Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Parkersburg, WV

  • Published 2023/02/22

Parkersburg meanders through the Ohio River, just beyond the Ohio-West Virginia border, making it an exciting city to explore.

The city of Parkersburg is one of West Virginia’s many hidden gems, which offers visitors a genuine experience.

Historically, Parkersburg was home to numerous Indigenous peoples from various Native American tribes.

When European settlers started moving westward, these tribes eventually migrated to other places, especially during the American Revolution.

Parkersburg earned its township somewhere in 1785 through Alexander Parker via a tract of land he purchased.

Before this remarkable city was named Parkersburg, it went by Newport until 1810.

Today, Parkersburg is an excellent place for historical enthusiasts to explore its rich history and heritage through its well-preserved landmarks and structures.

Discover the 20 best things to do in Parkersburg, WV.

Explore the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park

Living history actors on Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park's grounds

Malachi Jacobs /

Everywhere you go in Parkersburg, you’ll likely see one name: Blennerhassett.

This name belongs to a prominent Parkersburg family, who owned many properties around the city, including the private island nestled in the middle of the Ohio River.

This tiny island is famous for its elegant 17th-century mansion and museum.

In addition, the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park boasts a beautifully landscaped area.

Horse carriage tour at Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park

Malachi Jacobs /

Through its old-style horse carriage tours, families or groups looking for outdoor activity will surely enjoy their experience on this famous island in Parkersburg.

In addition, the volunteers who manage the island wear period clothing to add a more immersive experience.

They reenact the daily lives of the people back in the day.

Overall, the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park is an excellent place to start your travel adventure in Parkersburg.

Children playing at Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park

Malachi Jacobs /

Spend Time at the Greater Parkersburg Visitor’s Center

Visit Greater Parkersburg is the city’s official visitor’s center situated along Ann Street.

Before heading out on your Parkersburg travel adventure, spend some time at this visitor’s center.

Its staff provides you with a brochure and map to guide you on your journey.

In addition, they also recommend you the best shops, restaurants, cafes, and services, making sure you have a fantastic experience visiting their city.

If you’re not familiar with Parkersburg, drop by the Visit Greater Parkersburg Visitor’s Center.

Visit the Fort Boreman Park

Aerial view of Fort Boreman Park

Marty Seufer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fort Boreman Park serves as one of Parkersburg’s community parks.

At the same time, it also serves as a state historical landmark.

Fort Boreman Park is a famous outdoor recreation area for locals and visitors to Parkersburg.

It boasts a scenic view of the Ohio River on its elevated area, overlooking Ohio and the rest of Parkersburg.

A canon displayed on Fort Boreman Park grounds

Danita Delimont /

Thousands of people flock to this spot in Fort Boreman Park to take photos and appreciate the beautiful scenery below.

Meanwhile, other visitors join guided tours to learn about the fort’s history.

Historically, Fort Boreman Park served as a military fort during the American Civil War.

Stairs at Fort Boreman Park

Spencewats2014 /

The Union Army used this fort to defend the Ohio River and the Little Kanawha.

In 2003, the National Register of Historic Places officially listed Fort Boreman Park in its record.

Scenic sunrise over Fort Boreman Park

Rhonda Coe /

Enjoy Craft Beer at the North End Tavern Brewery

The North End Tavern Brewery is a famous watering hole and restaurant in the city.

This brewery serves not only a finely brewed selection of craft beer but also delicious food.

Head to this brewery if you’re searching for a nice spot in Parkersburg to satisfy your cravings for comfort food while enjoying a bottle of beer.

North End Tavern Brewery is famous for its award-winning selection of craft beers, such as its Amber Ale and Roedy’s Red.

These craft beers are perfect for its N.E.T. Burger or North End Tavern and German dishes.

Step inside the Oil and Gas Museum

Exterior of Oil and Gas Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Besides its rich history and heritage, Parkersburg was also a vital fuel source in the entire United States since the 1700s.

In general, West Virginia has become one of the top oil producers in the United States since the 1700s.

To understand how the oil industry impacted Parkersburg’s and West Virginia’s economy, visit the Oil and Gas Museum along 3rd Street.

A display on the grounds of Oil and Gas Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This museum isn’t just your typical historical attraction; it boasts some of the most compelling oil and gas history in the United States.

For example, you can visit permanent exhibits showcasing collections of people who discovered oil in West Virginia.

In addition, you can also explore the local industrial collections and exhibits in the museum.

Overall, Parkersburg’s Oil and Gas Museum is genuinely a fascinating place to check out.

Outdoor display at Oil and Gas Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Listen to the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra-Parkersburg

If your itinerary includes watching a concert, head to the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra – Parkersburg and book a ticket to one of its shows.

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra-Parkersburg has serenaded everyone in the city for the past 30 years.

Today, the orchestra plays under Maestro Grant Cooper, scheduled to play five concerts each season.

Catching one of this orchestra’s shows is a mesmerizing experience because of their world-class performance.

So, catch the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra in action during your Parkersburg visit.

Stroll along the Julia-Ann Square Historic District

Exterior of creel house at Julia-Ann Square Historic District

Paul Sableman from St. Louis, MO, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for a more enjoyable historical tour in Parkersburg, head to the Julia-Ann Square Historic District.

You’ll go back to the olden days through its guided tours, featuring the beautiful historic houses and buildings that feature elegant Victorian-period architecture.

These buildings and houses used to be the homes of West Virginia’s most influential people.

Moreover, it’s also a national historic district, making it an important place to learn about West Virginia’s history.

The entire historic district encompasses houses and buildings through Juliana and Ann Streets, stretching from Riverview Cemetery along 9th Street.

More than a hundred buildings stand throughout the historic district, mainly constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

These homes showcase the elegance of Queen Anne and Victorian architecture, while numerous buildings follow Colonial Revival architecture.

Unwind at the Parkersburg City Park

The jackson memorial fountain at Parkersburg City Park

Wdzinc, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Parkersburg City Park is a vibrant community park in the city known for its top-notch amenities.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable outdoor activity with your family or travel buddies, visit Parkersburg City Park for a swimming pool and splash park.

In addition, it has a tennis court, miniature golf course, basketball court, and a horseshoe court, not to mention its playground and picnic shelters.

It’s also where you’ll find the Cooper Log Cabin Museum.

Parkersburg City Park is situated along Park Avenue, and it’s open the entire week with free admission.

This 47-acre park is also the biggest community park in Parkersburg, making it an incredible place to do outdoor activities or perhaps for relaxation.

Go Back in Time at the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History

Exterior of Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History is a treasure trove of fascinating history about West Virginia’s past, including Parkersburg.

Situated along the historic Juliana Street in Parkersburg, this regional history museum opened in 1988.

It preserves and protects the histories of West Virginia, Ohio Valley, and Parkersburg.

Spending an hour or two at this Parkersburg museum is genuinely worthwhile, especially if you look at its fascinating exhibits.

These exhibits display artifacts, artworks, documents, photographs, and vintage items donated by Parkersburg’s locals.

After browsing the museum’s exhibits, head to its gift shop and buy a unique souvenir.

Watch Local Events at Point Park

The view from Point Park

Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant), CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Point Park is a unique outdoor community green open space in Parkersburg known as one of the main venues for events.

Point Park served as one of the disembarkation points of excursions going to the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park.

At the same time, locals love to spend their mornings or afternoons at this park for a stroll or jog.

It features walking trails that meander through the Ohio River while numerous canoe and kayak launches surround the park.

However, Point Park is more popular with locals as the venue for the highly-entertaining Point Park Concert Series every Friday from June to August.

Thus, you should travel to Parkersburg during these months to catch one of Point Park Concert’s shows.

Enjoy Great Entertainment at the Smoot Theatre

Smoot Theatre is a local entertainment hub in Parkersburg famous for its top-notch stage plays and theater performances.

Situated along Fifth Street, Smoot Theatre has entertained Parkersburg’s locals and visitors since 1926.

For almost a century, Smoot Theatre has produced countless shows from concerts, plays, and films.

Historically, Warner Bros. bought the theater in the 1930s, turning it into a movie house.

In 1989, Smoot Theatre was converted into a performing arts theatre operated by volunteer artists and performers.

It also underwent numerous restorations to preserve its old beauty during that time.

Upon arriving, you’ll quickly notice its vintage design while its interior features a fantastic Art Deco ceiling and elegant furnishing.

Overall, Smoot Theatre is an immersive place for those who want to experience how a vintage entertainment hub does its shows.

Take Your Best Pose at the Blennerhassett Island Bridge

The road under the arched Blennerhassett Island Bridge

Rosemarie Mosteller /

When visiting the Blennerhassett Island Historic State Park, you will have to cross the gorgeous Blennerhassett Island Bridge from Parkersburg.

This bridge, famous for its network arch design, connects West Virginia and Ohio through U.S. Route 50, which takes you to various cities and towns.

View of Blennerhassett Island Bridge

Snoopywv, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When you visit the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, don’t forget to stop beside the road and take lovely photos of this famous bridge.

Posing at the side of the bridge is one of the best souvenirs of your visit to Parkersburg.

Appreciate Local Arts at the Parkersburg Art Center

Parkersburg Art Center mainly focuses on contemporary arts featuring local and regional artists.

This art center is in Parkersburg’s downtown area, making it a highly accessible attraction near the city’s restaurants, cafes, shops, and other businesses.

However, the main attraction is inside the art center, where you’ll look at the best contemporary masterpieces from West Virginia’s artists.

When you visit the Parkersburg Art Center, you can check out six separate exhibits and galleries.

It includes a separate gallery for kids, while more than a dozen rotating exhibits are featured every year.

Likewise, the Parkersburg Art Center offers a two-month art camp for youngsters every summer.

Bike along the North Bend Rail Trail

Trail leading to the entryway of North Bend Rail Trail tunnel

John Brueske /

​Before returning home, you should set out on an outdoor adventure at the North Bend Rail Trail, passing through Parkersburg.

The entire trail stretches 72 miles across West Virginia’s northern region.

North Bend Rail Trail's tunnel

John Brueske /

The trail used to be the central railroad system that connected various towns and cities in West Virginia.

Today, it is a famous trail for those who want to conquer the 72-mile journey on their bikes.

While traversing the trail, you’ll be passing through numerous scenic bridges, tunnels, and natural sceneries.

Scenic view of North Bend Rail Trail

Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant), CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover Old Buildings at the Avery Historic District

The Avery Historic District is another historical attraction you need to visit while in Parkersburg.

This national historic district is west of another historical attraction, the Julia-Ann Square Historic District.

The Avery Historic District is known for its late 19th century and early-20th century architecture which now serves as ancestral homes and residences of Parkersburg’s locals.

These well-preserved buildings are fine examples of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival architecture.

The Avery Historic District features around a dozen types of these historic architecture seen through more than 300 buildings.

For a complete experience visiting the Avery Historic District, join its guided tours and educational program about the importance of preserving historic buildings.

Race Against Other Paddlers and Canoe Riders at the Annual Parkersburg Paddlefest

It’s a paddling expedition when you join Parkersburg Paddlefest.

This annual city tradition occurs in a span of three days in September.

It welcomes those who wish to ride kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards to paddle along the Little Kanawha River and Ohio River.

But this is not everything!

Paddlefest also offers tours around Blennerhassett Mansion and horse wagon rides within its property.

And for a memorable culmination of the event, there’s a farewell lake excursion at North Bend State Park Lake.

Take advantage of the trip to improve your paddling skills and spot a few local birds and wildlife here and there.

To join this festival, head over to Point Park on 2nd Street.

Get Ready for a Creepy Adventure at Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours

Add a bit of thrill to your excursion all over Parkersburg with the guide of Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours.

Once led by Susan Sheppard, this guided walking tour aims to help the wandering visitor find the allegedly haunted places in Parkersburg and dive deep into their history.

Back during the Civil War, Parkersburg had the nickname “Wickedest City along the Ohio River”.

This led many to believe the city was a haunted one, even until the present.

And ultimately, this urged Susan Sheppard to create a tour of some of its haunted attractions.

Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours starts at Blennerhassett Hotel, which is the 7th most haunted hotel in North America according to MSNBC.

One of the tour’s most famous stops is the Riverview Cemetery on Juliana Street.

This is where the haunted sculpture of the Weeping Woman stands–a sculpture known to grant good and bad wishes to those who pass her way.

Tours start in March, so get yourself ready then!

Spot Birds and Other Wildlife at Johnson T. Janes Nature Preserve

Situated off of Randolph Street, Johnson T. Janes Nature Preserve is an outdoor haven for wildlife explorers.

This park features walking trails and wetland areas, where native animals abound.

It spans 36 acres.

It also takes pride in its collection of about 80 animal and bird species and over 50 plant varieties.

Johnson T. Janes Nature Preserve may be just what you need for that relaxing time out in nature.

Watch a Fun Show at the Actors Guild of Parkersburg

Have time for an entertaining live show while on your Parkersburg vacation?

Stop by the Actors Guild of Parkersburg!

This organization has been serving the community as early as the 1940s.

It features world-renowned productions, including Cinderella, The Sound of Music, and Grease.

Bring your whole family over for a grand musical time!

You can find the Actors Guild of Parkersburg building along Market Street.

Be Inspired by the Art Celebration at ArtOberfest

Parkersburg’s ArtOberfest is one of the city’s most highly-anticipated events every year.

Hosted every October, this annual event showcases a variety of art pieces and handcrafted items for sale.

Some of the souvenirs you can take home with you include fused glass, macrame, and wood sculptures.

There’s also a chalk art competition that everyone can join.

Local food and live music are staples of this one-of-a-kind event.

Be part of the art extravaganza at ArtOberfest on Market Street.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons to consider Parkersburg as a quick weekend getaway destination.

One of them is its rich history and heritage, which will surely satisfy your curiosity.

If you want to relax, visit the city’s parks and natural attractions.

Parkersburg is one of the most excellent destinations in West Virginia for a short excursion.

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