West Virginia weekend getaways embody escape. But something unique happens in the Greenbrier Valley, where performing arts venues concentrate. As part of a weekend getaway, mix in an evening of live theater or a concert to create the quintessential escape-within-an-escape.
Ease into your escape with a walk through downtown Lewisburg. Convenient lots in the area allow you to park once and explore on foot the 50-some eateries, galleries, boutiques and antique shops clustered around Washington Street. Scout out a dinner spot; maybe Food and Friends for the local-favorite beef brisket and a local beer on tap. Afterward, work your way west to Academy Park, a green space that unfurls toward Carnegie Hall, your destination for the evening.
History alone will draw you to this landmark, constructed in 1902 as a classroom and performance space for the Greenbrier College for Women—using donations from Andrew Carnegie and the surrounding community. (Carnegie and the school’s president were friends.) But experiencing a concert here will captivate you: In a venue this intimate, you truly connect with the musicians; truly lose yourself in the moment.
Discovering how Carnegie’s community-minded legacy persists here presents additional possibilities: While onsite, inquire into changing exhibitions in the hall’s three art galleries, classes and workshops in its pottery and dance studios and special events . . . since 1983, the hall has served as a regional nonprofit arts and education center and is today one of only four Carnegie halls in use worldwide.
Power up with locally-roasted coffee and house-made granola at The Wild Bean before resuming your downtown walkabout. Back in Academy Park, take a free, guided tour of the North House, built as a private residence in 1820 and now home to period artifacts. Shop—don’t miss Harmony Ridge Gallery for its West Virginia woodwork, Blenko glass and wine bar. For lunch, trust Stardust Café when they tell you theirs is the “Best BLT Ever.”
Around 15 minutes from downtown Lewisburg at The Greenbrier, you’ll find more shopping and history (tour the declassified Cold War bunker). But return in time for an evening out—tonight’s reserved for the Greenbrier Valley Theatre (GVT). Shows swing from comedies and musicals to dramas, but the quality never wavers: This is the state professional theater of West Virginia, employing Actors' Equity Association players from the community and annual auditions in New York City. (In fact, several NYC-based players audition for repeat appearances at GVT, citing its community feel.) The effect is an Off-Broadway escape in Greenbrier Valley—for 15% less when you present your room key from a local accommodation (be sure to mention you’re staying in town when you reserve your ticket). Plus, enjoy half-priced beverages in GVT’s sleek lobby when you show your receipt from any of the theater’s dining partners!
For a Saturday evening alternative, drive five miles south to the American Heritage Music Hall in Ronceverte. On the fourth Saturday of every month, you get all the live music, dancing, soda and coffee you can handle; bring a covered dish and at 8 p.m., you can join the potluck dinner. Back in Lewisburg, you might be able to catch one of three Trillium Performing Arts Collective dance and movement productions held each year featuring local and guest artists at the historic Lewis Theatre.
Take a Sunday drive southeast along U.S. Highway 60 to Greenbrier State Forest. The drive is scenic, but for a closer view, trace any of the forest’s 13 miles of hiking trails. That’ll earn you brunch at Stella’s back in downtown Lewisburg (reserve a table after 1 p.m. to sip a mimosa with your eggs benedict).
If you missed a production at Greenbrier Valley Theatre last night, ask if there’s a Sunday matinee. Before any show, the theater lobby is a lively spot to discuss performing arts—and the art of the escape—with fellow patrons.