West Virginia’s capital city is a friendly place to visit for business or pleasure.
Charleston sits at the juncture of two rivers. The Kanawha River flows from its origin at Gauley Bridge, past the capitol, and to the western edge of downtown, where the Elk River joins the Kanawha on its passage to Point Pleasant. The rivers provide a venue for fishing, boating, waterskiing, and jetskiing. The riverfront Magic Island park often hosts special events like volleyball tournaments and power company lineman competitions. Walkways run along the Kanawha River for miles, making it a favorite place to run, stroll, and bike.
Nearby Coonskin Park and Kanawha State Forest offer back-to-nature escapes within a few minutes of downtown. Both have hiking and biking trails and fishing lakes, and the 9,300-acre state forest also has 46 campsites.
Charleston’s arts community is centered downtown. There are storefront galleries, the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, Municipal Auditorium, Capitol Center Theatre, and the Civic Center. Each hosts traveling shows, big-name musicians, and local theater groups, which are numerous. A covered riverfront amphitheater is the site of outdoor concerts. The weeklong FestivALL in June and Good Night concerts on New Year’s Eve are two of many music festivals throughout the year.
Besides being home to the West Virginia Symphony, the Clay Center also features the Avampato Discovery Museum for children, an art gallery with rotating exhibits and a permanent collection, an ElectricSky Theater and a planetarium.
Cass Gilbert’s visionary gold dome dominates West Virginia’s capitol and capital city. It’s often the first thing those traveling by highway or boat see as they come into Charleston. The capitol also sits at the highway intersection closest to Yeager Airport, only a five-minute drive from downtown. Visitors can’t miss the behemoth marble and limestone building, and shouldn’t.
The capitol is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Visitors may download a map to navigate the building, or take a capitol tour.
The capitol complex anchors the East End Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and features hundreds of examples of 19th century domestic architecture.
The Culture Center on the grounds of the Capitol feature permanent and rotating exhibits, the State Museum, Archives and History Library, and a gift shop featuring made-in-West Virginia products. The newly remodeled museum takes visitors on a vibrant visual and auditory path through 26 discovery rooms, each focusing on a different period in West Virginia history or a feature of state culture. The Culture Center stage also is home to Mountain Stage, West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s gift to national radio audiences since 1983.
The West Virginia Power plays at Appalachian Power Park, also downtown. The park also is used for outdoor concerts and other events. Visitors who feel lucky can visit Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Nitro, not far from Charleston. The resort features live greyhound racing and a casino.
Charleston offers shopping for any taste. Charleston Town Center has Macy’s, JC Penneys, Sears and a plethora of chain and locally run stores. There are smaller specialty shops in the historic downtown and in several other locations throughout the city. And on the border with South Charleston, along Corridor G toward Logan and Williamson, there are three large shopping developments.
Lodging and dining options also are varied and numerous. For more information about these and other ideas about things to see and do in Charleston, visit http://www.charlestonwv.com/.
Written by Jennifer Bundy
View SeeWV Charleston in a larger map