With Christmas a mere couple of days away, the time to scour your local outlets for last-minute gifts has passed—but not all hope is lost for the dejected procrastinators out there. Instead of a material present this year, the gift of travel is a truly admirable substitute, and there’s one state in particular that’s eagerly awaiting visitors in the new year. Equipped with vast swathes of old-growth forest, scenic mountain vistas, and a wealth of native North American wildlife, West Virginia is a paradise for both outdoor adventure and off-the-beaten-path travel—and to sweeten the deal, you and your loved one can visit this oft-underrated state without paying a single penny.
It may sound hard to believe, but this opportunity involves a pretty miniscule amount of effort. To begin, entrants can head to West Virginia Tourism’s Resolution X contest site, scroll down to the submission page, and provide some insight into their New Year’s resolution and how a trip to West Virginia would help them achieve their 2022 goals. The platform also offers the opportunity to submit a one-minute introduction video for added points, though—fortunately for any camera-shy entrants—this step is optional. The contest officially closes at 11:59 PM on December 31st, so be sure to submit your application well before the New Year’s Eve festivities begin. Also, keep in mind that entrants need to be 21 or older—if you’re too young for the aforementioned New Year’s Eve festivities, then you’re too young to apply.
After a brief deliberation period from January 3rd to 6th, ten winners will be chosen for a four-day, three-night getaway across the Mountain State, with each individual winner (and their +1) set to receive a fully-customized itinerary that’s built to aid in achieving their New Year’s resolution. While this gift may not come in time for Christmas Day, a January trip to the stunning remote reaches of West Virginia will certainly be more memorable than the handwritten card you end up scribbling out at the last minute.
Curious about some of West Virginia’s most fascinating destinations? One essential stop for wildlife and nature lovers is certainly the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, a vast stretch of wilderness that’s found roughly an hour southeast of Charleston. While the park’s vibrant rhododendrons and other wildflowers won’t be on display until the warmer season, there’s a wide variety of animal inhabitants that may make an appearance to lucky visitors. With over 60 different mammalian species found throughout New River Gorge, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the usual suspects—raccoons, opossums, and white-tailed deer—while the truly fortunate may be able to catch a glimpse of a black bear, bobcat, or red fox stalking through the woods.
From abundant natural beauty to ample opportunity for whitewater rafting, skiing, and rock climbing, there’s a world of opportunity lying in wait across the Appalachians for all manner of visitors. Whether you’re planning to spend your trip speeding down the slopes, waking up at the crack of dawn for some birdwatching, or just lazing in the hot tub overlooking the pristine woodlands, the Mountain State is certain to have the perfect vacation in store for you.