Staycation, All I Ever Wanted

WalletHub released its Best & Worst Cities for a Staycation last week. Spoiler alert: Wheeling isn’t on the list. Sitting pretty at the top is Orlando, followed by Honolulu and Chicago.

Rounding out the top six are the gems of the Northwest, Seattle and Portland, both places I’ve dreamed of living since my 20s (but never have visited), followed by Tampa, where I spent my formative years. It wasn’t as if every day were a vacation in Tampa, but if that’s your goal, it certainly is ripe with possibilities.

The closest to us on the list of 182 locales is Pittsburgh, ranked 28th, followed by Cleveland, 34th, and Columbus, 59th. Charleston is the only West Virginia city on the list, clocking in at 141. The three criteria: recreation (walking and biking trails, bowling alleys, pools), food and entertainment (theaters, casinos, restaurants), and rest and relaxation (spas, beaches, salons).

Pittsburgh is really the only one we here in the Ohio Valley could consider a day trip, but it would be hard to choose which sights to see in a day. Off the top of my head I can name a dozen top-notch museums and beautiful parks, not to mention summer slam-dunks Kennywood and Sandcastle. You’d have to take several days to a week to do it justice. A true staycation means sleeping in your own bed each night, though, and I don’t count a daily commute to the ‘Burgh as relaxing.

So let’s take a look at our possibilities right here at home. Although Wheeling didn’t garner a WalletHub nod, there are possibilities here. The purpose of a staycation is just like any other vacation, to relax and have fun. With the right attitude, a little imagination and a few dollars in your pocket, you can accomplish those goals without straying far from ground zero.

If you’re sans kids, start out with a jog or walk, a game of golf or a spa treatment at Oglebay, followed by lunch overlooking the park — either pack a picnic or treat yourself to a sit-down repast at Wilson Lodge. Spend the afternoon lazing by the pool or touring the zoo or museums. Head downtown or to Centre Market for dinner and local brews. Catch a free concert at Heritage Port, Wheeling Park or Oglebay’s amphitheater. With kids in tow, swap the spa for paddle boats and mini golf at Wheeling or Oglebay parks. Don’t forget to stop into Oglebay’s Sweets & Treats Shoppe for ice cream.

If shopping is your go-to vacation activity, consider destinations to which you might not venture on a regular basis. How about Tanger Outlets in Washington County? The Fiesta Outlet in Newell? Or antiquing in Barnesville, Wheeling’s Centre Market or even farther afield in Zanesville.

You could combine the Zanesville trip with a visit to The Wilds, where the giraffes and rhinos roam. For more animal adventures, visit Dickinson Cattle Ranch in Barnesville or Boss Bison Ranch outside Cadiz.

If water oases beckon, rent a pontoon boat, fishing boat or kayak on Seneca, Tappan or Piedmont lakes. Go fishing, swimming or just float along the lake with nary a care.

Although Amish country is fairly close, it’s still too far for a staycation. For a taste of that provincial culture closer to home, visit the Captina Produce Auction outside Barnesville on Tuesdays and Fridays starting at 10 a.m. Tooling around that section of Belmont County, you might even run across a farm stand, where the produce was picked that morning and payment is on the honor system.

On your way back east, stop off the Belmont Morristown exit of I-70 for lunch at Schlepp’s. Get meatloaf, thick homemade bread and a slice of peach pie. Or head down National Road to the 40 Sports Grill for a deluxe burger or Chapz for grilled wings on the patio (FYI: Sunday night is bike night.)

In the southerly direction, Grand Vue Park outside Moundsville offers aerial adventures and stellar views from ziplines, a giant swing and ropes courses. Everyone should visit Prabhuphada’s Palace of Gold in rural Marshall County at least once in their lifetime. While there, tour the palace, behold the blooming rose garden, enjoy a vegetarian lunch at Govinda’s or take a refreshing break at the Smoothie Shack overlooking the Lotus Pond.

Later this month, the newspapers are publishing a book, “100 Things That Make the Ohio Valley Great” packed with events and destinations unique to the Ohio Valley. I only scratched the surface here. Teaching our children to appreciate what’s in our backyard is a step toward keeping it great for generations to come.

Betsy Bethel is the Life editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register and the editor of OV Parent magazine.

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