Wheeling is the center of commerce, government, health care, religion, education, arts, and recreation of West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle. It’s also the birthplace of West Virginia and a main crossroads on the historic National Road.
Wheeling is the home of Wheeling Jesuit University and West Virginia Northern Community and Technical College, as well as several companies, law firms and hospitals. And it has West Virginia’s only hockey team, the ECHL Wheeling Nailers, which plays at Wesbanco Arena.
Known as the Friendly City, Wheeling has one of West Virginia’s largest and most family-friendly resorts: Oglebay Resort and Conference Center. Once the summer estate of Earl W. Oglebay, the 1,650-acre park now has a 271-room lodge, cottages, spa, indoor and outdoor pools, conference facilities, two museums, a 30-acre zoo, a planetarium, an environmental education center, several restaurants and shops, tennis courts, horse stables, fishing, hiking, gardens, and three golf courses, including one designed by Arnold Palmer and another by Robert Trent Jones Sr. There are several special events at the resort each year, including a fall festival and the Winter Festival of Lights in November and December.
Downtown Wheeling has a lot to offer children. The Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley, 1000 Main Street, focuses on hands-on activities. The Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum, 144 Kruger Street, has thousands of toys and trains. It also has a gift shop and guided tours.
Children and adults alike will get a lesson in West Virginia and Civil War history at West Virginia Independence Hall, 1528 Market Street. Built as a U.S. Customs House and headquarters for federal offices in the Western District of Virginia, it was the site of the debates that led to the formation of West Virginia in 1863. West Virginia’s first constitution was signed here. An audio tour and interpretive film are available. It is open Monday through Saturday.
History buffs also may visit the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, which was built to carry the National Road (now U.S. 40) across the Ohio River. The bridge opened to traffic 1849 and still carries traffic.
Visitors may travel a 16-mile stretch of the National Road with the aid of a driving tour and other information from the Wheeling Convention and Visitor’s Bureau in downtown Wheeling. Among the sites are a bronze Mingo Indian at the crest of Wheeling Hill and McColloch’s Leap. In 1777, Maj. Samuel McColloch jumped off this cliff with his horse to escape from Indians.
Wheeling was once the site of Fort Henry, which stood at the mouth of Wheeling Creek. The fort withstood a siege by Indians in September 1782. According to legend, when the settlers ran out of gunpowder, Betty Zane volunteered to retrieve some from the family cabin, about 60 yards away. The event is commemorated each year at Oglebay Park during Fort Henry Days. The fort itself was dismantled in the early 1800s.
Visitors also may tour some of Wheeling’s many Victorian houses. Victorian Wheeling Landmarks (304-233-1600) offers guided tours on weekends from May to December. The Eckhart House, a restored 1892 Queen Anne house, offers its own tours May through December.
Visitors can exercise and learn about history on a network of rails-to-trails that focuses on different aspects of the area’s heritage. Wheeling Park, the city’s largest, offers golf, indoor and outdoor tennis, an outdoor pool and waterslide, ice skating, a playground, picnic sites, and a restaurant and banquet hall.
Wheeling has a thriving visual and musical arts community. The Wheeling Artisan Center, 1400 Main Street, features handcrafted glass, pottery, jewelry, West Virginia food products, books, fabric arts, and souvenirs in a renovated industrial building with a three-story atrium in the heart of downtown Wheeling. Wheeling Centre Market, in the 2200 block of Market Street, has a host of antique stores, unique shops and restaurants.
The Wheeling Symphony regularly provides symphonic and pops music with internationally and nationally known guest soloists. For a different type of entertainment, the recently restored and reopened Capitol Theatre offers Broadway shows, concerts and classic movies. The Victoria Vaudeville Theater, which opened in 1904, and advertises itself as the oldest theater in West Virginia, offers bluegrass, gospel, and oldies music at 7 p.m. every Friday. And the nationally known Wheeling Jamboree holds shows every Saturday from venues around Wheeling.
Another kind of entertainment is offered at Wheeling Island Hotel Casino and Racetrack. The casino and resort has more than 2,100 slot machines, 63 table games, a 550-theater with live entertainment, a 151-room hotel and several restaurants.
For more information about Wheeling, visit http://www.wheelingcvb.com.
Written by Jennifer Bundy
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