As snowflakes and holidays swirl around the New River Gorge, the small town of Fayetteville is buzzing with festivities, shopping, live music, and locals. While most visitors think of Fayetteville as a summertime destination, year-round residents (and those who are in-the-know) treasure the winter season just as much.
Tabitha Stover, executive director of the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau, is among them. Stover has lived in Fayetteville for nine years and calls winter in Fayetteville the “secret season.”
Here, Stover shares an insider’s view on what the town feels like in the winter, plus the scoop on when to visit, what wintertime activities to get in on, and perks you’ll only find in the off-season.
“The beauty of Fayetteville is how welcoming this place is and how awesome the people are,” Stover said. “Fayetteville is like a big old hug that you didn’t know you needed. It embraces you, and I think that’s especially true in the winter.”
AOTG: What makes winter a special time to visit Fayetteville?
Tabitha Stover: Fayetteville turns into a sleepy, charming small town in the winter. It’s a great time to step away from the hustle and bustle and relax in the magical bubble we have here.
AOTG: How does the community and atmosphere in Fayetteville shift with the seasons?
TS: The love, community, and the people that we have here are the core of what makes Fayetteville so special in every season. Winter brings more opportunities for connections. The pace just slows down and it gives everyone a chance to recharge. You get a real feel for the unique culture we have here.
AOTG: What is your favorite aspect of Fayetteville winters?
TS: I am a foodie, so I love to indulge in all the hearty winter dishes throughout town and then go into hibernation with a full belly. I also love the wacky and whimsical winter festivals that are becoming winter traditions here. The Polar Plunge is super fun to watch on New Year’s Day. I love how the whole community comes together to pull off these awesome events in the winter. I also love winter hikes and the beauty and serenity of hiking in the gorge in the secret season.
AOTG: What is it like in downtown in the winter?
TS: You have the town to yourself when you are walking around and it’s beautiful and relaxing. Winter is our slower season, but all of the restaurants in town stay open and most of the shops are open year-round. If it has been a slow day it’s not unusual to find a shop owner sculpting a snowman out front or crocheting a dinosaur. When it snows, the Secret Sandwich Society sets out sleds in the park for locals and visitors to play.
AOTG: What do visitors miss out on if they only think of Fayetteville as a summer vacation spot?
TS: Each season has its perks and I enjoy the beauty of every season here. The secret season is the best time to connect with nature. The views open up and the gorge is spectacular with a light dusting of snow. There are lots of fun events like festivals, trivia nights at Southside Junction Tap House and noodle nights at The Station.
AOTG: When is the best time for a winter trip to Fayetteville?
TS: I would base your trip on the experience you are longing for. If you want incredible views all to yourself and you want in on the best weekday secrets—like curry night—plan a weekday getaway. Fridays and Saturdays are great for live music and all of the shops are open.
AOTG: Share any seasonal perks visitors should know about.
TS: Lodging rates with all of our lodging partners are lower during winter months. While availability is an issue in peak season, winter is a great time to take advantage of [lodging discounts and availability] and all the free activities you can do here. It’s also a great time to take advantage of off-season rates and specials for adventure activities—like the Bridge Walk and ziplining. When we have a good snow there are opportunities for cross country skiing.