Nope. There is no way you will guess where I went.

This time, I ventured somewhere more obscure. I traveled to a barely known place that boasts vibrant communities, lush forests, and serene rivers leading to green mountain vistas. Mercer County, West Virginia, in the southern part of the state, exudes the authentic spirit of Appalachia and the rich history of coal mining.

But why should you visit Mercer County? Mostly because it isn’t your typical vacation destination. It’s far from it. Mercer County is not well-known in the mainstream travel world, making your experiences and the stories you bring home far more unique than the commonplace tales of Disney World. Forget about Mickey Mouse ears and trade the Magic Kingdom for a Scenic Kingdom in Mercer County, West Virginia.

Here’s what I recommend for your few days in Mercer County:

Day 1

Check into Main Street Suites in Bramwell, WV:


The suites are spacious and full of historic personality, blending old-world charm with modern comfort, somehow feeling like they are situated in a city twenty times the size. Located in a historic building above the restaurants and businesses of Bramwell, once known for having the most millionaires per capita due to the coal mining industry, these suites offer snug and comfort plus easy access to the town’s historic streets. Think loft apartment living in a manageable downtown area. This is where you need to spend your evening’s rest. Visit [Main Street Suites](http://Mainstreetsuiteswv.com) for reservations and details.

Dine: The Corner Shop:


On the ground level of the same building, The Corner Shop is home to a Victorian old-fashioned soda fountain and much more. For the record, you can’t get Victorian old-fashioned sodas in many places anymore. It is a rare occurrence, but good God, it tastes so much better, much like how sodas tasted before our modern-age ruined soda ingredients completely.

Not only are they rated the best milkshakes in West Virginia, but their burgers are extraordinary. I ordered “The Duke” Chili Slaw Burger twice during my trip and have been dreaming of it ever since. These are dreams that have become nightmarish knowing I can’t get this burger until my next visit. Eating at The Corner Shop has authored the most tolerable nightmares of my life.

Tour The Town:


Bramwell is small, making it easy to navigate. Stroll around and admire the large Victorian mansions on Millionaires Row, built by the coal mining elite. The town’s culture is deeply intertwined with the history of each Victorian home. Friendly locals might share the backstory of any house if you ask. You might even be invited over for coffee, wine, or a meal. Their tales could have you checking out Zillow listings in town. I checked. Am still checking periodically.

Day 2

Breakfast: The Honeycomb Café:


Start your day with chic and delicate pastries, a scratch-made breakfast, or lunch offerings like sandwiches, salads, and soups. The chicken salad on croissant is particularly noteworthy. Despite being in a small town, The Honeycomb Café rivals top-notch bakeries in Washington, DC, or New York, without the hefty price tag. My wife wished they stayed open all day, but they close by 2 PM, Thursday through Sunday.

Do it: Rent your ATV or UTV:


Mercer County has one of the longest ATV and UTV trail systems in the world, the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System. Whether you’re experienced or new to trail riding, this is for you. Rent from Crazy Mountain Cycles at 4156 Coal Heritage Road, Bluefield, WV. Owner Mark Bullis is dedicated to giving you a thrilling experience with West Virginia flair. He also offers well-appointed apartments for extended stays, where some of Mark’s professional racing friends who use his UTVs often stay. Ask for more details.

Book here: http://Crazymountaincycles.com

Hit the trails:


West Virginia’s ATV/UTV lifestyle is comparable to Colorado’s skiing/snowboarding culture. The intricate, stunning trails make you feel alive on vacation. Enjoy the freedom of riding under a green canopy of leaves that provide some shelter from the heat, but avoid reckless behavior. Keep it cool and collected for a great time on this world-class trail system.

Lunch:


Return to The Corner Shop or try Mexican food at Casa Familia, both located in the same building as The Main Street Suites. I went back to The Corner Shop. So what!

Afterwards, take some time to enjoy Bramwell by embarking on a leisurely walk and soaking in the quaint beauty of the main street and surrounding area. If you don’t have the energy (you did hit the trails on the UTV today, right?) then you need to catch a nap back at Main Street Suites.

Dinner: The Vault Downtown:


Located at 401 Federal Street, Bluefield, WV, The Vault Downtown offers a fine dining experience in an old bank. Open Wed-Sat from 5 PM – 10 PM, this restaurant brings big-city taste to a smaller community with award-winning chef creations. General Manager Tony, who moved from New York City, can share the story of his transition and The Vault’s goals. Be sure to order the French Onion Soup and the Filet Mignon with garlic whipped potatoes.

Day 3

Coal Heritage Trail Interpretive Center:


This small museum delves into the rich cultural legacy of the area. It’s worth a visit to understand how everything around you came to be and it wont cost you a thing.

Camp Creek State Park:


Head to 2390 Co HWY 195, Camp Creek, WV, to find two waterfalls (Campbell Falls and Mash Fork Falls). Allocate about two hours for this small hike, perfect for photos.

Head to Princeton, West Virginia:


Another historic area in Mercer County, Princeton has a thriving arts scene and played a significant role in the region’s coal mining industry. Walk along Mercer Street in the Grassroots District to explore local boutiques and antique stores.

It is important for you, the traveler, to know that an extended weekend vacation to Mercer County is about appreciating West Virginia for what it is – small, untamed, rugged, and charming. This isn’t similar to any major metropolis that you may be familiar with. Mercer County is truly about enjoying the slow life, the air, the lifestyle and the simplicity of understated elegance. That’s why I recommend spending much of your time in downtown Bramwell, West Virginia. Besides, the local folks are a delight and are generally willing to share any town history with you that you may be curious about.

These recommendations will make your visit to Mercer County an unforgettable adventure, far from the beaten path of typical vacations.