FAYETVILLE, W.Va. — Nestled at the New River Gorge and featuring outdoor activities like whitewater rafting, hiking, fishing and rock climbing, Fayetteville, West Virginia, is ground zero for Mountain State tourism in the warmer months.
About four years ago, however, the idea was hatched to create a fun weekend in January that would bring folks out in the winter time, and that is how Wizard Weekend was born.
Modeled after similar events that celebrate the world of Harry Potter — including in Huntington and Ironton — Fayetteville’s 2023 Wizard Weekend is set for Jan. 27-29. While not officially sanctioned by the Harry Potter franchise created by author J. K. Rowling, the event will try to recreate the ambience and day-to-day atmosphere of the fictional world where Potter and his friends exist. Fayetteville is about a two-hour drive from Huntington.
The first day of Wizard Weekend, Friday, Jan. 27, will feature a full slate of events including an Appalachian Folk Magic Exhibit at the Love Hope Center of the Arts beginning at 11 a.m., a scavenger hunt at 3 p.m., a Sorting Ceremony at the Fayetteville Visitor Center at 4 p.m., and both the Gaines Estate and the Historic Morris Harvey House will host A Great Feast at 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively with registration required.
Saturday, Jan. 28, finds another scavenger hunt getting underway at 9 a.m. As the day progresses, a Wizard Makers Market and the food trucks open at 11 a.m. in front of the Fayette County Courthouse. The Appalachian Folk Magic display returns at 11 a.m., a time of day that also finds the Wand Making class beginning at Fayetteville Town Hall. The strike of noon marks the start of the all-important Wizard Weekend Costume Contest held on the lawn of the Historic Morris Harvey House bed and breakfast with the prize-winning costume categories listed as adult, children and the family/group slot.
Other activities Saturday will include Wizarding Classes in potions and spellcasting, an obstacle course, Quidditch Open Play, Pot Painting classes, Herbal Potion workshops, a “Snakes of West Virginia” presentation and two more Great Feasts at the same two aforementioned establishments.
The scavenger hunt on Sunday, Jan. 29, will begin at 10 a.m. This final day of Wizard Weekend will also feature a paint and sip workshop at 11 a.m., a return of the Appalachian Folk magic exhibit at 11 a.m., a Laurel Fork Falconry presentation at noon, a OneWheel Quidditch game at 2:30 p.m. with brooms suggested, and more.
Throughout the weekend there will be themed photo opportunities available, shops of many kinds open for business, from mystical creatures shop to a wand shop and more, beer butter lattes and wizard sangria and more themed drinks and treats on tap, and a host of foods for purchase ranging from fish and chips to shepherd’s pie.
For more information on event times, tickets, registration for events and directions, go to visitfayettevillewv.com/events/.
Fayetteville is located south of Charleston, and you can get there via the West Virginia Turnpike and then north on Route 19 near Beckley.
But for a shorter yet more adventurous route, as long as snow and ice are not a factor, take I-64 west and then turn off the Belle-Midland Trail exit on the far side of Charleston and follow U.S. 60 south, which is a beautiful ride that follows the Kanawha River to Kanawha Falls, where the New River and the Gauley River come together. Staying on U.S. 60, after going past the impressive Cathedral Falls on the left (which is worth a stop), you will veer off at Chimney Corner and take a right onto Route 16 toward Fayetteville through beautiful gorge vistas and views.
The executive director of Visit Fayetteville tourist organization is Tabitha Stover.
“We are lucky that we can host an event like Wizard Weekend while being a tight-knit community here in Fayetteville,” said Stover. “We wanted to host it in January because we are a tourist town and this is one of our slowest months. At first, we were like, ‘This idea is crazy,’ and we were not sure if it was going to work. But, our community went all in, even in the Wizard Weekend’s first year. Then, last year, we had over 3,000 people come to town, which for us is huge. There were businesses who normally have just a handful of folks stop in on a normal winter’s day who served more people than on Bridge Day in October. Now, we are starting to see more business activity specifically geared towards the Wizard Weekend events and visitors will enjoy the fact that a lot of the town is decorated for the weekend.”