Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Charleston, WV

  • Published 2023/03/02

The City of Charleston is a haven for history buffs who want to experience a nostalgic travel adventure in the heart of West Virginia.

Known as “Charlie West,” this city is the capital of West Virginia, an exciting place to visit.

Charleston is known for its Neoclassical architecture.

You’ll see several buildings, historical landmarks, museums, and charming parks.

Explore this city’s various parks, featuring gorgeous manicured landscapes and treelines.

In addition, you’ll marvel at its thriving districts filled with local shops, restaurants, galleries, and cafes.

This major city in West Virginia is full of history, excitement, fun, and a fascinating travel experience.

Here are the best things to do in Charleston, WV:

Wander the Charming Clay Center

Exterior of Clay Center

Analogue Kid at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the highly-recommended tourist attractions in Charleston is the Clay Center along Clay Square.

This massive arts and science center spans more than 240,000-square-feet.

Its main features are visual arts, performing arts, and science.

Whether or not you’re an avid art fan or a simple tourist, fascinating displays await you at this famous tourist attraction in Charleston.

Clay Center opened its doors in 2003; it’s still one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Charleston.

Visiting this place offers visitors an opportunity to witness unique and rare visual and performing arts through exhibits and events.

See the Artifacts in the West Virginia State Museum

Exterior of West Virginia State Museum

Daniel J. Macy /

This iconic museum on Charleston’s Kanawha Boulevard houses thousands of artifacts from the 1800s.

Built in 1894, the West Virginia State Museum is also one of the oldest standing buildings in the entire state.

History buff or not, you should include this museum in your itinerary.

The West Virginia State Museum teems with beautiful artworks, artifacts, and memorabilia from its permanent and rotating exhibits.

These exhibits offer visitors a direct glimpse into West Virginia’s rich history and culture.

While visiting the West Virginia State Museum, walk through its vast halls and exhibits filled with various backstories.

Honor the Fallen at the Charleston Veteran’s Memorial

This iconic monument in Charleston pays homage to the fallen soldiers from all the wars in American history.

Built in the 1990s, the Charleston Veteran’s Memorial became one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city.

Besides paying homage to those who lost their lives in the wars, the Veteran’s Memorial also boasts impressive architecture, an oval monument divided into four monoliths.

These monoliths represent the various wars and conflicts where the United States took part.

Visiting this place offers visitors a solemn and nostalgic experience commemorating those who died in the wars.

Moreover, this place has a peaceful ambiance, making it a perfect spot in Charleston to relax.

Marvel at the West Virginia State Capitol

Exterior of West Virginia State Capitol

Sean Pavone /

The state’s seat of power is the West Virginia State Capitol.

It’s also a fine example of a Neoclassical building in Charleston.

The West Virginia State Capitol houses the state’s legislature and governor’s office, making it the most significant building in Charleston and the state itself.

Visiting this place is more than just marveling at this historical building.

Interior of West Virginia State Capitol

Henryk Sadura /

It’s also a fascinating place to learn about West Virginia’s history.

Join one of its guided tours and look at its elegant Neoclassicism architecture while learning various historical facts.

Don’t forget to take photos or pose in front of the Capitol’s 300-foot dome, renowned for its 23.5-karat gold roofing.

Senate chamber in West Virginia State Capitol

Nagel Photography /

Hang Out at the Charming Coonskin Park

A creek at Coonskin Park

Malachi Jacobs /

Coonskin Park is one of the oldest Parks in Charleston.

This park, dedicated to the people of Kanawha County, features a wonderfully landscaped area, making it one of the most charming community parks in West Virginia.

The park encompasses around a thousand acres of woodland and green open spaces.

In addition, it has three 18-hole golf courses, hiking and biking trails, and an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Moreover, Coonskin Park has tennis courts, a soccer stadium, and an amphitheater.

Coonskin Park has all the amenities of an excellent community park, making this place exciting to visit, especially with your travel buddies or loved ones.

Many exciting activities await you at Coonskin Park, whether sports or fun.

Also, you can catch various community events, concerts, and sports competitions at this park.

Lastly, Coonskin Park is only a few minutes away from Charleston’s vibrant downtown area.

Stroll along the Vibrant Capitol Street

Street sign of Capitol Street

Henryk Sadura /

If you haven’t had enough shopping in the Capitol Market, head to Capitol Street for more shopping or dining.

Compared to shopping in a mall, Capitol Street provides visitors with unique and charming small businesses selling outstanding products.

Capitol Street in Charleston is one of the most visited places in the city.

Its vibrant atmosphere features small local shops which have primarily been in business for generations.

Strolling along Capitol Street also features the vintage side of Charleston through its century-old buildings and historical infrastructures, all well-maintained.

Visiting this place in Charleston gives you the ultimate nostalgia experience, so don’t forget to visit its charming boutiques, galleries, and restaurants.

Step inside the Avampato Discovery Museum

In Clay Square, you’ll find another magnificent and astonishing museum, the Avampato Discovery Museum.

Unlike other museums in Charleston, this one features fascinating things about arts and science.

Avampato Discovery Museum also features interactive and fun-filled exhibits and galleries, perfect for bringing the family.

Spend your day at the Avampato Discovery Museum, housed in a massive 12,000-square-foot facility.

In addition, it’s an excellent place for those interested in both science and art.

There are hundreds of artworks from various artists and sections featuring science that are worthwhile.

While visiting this fascinating museum adjacent to the Clay Center, browse elegant paintings, sculptures, and other visual arts.

Bring your kids to the hands-on science exhibits, which guarantee them a fun-filled experience.

Immerse in Nature at the Kanawha State Forest

Welcome sign of Kanawha State Forest

WVhybrid at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Amidst Charleston’s concrete jungle, you’ll find a charming sanctuary a few minutes away from the city’s main streets, the Kanawha State Forest.

Exploring Kanawha State Forest offers visitors a tranquil experience while marveling at the natural beauty of its untamed wilderness.

Lush greenery of Kanawha State Forest

Jay Wiberg /

Kanawha State Forest is an excellent place for outdoor recreation such as hiking, nature photography, wildlife viewing, and camping.

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or an average tourist, Kanawha State Forest is an excellent place to immerse yourself in nature.

To access Kanawha State Forest, head to Kanawha State Forest Drive, which features the best and most convenient entrance to this famous outdoor destination in Charleston.

Creek bed at Kanawha State Forest

Jay Wiberg /

Shop Local Produce at Capitol Market

Charleston’s Capitol Market is an excellent place to immerse yourself with the locals.

Capitol Market features a mixture of charming indoor and outdoor retail from various vendors all around West Virginia.

Besides local produce such as fruits, vegetables, and preserves, Capitol Market also features artisanal food and pastries.

The Capitol Market is an exciting place you should include in your itinerary in Charleston.

Pick between various shops, galleries, and boutiques at the Capitol Market while rubbing elbows with the locals.

This community market has served the people of Charleston for the past 20 years, making it a must-visit place in the city.

Enter the Plush Governor’s Mansion

Front view of Governor's Mansion exterior

Joseph Sohm /

Besides the West Virginia Capitol, one of the most iconic places in Charleston is the Governor’s Mansion along Kanawha Boulevard.

It’s a few hundred meters away from the Capitol building, so you can drop by conveniently while touring Charleston.

The Governor’s Mansion is the official residence of West Virginia’s past governors, a piece of state history.

Built in 1925, the mansion followed the design and architecture of the White House.

Side view of Governor's Mansion exterior

Enrichyourmind, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The best way to visit West Virginia’s Governor’s Mansion is to join its guided tours.

The entire tour takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

The tour will take you through the mansion’s elegant rooms, sections, and halls, featuring its original furnishings dating back to the early 19th century.

Don’t forget to list West Virginia’s Governor’s Mansion to your itinerary during your visit to Charleston.

Enjoy the Panoramic View of Charleston at the South Hills

Charleston’s charming and beloved neighborhood, South Hills, is famous for its panoramic view of the city and the Kanawha River.

South Hills is a few hundred meters above sea level, offering visitors a majestic view of the city below.

Visiting South Hills in Charleston offers a one-of-a-kind experience where you’ll see the vastness of the area below.

At the same time, you’ll enjoy the city lights at night time.

After sightseeing, head to Bridge Road, where you can have a mini shopping spree at the boutiques featuring high-end and local brands.

Otherwise, treat yourself or your loved ones to delicious food at the various bistros in the area.

Catch Shows at Haddad Riverfront Park

If you’re searching for top-notch entertainment in Charleston without spending money, head to the Haddad Riverfront Park.

This park opened in 1993 and is one of the top places in Charleston for events.

It’s where many concerts and other events happen in Charleston.

Its 36,000-square-foot amphitheater can accommodate up to 2,500 people.

Since Haddad Riverfront Park is adjacent to the Kanawha River, expect numerous water activities to enjoy there.

If you want to cruise along the Kanawha River, numerous boat launches and boat rentals are available in the area.

Treat Yourself at Charleston Town Center

Interior of Charleston Town Center

Analogue Kid, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The biggest mall in Charleston is the Charleston Town Center, a must-visit shopping center.

The entire shopping mall features more than 130 businesses comprising shops, restaurants, and services, from mainstream brands to local favorites.

Constructed in 1983, this mall remains the top place for leisure time in Charleston.

In addition to leisure time, the Charleston Town Center also features many facilities and amenities, making your visit there extra convenient.

Attend Big Events at the Charleston Civic Center

This massive events center in Charleston is where the significant events in the city take place.

The Charleston Civic Center features three separate buildings situated along Civic Center Drive.

These buildings are Charleston Convention Center, Civic Center Coliseum, and the Grand Hall.

The city constructed this famous facility in 1959, and it remains an iconic place for events.

In addition, it has a small theatre where many live performances and community-related events occur.

If you’re a fan of attending conventions, car shows, exhibits, and culinary events, the Charleston Civic Center is the best place to go.

Listen to the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra

Listen to the magical performances of the renowned West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, which mainly performs at the Clay Center in Charleston.

This community orchestra is one of the best in West Virginia and the entire United States.

Formed in 1939, the orchestra was once the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.

However, in 1988, they changed their name to the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

They also moved to numerous venues around the city until they found a home at the Clay Center.

Before returning home, catch one of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra concerts to complete your Charleston adventure.

Try Filipino-American Fusion Food at Barkadas Restaurant

Barkadas Restaurant is one of the more underrated dining spots in Charleston, located along Cantley Drive.

It’s famous for its blend of Filipino, Chinese, and American flavors that are translated into scrumptious dishes such as spring rolls, bao buns, and their famous pork belly rice bowl.

In fact, the word “Barkada” is a Filipino word which translates to “friends” or “clique.”

Besides their interesting blend of flavors, Barkadas Restaurant also has excellent service and a vibrant atmosphere that’s perfect for lunch or dinners.

They have a big menu here that’ll make you come back for more, so go here on an empty stomach if you’re working on a tight itinerary.

Enjoy the Kanawha River at Magic Island Park

Magic Island Park is a riverfront recreational space where you can get full access to the Kanawha River that runs through Charleston.

Located along Berkeley Street, you can do a bit of boat watching here as the Kanawha River is commonly used as a waterway in West Virginia.

Magic Island Park is also famous for having one of the best splash pads in the county.

It’s big enough to accommodate a lot of children, and there’s a ton of variety in their sprinklers that make it enjoyable.

Besides its splash pad, Magic Island Park also has sand volleyball courts for large groups of friends.

Watch a Wrestling Match at Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center

Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center is a great events space in the city, famous for its wrestling matches that attract thousands of people yearly.

Found along Civic Center Drive, you can see matches hosted by the All Elite Wrestling Company at Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.

Besides that, the center also has several music concerts throughout its calendar year, most of which are notable bands.

A beautiful facility for the city of Charleston, this is a go-to place as well for other famous shows like Disney on Ice.

So, during your visit, check out what’s in store for you at Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.

Go for a Round at Disc Golf Sports Center

Disc Golf Sports Center is a public disc golf course in Charleston, located along Deerwalk Lane.

This makes this one of the best free things to do in the city, especially since it offers huge holes that’ll sure take up most of your day.

In fact, it offers two different 18-hole courses, one of which is geared towards beginners while the other for expert-level players.

Surrounded by hilly woodlands, there’s a lot of varied challenges when playing at Disc Golf Sports Center.

There’s also a pro shop right by the entrance, making this an exciting destination for avid players.

Do Urban Exploration at Edgewood Historic District

A building at Edgewood Historic District

JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ M.D., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Edgewood Historic District is one of the few places in Charleston listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The heritage of this district lies in its residence area, as it’s the first-ever planned subdivision in Charleston, dating back the early 1900s.

Hence, Edgewood Historic District is a fantastic place to do some strolling while looking at the remnants of the early 20th Century.

There’s a diverse range of architectural styles here, such as Neocolonial, Neoclassicism, and Bungaloid.

One of the oldest buildings you’ll find here is the Guthrie House, built during 1907.

You can find Edgewood Historic District along Edgewood Drive and Beech Avenue.

Final Thoughts

Charleston is genuinely a magnificent travel destination that many haven’t known yet.

Besides being West Virginia’s capital city, Charleston has so much to offer for those who want to discover its historic streets and charming community.

Of course, many hidden gems await you on Charleston’s streets.

Start planning your Charleston trip today!

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