What to do and see in Charleston, United States: The Best Places and Tips

December 24, 2017 Brain Ambrose

Once a frontier town and home to Daniel Boone, today Charleston is the historic, sophisticated capital of West Virginia and home to a variety of exciting cultural and recreational attractions. The State Capitol, with its gleaming 23-karat gold dome and classic 20th-century architecture, is truly a sight to see. Most of the city's major landmarks are located right around the Capitol, making it easy to see everything. Wander around the meticulously landscaped grounds to view statues of historic figures like Stonewall Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. History and culture buffs will want to spend some time at the Cultural Center, which includes a state museum, reference and archive libraries, a theater and plays host to special events throughout the year. For those who prefer outdoor endeavors, more than a hundred miles of spectacular scenery await you on the Midland Trail scenic highway, also known as U.S. Route 60. Hop off at any point to do some antiquing, biking or hiking. The Kanahwa Forest offers more than 9,000 acres of exploration and recreation just south of town. Shopping, interesting attractions and plenty of outdoor fun make Charleston an ideal getaway.
Restaurants in Charleston

1. West Virginia State Museum

1900 Kanawha Blvd E, Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305-0009 +1 304-558-0162
Excellent
78%
Good
19%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 317 reviews

West Virginia State Museum

Located in the Cultural Center, this interesting museum traces the history of West Virginia through a series of exhibits containing everything from an extensive collection of antique hats donated by a local school teacher to the telescope George Washington used to survey lands within the state.

Reviewed By Melissa T

The WV State Museum has done a wonderful job with creating a wonderful exhibit to show the history of the state. The walking exhibit takes you through the different phases of the history of WV. Each area has artifacts to help tell the story of how WV became a state and the accomplishments of its people. It is free and is located on the State Capitol grounds which in itself very beautiful.

2. Culture Center

1900 Kanawha Blvd E, Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305-0009 +1 304-558-0220
Excellent
82%
Good
17%
Satisfactory
1%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

5 based on 98 reviews

Culture Center

Complex that houses a variety of interesting tourist sites such as the State Museum, reference libraries, and a live-performance theater.

Reviewed By TSKWVU70 - Charleston, West Virginia

The correct name is "Culture Center" -- it's not how I would have labeled it but it is what it is.
There are always great displays in the lobby, several series of lectures during the month, a really good state museum, and sometimes you stumble onto special events there, if you're lucky.
The Culture Center is home to "Mountain Stage" -- the public radio show heard across the country and on Armed Forces Radio around the world.
Check it out!

3. Capitol Market

800 Smith St, Charleston, WV 25301-1213 +1 304-344-1905
Excellent
66%
Good
27%
Satisfactory
5%
Poor
2%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 140 reviews

Capitol Market

Imagine a shopping environment with many specialty shops that include a cafe, hot lunch spots, a butcher, a wine shop, a fresh seafood market, a bakery and a fresh cold spot for fresh produce year round and a full scale restaurant for lunch and dinner.Capitol Market offers a vast array of items from Spring plants to fresh produce to Fall pumpkins and holiday trees are what you will see year round throughout the Outdoor Market. As you stroll the outdoor market marveling at the many specialty shops indoors, as well as, the eclectic lunch spots with unique menus to tantalize anyone's appetite. You can also dine at the hottest restaurant in Charleston, Soho's.

Reviewed By ARodriguezP - Miami, Florida

Since we generally enjoy seeing local markets when we travel we stopped in for morning coffee before leaving town so we could check this one out. It's located in the old train depot just off the interstate as you near downtown.
It was a Tuesday morning (Halloween actually!) so it wasn't bustling but I can only imagine how busy it must get on weekends. They do open every day except holidays. Hours might vary though.
Despite it being a Tuesday there was a good selection of produce,they even had an enormous pumpkin on display,it weighed in at 1050 lbs,never in my life had I seen such a pumpkin! (Of course we had to take a picture!)
Inside there was a little of everything but most products seemed more on the gourmet side,and they also had quite a selection of local goodies such as jams,jellies and honey. We bought a few jams and a honey to take back home to give as gifts. It dosent compare to Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market or Manhattan's Chelsea Market in size but given that Charleston is not a large city it wasn't bad at all,and vendors all were very friendly greeting us as we walked by their stands without pressuring us to buy. So if you enjoy local markets or want to pick up some local food items to take home with you then I would definitely suggest checking it out!

4. State Capitol

1900 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, WV 25305-0009 +1 304-558-2000
Excellent
63%
Good
28%
Satisfactory
7%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 421 reviews

State Capitol

Designed by influential architect Cass Gilbert, this grand building, the highest state capitol dome in the United States, is open to the public for tours and features decadent interior details like marble walls a massive crystal chandelier.

Reviewed By Robert S - Lawrence, Kansas

We arrived too late for the guided tour, so we followed the recommended self-guided tour. We made our way through the building, visiting the legislative chambers, the rotunda and the portraits and sculptures.
In the House chamber the Sergeant-at-Arms gave us an impromptu tour of the House and info about the building. We got to talk to a couple of the Representatives.
This building's dome is more decorated than most we have visited.

5. West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Greenbrier Street, Charleston, WV
Excellent
76%
Good
23%
Satisfactory
1%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 77 reviews

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Site where sculptor Joe Mullins' work is displayed.

Reviewed By ARodriguezP - Miami, Florida

This is a beautifully designed memorial dedicated to West Virginia's fallen heros. It has a statue representing the different wars of modern times (World War I,World War II,Korean War and the Vietnam War) and on the inside are walls with the many names of the victims of these wars. It's a somber reminder of their sacrifice tastefully designed. It's located next to the capitol building so a quick visit to honor these heros can be easily combined with a visit to the capitol building or the state museum which is also located here.

6. Clay Center

1 Clay Square, Charleston, WV 25301-2424 +1 304-561-3570
Excellent
66%
Good
20%
Satisfactory
9%
Poor
4%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 163 reviews

Clay Center

Opened in the summer of 2003, the Clay Center strives to present a variety of arts and sciences all under one roof. The Avampato Discovery Museum is two floors of fascinating interactive science exhibits, while the ElectricSky™ Theater features planetarium shows. In addition there are a large performance hall and a small black-box theater, an art museum, a fun museum shop, and a cafe. There's something interesting scheduled virtually every night here!

Reviewed By Katie E - Charleston, West Virginia

We love the Clay Center! The children's museum is a wonderful addition to the Charleston community. I gave 4/5 stars because wheelchair accessibility could be far better.

7. Capitol Street

Charleston, WV
Excellent
51%
Good
30%
Satisfactory
15%
Poor
2%
Terrible
2%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 124 reviews

Capitol Street

Capitol Street runs through the historic and scenic shopping and dining area of Charleston.

Reviewed By ARodriguezP - Miami, Florida

Granted we walked Capitol Street on a cold Monday night but being told this was the "happening" street where we would find some interesting restaurants and local nightlife it was a bit of a disappointment. I will say it does have some nice old architecture but many businesses weren't open or had seemed to go out of business. There were many law offices,more than you'd expect on one street alone. I wonder why the high concentration of attorneys,maybe something to do with the local mining industry?
We ended up eating at Pies and Pints (see separate review) because it was still open and it turned out to be a good choice.
The server there told us it does get busier on weekend nights and we did see a couple of bars and a gentlemen's club still open but none seemed overly busy. Still being that Charleston dosent have so many choices for nightlife then you might want to give it a chance.
There's a few shops that might be interesting to visit so a day time visit might be more appealing to some folks so that could be another option.

8. Kanawha State Forest

Charleston, WV +1 304-558-3500
Excellent
53%
Good
31%
Satisfactory
9%
Poor
3%
Terrible
4%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 115 reviews

Kanawha State Forest

A convenient location, just seven miles south of Charleston, plus a large swimming pool, playground, hiking and biking trails and a 9,300-acre forest, make this recreational area one of the most popular in West Virginia.

Reviewed By ferrisd9451 - Fishers, Indiana

My son and I spent a restful weekend tent camping in early spring. We found a wonderful site (#45) near the mountain stream that goes through the campground. It was a bit cold (40's at night), so we were the only campers, but it made for a quiet and relaxing stay. The campground attendant was friendly and made sure we had enough wood. This seems to be a popular park for mountain bikers, hikers and picnickers. The one trail we hiked on Sunday afternoon was near the campground (Pine Ridge Trail) and led us up the high hill that borders the long, narrow camping area.
The drive up to the entrance is a winding, narrow, paved road that has one hairpin curve. But it's worth it to get to this wonderful forest area. From the campground, it's about a 30-minute drive to get to the nearest Kroger.
I could not get cell phone service in the campground--which was a good thing for this trip. There was limited wi-fi service at the bath house for an occasional weather update. If you like to be away from civilization, this is a great place to recalibrate and relax.

9. Charleston Town Center Mall

Charleston, WV
Excellent
33%
Good
37%
Satisfactory
18%
Poor
8%
Terrible
4%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 136 reviews

Charleston Town Center Mall

Large downtown shopping mall.

Reviewed By jimkimble - Holland, Ohio

We were looking for a place for dinner and the kind gentleman at the desk of the Residence Inn gave us a list of restaurants in the downtown area. We'd not heard good things about Charleston, W.Va. but decided to follow his recommendation and were VERY pleased with what we found in the downtown area. The mall is very large with a lot of restaurants and two levels of shops. There is a lot of attached parking in a garage attached to the mall. It appeared that there were lots of shops in the area around the mall, plus a convention center and the Capital area. There appears to be upscale hotels across the street so we'll for sure consider this in the future when passing thru W.Va.

10. Charleston Civic Center

200 Civic Center Dr, Charleston, WV 25301-2097 +1 304-345-1500
Excellent
38%
Good
35%
Satisfactory
18%
Poor
7%
Terrible
2%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 93 reviews

Charleston Civic Center

Reviewed By MariefromGeorgia - Ludowici Georgia

I had the privilege of attending the graduation of my long-time friend's baby son, Christopher, here. 2017 Class of Riverside High School held May 19, 2017. The venue is huge and easily accommodated all the students, their family & friends, faculty, and guest speaker. I can see why so many events are held here. It was a good thing that it was held here because during the ceremony, it began to pour rain outside with lightning as well.

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