What is There to do in Charleston, West Virginia?

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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
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  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Charleston, the capital of West Virginia, is one of the oldest cities in the southern part of the US, and one with an important historical influence. First inhabited as far back as 1774, Charleston became an official city in 1793, whenthe total population was 35.

Charleston became a rich, thriving community after the discovery of salt brines in the area at the beginning of the 19th century. Charleston played an important role in the Civil War. Occupied briefly by the Confederate Army, Charleston eventually returned to the Union, just in time for West Virginia to become the 35th independent state.

Outdoor attractions are popular in Charleston, with several parks, campsites, and picnic facilities strewn throughout the city. Because winter weather is mild in Charleston, people often take advantage of the parks year-round. Golf courses, boathouses, swimming pools, and an amphitheater are all part of the city parks. The Kanawha State Forest, just outside the city limits, is a great place to spend a weekend. Mountain biking, camping, and hiking are all popular activities here.

Charleston is also home to several summer festivals, including the annual performance of the Kanawha Kordsmen Barbershop Chorus, right outside the capitol. The West Virginia Dance Festival also attracts many visitors, and features five days of free dancing and music shows. Other small fairs are organized throughout the year.


Charleston is known to the locals as "The most Northern city of the South and the most Southern city of the North," which partly explains Charleston's dual feelings about its geographical and historical position. Part of that history can be explored at the South Charleston Museum and the West Virginia State Museum. Both museums are rich in cultural artifacts and historical pieces recording the history of Charleston and the Kanawha area.

The Clay Center's Avampato Discovery Museum is ideal for families, and it features a planetarium, giant screen films, dozens of hands-on exhibits, and an art gallery. The Gizmo Factory is one of the most popular attractions in the museum. With over 30 displays, varying from music to weather, this is the perfect place for children who have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves.


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Post 7

The Capitol Market is a must see in Charleston. A combination of a huge Farmers Market, local fare shopping, and great restaurants all combined.

Post 6

I wouldn't say dog friendly. There are very few places to eat downtown unless you are having lunch, and the only places to eat outside are on second stories (I can only think of Tricky Fish and Sam's Uptown Cafe, which, as far as I have seen, is just a bar).

Post 4

the new state museum is now open and is wonderful! and free! parking can be a bit of a problem when the legislature is in session but can be found.

Post 3

Anyone know how dog friendly Charleston is? I know in Ohio it is illegal to take your dog on a patio of a restaurant. What I am talking about is if you walk down the streets in Charleston, can you go into a store and take your dog with you? Obviously, I wouldn't take him to the mall, but grabbing lunch with friends and doing a bit of shopping.

Post 2

I am planning to visit family and attend the

West Virginia Dance Festival for 2009, but there are no details on the web, if someone has info, let me know.

Post 1

Note that the State Museum at the State Capitol Complex was removed years ago. A new one is under construction, but the pace of work is exceedingly slow. Charleston is becoming a regional destination for antique auto shows as well as Appalachian folk music festivals, most notably the Vandalia Gathering held annually at the Capitol Campus. Public Radio's popular "Mountain Stage" live music broadcast originates in Charleston. Several sophisticated restaurants have appeared: SoHo's in the Capitol Market, the artsy-funky Bluegrass Kitchen near the Capitol complex, the modern-deco Blossom Deli and the Cafe de Paris, both on Quarrier Street, and the upscale Chop House at the Town Center Mall. Don't miss browsing at Taylor Books on Capitol Street, followed by handcrafted ice cream across the street at Ellen's. Charleston is compact and walker-friendly, with the handsome tree-lined Kanawha Boulevard walking path extending through town.

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