One-of-a-kind Christmas town opens in West Virginia highlands

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Holiday lights twinkle in the historic district at Cass, West Virginia.
Holiday lights twinkle in the historic district at Cass, West Virginia. (Photo courtesy Scriptunas Images)

A remarkable Christmas town with its own "elf train" has come to life in the wintry Allegheny highlands near Snowshoe Mountain.

One of the most well-preserved historic towns in the U.S., the village of Cass, West Virginia, is welcoming visitors to tour its historic lanes twinkling with holiday lights and teeming with seasonal events.

The Cass Company Store looms beyond the Greenbrier River Bridge. ()

Perhaps best known as the home of Cass Scenic Railroad, the village and state park were routinely closed in winter until two years ago when officials decided to open off-season and decorate.

"It's like something out of a Hallmark holiday card," says Marshall Markley, superintendent of Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, who's now greeting guests from across the eastern U.S.

While the surrounding highlands remain snow-capped in winter, the valley at Cass is moderate and welcoming, Markley says, and guests are discovering the wonders of life in Pocahontas County—a four-hour drive from Washington, D.C.

"Local people have a way about them that is so inviting," he says. "It's a welcoming culture, and people are discovering the safety and native hospitality that still exists here in the mountains."

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Cara Rose, executive director of the , says she is stunned at the beauty of the village, which she had the opportunity to visit last week.

"It's so amazing and so nostalgic," Rose said. "It's a holiday display unlike anything I've ever seen."

Skiers gather at the mountain-top village at Snowshoe Mountain, a 10-mile drive from Cass.

Markley said that while excursions on the Elf Train were already booked for the season, that hasn't stopped people from touring the town and lodging in its historic cabins.

One of the last intact logging communities in West Virginia, the village was rescued and preserved in the 1970s, and its railroad was reimagined as a tourist attraction, transporting passengers to Bald Knob, one of the loftiest peaks in the Allegheny Mountains.

"It's as near a perfectly preserved logging town as you'll find in the U.S.," says Markley, who enjoys welcoming guests to enjoy the journey into a world in which cell-phone reception is unavailable.

A radio-telescope at Green Bank Observatory near Cass looks skyward. (Photo: Rick Burgess)

A drive of only 10 miles from the , the village is located in the heart of the , within which the operation of cell phones is limited to allow the observatory's giant telescopes to listen to outer space.

Holiday events are planned throughout the season, and seasonal baked goods and crafts and being sold at Santa's Sweet Shop at the park's Last Run Restaurant. Gifts are also available at the Cass Company Store, the Leatherbark Ford Gallery, and at the Burner Homeplace Museum.

For more information on Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and its holiday events, . For more information on scenic Pocahontas County, .


“Frosty the Snowman” a West Virginian’s creation

Frosty the Snowman leads children in the 1969 animated Christmas television special by Rankin/Bass Productions.

“Frosty the Snowman” might not have come to life in West Virginia, but the man who created Frosty did. Walter E. “Jack” Rollins, born in Keyser, West Virginia, co-wrote the widely known children’s song in 1950. While Frosty’s inspiration might not have come from his youth beneath the snowy peaks of the Allegheny Mountains, his inspiration as a song-writer certainly did.

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