21 Ways to Explore Fairmont’s East SideMarch 26, 2018
Summer is coming.
Before it gets here, we’re exploring all the towns of the county to prepare for adventuring and more exploring. Today, let’s go to East Side.
Disclaimer: This blog was written by a West Sider.
East Side vs West Side
A quick recap for those of you who don’t know: Fairmont is divided into two parts, East Side (the Bees) and West Side (the Polar Bears). If you don’t know on what side of the Monongahela you live and work, keep reading.
The Bee and the Polar Bear are mascots of Fairmont’s respective high schools, East Fairmont High and Fairmont Senior. The rivalry is real and serious (if you hadn’t guessed). The rivalry spans sports, academia, fine arts and pretty much everything. Anyway, the delineation is the David Morgan Memorial Bridge (aka the Third Street Bridge), and you’ll know you’re on it because of its unique and characteristic curvature.
Thankfully, Marion County Visitors Center doesn’t discriminate. (It’s in Pleasant Valley, which is technically on East Side, but I’m a very forgiving person as west siders generally are).
The ensuing itinerary outlines the best parts of East Side (from the perspective of a West Sider).
Not to miss
We’ll start at the bottom of the Gateway Connector, with Rider Pharmacy. Don’t let the name fool you. It’s more than what it sounds. You could basically decorate your whole house and get half your grocery shopping done here, too. Oh, and you can get medication because it is still a pharmacy (for like 40 years).
Savvy Consignment is right around the corner. Take the name literally. The boutique has all your sartorial needs in winter clothes, sundresses, activewear, and of course, accessories. Go to homecoming. Go to a business meeting. Go on a rail trail. Just make sure you go to Savvy Consignment first.
Drive around the bend and up the road until you get to a quaint, little, Italian delicatessen. Delica-what? That’s right, a delicatessen! Hermosilla’s Deli offers signature sandwiches, build your own, and a salad and olive bar. Don’t forget a cannoli for the road!
(This is where the geography starts to get a bit circuitous, but what else would you expect from east side?)
From Hermosilla’s, drive up and over to discover the lactose wonder that is Dairy Creme Corner. It is the quintessential summer experience. Ice cream cones as tall as skyscrapers! Or try an Avalanche of Fruity Pebbles, Pop Tart, tiramisu or peanut butter and jelly, in addition to about a million more. There’s also savory meals and summer fair food like hot dogs, burgers, wings and funnel cake.
Now, it’s time for something a little more nostalgic. Woody’s Hot Dogs is a throwback for sure. Aside from great sauce, the signature slaw is a must-have. Eat in or take it to go because there is no time to waste!
This next stop might be more like a hop and a half, a couple skips and a big jump away. Valley Falls State Park is always worth the drive. With at least seven hiking and mountain biking trails, multiple falls hidden throughout and massive rocks to lay out in the sun, it’s the perfect place to simply exist. Appreciate the mountains, the rushing water and the symbolism of how beautiful the valleys of life can be.
As you’re coming back to town, turn up the road for a game of mini golf at Coal Country Miniature Golf. Completely coal-themed, the course features a ginormous rotating figure of a coal miner. How to play: focus, weight on the back leg, feet shoulder-width apart, elbow up, eye on the ball. Wait … that’s not golf. Thankfully, Coal Country also has batting cages where those athletic tips would actually make sense. Once you’ve tired yourself out, learn more about coal, mining, history, and culture at the coal museum.
Drive back into town and head to Kerri’s Korner Bookstore. Peruse what’s popular, check out the contemporaries or read actual books. You know, the classics. Used and new adventures (by adventures, I mean books) await you!
Just up the road is Mountain Creative, a place that gives you the freedom to create. Paint travel mugs, coasters, little figurines, big figurines, gnomes, dinosaurs and fairy houses. There is something here for everyone and artistic ability is not required. Pick from more than 60 colors and various exploding paints. Just kidding … not really. Fancy Paints contain little pieces of glass that burst while the pottery is in the kiln. This makes for quite the explosive design.
Continue up that road until you get to Speedway Market where they sell the largest apples in town. (OK, so I didn’t actually measure; I’m just eyeballing it.) Get your pet shopping, horse shopping, vegetarian shopping and grocery shopping done here.
A cute, seemingly small red building awaits you just a bit farther up that same road. Don’t let it fool you. It’s a massive space full of sweet memories. Sweet Memories Antique Mall provides sweet memories in hopes that you’ll make some, too. Dining sets, tea sets, vintage signs, furniture, and jewelry are just a few ideas to do something special, something sweet, something memorable.
While you’re already a bit left of town’s center, keep going until you get to Pricketts Fort State Park. Although the fort is literally the largest structure there, Pricketts Fort has so much more. Aside from touring the fort, tour Job Prickett’s house. Aside from touring, see demonstrations of how people made their living in the 1800’s. Aside from settlers, see and hear how the Native Americans lived. Aside from seeing it, hear about the history and ways of life from living history interpreters.
Then, hit the trails. Prickett’s Fort is also a state park with a few trails. One of those trails leads to a graveyard and one connects to Marion County’s rail trail system. And that connects to Mon County’s rail trail system. So, really, North Central West Virginia is your oyster.
On your way back to town, stop at Mom’s Place. Mom’s Place is a hang out specifically centered around food and massive amounts of it. But if you don’t prefer a huge plate of home cooking, then enjoy the buffets!
As you get closer to town you’ll see the Illusive Skull Costume Castle. It’s an obviously great place for Halloween, but it will also carry Christmas needs around the holidays, period costume needs and a variety of other dress-up necessities. Plus makeup!
Very near is Mountain Dragon Mazery, which has no dragons or maze. That would be sad if they didn’t make up for it with their delicious honey wine. The owners make it with honey from their own backyard. Yes, they have an apiary and cool bee suites! The flowers used in the mead-making process are local and the experience is out of this era. (Get it? “Era,” because mead was popular centuries ago.) Like all good things, it’s coming back around. Now that’s what I call retro.
We’re retracing our steps now to get to Original Italian Pizza. You can get salads here. … That’s completely true but pales in comparison to the mile-long pizzas with mile-high toppings. Homemade, hand-tossed New York pizza that you can’t get anywhere else … except maybe New York, but I doubt it would be as good. And the stromboli! Plus the cheesesteaks. I don’t know what to tell you to eat.
Now we’ve come full circle (or full half circle. Regardless, we’re near the bridge again.) Palatine Park is a beautiful riverfront that exists below the bridge. (Get to it using the road between the ends of the two bridges.) The opportunities here are endless and occur throughout the year. Splash around at the splash pad in spring. Ice skate on the iceless rink in winter. There is no end to the music or the fish in summer. Plus, the docks are ADA accessible. Get your kayak and come on down. And in the fall? You don’t need a reason. It’s just plain beautiful.
If you’re around town over the Memorial Day Weekend, you might as well stay for the biggest festival in the county, the West Virginia Three Rivers Festival. Ride the rides and watch the World Championship Pepperoni Roll Eating Contest. (You want to look away, but you just can’t. It’s wonderful and gross. What a combination! Only in Marion.)
At the overlook, check out one of Fairmont’s six Civil War Trail markers. Here, too, is the site of the largest battle ever in North Central West Virginia (although this one is between the north and the south – not the east and the west). As part of the Jones-Imboden Raid, a battle of the suspension bridge was fought on April 29, 1863, at the site of the Palatine foundry. The bridge (1852–1908) spanned the Monongahela River between Fairmont and Palatine.
In the fall, drive over to West Side to witness the very height of the rivalry: the East-West Game at East-West Stadium. (It may be a renowned rivalry, but we still know how to share.)
It hurts my West Side pride to admit it, but East Side doesn’t sound too shabby. I think it’s time to venture over (wearing neutral colors, of course, admitting to no one where you’re from). I’m (very low key) excited for the playing, shopping, and eating!
What East Side adventure are you planning?