By JOE MANCHIN

CHARLESTON -- A recent week in May was proclaimed as Travel and Tourism Week in West Virginia.

Conveniently however, tourism in West Virginia isn't limited to one week or even one season. Thanks to the Mountain State's four-season destination, we can offer year-round fun for everyone.

The tourism industry is made up of businesses and people that are committed to making our state a first-rate destination. It employs 44,000 people and nets $4.38 billion in travel-generated spending annually. Besides being a great source of entertainment for our residents, West Virginia also provides thousands of tourists each year with a diverse selection of vacation opportunities.

Gayle and I have spent many weekends with our children and grandchildren experiencing all our state has to offer. There are so many wonderful events and great getaways. I have many favorites, such as attending the annual State Fair in the summer, enjoying a long weekend in the fall at Canaan Valley, viewing the beautiful display at the Oglebay's Winter Festival of Lights, or fly-fishing in Grant County in the spring.

Whether you want to rediscover all your favorite childhood hangouts or explore new wild and wonderful places, I urge you to make plans to travel the Mountain State this summer.

Plan a weekend trip close to home to destinations such as the Monongahela National Forest and New River Gorge National River, or to one of our relaxing West Virginia state parks or forests. Take in time-honored traditions at one of our fairs and festivals, including the Vandalia Gathering in Charleston, Mid-Ohio Valley Multicultural Festival in Parkersburg, Mountain State Art & Craft Fair in Ripley, and Pickin' in the Panhandle near Martinsburg.

Climb aboard one of four major scenic train systems including Cass Scenic Railroad with its steam-driven locomotives and the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad with its collection of trains. If a motorcycle adventure through the hills and valleys is more your style, Route 219 –- one of my personal favorites –- and Route 19 offer great scenic views as well.

Looking for a brand new adventure this year? Check out the latest changes to The Greenbrier resort, or catch the inaugural season of the minor-league baseball team, West Virginia Miners, this summer in Southern West Virginia.

A trip with your family can be as affordable as you want it to be in the Mountain State. For instance, access to vast outdoor recreational opportunities, including miles of hiking and backpacking trails, fishing streams and bird-watching areas, as well as admission to a variety of events and activities, are free of charge.

Whatever your plans, I hope you enjoy a memorable vacation and a safe summer. Call 1-800-CALL WVA or visit www.wvtourism.com for more vacation ideas.

Manchin is governor of West Virginia.

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