By Rachel Ellen Simon
Most may know it as the title of a lullaby, but “Baby Mine” is also the name of the first mine to open in the Pocahontas coalfield in 1883. During the mine’s 73 years of operation, over 44 million tons of coal were exported. Now a National Historic Landmark, the original mine is an exhibition site and museum. Visitors can take an underground tour, learn about early mining methods, and view the famed 13-foot Pocahontas #3 Coal Seam.
Open April 1 – Aug. 31. Museum is free. For tours, adults $8.50, children (6-12) $5.50, under 6 free.
More info: Located in Pocahontas, Va. Visit: pocahontasva.org/museum.html
Though the Lee County Colored Elementary School closed its doors to students in 1956, they opened them again — for tourists — in the late 1980s. The former one-room schoolhouse now serves as a cultural center that aims to preserve the heritage of Appalachian African-Americans. The center includes a collection of oral histories, historic artifacts and a library of African American literature. It also hosts public forums and an annual Race Unity Day to encourage interracial dialogue in the region.
Open year-round. Free. Call ahead for tours: (276) 546-5144.
More info: Located in Pennington Gap, Va. Visit: virginiaheritage.org/lee_co.htm
Cue music: “Down in the valley, the valley so … high?” Not quite in tune with the traditional folk song lyrics, Virginia’s highest mountain valley sits 3086 feet above sea level. The result of a collapsed mountain, Burke’s Gardens resembles a massive bowl, earning it the nickname “God’s Thumbprint.” The Gardens is home to an abundance of wildlife – including a number of endangered species – and is an optimum location for scenic hiking and biking. Adjacent to the Appalachian Trail, Burke’s Gardens can also be viewed from State Route 623.
Open year-round. Free.
More info: Located in Tazewell County, Va. Visit: visittazewellcounty.org/burkes.html