Photo: Elyse Clark Tse/Shutterstock

Where to Play, Eat, and Stay in Mercer County, West Virginia

West Virginia Insider Guides
by Britnae Purdy Jan 8, 2024

To understand Mercer County’s tagline, “Uniquely Appalachian,” you first have to understand Appalachia. Appalachia is a region that stretches from southern New York to northern Mississippi in the Appalachian Mountains. Thirteen states have areas that belong to Appalachia. West Virginia is the only state that’s fully located within the Appalachian region.

Appalachia’s history traces Irish and Scottish immigrants settling in the area throughout the 1700s and 1800s, mingling, clashing, and blending with the Indigenous groups who lived there and a growing Black community. Much of Appalachian culture is shaped by its history as a coal-mining and logging region, its role as a key player in America’s rail system, and its close-knit community life. In short, Appalachia is a little bit of everything served up with a smile and a biscuit, and Mercer County is a perfect window into the region.

Mercer County was carved out of two existing Virginia counties in 1837, becoming part of West Virginia when the state seceded from Virginia in 1863. Mercer County is home to Bluefield, a college town straddling the Virginia border; Princeton, the county seat; and Bramwell and Athens, two small, historically rich towns. Each town contains a vibrant arts culture, unique small businesses and restaurants, and opportunities for exploring the mountains.

From haunted fairgrounds to cozy downtowns and fine dining, these are places to explore, eat, and stay in Mercer County, West Virginia.


Things to do in Mercer County, West Virginia


Embrace the county’s supernatural side


Photo: Britnae Purdy

Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park is a place of ghost stories, history, and good old-fashioned fun. Lake Shawnee has a storied past that involves Indigenous history, murder, several accidental amusement park deaths, mud pits, and, at the heart of it all, a family dedicated to preserving and sharing the unique space with the world. Tours and overnight stays are available by appointment via the park’s website. In October, the park hosts a Dark Carnival with tours and a haunted maze every Friday and Saturday night.

Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park: 470 Matoaka Rd, Rock, WV 24747

Chase waterfalls


Photo: Britnae Purdy

In Mercer County, you stumble across a hiking trail or waterfall everywhere you turn. While there are certainly challenging hikes for the avid outdoorsman, many lovely overlooks and waterfalls are relatively accessible for the novice, as well. Camp Creek State Park is home to Mash Fork Falls and Campbell Falls, both of which can be accessed via a level gravel path. For a more strenuous afternoon, the 8.7-mile Turkey Loop Trail is accessible via Campbell Falls and features nine creek crossings. West Virginia Tourism has even developed a Waterfall Trail Passport — download the pass and check in at waterfalls across the state to win prizes.

Camp Creek State Park: 2390 Co Hwy 19/5, Camp Creek, WV 25820

Delve into the county’s history


Photo: Britnae Purdy

Understanding the history of the region will make your visit to Mercer County all the more fulfilling. Start in tiny Bramwell, once home to millionaire coal barons. While the barons have moved on, their elaborate Victorian houses remain on Millionaire Row. Stop by the Coal Heritage Interpretive Center to learn more about how coal-mining shaped Mercer County. Follow that up with the Princeton Railroad Museum to learn about the equally significant impact of the rail system in the area. The Mercer County War Museum is a volunteer-run tribute to the impact of war on the Appalachian region, spanning from the Civil War to present day. Elsewhere, in Bluefield, use this map to embark on a self-guided tour of the East End Walking Trail, covering significant Black history sites including the Alpha Phi Alpha House, Park Central High School, and Bluefield State University.

Coal Heritage Interpretive Center: 100 Simmons Ave, Bramwell, WV 24715
Princeton Railroad Museum: 99 Mercer St, Princeton, WV 24740
Mercer County War Museum: 1500 W Main St, Princeton, WV 24740

Go on an ATV adventure

Mercer County is the entryway to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, over 800 miles of AT and UTV routes spread over 11 different trails. The Pocahontas and Indian Ridge Trails are easily accessible from historic Bramwell. With several dining establishments catering to ATVers, including the popular Trail 10 Pub & Grill, you can plan to spend the full day popping on and off the trails. Rentals and guided tours are available through local outfitters such as Crazy Mountain Cycles and Eagle ATV.

Crazy Mountain Cycles: 4156 Coal Heritage Rd, Bluefield, WV 24701
Eagle ATV:</strong 804 Mount Olive Rd, Rock, WV 24747

Explore the Grassroots District


Photo: Britnae Purdy

You can spend a full afternoon popping in and out of storefronts in Princeton’s downtown. Dubbed the Grassroots District, this compact town is home to unique shops including the Blue Ridge Bee Company (for all your beekeeping needs, and for us non-apiarists, locally made crafts and food), 80s Toys of Princeton, and the RiffRaff Arts Collective. The Hatter’s Bookshop is a wonderous maze of used books, plants, vinyl records, stationary, and work by local authors.

A few blocks down, CSC’s Candle Bakery sells some of the most unique candles and wax melts you’ll find east of the Mississippi — if you don’t need a candle you can still enjoy the sweet scents that float out and down the street. If all that shopping tires you out, snag a caffeine fix (and local art) at Wild Roots Coffee House — the seasonal drinks are particularly exciting — or stop at The Sophisticated Hound for a microbrew and personal pizza. While digesting, explore the 30+ murals spotted throughout the district, including the charming Artist’s Alley.

Grassroots District: 500-1000 Mercer Street, Princeton, WV 24740


Where to eat in Mercer County, West Virginia


Dolly’s Diner


Photo: Britnae Purdy

In Mercer County, the old-fashioned diner is king. Dolly’s Diner in Princeton is a beloved establishment where you can expect classic American food, fast and cheap. The Philly Cheesesteak will not disappoint, and the milkshakes are thick and satisfying. Dolly’s is almost always busy, but seats move fast.

Dolly’s Diner: 909 Oakvale Rd, Princeton, WV 24740

Honeycomb Café


Photo: Britnae Purdy

For Sunday brunch, stop by Honeycomb Café in tiny downtown Bramwell — the biscuits and gravy are shockingly light in texture and full in flavor, plus you can order by the biscuit (you’ll probably want more than one). While the café is plenty cozy, you should also consider placing your order to go and taking it to the picnic pavilion at nearby Pinnacle Rock State Park for fresh air and great views.

Honeycomb Café: 151 Main St, Bramwell, WV 24715

Bramwell Soda Fountain and Corner Shop

Nearby, you’ll find the Bramwell Soda Fountain and Corner Shop (often called the Corner Shop), which is home to housemade burgers and ice cream and a genuine 1950s-era gooseneck soda fountain. After a day of ATVing, a Chubby Checker burger (topped with mac-n-cheese and bacon), classic West Virginia Pepperoni Roll, or award-winning banana split will hit the spot.

Bramwell Soda Fountain and Corner Shop: 171 Main St, Bramwell, WV 24715

The Vault Downtown


Photo: Britnae Purdy

Don’t be fooled by the plethora of quality diners in Mercer County — it’s also home to several fine-dining establishments. For a date night or special occasion, visit downtown Bluefield. The Vault Downtown has an extensive bourbon and wine selection, high-quality steak and seafood, and even a cigar lounge. The food is only half the appeal — the restaurant is in the lobby of the gorgeous People’s Bank, built in 1895, and the service is unparalleled.

The Vault Downtown: 401 Federal St, Bluefield, WV 24701

The RailYard

For a more casual vibe, or extensive Saturday and Sunday brunch, The RailYard serves burgers, sandwiches, and milkshakes alongside craft beer, specialty cocktails, and live music from Thursday to Saturday. After dinner, pop by the historic Granada Theater for a movie. Originally opened in 1928, the theater was lovingly restored and re-opened in 2012.

The RailYard: 530 Raleigh St, Bluefield, WV 24701


Where to stay in Mercer County, West Virginia


Frankly, if you visit West Virginia and don’t immerse yourself in the great outdoors, you’re doing it wrong. But that doesn’t necessarily mean giving up the comfort of a real bed. Mercer County offers a variety of unique lodging options, all of which ensure that dose of nature you’re looking for.

For the camper

Camp Creek State Park has accommodations for every type of camper, from comfortable trailer and tent sites with heated bathhouses to remote pack-in, pack-out options. Double C Horse and Rider Campground gives you the unique chance to spend the day riding the trails and the evening bedding down with your equestrian companion. Adventure-seekers will appreciate Kairos Resort, just over the border in Virginia and nestled alongside the New River, which offers RV hookups, campsites, and yurts alongside trail passes and rentals for fishing, kayaking, swimming, shooting, and trails for hiking, mountain biking, ATV/UTVs, and horseback riding.

Camp Creek State Park: 2390 Co Hwy 19/5, Camp Creek, WV 25820
Kairos Resort: Shumate Falls Rd, Glen Lyn, VA 24093

For the glamper


Photo: Britnae Purdy

For a stay that’s equal parts nature and luxury, Lake Mountain Manor offers comfortable space for your group. Rent the top floor (sleeps 10), bottom floor (sleeps 6), or the entire manor and enjoy a custom-built bar and rec room (with Pac-Man), luxurious showers, a high-end kitchen, a fire pit, and an expansive deck with views of the human-made lake and its sandy beach. Set on 40 peaceful acres near Brush Creek Falls, the estate also has a wedding pavilion. For a solo trip or couple’s getaway, keep an eye out for the property’s treehouses (coming in early 2024). Each house is carefully crafted around a tree or set of trees and is secluded from its neighbors, giving you that treetop hideaway you’ve always wanted. Owners Paul and Cathy Smith have big plans for this place, including expanding to log cabins, hiking trails, and even a provision shop.

Lake Mountain Manor: 377 Imperial St, Princeton, WV 24739

For the mudder

With prime ATVing throughout the county, Mercer County is dotted with ATV lodges that function as a cross between a campground and a resort, providing both comfortable sleeping options and a place to stash your ATV. Most lodges are within motoring distance to trails and may offer RV hookups, motel-style rooms, bunk houses, cabins, and even laundromats and on-site vehicle rentals. Local favorites include Busted ATV, a homey collection of rooms in the oldest house in Bramwell (built in 1880) that’s only half a mile from the Hatfield and McCoy trails and a two-minute drive from Main Street; ATV TrailCamp, a set of comfortable one- and two-bedroom cabins perched on the edge of Pocahontas Trail; and RiverFront ATV Resort in Bluefield, which offers cabins, tent sites, RV hookups, and a very popular restaurant.

Busted ATV:7661 Coal Heritage Rd, Bluefield, WV 24701
ATV TrailCamp:11138 Coal Heritage Rd, Bramwell, WV 24715
RiverFront ATV Resort:3331 Simmons River Rd, Bluefield, WV 24701


How to get to Mercer County, West Virginia



Photo: Britnae Purdy

Mercer County is located in southern West Virginia. The closest major airport is the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, located about an hour and half away by car in Roanoke, Virginia. The nearest train station is in Hinton, West Virginia. The best way to explore Mercer County, however, is with your own car. The county is about a five-hour drive from several major cities, including Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Washington, DC — it’s a fairly easy drive once you’re out of city traffic. Closer cities (between three and four hours away) include Knoxville, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia. Note that it’s fairly common for roads in West Virginia to be narrow and twisty through the mountains — drive carefully and brake around the corners.

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