|By William Flood
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — If your idea of a perfect excursion includes captivating scenery, culture, a good coffee shop, and some great antique shopping, consider heading to Morgantown. It’s a vibrant college town full of attractions and some pretty impressive antique shopping amidst the brick sidewalks, green lawns, and romantic old buildings.
Downtown’s main campus of West Virginia University is quite picturesque, flowing across rolling hills, lined with red brick buildings, many stemming from the university’s founding in the 1800s. The centerpiece, and particularly picturesque, is Woodburn Hall, the second oldest building on campus. After you’ve toured the main campus, hop on the PRT (Personal Rapid Transit), a driverless rail system that will take you between WVU’s three campus areas.
Activities are always happening on and around campus, many of them free. And, WVU is a Big 12 school with Mountaineer football the leading sport; so, if you’re a sports fan consider timing your visit to catch a game and enjoy the buzz.
Off campus, Morgantown’s walkable downtown is rich in its own history. The Monongahela River, which powered much of the industry that grew the town, runs through downtown. Today, the river is skirted by an extensive rail-trail system for walking and biking.
Up from the river, blocks are filled with authentic dining options, craft spirits, and eccentric little shops selling vintage and related merchandise hard to find elsewhere. The most famous is the Appalachian Gallery, housed in a stunning 114-year-old Romanesque Victorian house. It’s home to finely crafted works from West Virginia artisans and proudly keeps the traditions of Blenko and Hinkle glass alive. It is also a noted spot for custom framing.
Two blocks northeast is the award-winning Hoot and Howl with a mix of artisan-made goods, antiques, and vintage clothing. Almost across the street is Retro-tique, a funky mid-century shop featuring everything from vintage games and vinyl records to retro oddities. Continue four blocks west to Furnishings-For-U, an eclectic store with merchandise that includes vintage appliances.
One mile northwest from downtown on U.S. 19 is Seneca Center once the factory for Seneca Glass Company. The complex is a testament to adaptive reuse - much of the building’s original construction was retained and the towering 100-foot glass furnace chimney stands as a landmark. Inside, a dozen shops and a collection of Seneca glass and glass manufacturing tools make for a great stop.
On the northeast side of town is Eloquence Antiques and Artisans, a multi-vendor antique mall that playfully labels itself a mix of Fixer Upper meets Flea Market Flip. The business was born out of the owner’s life-changing transition from corporate life to doing something she considered meaningful. In her words, “living a life that makes you excited to go to work is the only way to live.”
The countryside surrounding Morgantown is home to a half-dozen other antique shops, malls, and some alluring flea markets. Less than a half-hour east at Bruceton Mills is the Bruceton Antique Mall. It’s the area’s largest antique mall. At Cheat Lake, west of town is Antiques and Old Books with a classic bookstore vibe. Thirty minutes away in Fairmont you’ll find two great spots - Sweet Memories Antique Mall and the Arts and Antiques Marketplace with over 80 vendors occupying three floors. While in town, stop at the retro Poky Dot Diner for some 50s food and fun.
If you are near campus when your appetite calls, there are plenty of the popular WVU eateries. Black Bear Burritos serves up a wide range of ethnic cuisines and hosts live music several nights a week. If you’re a fan of Asian food try TK’s next door to Hoot and Howl. The menu is pan-Asian, rooted in Malaysian fare and it’s locally-famous for bubble tea.
If you enjoy craft spirits, Morgantown Brewing Company and Mountain State Brewing Company are both along the river downtown, each with about a dozen taps and pub menus. For a more unique experience, the Forks of Cheat Winery offers everything from fruit wines to West Virginia moonshine. And, you can sample it all!
There’s enough to do in the Morgantown vicinity to last a weekend or a week. Whether antique shopping or the college town vibe ultimately calls your name, you’ll find the combination a memorable trip.