Historically, like most of the Pittsburgh area, the people Northern Panhandle were classified as ethnic and very hard working. Mainly in Brooke/Hancock counties European immigrants from Poland, Germany, Greece, Albania, Italy, etc. set their roots in the Northern Panhandle throughout the 1890s up until the 1960s. These immigrants came to the area to work in the mills/other industries until the decline in the 1970s. If you go throughout the area, you'll still see remnants of this through seeing some of the ethnic last names of doctor/law offices of second-third generation immigrants who ended up staying in the area. However, nowadays these are increasingly sparse due to some demographic changes.
After the decline of the steel industry throughout the Greater Pittsburgh area, major demographic changes occurred. Starting in the 1970s-1980s, more people began to leave the valley for college. Those that left for college/other jobs ended up never coming back and settling elsewhere for a better quality of life/job security. A these people now live in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, NYC and DC, but still go back once in a while to visit family that managed to continue living in the valley.
The economy is now pretty horrible with all of the mills shutting down. There are still some strong ethnic areas, specifically Follansbee which is has a strong, vibrant Italian community. You can still get some of the best pizza in the world in follansbee and weirton - specifically at DeCarlo's and Curly's Pizza.
The population has drastically shrunk within the past 40 years or so. Wheeling and the towns south of it have probably been hit hard the most due to it's location further down the river, making it further away from Pittsburgh. However, the Steubenville, OH area which includes Weirton and Follansbee has seen somewhat of a marginal population gain from people who want to buy cheaper land/build big homes and commute to Pittsburgh. But this has been sparse, especially in WV. Most people buy in the outskirts of Steubenville and Wintersville in OH.
Nowadays, while the area has slowly become more like the rest of WV in terms of demographics, the area has retained its uniqueness and ethnic character that ties it close with Pittsburgh. The steelers/penguins/pirates fans in the town bars are just as hardcore as the ones in PA. Local bakeries still exist and ethnic traditions still exist, along with Eastern Orthodox/Catholic/Luthern churches frequented by ethnic Greeks/Italians/Germans. There was even a Muslim community many years ago formed by Sufi Muslim immigrants from Albania, though they all have moved away to Detroit in the 1970s.
The northern panhandle has had a history of partying among the kids. High School football is mainly the hot topic of discussion. People RELIGIOUSLY follow high school football along with college football. WVU is the top school that most HS grads end up going after graduation, most others head to University of Pittsburgh, Mellon, Marshall, Bethany, etc. And just like the rest of WV, people from the Northern Panhandle love to vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Like the rest of WV, there are some crack heads, white trash, meth labs, and extremely overweight people. The crime is worse over in Stuebenville but is still kind of bad in Weirton. Racial tension is unfortunately present in this area with the recent influx of African-Americans. That's more of an issue in Steubenville though, less so in Weirton or Wheeling.
Two movies were filmed in the northern panhandle: Reckless in 1984 and The Deer Hunter in 1978.
Michael: I'm from West Virginia, the Northern Panhandle to be exact.
Generally, the aformentioned counties in West Virginia but also including the counties of Belmont, Jefferson, and Columbiana in Ohio; and, the counties of Beaver, Washington, and Allegheny in Pennsylvania.
The region is characterised by bad roads strewn with deer carcasses, run-down steel mills, smog, foul-smelling air, and "cafes" (particularly in West Virginia). There is also considerable blight due to malaise and apathy on the part of the middle-aged and older people. There was once a time when one could drop out of high school in this area and get a high-paying job at one of the local steel mills. This, coupled with the belief that the American steel industry will rebound, has caused parents to neglect their children's education. The evidence of this can be seen in towns such as Newell, West Virginia and East Liverpool, Ohio. Large numbers of teenaged girls can be seen carting around at least one illegitimate child before they finish high school, and two or more by the time they are 21; at least one of the children will be of mixed race. The young men are generally lazy, and only a few actually hold down full-time jobs. MOST young people who leave the area to go to university do not come back.
The people are characterised by their love of Nascar, VERY cheap beer, mullets, lack of education, and missing teeth. Despite being yankees, they proudly display the Confederate battle flag. Although there are a fair amount of African Americans in nearly all the towns in this region, the word "colored" is still considered an acceptable term even among the few educated whites.
Spots worth checking out:
For gambling, one can go to Weirton and check out their many "cafes;" even the bloody donut shop has slot machines. One can also travel twenty minutes north and go to Mountaineer Racetrack and Gaming Resort. For people watching, I recommend going to Newell and Chester in West Virginia and East Liverpool in Ohio. I also highly recommend going to Follansbee, West Virginia to check out the Wheeling/Pittsburgh Steel cinter plant. This facility has a very prominent stack that spews flame and VERY acrid smoke into the air.
Other hot spots: Wheeling, West Virginia; and Cabela's.
Popular vacation destinations for the people of the region: Due to lack of desire for travel, or knowledge of the world outside of the Northern Panhandle, most people prefer to stay home or go to Pittsburgh for vacation. For the few brave enough to venture out of the area the most popular spots are the Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach, or the Jersey Shore.
Other anomalies peculiar to this region: An inordinate number of men called "Cecil," the use of the term "know'd" in place of the WORD "knew," and bad grammar in general (ex. "I don't got no tickets for the Newell bridge" as opposed to "I don't have any tickets for the Newell bridge."). Other oddities include many men with one or two lazy or crossed eyes.
Dude, don't be a douche; that's so Northern panhandle.