Over the past few months we have been making the 21/2-hour, beautiful drive to Elkins, W.Va. We have been supporting a great group of young professionals, members of Generation Randolph, with their efforts in making our sister-site, Elkinite.com, a reality. One of the reasons we selected Elkins as a next step was the buzz surrounding its recent resurgence in the downtown quality of life.
Our time in Elkins has inspired us to introduce a new series on Weelunk.com: Weelunk Daytripper. This will be the place for anyone who wants to highlight an area within a day’s drive of Wheeling that not only is a great place to visit, but may help teach us some things to help Wheeling, W.Va., be great. At the end of this story are some of those “ideas.”
So let’s get in the car and head to Elkins.
“Wings for Wheels” – Greensky Bluegrass
We arrived in Elkins on a recent Tuesday night. We parked at the Holiday Inn Express, (This would be the last time we are in our car until the end of this story.), right in town next to the Train Depot. We walked for about 10 minutes to the Big Timber Brewery.
Similar in feel to Wheeling Brewing Company in small-scale style, Big Timber captures the essence of mountain life and mixes it with a touch of hipster and some really great beer.
We haven’t had dinner yet. The locals recommend a dive just a five-minute walk up the road: The Jabberwock.
It feels like a cousin of the Alpha. It has a dark, historic feel complemented by great beers on draft from Mountain State Brewing Company, from Tucker County just to the north. We both ordered burgers and they were fantastic.
It was 9:30, and we were sans-children, so we felt like we should go for a night-cap. Just around the block is one of the coolest places in West Virginia: El Gran Sabor.
It’s a place where they serve authentic Venezulean cuisine for lunch and dinner. We were in the bar in the back of the establishment, which is a former hair salon and originally a house. In the back is where you can find some of the best live music in Randolph County, but not on Tuesdays unfortunately. Tonight we just enjoy a Big Timber IPA and talk with Derdlim (Lopez) Masten and Rob Masten, husband and wife and co-owners (more about Rob tomorrow).
The Holiday Inn Express offers a good breakfast for free, so we set up shop in the lobby and planned out the morning. We had a meeting at 2:30, so we had a good four hours to explore.
You should know that we have eaten before at Bagels and Bites, one block away and highly recommended.
We headed out by foot to Davis and Elkins College. A couple of blocks and then up a steep hill and you are there.
First stop, the Augusta Heritage Center, where you will find the Halliehurst and Graceland Mansions. Here we also found 50+ guests, many of them retirement age, learning, teaching, and practicing the fiddle. So cool.
Some more scenes from the beautiful campus:
After our campus tour we walked back down the hill toward downtown. First, we stopped by this market and bought some local peaches.
Next we hit one of the four thrift stores in sight — Coming Around Again.
We then made it to what feels like the center of town: The Elkins Depot Welcome Center. Here you can take train excursions through beautiful eastern West Virginia including a holiday themed Polar Express via Mountain Rail Adventures.
Across the street from the train depot is the Delmonte Market. This place is similar to our Artisan Center and offers a collection of gifts and unique items from individual vendors from around the area, which makes it feel personal and unique.
It’s lunch time, and it’s a no brainer. Time to head back to the El Gran for some South American fare.
Rob Masten, (from the night before), spots us and takes us out the back way. He wants to show us a cool project around the corner. He shows us a reclaimed piece of land adjacent to the alley that the local YMCA had recently turned in to an outdoor space for art, gardens, and people.
On the way to our meeting we pass Joey’s Bike Shop.
And now our final destination: The Kissel Stop for some REALLY good coffee and a meeting about where the next stop on the Weelunk adventure might take us.
Back to our car — it has been 20 hours since we’ve been in it.
Here’s what we learned:
Obviously, Elkins is “walkable.” And that is a good thing. Being able to walk to all of the cool and varied places we visited improved the experience.
Elkins has an advantage over Wheeling; it is “tight.”
Because of its smallness, you can walk from the best restaurant to a museum to a market and then to a thrift store without breaking a sweat. In Wheeling, it’s impossible to walk from Elm Grove DiCarlos to Oglebay Park and then to Centre Market in the same time-span. However, we can do better in Downtown Wheeling with walkability. See last week’s Weelunk article: Improved “Walkability” is a Two-Way Street.
Another lesson: The people of Elkins are not only wild and wonderful, but they also are entrepreneurial and hopeful.
Spending time with Elkinites only helps to validate the theory that the best West Virginia natural resource is its people.
We encourage you to take the trip to Elkins!
Photos by LeeRoy