History is abundant in the hills of Mercer County. Explore a region born out of a bustling coal mining economy and learn how the industry has shaped a resilient and unique community.
Saturday – Princeton
Tucked in between the area’s lush green mountains is a blue train depot that houses the Princeton Railroad Museum. Walking through the doors is like taking a step back in time! This historic museum details how the railroad tracks through Mercer County shaped the county’s storied past. See a bright red restored caboose, artifacts, artwork, books, photos, and more than a hundred railroad lanterns. Tours are free and self-guided, and the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
Bonus: On your way to or from the museum, you’ll get the opportunity to check out downtown Princeton’s Mercer Street Grassroots District.
While you’re in the area, swing by the McNutt House and catch a close-up of the prominent home. One of the first stops on the Civil War Trail in West Virginia, Princeton was partially burned by Confederate soldiers. The only remaining structure – the McNutt House – houses The Chamber of the Two Virginias. But during the Civil War era, the house was used by Union soldiers as a hospital.
Next, stop by the Mercer County War Museum to view the many artifacts from the Civil War, World War I and II, the Vietnam War and present-day conflicts. The museum is open daily during the summer, until 4 p.m.
Gear up for a spooky evening at Lake Shawnee, an eerie property not far from downtown Princeton. This abandoned amusement park opened in the 1920s and closed in 1966 following the untimely deaths of two visiting children. It turns out the land was tainted long before the amusements ever arrived — it was the site of an Indian massacre and an ancient burial ground.
Tours are given Monday through Saturday by appointment only. Call (304) 921-1580 to schedule your tour. You can also ask about other tours that include overnight investigations and a moonlight adventure tour every third Saturday of the month.
For dinner, visit Taste of Memphis and try some mouth-watering BBQ. This family-friendly local restaurant with some Tennessee flair cooks all of their BBQ on their smoker for up to 15 hours, resulting in their signature Memphis-inspired taste. From their delicious pulled pork and chicken to their mouthwatering ribs, you’ll be sure to find something to satisfy. They are open Friday and Saturdays from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Mercer County is packed with history, and its unique accommodations reflect that. There is no shortage of storied bed and breakfasts to choose from for a cozy evening of rest. In nearby Bluefield, we recommend tucking in at the Historic Bluefield Inn, an early 1900s mansion that boasts modern conveniences, like HD TV, vegan food options, and even a Tesla charging station! Or, cozy up at Baker’s Hill Inn, a spotlessly-kept, historic brick home that radiates old-world charm and elegance. The hosts will make sure you feel like family as you enjoy a homemade meal on the sprawling southern-style front porch.
Sunday – Bluefield
Mid-Morning and Afternoon
If it happens to be the first Sunday of the month, stop by the Blue Spoon for brunch. Specializing in doughnuts and sweet treats, the Blue Spoon dishes are focused on fresh, organic ingredients. If it is any other Sunday, stop by the one and only Tudor’s Biscuit World for a little taste of this West Virginia favorite.
After eating, stop by the Davidson Cabin located inside of Bluefield City Park. This cabin was built by one of the first settlers of Bluefield, Joseph Davidson, in the early 1800s. The Cabin was moved to its current location, Bluefield City Park, in 1939. The Davidson Cabin was originally located on the corner of Bland Street and Cumberland Road. The family faced a surprise attack by the Shawnee Indians when they lived in Bluefield. For more information on this historic landmark, download the Clio app and look up Attack on the Davidson Cabin for a real-time history lesson. Next, take a ride on the Ridge Runner Train. Locals have very fond memories of riding this train as young children and you, too, can experience the child-like wonder. See for yourself by riding it for just $2 a person, per ride. They are open on the weekends from 12 pm – 6 pm.
To finish off this historic exploration, head to the East River Mountain Overlook to see the view from a stunning perspective. The train mentioned above originally started out on top of East River Mountain. Did you know that East River Mountain was one of the first welcome centers in West Virginia? Before Interstate 77, motorists drove over East River Mountain to get from Bland County, Virginia to Mercer County, West Virginia. The top of the mountain featured a gift shop, welcome center and of course, the train. When Interstate 77 and the East River Mountain tunnel was built, the landscape of travel changed and the mountain became the scenic overlook it is today. Perched 3,500 feet above sea level, you will be able to take in unparalleled views of the valleys tucked between the crinkled green landscape below.