Thomas, West Virginia, welcomes all. With a population of 556, the hamlet that locals affectionately call “the town of misfit toys” rebuts those big-city sophisticates who assume the entire state is a land of coal, conservatism, and MAGA hats. You’ll find gay couples holding hands and posters around town reminding visitors that “kindness counts” and “the land does not belong to us, we borrow it from our children.”
More relevant to would-be vacationers is that Thomas is nestled in Canaan Valley, an area—about a three-hour drive from DC—known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities. You can stay here or three miles down the road in Davis, the heart of skiing, then explore Thomas once you’re off the slopes. East Avenue, the town’s main drag, is fronted by stately if slightly haggard red-brick buildings, including the historic Cottrill Opera House (currently raising funds for its restoration) as well as several art galleries and antiques shops full of Appalachian trinkets.
For winter sports, White Grass (643 Weiss Knob Ski Rd., Davis; 304-866-4114), with 60 kilometers of trails, caters to the cross-country and snowshoe crowd, with a natural-food cafe on-site, guided high-country tours, and events such as wreath-making and full-moon skiing. Canaan Valley Resort (230 Main Lodge Rd., Davis; 800-622-4121)and Timberline Four Seasons Resort (254 Four Seasons Dr., Davis; 800-766-9464) draw downhill skiers and snowboarders, thanks to about 40 runs each and elevations above 4,000 feet. Both are family-friendly, with ski schools available. Canaan Valley Resort also has snowtubing, while Timberline offers carriage and sleigh rides.
Remember sledding as a kid? The joy of skimming down a hill, followed by the long trudge back up to do it again. At Blackwater Falls State Park (1584 Blackwater Lodge Rd., Davis; 304-259-5216), the quarter-mile-long sledding hill features a “magic carpet” lift to bring you back to the top effortlessly. It’s lighted for nighttime fun, and all day long there’s a warming hut with hot chocolate and snacks. Sled rentals are available.
Eat and Drink
The Purple Fiddle (96 East Ave., Thomas; 304-463-4040) has been a tent pole of Thomas’s cultural revival for seven years. The music venue/bar presents local and national musicians Friday through Sunday alongside sandwiches and daily dinner specials. Take a seat on one of the repurposed church pews or join the multigenerational crowd on the dance floor grooving to a mix of country, folk, and bluegrass.
Everyone in town recommends that you stop in at TipTop (216 East Ave., Thomas; 304-463-4455), which brews delicious coffee, unusual teas, and unique beverages such as a golden turmeric latte. The urbane shop’s slogan is “Filter coffee, not people,” and it includes games for children and art exhibits. TipTop augments its drink offerings with burger night on Fridays and a substantial brunch menu and Bloody Mary bar on Sundays through spring.
Sirianni’s Café (474 William Ave., Davis; 304-259-5454) has been serving healthy portions of pasta, pizza, hoagies, and salads for 30 years. The family-friendly spot makes its home in a 100-year-old steamship office, its wooden walls decorated with local memorabilia, including a photograph of the first Siriannis who came to Davis during the coal and timber booms of the 1890s.
While you’re in the area, check out the hoppy local brews at Stumptown Ales (390 William Ave., Davis; 304-259-5570) or the selections at Mountain State Brewing Company (1 Nelson Blvd., Thomas; 304-463-4500), which also offers serviceable sandwiches to be enjoyed by a stone fireplace.
Rather than the standard bed-and-breakfast, the Cooper House (114 East Ave., Thomas; 304-851-4553) and its brother, the Billy Motel (1080 William Ave., Davis; 304-851-6125), offer “a bed and a cocktail.” Retro-style rooms feature pillowy beds with down comforters and a flat-screen TV for Chromecasting. A chalkboard announces creative drink specials and informs guests: we don’t care who you worship or sleep with; welcome all! In the window behind Billy’s bar, which is open to the public, is a small sticker: resist.
For a more traditional B&B, drop your bags at the Mountain Primrose (364 Spruce St., Thomas; 304-463-3325), a quaint four-room guesthouse on the far side of Thomas’s main road. The cheerful rooms are differentiated by color, each with its own beautiful patchwork quilt. The hearty breakfast is one of the best meals in town: bacon, potatoes, eggs, and French toast made from homemade cinnamon-raisin bread. Don’t skip proprietor Dawn Smith’s homemade pastries.
Canaan Valley Resort offers rooms at its lodge starting from $99 a night during the week and $120 on weekends, plus cabins, cottages, and camping. At Timberline, there’s Timber’s Inn Hotel as well as a bunkhouse for large groups (10 to 30 people), plus cabins and bungalows for rent through Timberline Four Seasons Realty (866-438-7259).
This article appears in the January 2019 issue of Washingtonian.