If you’re heading off to Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack and hope to take a day off from the casino, you’re in for a treat even if we’re dealing with “just” the Upper Ohio Valley.
Trust me when I tell you this area is nothing short of nearby attractions that can even make Wheeling, West Virginia a top vacation destination. Even if you previously thought you were just on board for visiting the Island’s tropical-themed casino.
If you’re a paranormal enthusiast as well as a casino enthusiast, circle this area in red given the nearby Bellaire House and West Virginia State Penitentiary. But, if you’re into history, the Grave Creek Mound and Independence Hall will pique your interest.
Need something fit for the family? Oglebay Park is never short on the action. Let’s look closer at the hottest attractions to visit when taking a break from gambling in West Virginia.
The Bellaire House
If you’ve watched the Travel Channel, Lifetime, or Destination America, you may find yourself familiar with the Bellaire House. This ancient, three-story house located across the Ohio River in Bellaire, Ohio is the perfect place to experience the perfect fright night.
And we ain’t talking about those fake haunted attractions, either.
Reviewers say it’s a place you should pray before entering the home, as many who’ve visited this location claim it is one of the most haunted in the world. Many claim this house sits on an unusual amount of energy spirits can use to their advantage.
Others say it’s haunted because of its proximity to ancient Native American burial grounds in the surrounding woods. It’s also connected with nearby caves and stories persist the spirits are restless souls of those who have, for reasons unknown, perished within the caves.
Locals insist persistent negative energy that surrounds the place caused such tragedies.
Whether you’re an enthusiast or a skeptic, it’s more than worth booking a tour, staying the night, or even an entire weekend. It’d be a great way to catch a few thrills after a hard day at the casino, right?
So if the paranormal is your thing, perhaps take a night off from the casino games and your overnight stay at the hotel and opt for a night you’re bound to never forget.
West Virginia State Penitentiary
I should have mentioned the Upper Ohio Valley is full of dozens of abandoned mills, towns (seriously), and locations of a time long since lost. Fortunately for you, the thrills are just beginning because many of the ghosts have remained behind.
One such place is a good half-hour down the road in nearby Marshall County. The West Virginia State Penitentiary, from its gothic exterior to its rotting cells, is yet another hot attraction that brings people to Moundsville, West Virginia from all over the world.
Having operated from 1876 to 1995, the penitentiary operated as a maximum-security prison for the state’s most volatile inmates. It was the site of a massive prison outbreak in 1979 and a riot in 1986. The latter scraped national headlines and is perhaps the most infamous prison riot in American history.
Today, the prison is empty and open to all-night tours for those who dare to enter its gates. Tourists have reported shadow figures, footsteps, and blurs from the corners of their eyes.
Tour guides who’ve walked the prison in solitary have also reported the feeling of being watched or followed. Others have seen full-blown apparitions of past inmates and other, inhuman beings.
Mass media has featured the prison in many novels, TV shows, movies, and even video games. Surely, you’ve heard of it. Well, if you hit up Wheeling Island Casino and are looking to take a break, drive 30 minutes south and into Moundsville.
Your experiences will keep you awake so you can get a few more hours of gaming in when you return from the tour.
Grave Creek Mound
Like the penitentiary, the Grave Creek Mound draws tourists from all over the world and is one of the largest burial mounds in America, standing at a staggering 62 feet high and 240 feet in diameter.
Think about those dimensions. 240 feet equals 80 yards, nearly as long as an American football field.
The Adena people who lived in a region that stretched from modern-day Indiana to Southwest Pennsylvania moved over 60,000 tons of dirt onto the site between 250 and 150 BC.
Not as high or as wide as the Great Pyramid in Egypt, but nonetheless impressive.
The Delf Norona Museum sits at the mound’s base and interprets the culture of the ancient Adena people and theories on how they created the mound (If you’re an Ancient Aliens enthusiast, you may have your theories).
Anyway, the US Army Corps of Engineers agreed to transfer nearly a half-million artifacts uncovered in the 1990s along the Kanawha River to the museum.
The artifacts represent 10,000 years of varying cultures that include tools dating back to the Stone Age. If you’re an enthusiast for ancient cultures, it’s definitely worth taking a day off the gaming floor on the Island to experience this firsthand.
West Virginia Independence Hall
If you’re a United States history enthusiast, the Penitentiary and the Grave Creek Mounds aren’t the only two places to explore if you’re at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack.
If you don’t want to drive a half-hour down the river into Moundsville, Wheeling itself boasts a good deal of history. One such place is West Virginia Independence Hall, which was the home of the Wheeling Convention in 1861 and the West Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1863.
During that year, the counties in Northwest Virginia seceded from Virginia to form a new state accepted into the Union. And from 1861 to 1863, West Virginia Independence Hall operated as the operating location for the Restored Government of Virginia, where Francis H. Pierpont served as the Restored Government’s governor.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and in 1988, designated as a National Historic Landmark. The building operates as a state-run museum featuring exhibits of West Virginia’s rich, wild, and wonderful history.
You’re looking at a quick tour with a short distance from the Island. So if you’re just taking a quick break from the gaming floor and wish to experience the City of Wheeling, West Virginia Independence Hall is your calling.
Perhaps you’re not into the paranormal nor history. And that’s okay because I saved the best and most diverse attraction for last: Oglebay Park. This self-supporting public park is one-of-a-kind in West Virginia, and it sits on 1,650 acres of land just outside the city.
If you’re looking for a day off from the casino loaded with fun at every corner and something to do regardless of the time of year, then Oglebay Park is your answer.
But if golf isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty to do here when you’re taking a day off from the gaming at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack. You got tennis courts, an outdoor pool, several hiking trails, the Good Zoo, the Mansion Museum, the greenhouse, and surrounding gardens, and more.
If you’re looking for a place to stay other than the casino, check out the 271-room Wilson Lodge or one of the 54 cottages in the area.
If you’re into nature, the Good Zoo isn’t the only place you’ll find. The Schrader Center and a planetarium are also located on the property.
The outdoor enthusiast in you will love Camp Russel, Schenk Lake, and its nightly fountain shows.
And if you’re in town during specific times of the year, there is always something going on at Oglebay. It hosts shows like Oglebayfest, The Winter Festival of Lights, the Ohio County Fair, West Virginia Open, Springfest, and Fort Henry Days.
There is something for everybody to do at this park, and I can tell you from experience it’ll be a day (or a few) to remember.
Even in the Upper Ohio Valley, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack has plenty located around it to get excited about. From the paranormal entities that roam the Bellaire House and West Virginia State Penitentiary to historical sites like Grave Creek Mound and West Virginia Independence Hall.
Oglebay Park, though, is definitely where it’s at and you can’t get through all of its activities in just one day or even in one week. There is literally something for everyone in the entire family to get excited about at the park, and it’s the perfect rest day from the casino.
So if you’re in the area and are looking for activities and attractions that go beyond casino gaming, Wheeling, West Virginia and the surrounding area have you covered. You don’t want to miss these attractions.
Have you been to Wheeling Island Casino-Hotel-Racetrack and its attractions? Let us know.