds, guinea pigs (hairless!) and more fish than I could even begin to count. Our kids could’ve easily spent two hours in this place if we’d let them!
Where We Ate
We often pack a bunch of food and snacks to make at home when we travel and while we did a lot of that during our visit to Mercer County, we enjoyed food from a few local spots detailed below!
We arrived in Princeton starving on Friday night and so I quickly put in a to-go order from Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company because their menu looked like it would happily feed our family of five and the reviews online were good. Pizza and burgers? Say no more! I opted for a club sandwich and it was so darn good! I wasn’t a burger or chicken finger-lover as a kid and would opt for a club sandwich whenever it was on the menu so this one was a nostalgic meal for me and Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company did it right!
Located a couple of doors down from Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company was Kylie Kakes and since our entire family has a ginormous sweet tooth, you know we couldn’t resist grabbing an assortment of sweet treats from this local shop. The cinnamon rolls we saved to reheat for breakfast the next morning stole the show!
This place stole the show during our weekend getaway and claimed the prize for my favorite local eatery for a myriad of reasons. We lucked into arriving at Honeycomb Café in Bramwell on Saturday morning as they were serving up freshly-made donuts that smelled like heaven! Even though Rhett stole most of mine, what I had of my cinnamon-sugar twist donut was wonderful.
Thankfully the boys weren’t as into the quiches Ryan and I bought and oh my gosh they were the perfect mix of a creamy, almost custard-like cheesy egg enter with a flaky buttery crust that lit my taste buds on fire. Also worth noting is the kindness of the owners of this café. We ended up chatting with the husband-wife team behind Honeycomb Café and they were so warm and friendly. I also couldn’t resist purchasing a beautiful ring made with gold wire and a purple gem when I saw a sign saying it was made by a local artist and then learned the owners’ daughter makes the rings sold at their café! The ring is beautiful and I figured it would make a great way to remember our time in Bramwell.
You know you’re on vacation when lunch looks like french fries and ice cream! Our crew wasn’t too hungry for a big lunch after eating a decent amount at Honeycomb Café a few hours prior, but after fishing with the boys in Bramwell, ice cream sounded fabulous so we popped into the Bramwell Corner Shop for ice cream and fries.
One step into this shop had us feeling like we went back in time to the days of old fashioned soda fountains and it was such a charming little place to visit! The soda shop atmosphere sparked a craving for a root beer float for me and it was fabulous.
We opted for grab-and-go barbeque from A Taste of Memphis on Saturday night and brought back an assortment of ribs, chicken and pork to enjoy by the campfire. The barbeque was so good but Ryan and I both wished we would’ve requested extra sauce because we found ourselves wanting more for our chicken and pork! Worth noting: The ribs were the way to go!! They were fall-off-the-bone tender and a half rack was generously large.
And that was our trip in a nutshell! Until next time, West Virginia! If you have any questions about the activities, logistics, drive, restaurants, etc. definitely let me know. And if you are hoping to plan a getaway to this area, West Virginia Department of Tourism and Visit Mercer County are great resources to check out to begin your planning!
Question of the Day
What are some of your favorite vacation destinations that are drivable from where you live?