Charleston Tourist Information and Tourism

(Charleston, West Virginia - WV, USA)

Officially established towards the end of the 18th century, the city of Charleston became capital of West Virginia following a statewide vote in 1877, helped by its good connections and setting alongside the Kanawha River.

With its population of less than 60,000 people, Charleston is a fairly modest state capital, but does contain some interesting sights, a decent selection of museums and lots of small-town charm to go around. Just a short distance to the south, the Kanawha State Forest is a major draw, with its scenic hiking trails, fishing opportunities and other enticing recreational attractions.

In Charleston itself, Magic Island is a particularly popular park, found at the confluence of both the Kanawha River and the Elk River. Tourists looking for an afternoon stroll may like to head along the Carriage Trail, within the South Hills neighborhood, which leads all the way to the attractive hilltop mansion of former Governor William MacCorkle. For specific tourist information, holiday makers should pay a visit to the tourism center (Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau) on Civic Center Drive, which is a good source of local maps.

Charleston Tourist Information and Tourism: Top Sights

What you choose to do in West Virginia's capital rather depends upon the time of year. Highlights in the city include family fun days, summer concerts, street fairs and Independence Day fireworks, with the principal entertainment venues being the Culture Center Theater, the University of Charleston and the Clay Center. Of note, the Maier Foundation Performance Hall is sited within the Clay Center and is called home by the acclaimed West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, which regularly performs here.

Many of the top attractions tend to be found next to the Kanawha River and within the city center itself, which is where the Appalachian Power Park baseball stadium resides, right next to the Plaza East Shopping Center. A great way to spend time in Charleston is interacting with the locals, and on Smith Street, the old train station of the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad is now occupied by the Capitol Market, along with lots of adjacent open-air stalls selling tasty local produce at its very best. More information about Charleston Tourist Attractions.

The West Virginia State Capitol is the city's most important building in terms of government and is quite an imposing sight, with its towering dome being somewhat impossible to overlook. Completed in the early 1930s, the Capitol is central to the local tourism scene and features regular guided tours around its main rooms. The adjacent Culture Center, Holly Grove Mansion and Governor's Mansion (West Virginia Executive Mansion) combine to make up an area now classed as a historic district. Another of the city's historic districts falls within the East End and is comprised of a number of blocks around Quarrier Street and Virginia Street, where late 19th-century houses and Art Deco buildings stand out. Further sights of local importance include two cathedrals (St. George's and the Sacred Heart), and no less than two spreading university campuses (the Charleston and the West Virginia State universities). More information about Charleston Landmarks and Monuments.

For a small city, tourists most likely won't expect such a good assortment of museums in Charleston. The West Virginia State Museum at the Culture Center is a good place to start, being located on Kanawha Boulevard East and displaying information and exhibits relating to topics such as archaeology, culture, geology, history and paleontology. Dedicated to documenting the background and stories of African Americans, the Heritage Towers Museum comes with exhibits concentrating on civil rights, coal mining and slavery. Science is covered in detail at the Avampato Discovery Museum, while a flavor of bygone days is on offer at the Craik Patton House. At the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, changing art exhibitions serve as a real highlight for culture vultures. More information about Charleston Museums and Charleston Art Galleries.

There are many appealing attractions around the southern portion of West Virginia, and Charleston is well-placed to reach them. Especially close is the suburb of South Charleston, which sits on the southern side of the Kanawha River and is actually located somewhat confusingly to the northwest of the city, rather than the south as its name suggests. To the west, popular tourist excursions include destinations such as Barboursville, Dunbar, Huntington, Hurricane, Jefferson, St. Albans and Teays Valley, and to the south, Interstate I-64 joins the I-77 and connects the small town of Beckley, where the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and the Tamarack crafts complex are prominent tourist magnets. To the north of Charleston, Parkersburg is where you will find both the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History and the Sumnerite African-American History Museum, along with the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park and its reconstructed Palladian mansion. More information about Charleston Attractions Nearby.

More Charleston Information / Fast Facts and Orientation