If you go: Cheat Lake, W.Va.
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• Getting there: Cheat Lake is about 10 miles east of downtown Morgantown and West Virginia University's Main Campus. It's about an hour and a half from Pittsburgh (Interstate 79 South to Morgantown, and then Interstate 68 east to exit 10 at Cheat Lake.) For a more scenic route, you can travel on Route 19 South from Waynesburg, which takes you past the must-visit Rising Creek Bakery in Mt. Morris, or take Route 43 South to Uniontown, and then follow Route 857 South to Cheat Lake.
• Where to stay: If you enjoy roughing it, Coopers Rock State Forest (Exit 15 on Interstate 68) offers 25 camping sites with electric hookup through Nov. 30, weather permitting. Price is $23 per tent or trailer per site for up to six people; make reservations at www.coopersrockstateforest.com. You also can rent cabins, pitch a tent or hook up an RV at nearby Chestnut Ridge Park; prices start at $85 for a cabin and $18 for a tent site (chestnutridgepark.com).
A bit more luxurious is Lakeview Golf Resort & Spa, which sits on 500 pristine acres and is one of the Mid-Atlantic's premier golf destinations. Rates start at $83 weekdays and $250 on weekends (lakeviewresort.com; 1-304-594-1111). It has restaurants and a fitness center and spa on site. The Lake Manor Bed & Breakfast on Route 857, just north of the Cheat Lake County Fire Department, features five elegant guestrooms, including one with a gas fireplace and private courtyard. Rates start at $145 (lakemanorwva.com; 1-304-777-2594).
In Morgantown, the premier hotel is The Waterfront Place in the revitalized Wharf District (waterfrontplacehotel.com; 1-866-782-9974). It sits directly on the Monongahela River, within walking distance of downtown via the Caperton Trail. Upscale accommodations include concierge rooms with Sleep Number beds and private access to a lounge. Rates start at $139 - $199 midweek and $89 weekends. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Clarion Hotel Morgan on High Street (clarionhotelmorgan.com) dates to 1925, and offers a free continental breakfast and free valet parking.
• Where to eat: One local must-eat is the humble pepperoni roll, thought to have been invented at the Country Club Bakery in nearby Fairmont in 1927. You also can't visit this part of West Virginia and not sample a plate (or two) of slightly sour buckwheat cakes, all the better with some greasy sausage. Try Little Sandy's in Bruceton Mills, or Becky's Cafe in Kingwood, which holds its 71st annual Preston County Buckwheat Festival Sept. 27-30 (buckwheatfest.com).
On Cheat Lake, your best option off-season is The Lakehouse at Sunset Beach Marina (turn at the Exxon station on Route 857), a kid-friendly eatery with a large menu that sits directly on the water. For fresh fish (though not the fat walleye Cheat Lake is famous for), head to Flying Fish & Co. at Pierpont Landing, just off Exit 7 on I-68. It's flown in daily.
Some of the best eats in downtown Morgantown include the upscale Cafe Bacchus (76 High St.), Oliverio's Ristorante in the Wharf District and Lira (344 High St.), which is in an old bank building (a vault has been turned into a private dining room). Richwood Grill (318 Richwood Ave.) has globally inspired farm-to-table cuisine. More casual but also a guaranteed good meal is Black Bear Burritos (132 Pleasant St.), which offers burritos of all ethnic cuisines, including Thai and Jamaican, for less than ten bucks. There's often live music. Kenyan Cafe (Chelsea Square) serves vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free foods, many of them African.
Morgantown also has two brewpubs pouring handcrafted beers: Mountain State Brewing in the Wharf District (the wood-fired pizza is amazing!) and Morgantown Brewing Co. (1291 University Ave.), West Virginia's oldest operating brewery. Gibbie's Pub & Eatery (368 High St.), a local fave, also has an extensive beer selection.
• What to do: The Morgantown area is great for hiking and biking, thanks to an extensive and scenic trail system that passes through forests, meadows, farmland and urban areas. The six-mile Caperton Trail is a paved rail trail along the Monongahela River with access to Hazel Ruby McGuain Riverfront Park and the downtown shopping district. Together with the more challenging Decker's Creek and Mon River trails, it forms a 48-mile system that reaches as high as 1,770 feet. The four-and-a-half mile Cheat Lake Trail follows the Lake Lynn shoreline along an abandoned railroad right-of-way. There's a fishing platform at the northern tip and a children's play area with picnic sites at the southern end.
You also can hike or fish at Coopers Rock State Forest or Chestnut Ridge Park, birdwatch at West Virginia University's Core Arboretum or marvel over the ancient hemlocks in Cathedral State Park near Aurora, where the oldest trees reach 90 feet. Or, rent a bike from Wasmley Cycles in the Seneca Center (790 Beechurst Ave.) and hit the trails. Prices start at $10 for two hours.
Less athletic activities include shopping Morgantown's eclectic boutiques (when's the last time you saw a head shop?) or taking a drive through Arthurdale, established in 1933 as the nation's first New Deal homestead Community. Explore Morgantown's glassmaking history at Seneca Center, where a collection of blood-red Morgantown Glass is currently on display.
More info: tourmorgantown.com or 1-800-458-7373.
First Published September 23, 2012 12:00 am