Bluefield (West Virginia)
Nestled at the foot of the 3,400-foot East River Mountain, Bluefield is the most elevated town in West Virginia, at 2,655 feet above sea level. The town is sometimes called "Summit City", because of its high altitude, and "Nature's Air-Conditioned City" for its pleasant summer temperatures. Since 1941, the Chamber of Commerce's "Lemonade Lassies" have passed out free lemonade on days when the temperature exceeds . The airport thermometer is used to determine this, which is at the highest point in Bluefield. It can often exceed 90° in downtown Bluefield during the summer.
The area was first settled in the 1780s and incorporated in 1889. Named for the blue chicory fields in the area, Bluefield was a booming Norfolk and Western Railroad hub for the coal industry until the decline of coal in the 1960s. Today the city has an air of faded 1950s glory; some of the lovely homes have seen better days, the downtown is largely deserted, and passenger railways have given way to freight cars. Happily, the city is beginning to embark on an aggressive revitalization scheme, by restoring old buildings, attracting specialty shops and restaurants back to downtown, and focusing on tourism as a promising source of revenue. The town still retains its small-town Appalachian charm, with friendly people, beautiful scenery, and very low housing costs.
One of the best-known local residents is John Forbes Nash, winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in economics and the subject of the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind. The town has yet to capitalize on this connection, however, so if you're a big fan of the man or the movie, you won't find a lot of related activities or sights in the area. Nash's boyhood home is undergoing renovation, and will likely be a listed historic site in the near future.
By carBluefield is located just off I-77, between Beckley in the north and Wytheville, Virginia in the south. Most people will use exit 1, although if you're travelling south to Bluefield, you may see a sign recommending that you get off at exit 9; this, however, is only a needless detour through Princeton. At Bluefield, I-77 becomes the West Virginia Turnpike; if you continue north from Bluefield, you'll encounter toll booths.
The other main roads that pass through the town are US-19, from Abingdon, Virginia in the southwest to Beckley in the north; US-52, from Williamson in the northwest to Wytheville, Virginia in the south; and US-460, from Grundy, Virginia in the west to Blacksburg, Virginia in the east.
- Greyhound Bus Lines, 511 Commerce St, +1 304 325-9442.
- Mercer County Airport, +1 304 327-5308 or +1-800-523-3273, 6 miles (10 km) from Bluefield.
There are also several streets in town that are very steep (Jefferson and S Mercer being good examples); traversing them in warm weather is nail-biting enough, but when the streets are covered with snow or ice, you definitely don't want to attempt it without four-wheel drive.
- Bluefield Area Transit, 1642 Bluefield Ave, +1 304 327-8418 or +1-866-759-0978. Buses run Monday through Friday, with limited weekend service to Athens; closed on holidays. Services Mercer and McDowell Counties with routes into Bluefield, Princeton and Welch. Fares $1–2, or $20–25 for a monthly pass.
- Downtown Bluefield, with its architecture dating from the 1920s. There are self-guided walking tours available.
First Fridays, Chicory Square. Live entertainment and food on the first Friday of each month.
Bluefield Area Arts Center
Summit Players, 500 Bland St, +1 304 325-8000. Performs four plays per year. $25 for dinner theatre, $12 for matinees.
Eastern Regional Coal Archives
- Cinemas 8, Mercer Mall, +1 304 325-2169. An eight-screen movie theatre near the mall.
phone: +1 304 325-7037address: 3224 Cumberland RdA 28-lane bowling center with snack bar, billiard tables, nursery, pro shop, game room and Keno.
Elks Golf Coursephone: +1 304 327-9822address: 1501 Whitethorn St
- If you just want a relaxing family afternoon by a gentle stream, haul your picnic basket out to the Bluefield City Park, 1750 Stadium Dr, +1 304 327-2448. Picnic area with 4 pavilions, grills, playground, softball fields, football stadium, youth center with recreational equipment, tennis courts and gymnasium with indoor goals.
- There is one fitness center in town:
- Greater Bluefield Community Center, 703 College Ave, +1 304 325-5707. Swimming pool, basketball, racquetball, gymnastics, aerobics, swimming and lifesaving classes, weight room and Nautilus. Day passes $6.
EventsBluefield holds several festivals during the year:
- Mountain Festival, Bluefield City Park. For a week around Memorial Day Weekend, the festival features live entertainment, dancing to oldies and beach music, a carnival, fireworks, sporting events, contests, an antique car show and the Miss Mountain Festival Pageant.
- Lemonade Days Festival, +1 304 327-7184. Celebrated in early August. Free lemonade even if the temperature isn't above 90 °F, along with sales in downtown shops, entertainment, vendors, an auction, the Downhill Derby and a parade.
- Bluefield Coal Show, Brushfork Armory Civic Center, Route 52 N. For three days every other September, this professional show displays what the future holds in the way of equipment and any new innovative technology being developed in the coal industry.
phone: +1 304 589-3317Held in early October. Friday night includes Italian dinner (spaghetti, lasagna, chicken cacciatore, salad and dessert) and dancing; Saturday features Italian food, homemade desserts, artisans and vendors, fashion show, and live entertainment. Admission free.
- Holiday of Lights Festival, Bluefield City Park. Held yearly from Thanksgiving through the first full week in January. Open 6PM-10PM weekdays, 6PM-11PM weekends. Admission is free but donations are gratefully accepted. The city park is festooned with Christmas lights, displays and scenes, which can be viewed from the warmth of your car as you drive along the marked trail.
- Bluefield High School, 535 W Cumberland Rd, +1 304 325-9116. Home of the Bluefield Beavers.
address: 219 Rock St+1 304 327-4000 or +1-800-344-8892 or +1-800-654-7798. A four-year historically black college located on the north side of town, first established as a teachers' college in 1895 and integrated in 1954. Bluefield State specializes in career and technical two- and four-year programs, enhanced by a selection of liberal arts courses.
phone: +1 304 327-2508address: Highway 460 and Route 25Over 70 shops and restaurants, and an on-site movie theatre.
Coal City Gift Shopphone: +1 304 325-7945address: 848 Bland StLocal souvenirs and unique gifts from West Virginia.
New to You Consignment Shopphone: +1 304 325-3480address: 1116 Bluefield AveLocal landmark offering a wide selection of clothing, jewelry, books, and small appliances. Closed Sunday.
Prowl Aroundphone: +1 304 325-9855address: 1715 Bluefield AveAntique books, pictures and glassware.
Town and Tweedphone: +1 304 327-8197address: 2924 E Cumberland RdA favorite local store for years, selling high-quality women's apparel.
phone: +1 304 323-1605address: 616 Federal StWide variety of breads, cookies, cakes and more, including the hottest cinnamon rolls you're ever likely to taste; be sure to ask the owner about the health benefits of his baked goods.
David's at the Clubphone: +1 304 327-9822 (extension 222 or 224)address: 1501 Whitethorn StLocated at the old Country Club, now the Elks Lodge.
Golden Oldies Cafephone: +1 304 323-2043address: 1125 Bluefield Ave
Los 3 Amigosphone: +1 304 325-8989address: 3200 E Cumberland RdOpen daily. Traditional Mexican cuisine.
Main Street Cafephone: +1 304 323-3030address: 411 Federal StA casual cafe serving wholesome homemade meals.
- Tudor's Biscuit World, Route 52, +1 304 589-3383.
- Valley Country Restaurant, Bluefield Princeton Rd, +1 304 325-8556. Open all day. Homestyle country cooking.
The Railyardphone: +1 304-800-4141Great restaurant/bar in the heart of downtown Bluefield. Live music on the weekends
Annie's Sports Pubphone: +1 304 324-3900address: 2501 Bluefield Ave
Bluefield News and Brewphone: +1 304 325-6397address: 413 Federal StA tea- and coffeehouse also serving baked goods, soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps. Try their hot dogs (on toasted buns), the award-winning homemade chili, the Asian chicken roll-up and the egg salad BLT. 2 varieties of coffee available daily, along with green and Tazo teas, chai, frappes and hot chocolate. $3-4.
The Bar in Bluefield, Inc.phone: +1 304 324-8770address: 1600 Jefferson St
Hampton'sphone: +1 304 324-0001address: 1508 Jefferson St
- Kelsey's Dance Club at the Bluefield Holiday Hotel and Conference Center, Route 460, +1 304 325-6170. Open 11AM-2AM. Pub food, drinks and a large dance floor.
phone: +1 304 327-8171address: 3400 Cumberland RdComplimentary continental breakfast. Rooms from $48.
Economy Innphone: +1 304 325-9111address: 3206 E Cumberland Rd
Quality Hotel and Conference Centerphone: +1 304 325-6170address: 3350 Big Laurel Hwy120 rooms. Full-service dining room, cocktail lounge, fitness center, sauna, game room, and seasonal heated outdoor pool. Rooms from $90.
Bed and Breakfasts
phone: +1 304 487-2120address: New Hope Rd3 rooms. A rustic house in an acre of woods, with a wood-burning fireplace, outdoor deck, free wireless DSL service. Spa weekend packages and romance packages available. $75-85 plus tax.
phone: +1 304 327-6370address: 2109 Jefferson StVictorian-style furnishings, restored oversize tubs, Austrian crystal chandeliers and a wraparound verandah. Full gourmet breakfast served. 3-diamond AAA rating. $70 and up.
- Bramwell is about 15 minutes northwest on US-52. It was once home to millionaires and is now home to Pinnacle Rock State Park.
- Princeton is about 10 minutes northeast on US-460. It's the county seat, and a good access point for Pipestem State Park and the Bluestone National Scenic River.
- Tazewell, Virginia is about 30 minutes southwest on US-19.
- Welch is about 1 hour northwest on US-52. It's a traditional mining town in the heart of coal country, although the decline of the industry has hit the town hard.
- Wytheville, Virginia is about 45 minutes south on I-77.
- Beckley is about 1 hour north on I-77. Winterplace Ski Resort, in nearby Flat Top, offers skiing, snow tubing and snowboarding trails.
- Blacksburg, Virginia is a little over 1 hour east on US-460. It's home to the Virginia Tech Hokies.
- Abingdon, Virginia is about 1½ hours southwest on I-77 / I-81, or a bit under 2 hours if you follow US-19. A charming town popular for its well-known Barter Theatre.
- Grundy, Virginia is about 1½ hours west on US-460.
- Williamson is about 2.5 hours west on US-52. Birthplace of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.