"Almost heaven, West Virginia, / Blue Ridge Mountains, / Shenandoah River, / Life is old there, / Older than the trees, / Younger than the mountains / Growing like a breeze. / Country roads, take me home / To the place I belong: / West Virginia, mountain momma, / Take me home, country roads." - "Take Me Home, Country Roads" John Denver
To some, the state of West Virginia conjures images of backwater hillbillies, bad horror movies, moonshine and gun-toting mountain men. In actuality, West Virginia is a breathtakingly beautiful state with a low cost of living, robust higher education system, and a wealth of outdoor recreation options. Known as the Mountain State, West Virginia rests entirely in the Appalachian Highlands and is known for his beautiful forested hills, deep narrow valleys, pristine lakes and creeks, and intricate cave systems. For those who enjoy hiking, skiing, white water rafting, camping and pretty much any other outdoor activity, West Virginia may be the best option in the East, if not all of the United States.
Where to Move
Appealing to many major metropolitan residents of the Northeast, West Virginia minimizes life-shortening commutes and road-rage-induced ulcers. There are distinct regions of West Virginia with their own distinct charms, and knowing what you're looking for in an area will help you decide what region is for you. From the beautiful waterways and progressive cities of Lake Country to the skiing, resorts, and tourist-based cities of the Potomac Highlands, West Virginia's economical and geographical diversity is sure to have something to fit your lifestyle. And no, that diversity has little to with distilling moonshine and Hatfield and McCoy-type family feuds.
Like anywhere, living in West Virginia's more populated cities, like Charleston, will be more expensive than living in more rural areas or smaller towns. The same can be said about resort cities like Snowshoe Mountain in Pocahontas County, especially during tourist season. However, West Virginia's cost of living is significantly less than the national average, especially the Northeast, so finding an affordable home for rent in West Virginia is not an impossible task, even in its larger cities or picturesque tourist destinations.
When to Move
Given that West Virginia is a mountainous state, planning your home or apartment search should be done wisely. Winters can be great for skiing, but bad for moving. Fog, winter storms, rain, and snow can make your home search a mind-shivering and patience-chilling task. If possible, move during West Virginia's milder summer months and avoid commuter times during the week. If you need to move during winter months, and you're moving near a tourist resort, try to at least avoid tourist traffic by moving or searching midweek. Going up or down most of these resort mountains is going to be a pain on the weekends.
Metro Valley: Far removed from hillbilly horror films, the Metro Valley on the western side of West Virginia is the most urbanized region of West Virginia, and cities like Charleston are hubs of economic growth, cultural diversity, higher education, and a high quality of life. Metro Valley is the home of many universities, restaurants, museums, and entertainment destinations. In Charleston -- the state capital and largest city in West Virginia -- you'll find the Avampato Discovery Museum, West Virginia Culture Center, West Virginia State University and the University of Charleston. Like all cities of West Virginia, Charleston is flanked by its natural surroundings, and the Kanawha State Forest provides Charleston's residents with hiking trails and various camping sites.
Metro Valley is also home to Huntington, the second-largest city in West Virginia, which rests on the Ohio River. Its beautiful architecture stems from the 19th century, and the city is known for its shopping. It has a modern business district with name-brand shopping outlets, eateries, and entertainment, and Huntington also features a unique old business district, which is famous for its wonderful antique shops. For those who prefer more urban amenities, the Metro Valley may be the ideal region to live in. Although housing may be a little more expensive than more rural regions, finding an affordable house to rent is not difficult. No matter what West Virginia stereotypes suggest, you'll still be able to afford to keep your teeth, and eating squirrel is a matter of taste, not a financial necessity.
Greenbrier Valley: For those looking to live in a rental property surrounded by postcard-worthy scenery, the New River and Greenbrier Valley region in the southern part of West Virginia offers all of the natural beauty that makes West Virginia unique. Just like pioneers of yesteryear, the region offers new explorers tranquil rivers, majestic forests, sparkling springs, and awe-inspiring mountain views. This region is a favorite for hikers, fishing enthusiasts, and hunters, and the area is home to numerous state and national parks. The New River is also regularly hailed as the best white water rafting river in the country, and as long as you go to the correct areas, the river is great for both beginners and seasoned river rats. In West Virginia, rafting adventures do not include Deliverance-type, downriver chases. Small cities like Beckley dot the area and are filled with residents who happily prefer the natural splendor of the area, in lieu of big-city amenities and convenience.
Lake Country: Aptly named, Lake Country in central West Virginia is home to a number of pristine lakes, rambling rivers, and networks of streams. For residents, the natural waters of Lake Country have lured many into enjoying the region's slower pace and scenic tranquility. Fishing and boating enthusiasts have long called this part of West Virginia home, and its central location gives it a convenient proximity to the more urbanized Metro Valley region to the west and the rural scenery of the Greenbrier Valley region to the south. Lake Country is also home to Morgantown, which is frequently rated as one of the best small cities in America. Boasting a vibrant nightlife and progressive arts scene, Morgantown is home to West Virginia University, and its student population ensures affordable apartment rentals are readily available.
Potomac Highlands: West Virginia's Potomac Highlands is one of the most scenic stretches of the Appalachian Mountain Range, and the region's dramatic mountaintop views, wide valleys and steep mountainsides make the Potomac Highlands home to many world-famous ski resorts, including SnowShoe Mountain and Timberline Resort. Part of the Monongahela National Forest, both areas are abuzz during the winter season and tend to slow during the summer months. However, year-round residents can enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the area along with the economic stability and trove of amenities associated with seasonal tourism. Many of the more tourist-based areas offer month to month apartments to accommodate seasonal tourism. Although you can't be completely certain that an inbred hillbilly mob will not swoop down while you wander around boutique shopping plazas and sip your soy latte, hillbilly kidnappings have steadily been on the decline in these resort areas. We're just kidding -- we haven't heard of any at all.