We Brits get confused about West Virginia; assuming it is a part of the state of Virgina. West Virginia is a state in its own right, and has been since it broke away from Virginia during the American Civil War. Physically separated from 'the rest of Virginia' by the drop off from the Appalachian Mountain range, it became a part of the Union in 1863, while 'the rest of Virginia' joined the Confederacy.
Known as "The Mountain State" the Appalachians dominate the south-eastern half of West Virginia, which means its borders are for the most part well-defined: the Appalachians to the south-east (Virginia), the Ohio river to the north-west (Ohio), then Pennsylvania to the north, the Potomac river to the northeast bordering Maryland, and Kentucky to the southwest. The capital and largest city is Charleston.
Various regions and counties in WV have quite active Convention & Visitor Bureau sites.
What to do/Where to go
There are a ton of amazing national & state parks in WV, especially in the scenic mountains and down on the banks of the Ohio, Potomac & Shenandoah rivers... and one steam railway "park" - the Cass Scenic Railway State Park (The town of Cass and its rail system became a state park in 1961).
With all these mountains and big rivers, and being within striking distance of the urban areas around Washington DC, it no surprise that West Virginia is big on activities. Opportunities to go fishing, rafting, cycling, spelunking climbing, trekking, skiing & snowboarding are in abundance. The best known ski area is the popular Snowshoe Mountain.
A little less obvious are three other activities that draw many to West Virginia:
Caving - the state's karst topography (landscape shaped by the dissolution of layers of soluble bedrock such as limestone) makes it rich in cave systems to explore (4,300 caves, 110 of which have a mile or more of passage).
Birding - the lush green hills and river valleys draw birds and birders from all over, from warblers & hawks to the Red Cardinal (the state bird of WV).
Industrial archaeology - think coal, railways, and wooded valleys. WV is full of industrial relics. And over 375 miles of disused train tracks have been converted into almost 30 trails for walking, hiking, cycling and horseback riding.
A Better West Virginia - Local blog covering culture, the arts, economy, history and politics.
Traveling219 - Posts from US Route 219 'The Seneca Trail' through the middle of West Virginia. (Don't be put off by the confusing pop-up advert - does anyone do those anymore? - it's not the latest post.)
Interesting/Useful Blog Posts
If you want to get a sense of what West Virginia feels and looks like, there are almost 12,000 photos in the Flickr Group Almost Heaven, West Virginia.
Wild & Wonderful - Terri Marshall's overview of West Virginia for first timers.
Strange Goings-On in Point Pleasant, West Virginia - Barbara Weibel visits the Ohio riverside town of Point Pleasant.