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Long to Live in a Small Town? Look to the Advantage Valley

The vibrant and bustling communities of West Virginia offer affordability, great quality of life, career opportunities and so much more.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on November 23, 2021

A parade in South Charleston, WV
Advantage Valley

Investments in education, entrepreneurship, the arts and other job-creating centers, coupled with a low cost of living, are transforming Advantage Valley’s small towns into bustling, vibrant communities.

If the thought of small town living in West Virginia piques your interest, here are a handful of outstanding communities to consider:

South Charleston, WV

Founded in 1906 and incorporated in 1917, South Charleston blends history into its picturesque town. “The central part of our town has an Adena Indian Mound,” says Vicki Vaughan, executive director of South Charleston’s Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It reminds me of a Hallmark town.”

Major attractions in this city of 12,000 residents include the South Charleston Museum & Interpretative Center and the historic LaBelle Theatre.

Feast-Worthy Finds

Popular dining spots are farm-to-table restaurant Café Appalachia
and Happy Days Café, a 1950s-style diner.

“We are known for our international dining,” Vaughan says. Just outside of downtown, residents can choose from Mediterranean, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants. “We also have three amazing bakeries – the world-famous Spring Hill Pastry, home of the unique and addictive bakery hot dog, Sokolata, with its European pastries, and Sugar Pie Bakery, offering specialty desserts and cupcakes.”

Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy tee time on the 18-hole Little Creek Golf Course. Little Creek Park features hiking and cycling trails, a disc golf course, playgrounds, picnic shelters and ballfields where the annual state girls’ softball tournament takes place. Winter sports fans can “chill out” at South Charleston Memorial Ice Arena with ice skating and even ice bumper cars.

Ripley, WV
Jeff Adkins

Ripley, WV

Home of “America’s Largest Small-Town Independence Day Celebration,” this town knows how to have a good time. From the 151-year-old Fourth of July festivities to the Mountain State Art & Craft Fair celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2022, residents love gathering in the county seat of Jackson County, West Virginia.

Mike Ruben, Ripley Convention & Visitors Bureau director, says shopping the community’s bustling retail scene is another activity enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

“People choose to live here because Ripley offers small-town charm and is an easy commute to either Charleston or Parkersburg.”

Mike Ruben | Ripley Convention & Visitors Bureau

Unique stores include Vail Furniture, which dates to 1844, and Millcreek Trading Company, specializing in primitive décor and located inside an 1888 vintage railroad depot. Another longstanding retailer is the Jeweler’s Touch, which is located in a former bank dating back to 1891.

Ruben notes fan-favorite businesses such as I Scream Sundae, an ice cream parlor based on scary movie themes. You can satisfy your appetite at restaurants such as the Fairplain Yacht Club and Hot Johnson’s. Residents take in live performances and movies at the Alpine Theatre, a restored 1936 venue. Another favorite attraction is the Appalachian Distillery, which turns out traditional West Virginia “white lightning” moonshine.

Though Ripley is a town of only 3,400 residents, it offers amenities such as Jackson General Hospital WVU Medicine, a community college and the Cedar Lakes Conference Center.

Nitro, WV
Jeff Adkins


The largest communities in Putnam County boast historical landmarks, like Hoge House in Winfield, the home of James W. Hoge built in 1857 and Putnam County’s first judicial annex and library. In these communities, you’ll find dozens of small businesses, including specialty retailers dotting the sidewalks of quaint town centers, and local eateries serving up classic comfort foods, ethnic cuisine, coffee and baked goods.

“We are home to one of the top educational school systems in the state, and we boast wonderful community parks and recreation options that are trail-based and water-based.”

Vanessa Ervin | Putnam County Convention and Visitors Bureau

Valley Park features a new, state-of-the-art conference center along with turf baseball and softball fields and a wave pool, and it connects to multiple trail systems for hiking and mountain biking.

“Families enjoy living in this region where there is space to explore but also a thriving community centered around active lifestyles,” says Vanessa Ervin, Putnam County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director.

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