The second-largest city in West Virginia, Huntington lies along the Ohio River, right by the borders of both Ohio and Kentucky. An important center of culture and commerce for the Tri-State Area, the ‘Weenie Capital of the East’ has a surprising number of fun attractions and things to see.
Home to the second-busiest inland port in the US, it initially thrived thanks to its heavy industry, railroad and nearby natural resources before eventually suffering from de-industrialization. Over the last few decades, the smallish city has bounced back with its pedestrian-friendly downtown and the Pullman Square lifestyle center enticing shoppers and diners alike.
Although an oft-overlooked destination, there are plenty of fun things to do in Huntington with excellent museums to explore alongside all its pretty parks amongst the Appalachian foothill.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. Harris Riverfront Park
A very peaceful and picturesque place, the Harris Riverfront Park offers up some lovely views over the Ohio River. Located just across the Veterans Memorial Boulevard from Pullman Square, its lush green spaces contain a skate park, playground and amphitheater among other facilities.
Running right down by the waterfront, its tranquil paths are a delight to amble along as you bask in beautiful vistas of the river and the city’s striking suspension bridge off in the distance. Occasionally a charming old tugboat will pass by with ducks and geese appearing en masse once any prospective picnicker turns up.
Aside from using its exercise equipment or skating about its ramps, you can also attend some of the concerts and community events that the amphitheater hosts in summer.
11. Memorial Arch
Certainly one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks, the massive Memorial Arch is set just a short drive southwest of the center. Lying in the park of the same name, it was raised in honor of all the brave soldiers from Cabell County who fought and laid down their lives in the Great War.
Built between 1924 and 1929, the triumphal-style arch towers 42 feet tall in total with fine bas-relief carvings emblazoned on its limestone walls. Laurel wreaths and palm boughs can be spied beneath the words Fortis et Fidelis – Strong and Loyal – across its parapet.
Now a National Historic Landmark, the enormous monument makes for some fantastic photos and viewing, particularly when it is so magically lit up at night.
10. Joan C. Edwards Stadium
If you’re instead after a thrilling sporting spectacle, then the Joan C. Edwards Stadium is the perfect place to go. Part of the Marshall University campus east of downtown, it hosts all the action-packed games of the college’s Thundering Herd football team.
Completed in time for the opening game of the 1991 season, the large arena always has an awesome atmosphere thanks to the thousands of fervent Herd fans that pack out its seats. From all its stands, spectators enjoy superb views of the AstroTurf pitch with concession stands dotted here and there.
In the build-up to the game, live concerts and tailgating parties take place in the parking lots outside as does a ‘Thunder Walk’ where you greet the players entering the stadium.
9. Keith Albee Performing Arts Center
Another fabulous venue to head for entertainment is the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center. Lying right in the heart of town, its opulent auditorium puts on a packed schedule of concerts, comedy acts and off-Broadway shows.
When it was first opened to the public in 1928, the former vaudeville theater and movie palace was remarkably the second-largest theater in the entire country. Now thankfully restored after decades of wear and tear, its Spanish Baroque-style interior features stained-glass skylights and a starry night’s sky with its lobby being just as grand and impressive.
One of West Virginia’s most important cultural institutes, it is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark. Besides watching brilliant dance productions, plays and film festivals, you can also hear about some of the countless ghost stories that swirl around the phenomenal performing arts center.
8. Beech Fork State Park
Boasting lots of stupendous landscapes, scenery and nature, Beech Fork State Park lies just twenty minutes drive south of the city center. Within its sprawling reaches, you can hike, kayak and camp til your heart’s content with plenty of playing fields and a swimming pool also on offer.
Long a popular recreation area with locals and tourists alike, it was established back in 1978 around the large and lovely man-made lake of the same name. This was formed following the damming of the Beech and Miller forks of Twelvepole Creek with tranquil trails now winding their way along its more than thirty miles of shoreline.
Other than hiking and biking about all its vast woodlands, you can swim or fish in the lake or play a fun round of disc golf. Basketball, tennis and volleyball courts are also available with many heading here for quiet weekends away.
7. Museum of Radio and Technology
A fascinating place to visit, the Museum of Radio and Technology houses a huge collection of early radio equipment and electronic components. Well-done displays and historic photos also detail the origins of broadcasting and rapid progression of technology over the decades.
Since 1991, the museum has worked to preserve this rich history and promote electronics education. Starting off in the pre-electrical area, you’ll see how wireless communication began in the twenties before moving on to a typical television and radio store showroom from the fifties. Everywhere you look, there are vintage transistors, tape recorders and even wind-up Victorian phonographs on show.
On top of actually testing electronics and sitting behind the console of a broadcasting station, guests can tour the museum with a passionate and knowledgeable guide. Its building on the southwestern outskirts of town also contains the Broadcasting Hall of Fame and a little gift shop.
6. Huntington Museum of Art
Another of the city’s top institutes is the Huntington Museum of Art which is full of fine paintings, photos and sculptures. Located in the Parks Hill neighborhood above Ritter Park, its leafy campus also includes several hiking trails and a subtropical plant conservatory.
Now the largest art museum in West Virginia, it was officially opened in 1952 with 17,000 artifacts and artworks making up its holdings. Its grand galleries display everything from fine decorative arts from the Near East to ceramics, glass and gun collections. Exquisite European paintings also feature next to Appalachian folk art and Islamic prayer rugs.
In addition to all its superb artworks, the museum has a coral reef aquarium, two outdoor sculpture courts and a sensory trail for visitors to check out. Educational shows and workshops also regularly take place in its studios and auditorium.
5. Camden Park
Long a favorite with families, the old-school-style Camden Park has lots of fun rides and a couple of rollercoasters for young and old alike to enjoy. Situated just outside of Huntington on the way to nearby Kenova, it also contains a charming old carousel and haunted house among other attractions.
One of only a dozen trolley parks still open in the States, it was established back in 1903 as a picnic spot for the employees of the Camden Interstate Railroad Company. Alongside its Big Dipper which was built in 1958, you can now find log flume rides, bumper cars and a mini-golf course.
While it could definitely do with a fresh lick of paint, the amusement park’s old-fashioned look and feel draw visitors back time and time again.
4. Downtown Huntington Historic District
The heart and soul of life in the city, the Downtown Huntington Historic District is home to most of its best shops, restaurants and bars. Very walkable, it lies right by the Ohio River with many striking historic sights and important governmental buildings also dotting the area.
Once quite dilapidated due to the decline of its steel and manufacturing industries, it has undergone a major revival since the opening of the Pullman Square lifestyle center in 2004. New lighting and other pedestrian-friendly features now make Fourth Avenue, also known as the ‘Old Main Corridor’, a very pleasant place to wander about.
Lining it are not just dozens of bustling shops and local restaurants but the outstanding Keith Albee Performing Arts Center too. Other notable landmarks in the neighborhood include the Huntington City Hall and Cabell County Courthouse; both of which were built over a century ago.
3. Ritter Park
Yet another pretty spot to head to if you want to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy some exercise is the wonderful Ritter Park. Set on the city’s South Side, it boasts loads of gorgeous green spaces with its internationally-acclaimed rose garden being its standout sight.
Centered around the quiet little Four Pole Creek, the park was created back in 1913 by local council member Rufus Switzer. Over the decades, playgrounds, picnic areas and playing fields all sprung up amidst its lovingly landscaped grounds. Here too is an outside community amphitheater that puts on concerts and shows in the summer months.
The highlight though is of course its colourful and fragrant rose garden which is full of thousands of blooming bushes and has won numerous awards for its delightful layout and design.
2. Pullman Square
The de-facto center of Huntington, Pullman Square was opened back in 2004 as part of a major rejuvenation plan for the city. Aside from strolling about its lovely leafy square downtown, you can also stop by its lively shops and restaurants or watch the latest releases at Marquee Cinemas.
Lying just across the Veterans Memorial Boulevard from the Ohio River and Harris Riverfront Park, the sleek and stylish lifestyle center has around twenty stores and eateries. These include everything from an old-school-style arcade and relaxing spa to a Starbucks, GameStop and several excellent restaurants.
Thanks to its diverse array of businesses, the center has successfully transformed what was formerly a rather depressed area into the happening district it is today.
1. Heritage Farm Museum and Village
For those interested in learning about Appalachian history and culture, the magnificent Heritage Farm Museum and Village is an absolute must. At the replica of a rural village, you can see amazing old artifacts, animals and experience how early settlers lived in years gone by.
Nestled amidst the nearby hills and forests, the expansive park lies some fifteen minutes drive southwest of the center and Pullman Square. As its scenic site, guests can explore over a dozen wonderful old wooden buildings and watch artisans use antique equipment as they recreate rural life in the 1850s.
While some exhibits look at schools and changes in society over the centuries, others focus instead on coal mining, glassblowing and other traditional skills. After seeing all its well-preserved vehicles and tools, you can stroke cute farmyard animals or enjoy its exciting high-ropes course and zipline.