The Purple Fiddle: Thomas, West Virginia

Droves of people visit the Canaan Valley area in West Virginia area during all four seasons for scenic hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and other general outdoor pleasures. Many of these visitors also take time to explore the tiny adjacent mountain town of Davis, WV–population 600ish–with it’s single grocery store and bank, wonderful places to eat (a.k.a. Hellbenders; more on that later) and even more wonderful residents and passers-through. What many people don’t know is that if they continued on just a few more miles to the next tiny mountain town, Thomas, W.V.–population 400ish–they would stumble upon a rare gem called The Purple Fiddle Café, Brews and Stage.

My best friend’s parents (Editor’s Note: Coincidentally, I know these people. And they are fantastic. This should, perhaps, be indicative of the kinds of people here) are some of the few permanent residents of the Canaan area and so we have a summer tradition of visiting the area for long and relaxing getaways. Every summer we hike, eat, drink, and repeat on a daily basis. In our minds those few days are what we live for. The only thing that breaks our routine is The Purple Fiddle, or the peak of Thomas, W.V. night life. Despite its remote and sparse permanent population, Tucker County has a ridiculously active music scene that draws professional and nationally touring musicians from across the state and beyond.

The Purple Fiddle is a restaurant and music venue that offers more than your standard country and bluegrass fare. Rock, reggae, blues, folk–you name it, it’s been played here. It’s even a family-friendly place, so feel free to bring the rug-rats as long as you can keep them quiet. Kidding. This is a place where kids can feel free to be loud and crazy along with the adults.

Once the music starts, the atmosphere is contagious. People dance and drink and laugh and bond over the music and the small town camaraderie. There are dozens of brew choices on the menu–and you can never try just one. If you decide to retreat for some fresh air, there is an attached outdoor area stage-left though on a typical Friday or Saturday night it’s probably more crowded than the interior. Some bands draw big enough crowds that it feels like the whole town is there at once… so wear some deodorant for god’s sake.

John and Kate Bright, the extremely kind and friendly owners of The Purple Fiddle, live in the upstairs portion of the building and work hard to maintain a welcoming and entertaining environment for everyone. Along with the eclectic décor, there is a bit of a country store feel too, as they offer some local novelty items in addition to the band merchandise being sold.

The word on the street is the staff affiliated with the The Purple Fiddle may start recording and producing some of its many traveling artists so if you are already a fan keep an eye out. The Purple Fiddle is easily the heart of this artsy mountain community and every trip I take to Canaan will be punctuated with a stop at the Fiddle.

By: Megan Longfellow

Europa Spa, Morgantown

Europa Spa is perched on the top of a hill overlooking the river that runs through Morgantown, a nice spot for a spa, and which yet does not boast of many. Though Hope, the owner, started this spa over 22 years ago, it’s only recently moved from its former location at the Seneca Glass Factory downtown to its new spot, the old chamber of commerce. Close the door behind you as you walk in, and all of a sudden you’re no longer on a busy street in Morgantown but in a closed-off pleasure dome—perhaps a scaled-down version of Kublai Khan’s, but a delight nonetheless.

Hope has been in the spa and salon business for over 40 years, beginning in Albuquerque, New Mexico at a hair salon. As time passed, she became more and more enamored with the holistic and healing benefits of spa treatments, and later on she started Morgantown’s first full service spa at the old Seneca Glass Factory.

In its present state in the old chamber of commerce building, they offer, in addition to the hair treatments at the salon, full-body massage, facials, pedicures, manicures, makeup, and even yoga downstairs (see everything they offer here and here). Her expert staff will treat you to a bit of bliss while you retreat inwardly, luxuriating, to your own private place of laughter and forgetting.

By: Ben Britz

13 Summer Travel Ideas: USA

It’s too early for me to be awake. I was watching my nephew shoot off bottle rockets next to a raging bonfire in BackWoods, USA last night (Greensboro, Pennsylvania). To nobody’s surprise, that lasted all night. But I’m up and I’m happy it’s July 4th. I’m in Morgantown, West Virginia for it, getting ready to embark on an afternoon of one of the most American things out there: a BBQ. I’m either feeling groggy or generous or both, but I want to help you plan your travels this summer across the USA if you haven’t already done some planning. Here are some summer travel ideas, straight to you from The Anti Tourist.

1. Spokane, Washington

Go biking, kayaking, wine-tasting, live-music-watching, or out to eat in this city that surprised me last summer. I had a blast in the blazing heat and you will, too. The Davenport is the main hotel downtown and I swear on my life that it’s haunted.

2. California (Santa Cruz and farther north)

SoCal is gorgeous in its own right, but during the summer, head north–preferably on a road trip up the 101. Between Santa Cruz, The Redwoods, and all that is offered in San Francisco and San Mateo County, you’ll keep yourself busy and wonder why you hadn’t explored more thoroughly before now.

3. Maine

Maine makes for a great summer getaway. You’ll hit a lot of cities on the east coast, but once you hit Maine, you’ll get some much-needed peace and quiet. Try out The Cliffhouse for top-of-the-line oceanside rooms and a rockin’ spa. HINT: you can also bring your dog(s).

Need more ideas? OK. Here you go. 10 more USA summer travel ideas:

4. Pamper yourself at NYC Spas.

5. Visit Asheville. Stay in a B&B in Asheville.

6. Go ghost hunting in Texas, stay here, eat at the Mighty Cone (serious about that last one–FRIED FOOD in ICE CREAM cones, what??).

7. Speaking of ghosts, go to Dudleytown in Connecticut.

8. Colorado is good for more than its slopes. Check out the state in the summertime. Stay at the Boulder Canyon Inn, check out the Bat Cave!

9. Hit the streets of DC. From cool clubs with caves for basements to bed and breakfasts that will give you way too much wine, DC is a sweet city that comes alive in a way we like during the summer. Worship both Jehovah and the Gods of Rock and Roll at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue/Music venue!

10. Go zip-lining in Hocking Hills, Ohio. While you’re there, go Hot-Air Ballooning too, because, why the hell not? How about a Lunchbox Museum? How about flying lessons from a crazy (crazy AWESOME) man?

11. Hike, ride horses, and do other country thaaangs while staying at a B&B in Pennsylvania.

12. Turn off your phone and check into a cottage in Oregon.

13. Go caving. Anywhere. The caves will keep you cool during the hot summer months. Tennesee and Kentucky are full of ’em, but check out a full list of USA Caves to map out your underground route.

Now quit talkin’ about getting away this summer and just do it.

By: Elizabeth Seward

Gabriel Brothers: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio

Your typical tourist delights him or herself in strip malls. This person loves kitschy figurines, Hawaiian prints, bad perfume, Celine Dion, and thinks they’re slumming it when they shop at T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s. That was probably the rudest, likely inaccurate, assessment I could conjure up after only three cups of coffee, but one hidden point rings true: your typical tourist doesn’t know about Gabriel Brothers–a deal-grabbing store that puts T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s to shame.

Growing up in Marietta, Ohio, an arm’s length from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Gabriel Brothers was a super secret lifesaver for me and my siblings. Having a mother who clips coupons for already on-sale store-brand cereal, there wasn’t any shot in Hell that my sister and I would ever be allowed to order clothes from catalogs like Delia’s. Which was oh-so-cool back then. We’d drive the 30 minutes to Parkersburg, West Virginia and sneak into this giant store, cramming our carts with Delia’s shirts marked $1.00 a piece and our mouths with cherry ICEES and soft pretzels simultaneously. Mom always gave us a limit and we always knew we could go at least $20 over that limit. “Girls, I’m serious, you get $25 each” meant “Go ahead and pack your cart with $45 worth of shit each because for every dollar I spend, I’m saving ten.”

The trick to Gabe’s is this: you have to carefully look at your clothes. All clothes are rejects from a store/warehouse/factory, but not all rejects are bad. Sure, some will have gaping holes exposing your arm pits to all of your office, but more often than not, the size is simply marked incorrectly. Or a tag is missing. Etc. And they don’t just sell clothes. Home furnishings, shoes, toys, and snacks I’d be skeptical of also make the cut.

To this day, Gabe’s is a stop-point each and every time I find myself back in the homeland. Without Gabe’s, I’d be that creeper walking around the slick streets of Manhattan in men’s sweatpants and a Michigan hoodie. Which is exactly what I’m wearing right now…

By: Elizabeth Seward

Photos by: http://www.glazer.net, http://www.flickr.com (gwdexter)

Waterfront Place Hotel: The Non-Chain Hotel Worth Your While in Morgantown, WV

Morgantown, West Virginia is best known for the university—WVU. Tailgate parties and ladies’ nights occupy Morgantown’s city center during the fall season—and truth be told, a huge chunk of the Morgantown population is owed to college students. But beyond the sports memorabilia exists am Appalachian town worth exploring…at least for a few days. Nature lovers can rejoice in the rolling hills surrounding the city, the river that snakes through the valleys, and the shining Cheat Lake only a few miles from one of my favorite hiking spots, Cooper’s Rock. There are shops for antique and vintage admirers, mom and pop music stores, coffee shops and music venues suitable for mid-sized touring bands, and thankfully there’s also a classy non-chain hotel sprawled out in front of the Monongahela River for your stay.

The Waterfront Place Hotel is, without a doubt, the place to stay while visiting Morgantown. But you might not have known that before reading this piece. Plenty of well-respected chain hotels with impressive star ratings tucked under their belts sit in the town. They fill up with visitors seeking a safe bet on a clean bed while the Waterfront Place Hotel is situated down by the river, only steps away from the bike-ready Rail Trail, not begging for any visitors—they’re not the begging kind.

Upon entering the lobby of the hotel, the prisms from the chandeliers and the smooth black of a grand piano catch my eye. Lavishly decorated from the get go, this hotel succeeds in immediately separating itself from the cookie cutter chain hotels sprinkled across the region.

I took the elevator up to the 11th floor and found my way to my room. Noticeably spacious, tasteful and minimalistic in design, and with a wall of a window allowing for a vast view of the river and hillside, I was without that feeling of gut-wrenching disappointment we all fear when unlocking the door to any unchartered hotel room territory. The bathroom was huge with a shower separate from the bath tub and the bed was unfathomably comfortable—which is exactly what I always expected from Tempurpedic beds based off of the commercials, but this was my first time sleeping in one. Parking in the garage next door is free for guests (you wouldn’t believe how many hotels don’t offer this…it’s ridiculous), the staff were polite, and scary movies combined with a pizza at this hotel was the perfect ending to my Halloween night in Morgantown. All in all: you should stay here if you visit Morgantown. And you should visit Morgantown.

By: Elizabeth Seward, Photos by: Ben Britz

The Pizza Place

Absolutely incomparable, delicious pizza found in…. West Virginia!?!?! Parkersburg, West Virginia, at that! Welcome to The Pizza Place. Be prepared for the most delicious pizza you’ll ever have in your life. 

The location I began with as a child: hidden in a not-so-appealing food court in a mall even less appealing, (think Sears, tacky country decor shops- Christmas outfit for your yard goose, anyone?!?, and Burger King), is the most unusually delicious pizza I’ve ever.had.anywhere. It’s completely unlike pizza in any other geographical arena; it literally has no comparison.

I consider myself well-traveled (in the US anyhow) and have sampled pizza from all corners of the country. It’s not like my other favorite pizza: traditional and simple, thin-crusted NYC pizza. And it’s not like Chicago’s famous hand-tossed, deep dish contraptions. I hate to say it’s “West Virginia Style” because it’s simply its own version and I’m not quite sure WV has its own style of much; particularly pizza.

The owners, Frank Scotto Rinaldi, Guiseppe Scotto Rinaldi, and Michele Scotto Diluzio, all have very Italian names, so it can be assumed they use traditional recipes in their famous Sicilian and Neapolitan pizzas and though they refer to themselves as the best “New York Style Pizza in the tri-state area” (Ohio, WV, & PA), I must say, this is not NY style pizza- at least none I’ve ever had. It’s better. And different. And I can’t quite put my finger on how. Maybe this is what it tastes like in Italy, but I will say it’s unlike any I’ve tasted within the perimeters of the states. And if you ask anyone who lives  nearby, they will tell you the same thing. It’s simply the best.

There are only three locations of The Pizza Place and all reside in Parkersburg, West Virginia. I’m not sure what makes this particular pizza so deliciously unique- but I will say, WHEN (not if) you venture aimlessly to this rather boring town solely for the pizza, you MUST get a “corner slice of pepperoni.” That’s the section the locals go for and rightfully so. It’s very thick, very cheesy, and the oh-so-sinfully-yummy pepperonis curl up like little canoes and fill with grease. Local’s rule: do NOT dump the grease & do NOT blot your pizza with a napkin to absorb excess grease. Eat as is and distract yourself from all things bad (and good) in life. Break-ups. Hangovers. Promotions. Being HIV negative. This pizza is the answer for both celebratory functions and the relief for the most difficult things in life.

*Sidenote: I must say, I’ve had this pizza more times than I could begin to count, yet never thought to write about it till today. I’ve found that when people live somewhere or at least near somewhere, they have tendencies to overlook the local treasures available to them. Today, I am in Austin, Texas, having just moved here yesterday, and had a random craving for The Pizza Place’s pizza- conveniently (sarcasm), I’m 1400 miles away. And devastated. Moral of the story? Take the time to embrace the local treasures you have under your feet. There are certainly more than you may realize.

By: Ashley Halligan

(Photo from: thepizzaplace.org)

Off The Trail at Cooper’s Rock, West Virginia

Ok. Cooper’s Rock outside of Morgantown, West Virginia is a pretty popular tourist destination. I’ll admit it. But you can treat yourself to stunning sights the other tourists don’t see if you’re a little bit of an adventurer.

Here’s what you do:

1. Go out to the touristy Cooper’s Rock ledge. Savor the beauty of the rolling hills. Relax.

2. When you’re done soaking in the marvelous Appalachian mountain-view, exit the wooden bridge the same way you entered.

3. As you head back out to the trails, you’ll notice a trail off to your left that will lead you below the bridge. No, you’re not supposed to go down here. But I did. And you should, too.

4. Be careful as you slide yourself down the rocks and below the bridge. It’s steep.

5. Once you’ve made it down, explore! The rock formations, caves, and hiking paths down here are some of the best at Cooper’s Rock. If you get caught being ‘off-trail’, just say you got lost. Easy as pie.

By: Elizabeth Seward