Charleston, WV

Charleston, WV (Photo by Sean Pavone on Shutterstock)

Perched in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia features amazing scenery such as roaring waterfalls, dense forests, and diverse wildlife. Considered a nature lover’s paradise, the state has a trove of must-see destinations from the iconic New River Gorge, or the Grand Canyon of the East, to historic Civil War battlegrounds nestled across the state. With breathtaking scenery and a tight-knit community feel, there’s little wonder why people are looking for the best places to live in West Virginia.

Combined with the findings of a new study that revealed most indoor Americans turned into outdoor people due to isolation from the pandemic, West Virginia appears the perfect destination for those seeking scenic beauty, sincere hospitality, and folklore culture. Additional findings in the report indicate that nearly every two in five new outdoorsy people are between the ages of 25 to 40, making West Virginia the perfect state for those seeking love. 

Best of all, West Virginia’s cost of living is significantly lower than the national average. This is particularly important as a recent study found that 35 percent of Americans won’t consider purchasing a home until they have at least $200,000 saved. Fortunately, the average West Virginia home value falls well within that range. 

So, if you’re wondering whether West Virginia is the right state for you, let’s find out. Today, we will share the five best places to live in West Virginia known for its rich history, natural beauty, and sense of community. And for those of you who don’t see your favorite on the list, drop us a comment below and let us know!

The List: Best Places to Live in West Virginia, According to Experts

1. Bridgeport

“Bridgeport is a centrally located city with two freeways that make it accessible to anywhere in the state,” says Rocket Homes. Home to the Meadowbrook Mall, Bridgeport features national retail outlets “while its downtime is composed of unique local shops and excellent farm-to-table dining.” Boasting yearly summer festivals, Bridgeport offers a small-town feel with access to big-city amenities making it an ideal place to raise a family

WBoy states, “Bridgeport in Harrison County has been named the best place to live in West Virginia.” With A rankings across housing, job opportunities, and cost of living, Bridgeport also has “several A- ranking schools” and has a B- ranking in “weather, commute, nightlife, and crime and safety.” Additionally, Bridgeport is teeming with hiking trails, state parks, and year-round community events.

“Bridgeport is home to 8,338 people and is more affluent than other West Virginia areas,” claims The Crazy Tourist. With a cost of living and median home value significantly under the U.S. average, more affluence is reflected in Bridgeport as “80 percent of residents live in owned homes.” Best of all, crime is uncommon as “residents pride themselves on maintaining a safe, open and neighborly community atmosphere.” 

2. Cheat Lake

House Digest declared that “Cheat Lake is the best city to live in West Virginia, especially if you are looking for the best access to the great outdoors.” Despite the city’s median home value being higher than the national average, Cheat Lake’s “cost of living really makes a difference, with an overall affordability rating of 98.9 out of 100.”

Cheat Lake, West Virginia
Cheat Lake, West Virginia (Photo by Brady Wilson on

Cheat Lake offers a quaint, small-town feel, and “according to statistics, it is the best place to live and raise a family in West Virginia,” explains The Crazy Tourist. Home to 9,200 people, Cheat Lake offers surprising diversity due to its accessibility and affordability and is home to “ten public schools, four of which hold an A- rating.” Surrounded by lush forests and endless rolling hills with the sparkling Cheat Lake within, this city offers a serene and peaceful lifestyle for all. 

Cheat Lake takes outdoor recreation to new heights with access to sports, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, and more. As a small town, Cheat Lake doesn’t “have a rating for crime and safety while WBoy rates Cheat Lake “as the top-rated place to live in Monongalia County.” With close proximity to Morgantown, Cheat Lake offers access to additional amenities and cultural experiences while boasting an “A+ rating for overall livability and family wellness.” 

3. Morgantown

As described by Zumper, Morgantown “is a college city and is the home of West Virginia University.” Rated within the top ten American cities to live in, Morgantown is rich in culture, has a strong job market, and is located near other major cities. Additionally, Morgantown is “filled with natural beauty, small businesses, homegrown food, and other attractions” which makes it a great place if you want to move somewhere “that’s self-sufficient and off the beaten trail.”

WVU in Morgantown (Photo by Pete Chacalos on

“If resident happiness was the only factor to consider when looking at the best places to live in West Virginia, Morgantown would be the outright winner,” says The Crazy Tourist. Considered highly affordable, Morgantown offers more affordable median home values compared to the national average and despite being a “relatively large town, Morgantown proudly retains its small town atmosphere.” To add, most Morgantown residents live in rented properties, with “the average monthly rent coming in under $700!” 

With a diverse community that’s welcoming to all new residents, Morgantown “gets about 43 inches of rain, 28 inches of snow, and 155 sunny days annually, making it perfect for fishing, river camping, or exploring the Historic Downtown strip,” explains New Home Source. Widely renowned as one of the best small towns in West Virginia, Morgantown residents “have full access to the Mountain Line Transit system which makes stops in surrounding suburbs” while the close-knit community of this college town is enough to make anyone feel like home. 

4. Wheeling

“Situated along the Ohio River in the foothills of the Appalachians, Wheeling is considered by the best city to live in West Virginia,” explains the Chamber of Commerce. Once a manufacturing stronghold, Wheeling’s economy has diversified significantly over recent years and includes “healthcare, tourism, and energy.” Known for its affordable housing, Wheeling is a great place to raise a family.  

A bridge in Wheeling, WV
A bridge in Wheeling, WV (Photo by Christian West on Unsplash)

Nested alongside the Ohio River, Wheeling is “somewhat conservative politically and has an active community,” notes New Home Source. Home to six school districts, Wheeling offers a vast range of academic programs and has a vibrant cultural hub with a thriving entertainment scene. As a family-friendly community, Wheeling “has over 20 public playgrounds, courts, and fields, a dog park, and 24 miles of biking and walking trails throughout the city.”

“Nicknamed ‘The Friendly City,’ Wheeling is one of the largest cities in West Virginia with numerous opportunities to rub elbows with your neighbors,” explains Credit Donkey. Once deemed an essential transportation hub for the Ohio River, Wheeling’s “local market has become more centered around healthcare while the city has some of the lowest crime rates” in the state. With annual moments like the “Wheeling Feeling Chili Cook-off and the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival,” Wheeling offers a warm and welcoming community to raise a family. 

5. Charleston

“The capital city and the most populated city in the state, Charleston is in what can be considered the ‘sweet spot’ of West Virginia,” describes New Home Source. Located between the “Western Allegheny Plateau and the Kanawha and Elk Rivers, Charleston boasts beautiful scenery and backyard views” and offers unique finds from local food establishments to immersive recreational experiences. 

Charleston, WV
Charleston, WV (Photo by Sean Pavone on Shutterstock)

Zumper claims “Charleston’s charm has something you won’t find anywhere else and the city has a lot going for it in terms of reasons to move there.” With a rich cultural heritage deeply sown in Appalachian traditions, Charleston “celebrates its history with various festivals and events, including the Vandalia Gathering, the West Virginia State Museum, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences.” Additionally, health care and entertainment are highly-rated in Charleston, making it the perfect place for singles. 

“Charleston is one of the best cities to view fall foliage in America, with 81 percent of the town blanketed with deciduous trees,” says Rocket Homes. With a population under 50,000, Charleston offers a low-key lifestyle and is home to “boutique shops, bookstores, restaurants, and galleries.” Home to the University of Charleston and the minor league Charleston Dirty Birds, this capital city is bursting with West Virginian culture that “features bluegrass and other traditional music, dancing, crafts and local food.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Tim Lanoue

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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  1. Linda says:

    Does all the places have to b in the northern part of the state. They r beautiful but there r other places

    1. Sabrina Mick says:

      But you know those of us south of Charleston don’t count anyways. That’s why we get the turnpike fees to go anywhere

  2. Sabrina Mick says:

    I haven’t been to a lot of these places but there are a lot better places to live than Charleston unless they are strictly basing it on entertainment. I was surprised Lewisburg wasn’t on here

    1. Buffalo Gal says:

      I’m with you on Charleston not being one of the top spots. Lewisburg is beautiful and artisan- and tourist-friendly. The eastern panhandle has much to offer, too.

  3. Mtneer says:

    Funny that a lot of WV natives would put these areas much lower on the list. I’m sure employment opportunities are better in the northern part of the state, but there are things happening in the south as well. There are no less than 3 new manufacturing facilities hiring now in the Princeton/Bluefield area. The Beckley area will likely see more opportunity in the near future as the National Park and Bechtel Reserve infrastructure continues to grow. Appalachian Salmon is also in the development stage for an aquaculture facility not far from Beckley.

  4. JD says:

    Obviously your reviewers (experts?) have spent very little time in WV. A week isn’t long enough to pass judgement! Bridgeport does have low crime however that is honestly all it has. Morgantown has West Virgina University and everything sits on the side of mountains. Cold wet and nasty during the winter. Cheat Lake has a lake and overpriced housing, that’s all.
    As a West Virginian, Charleston has the most to offer for a variety of social activities from outdoors, arts, festivals, shopping and a variety of dining choices. I own a bungalow there, as a second home. It’s my get away. I live full time in Parkersburg WV due to my employment and the travel time for 5 states, from there.