University of Charleston, 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, enjoy river views from Haddad Riverfront Park, and listen to a performance by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Here are the best things to do in Charleston, West Virginia.

»East End Historic District

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.

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»State Capitol

State Capitol

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

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»Capitol Market

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 (website)

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»Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences

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

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»West Virginia State Museum

West Virginia State Museum

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 (website)

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»West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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.

There are four statues: a World War I dough boy, a World War II sailor, a Korean War aviator, and a Vietnam War marine.

State Capitol Complex, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston, West Virginia

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»Haddad Riverfront Park

Haddad Riverfront Park

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

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»Charleston Town Center

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

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»Governor's Mansion

Governor's Mansion

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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»Charleston Civic Center

Charleston Civic Center

Located on Civic Center Drive, Charleston Civic Center is a city complex that consists of three buildings: the Charleston Convention Center, also known as the Grand Hall, the Civic Center Coliseum, and the Little Theater.

When it was completed in 1959, it featured a 6,000-seat arena and the 750-seat Little Theater, and it underwent many renovations and expansions over the ensuing years. Today, the Coliseum has a seating capacity of 13,500 people and is connected to the Convention Center by a two level 32,000 square foot entrance lobby.

The center hosts many events and fairs throughout the year; these include arts and crafts fairs, car shows, culinary events, and many more.

200 Civic Center Drive, Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-345-1500 (website)

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»West Virginia Symphony Orchestra

West Virginia Symphony Orchestra

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra is a community orchestra that performs at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences on Clay Square in Charleston.

The orchestra began as the Charleston Civic Orchestra in 1939 and later became the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. It wasn’t until 1988 that the name was changed to its current name. The orchestra also changed its performance venue several times until finding its current home at Clay Center.

The orchestra performs more than 50 concerts each year at the Clay Center as well as other locations throughout the state of West Virginia. It is known for its outstanding education programs such as the Young People’s Concerts.

Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, One Clay Square, Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-957-9876 (website)

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»Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill

Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill

What do barbecue and football have in common? They have Adrian Wright, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Back and chef/owner of the Charleston’s most popular barbecue joint Dem 2 Brothers & a Grill.

Located on “The Best-Smelling Corner in Charleston,” Adrian and his brother have a beast of a barbecue outside on the sidewalk and serve patrons their meals inside their modest, unassuming dining room. If you are looking for romantic date ideas in Charleston WV, this is a great place to try.

The heavenly smell brings people in large numbers, and the line for their pork shoulders, ribs, or pulled pork sneaks around the block every day. Besides fabulous meats grilled on oak wood, the brothers serve traditional sides such as baked beans, slaw, and their famous mac and cheese.

426 Virginia St W., Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-550-4431 (website)

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»Craik-Patton House

Craik-Patton House

Located on Kanawha Boulevard East, Craik-Patton House is a historic home that was built in the Greek Revival Style in 1834. James Craik called his new home “Elm Grove.” Later, in 1858, the house was sold to Colonel George Smith Patton, an attorney and later a captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Originally located on Virginia Street, the house faced demolition in 1973, and it was at this time that it moved to its current location. The house was restored by the Colonial Dames of America and today it is open for tours. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the house features four large columns that support the central roof.

2809 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston, West Virginia, Phone: 304-925-5341 (website)

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»The Chop House Charleston

The Chop House Charleston

An elite American steakhouse with elegant furnishings and ornate décor reminiscent of the 1940s, The Chop House in Charleston is an old-school eatery that serves exceptional steak and seafood in a refined and stylish setting.

Boasting a menu that features the finest Midwestern grain-fed USDA Prime beef, first-grade fish and seafood, complemented by signature desserts and an unsurpassed wine list with vintages from around the world, The Chop House has been drawing diners into its haloed fold since 2001.

Offering a classic and comfortable dining experience, The Chop House also features two private dining rooms for special occasions, a vibrant bar and cigar lounge for after-dinner relaxation.

1003 Charleston Town Center, Charleston, WV, Phone: 304-344-3950 (website)

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»Tidewater Grill

Tidewater Grill

For the last 30 years, Tidewater Grill has been the place where Charleston seafood lovers go to treat themselves. With fresh fish arriving daily from Chesapeake Bay and George's Bank, Tidewater has an excellent raw bar and a range of classic dishes such as Blackened Swordfish or Jumbo Fried Shrimp.

Everything is freshly made from scratch every day, and all meals are served with their hot house-made bread and butter. The menu also has a nice, extensive salad list for vegetarians and burgers and sandwiches for those in your group who are not crazy about seafood.

Located in the Town Center Mall, Tidewater Grill is an elegant restaurant with nice Art Deco touches and upscale décor.

1060 Charleston Town Ctr., Charleston, WV, Phone: 304-345-2620 (website)

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»Charleston Light Opera Guild

Charleston Light Opera Guild

The Charleston Light Opera Guild is a performing company housed in the former Weekley Memorial Church on Tennessee Avenue on Charleston’s West Side.

This facility contains a theater with a seating capacity of 225 people, a balcony, and several rooms for performance preparations including dressing rooms, a carpentry shop, and storage for costumes. Founded in 1949, the guild had several homes until it moved into its current facility in 1995.

For its larger productions, the guild performs at the Clay Center or the Little Theatre. Some of its shows have included Miracle on 34th Street, Fiddler on the Roof, Into the Woods, and many more.

411 Tennessee Avenue, Charleston, WV, Phone: 304-343-2287 (website)

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»Swiftwater Cafe

Swiftwater Cafe

Every neighborhood needs a place like Swiftwater Café, which serves soups, sandwiches, salads, wraps, subs, and more – selections are always fresh, delicious, and comforting.

Catering for the downtown busy crowd, Swiftwater is the place where business people can come and grab their favorite wrap or sandwich or indulge in a couple of hot dogs with chips without having to think too much about what to eat. Just to make things more interesting, there are occasional specials that allow visitors to vary from their routines.

The café is simple, cozy, and unpretentious, and service is fast and friendly. Swiftwater also caters for all kinds of events and has a delightful, old-fashioned General Store.

405 Capitol ST, STE 105, Charleston, WV, Phone: 304-342-2443 (website)

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»Pies and Pints

Pies and Pints

Pies & Pints restaurant is located in Charleston’s downtown shopping district close to many boutiques, cafes, and galleries. Tired shoppers can stop here to take a break, have a cold one and a piece of pizza, or meet a friend for a bit of gossip.

Their hand-tossed pizzas are delicious, salads are fresh and generous in proportion, and their version of potato skins is absolutely phenomenal: they load pizza dough with garlic mashed potatoes, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and scallions and bake it all in the oven.

Pies and Pints has a fabulous selection of craft beers on tap and in cans and a small but good selection of national and international wines by the glass.

222 Capitol Street, Charleston, WV, Phone: 304-342-7437 (website)

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»Kanawha State Forest

Kanawha State Forest

Kanawha State Forest is a recreation area consisting of 9,300 acres. Just seven miles from downtown Charleston, the forest is well known for its striking birds and beautiful wildflowers.

It is a popular place for recreational activities such as cross-country skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. Other facilities include a campground, a playground, picnic areas, a public shooting range, and a swimming pool. Because of its proximity to the city, camping is popular in this area, and the campground can accommodate tents and camper units.

Although it is called a “forest,” the state runs it as a state park and it is managed by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

7500 Kanawha State Forest Drive, Charleston, WV, Phone: 304-558-3500

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20 Best Things to Do in Charleston, West Virginia