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Best Things to Do in Charleston, WV

Use our best things to do in Charleston, WV, guide when visiting the Mountain Stage. for all the good restaurants and attractions.

(UPDATED JUNE 2022) While the Appalachian regions across the country are currently huge on road trip and sightseeing radars, don’t forget about Charleston, West Virginia’s capital city and a stellar place for a getaway. From strolling the beautiful state capitol grounds to a state-of-the-art museum and music venues, eating the best Indian food to exploring the historic, picturesque downtown, here are the best things to do in Charleston, WV, to make the most of your time there. Happy traveling in the Almost Heaven Mountain State.

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Explore the WV State Capitol and Grounds

If you’ve never been to Charleston, you will want to walk around and photograph the West Virginia State Capitol. It is stunning! You’ll also have spectacular river views on one side and the governor’s mansion at another. If you can go inside, be sure to admire the marble rotunda, the centerpiece of this historic structure. Locals go there for prom pictures and weddings are highly popular.

Thirty minute guided tours of the WV State Capitol are available Monday through Friday from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Make your reservation by calling  (304) 558-4839.

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While you are at the capitol complex, take a few minutes to sashay through the WV State Museum, more commonly known as the Cultural Center. There are some fantastic interactive exhibits, including Civil War history, with my favorites being the WV-made glass collection and celebrities from the Mountain State archives. You can buy a piece of locally-made Fenton or Blenko glassware in the well-stocked gift shop. 

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Even if you don’t have time for a proper Charleston, WV, visit, you can always hop off I-77/I-64 at exit 99 to check out the WV Veterans Memorials on the WV State Capitol complex. There is onsite parking available, but you will need quarters. The memorial commemorates the thousands of servicemen from Vietnam and Korean wars, plus World War I and II. In 2010, a statue to honor the first female soldiers from WV was added to the complex.

Pro Tip: The memorial is even prettier at night.

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Pro TIp: Go to WV during the Vandalia festival in June to get a big dose of bluegrass, Appalachian-inspired folk art and culture, and family-friendly fun.

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Listen to Live Music

Charleston has a few great places to hear live music, such as the clubs on Kanawha Boulevard and Capitol Street, Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center (recently underwent a $100 million renovation), the Municipal Auditorium, Clay Center, and Mountain Stage. Check to see what’s playing and where on your visit.

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A top activity in Charleston would be attending a live recording of Mountain Stage, a popular public radio show that has aired on National Public Radio (NPR) since 1983. See host Larry Groce and a handful of talented musicians every Sunday afternoon at the WV State Museum on the West Virginia State Capitol complex. 

Mountain Stage is broadcast at a later date on 240 stations. Lineups change weekly, but past concerts have included Jason Mraz, REM, Joan Baez, Cake, Buckwheat Zydeco, Jason Isbell, and Vince Gill.  

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Live on the Levee is a popular, free Friday night concert series on Schoenbaum Stage at Haddad Riverfront Park on the Kanawha River waterfront. The season runs late from May through early-September, with shows beginning at 6:30 PM. Locals anticipate attending Live on the Levee all year—it’s great fun.

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Go Shopping

You can check out the best shopping Charleston offers by crossing the South Side Bridge for the Bridge Road Shops at South Hills. You’ll find a vast array of gifts, accessories, custom stationery, bath products, and home decor at Eggplant, upscale ladies’ fashions and accessories at Charlie Boutique, and designer threads including Lilly Pulitzer and Eileen Fisher at Geraniums. Don’t miss the designer shoe selection at Yarid’s, which could easily compete with high-brow stores in any big city. 

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Crowder Auctions has been selling QVC goods (and plenty of other items) for over 30 years now. When you arrive, get your bidding number, and you will quickly see how smoothly things run. It is great fun and super casual, and you can grab a hot dog for dinner while you are there. 

You may want to drive to Kin Ship Goods, a cute locally-owned t-shirt and accessories shop in Charleston’s Elk City Historic District. It is in Charleston’s up-and-coming neighborhood, with some adorable murals nearby. 

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Gambling in Charleston

Get your gambling fix at the Mardi Gras Casino. Most people wouldn’t expect a casino of this caliber in West Virginia, but it is pretty spectacular. Mardi Gras has 20+ table games, 1000+ slot machines, poker, and live entertainment. There is a dedicated non-smoking area, three restaurants, and greyhound racing every Tuesday through Saturday at 7 PM.

Charleston’s gambling isn’t limited to dogs, slot machines, and table games, my top pick is the Saturday night bingo at Dunbar Bingo Hall. The payouts and jackpots are high dollars, plus they sell tips, like instant lottery tickets and the highlight of my experience. The bingo hosts a few hundred people each week. Come hungry, they serve a wide variety of foods and sweets, all reasonably priced, or you can also bring in your own food and drinks.  

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Wander the Capitol Market

You’ll find an appealing year-round farmer’s market in the downtown area, definitely worth visiting on your Charleston travels. Capitol Market’s indoor-outdoor venue (an old train station) has fresh flowers, produce, and West Virginia farmer’s items on the outside, including seasonal produce, plants, flowers, and Christmas trees. 

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The 16,000 square-foot inside area offers a gourmet Wine & Cheese shop, fresh meat market, WV marketplace, the awesome Holl’s Swiss Chocolates shop, a coffee bar, Italian restaurant, and sushi garden on the inside. There are lots of special activities always taking place at Capitol Market, plus free Wifi and parking. I visited The Purple Onion for produce and specialty foods almost weekly when I lived in Charleston. The selection is primo.

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Visit the Clay Center

Another must-see attraction in Charleston is the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences. This state-of-the-art venue houses three visual and performing arts and sciences facilities. Avampato Discovery Museum’s portion of Clay Center is for kids, and they can experience a fun climbing structure and hands-on exhibits like a music studio, engineering, and waterworks. The art installments rotate, though there are some permanent ones, and are worth visiting a few times a year.

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It is thrilling to me that Charleston has such a wonderful planetarium. I’ve been going there for the better part of 20 years and the shows never disappoint at the 30 million pixel, state-of-the-art Caperton Planetarium and Theater.

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Concerts, Broadway in Charleston series, stage productions, and the WV Symphony can be seen and heard in the Clay Center concert hall. Upcoming shows for 2022 include Jason Isbell, Boyz II Men, and Trace Adkins.

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Stroll Capitol Street in downtown Charleston and make your way to The Peanut Shop for a bag of salty snack mix, nuts, or delicious malted milk balls; this place is a Charleston institution. Try Rock City Cake Company for pepperoni rolls (a West Virginia creation), cupcakes, or tasty cake balls for a sweeter fix. Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream, a local’s favorite, has drool-worthy ice cream desserts, shakes, or banana splits. Try the coconut ice cream. 

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Stop in Taylor Books, an independent bookstore and a Charleston institution. You can enjoy a delicious cup of coffee or tea while browsing the terrific selection of books, magazines, cards, and unique gifts. Then, shop the boutique shops along Capitol and Summers Streets, see some colorful murals, admire historical buildings, and take in the scenic Kanawha Riverfront views at the beginning of the tree-lined street. Oddbird Gifts is a gift shop with trinkets, whatnots, and gotta haves that you won’t want to miss. 

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From April through September, you can catch a Charleston Dirty Birds baseball game at Appalachian Power Park if you come to Charleston. Or, unleash your inner artist with a fun painting session or cooking class at Uncork and Create. You can BYOB and snacks.  

One of Charleston’s newest unveilings is the beautiful City Center at Slack Plaza, a $3.5 million dollar improvement between Laidley and Summers Streets. The project includes a canopied performing stage, splash pad, and larger-than-life art sculptures, dotted with beautiful plants, trees, and flowers. Food trucks and live music will be a big draw in the summer months.

Be sure to stop in Fife Street Brewery for a cold Chuck’s P-51 Porter and Kim Chi buffalo chicken dip along the way.

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Lastly, you should really see the newly remodeled Kanawha County Public Library, directly across from the Peanut Shop. The multi-year project brings 20,000 square feet of additional space, an Idea Lab, Sky Bridge, coffee shop, and Tool Library. It’s a beauty.

Fun Fact: Did you know you can rent or check out tools from the public libraries these days? It’s called a Tool Library. Check it out.

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Where to Eat Around Charleston

Start your weekend itinerary for Charleston Saturday morning with a classic West Virginia breakfast at Tudor’s Biscuit World. How does a Peppy (pepperoni and melted cheese on a biscuit) or a Super Breakfast (eggs, bacon or sausage, breakfast potatoes, fried apples, biscuit, and gravy) sound? If biscuits aren’t your thing, pick up a slice of quiche, a muffin, or pastry from Sarah’s Bakery.  

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You’ll find Charleston’s best brunch at Black Sheep Burrito. This eclectic eatery and brewery serve excellent craft beer and creative meals that will meet your needs and then some. The Cast Iron Shakshouka (Middle Eastern tomato stew over eggs, garlic naan, and feta) and O.G. Chicken & Waffles are off-the-hook. 

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Lunch and Snacks

I’ve got four options for great eats on your travels to Charleston for lunch.

Pies and Pints serve gourmet pizzas and have a killer selection of beers on tap, while Lola’s Pizza (in South Hills) offers Neopolitan-style pizzas, salads, and the best sangria. A third choice would be to sink your teeth into a slice of Graziano’s Pizza, an icon in downtown Charleston for as long as I can remember. If you’re not in the mood for pizza or salads, dine at Cozumel, Charleston’s best Mexican restaurant. The Pollo Con Arroz is the tops!

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Dinner Suggestions

For dinner, experience one of the best meals of your life at 1010 Bridge, and by all means, start your dining experience with the pimento cheese appetizer. The Chop House is another excellent place for steaks, an eye-catching chilled seafood platter, and an upscale wine list.

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Or, you can eat at the best Indian restaurant in the country—I swear by it. The Chicken Tikka Masala from Sitar of India is primo if you are an adventurous eater and a fan of international cuisine.


Want more to see and do in West Virginia? Check out my Traveling Mom contribution with 21 things that made the list.

Almost Heaven

I hope you will enjoy visiting “Almost Heaven, West Virginia,” using this ultimate travel guide for Charleston. If the suggestions above are not what you are looking for, then the majestic mountains, beautiful scenery, and friendly locals are worth your trip alone. Safe travels.

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Want more West Virginia travels? Check out these: 

95 Things to See and Do in WV

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