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20 Best Things to Do in Charleston, WV
The capital of West Virginia, Charleston is a beautiful riverfront city that offers many great things to see and do. Plan a weekend trip and see the historic State Capitol, shop at the outdoor Capitol Market, and spend an afternoon at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences. Learn about the history of West Virginia at the State Museum and listen to a performance by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Here are the best things to do in Charleston, WV.
1. East End Historic District
The East End is an eclectic, diverse community, one of the oldest in Charleston. Bordered by the busy Washington Street on the north and Great Kanawha River on the south, this neighborhood is a charming mix of new businesses and old mansions, and it also features the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia, the State Capitol, the Capitol Market, the West Virginia Power baseball team, delightful B&Bs and grand hotels, popular bars, and great restaurants. If you are wondering what to do in Charleston today, this is a great place to start exploring.
Its architecture ranges in styles from Greek Revival to the late Victorian and anything in between. It is vibrant, fun, and timeless. The best time to visit the East End is during the Street Works Celebration when the city streets turn into a spectacular art gallery.
2. State Capitol, Charleston, WV
West Virginia’s State Capitol, the seat of government for the state, is located at the State Capitol Complex on Kanawha Boulevard East in downtown Charleston, and is one of the top Charleston WV attractions.
Completed in 1932, this building and the West Virginia Executive Mansion make up the West Virginia Capitol Complex, which is a historic area listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The location of the state’s capital changed several times between Charleston and Wheeling until the capital was finally established in Charleston in 1921. At 292 feet (89 meters), it is the tallest building in the state.
Facing the Kanawha River, there are two wings that flank the main capitol. Tours of the 333-room building are also available.
State Capitol Complex, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-558-4839
3. Capitol Market
What was a busy Kanawha and Michigan Railroad yard in the 1800s later became a popular destination for weekend shoppers – an outdoor market and a collection of shops selling anything from fresh fish, produce, meat, chocolates, books, wines, and much more.
The market is the place where Charleston residents bring their guests to show off their beloved city, where businessmen have important lunches, and where kids come to pick up a pumpkin for Halloween and families come to find the best Christmas tree. Some of the best city restaurants are located within the market. Capitol Market is one of the best things to do in Charleston, West Virginia. The market organizes frequent charity events such as cookouts and competitions.
800 Smith St., Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-344-1905
4. Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences
The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences is a center for performing arts, visual arts, and sciences located on Clay Square in Charleston. Because all three are housed in one building, Clay Center is one of just a few of its kind in the nation. Consisting of 240,000 square feet, the facility opened in 2003 and is the home of the West Virginia Symphony and the Avampato Discover Museum. If you are looking for fun things to do in Charleston, West Virginia with kids, this is a great place to visit.
This museum consists of two floors featuring an art gallery with exhibits from its permanent collection as well as traveling exhibits and interactive science exhibits where visitors can learn about color, earth sciences, energy, health, and more. There are also two theaters in the center. Read more
One Clay Square, Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-561-3575
5. West Virginia State Museum, Charleston, WV
Located at the Culture Center on Kanawha Boulevard East, the West Virginia State Museum is dedicated to preserving and presenting the art, culture, and history of West Virginia. The collection began with the organization of the West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society in 1890.
The museum was established in 1894 and, after several moves, it found its current location in 1976, which underwent renovations in 2009. Exhibits include the Cameo Glass Exhibit, the Quilt and Wall Hangings Exhibit, and several juried artwork exhibits.
The museum also hosts several events such as the First Lady’s Festival of Songs, Sting Band Festival, the Vandalia Gathering, the West Virginia Invitational Marching Band, and more. The Ambassador’s Camp for children is one of its education outreach programs.
1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-558-0220
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6. West Virginia Veterans Memorial
Located at the State Capitol Complex on Kanawha Boulevard East, West Virginia Veterans Memorial is a monument dedicated to West Virginians who lost their lives during the wars of the 20th century.
Constructed between 1991 and 1999, the memorial consists of a two-story oval shaped monument and four limestone monoliths surrounded by a pool. The interior walls are made of polished black granite, and on these walls the names of the more than 10,000 men and women who died during the wars are etched.
State Capitol Complex, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston, West Virginia
7. Haddad Riverfront Park, Charleston, West Virginia
Haddad Riverfront Park serves as a regional gathering place. Built in 1993, it includes a 36,000 square foot concrete amphitheater with a seating capacity of 2,500 that sits on the banks of the Kanawha River in downtown Charleston. If you are looking for things to do in Charleston, West Virginia with kids, this is a great place to visit.
The park hosts many concerts, special events, and private functions. Because of its proximity to the river, people on boats can watch some of the events from the river. A few of these events include car shows, free music concerts, the 4th of July Celebration, the Smoke on the Water Chili CookOff, and symphony performances.
600 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-348-6860
8. Charleston Town Center
Charleston Town Center is an enclosed shopping mall located at 3000 Charleston Town Center. When it opened in 1983, it was the largest downtown shopping mall located east of the Mississippi River.
It features two levels of over 130 businesses including restaurants and shops. There is also a food court located on the partial third level. In addition to shopping and dining, the center has many other amenities and facilities, and it offers several programs for children including the Book Club, a children’s play area, the Kids Club, and teen programs.
The center also hosts many events throughout the year including fashion shows, book group meetings, music performances, and much more.
3000 Charleston Town Center, Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-345-9525
9. Governor’s Mansion, Charleston, WV
West Virginia’s Governor’s Mansion is a historic mansion located on Kanawha Boulevard in downtown Charleston. Also known as the West Virginia Executive Mansion, it is the official residence of the Governor of West Virginia.
Completed in 1925, the historic red brick Georgian Revival building sits next to the Kanawha River and is part of the West Virginia Capitol Complex. The mansion features a columned portico at the entrance and a black and white marble floor and dual staircases in the foyer, whose design was inspired by the foyer of the White House.
The mansion has 30 rooms in total. The first floor consists of public rooms like the state dining room, while the second floor has rooms for the governor’s family. Visitors can request a tour of the mansion through the website.
1716 Kanawha Boulevard, Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-558-4839
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