If you’re looking for a weekend getaway to get you in the holiday spirit, Grant County, W.Va., has the welcome mat out. A part of the Potomac Highlands region of the Eastern Panhandle, the county is always scenic but sparkles this month with special events.
One focus is the weekend of Dec. 6–9. The celebration kicks off with “Hometown Christmas for Petersburg” on Dec. 6, where many local businesses in the small town hold open houses to entice Christmas shoppers.
Adding to the excitement for families is the Snowflake Express Train Ride with Santa, Dec. 7–8, with three rides available each night. The 45-minute ride to the Festival of Lights includes Christmas cookies, hot cocoa, and caroling with Shanna Bowers and Friends. Children can write a letter to Santa and drop it in Santa’s mailbox, take a picture with Santa, or meet Disney characters Elsa and Olaf.
A Breakfast Train Ride with Santa on Dec. 8 features a 1 1/2-hour ride with a continental breakfast, coloring books, stories, and games.
Rides depart from the South Side Depot at 126 S. Main St. in Petersburg. Call 304-257-9266 for tickets. The depot is a former general store built in 1911 next to the railroad tracks. Today, it is a gift shop selling mostly West Virginia-made artisan items.
Also on tap Dec. 6–9 at the Landes Center for the Performing Arts are performances of the Christmas classic, “A Christmas Carol,” presented by West Virginia Theater East.
Whatever the weather, you can marvel at the rock formations in the 56-degree Smoke Hole Caverns. The complex also has a large gift shop. Outdoorsmen can enjoy fishing in the well-stocked rivers or hiking on the North Fork Mountain Trail, which is open year-round.
Those taking the train rides find the Fort Hill Motel a convenient place to stay. Among places to snuggle up in a mountain setting are Harman’s Luxury Log Cabins and LTD Vacation Cabin Rentals.
Driving to Grant County from Washington, D.C., has been reduced to 2-1/2 hours, thanks to the Mountain Skyway (the new Route 48, formerly called Corridor H).