The Wild and Wonderful Sides of Charleston, West Virginia

Activities, Magazine Features

The capital of West Virginia hosts tourists as well as political types, offering a rich array of cultural and historical attractions that will captivate every member of your travel group.


Believing that Charleston has a “Wild” side is probably safe. Discovering its “Wonderful” side is a must. The capital and largest city in “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia is filled with fun and entertaining options for any tour theme.

The recently renovated State Museum & Culture Center is the perfect place to begin your city tour. Located in the State Capitol Complex, the museum provides much more than a glimpse into the rich history of West Virginia. The only state born of the Civil War, West Virginia celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013. Many of the exhibits are interactive and a smartphone app provides an interesting way to tour the museum. The State Museum & Culture Center is a free attraction.

Make sure to check with the Charleston CVB about exhibits or programs being hosted at the State Museum & Culture Center. The 2014 Quilt & Wall Hanging Juried Exhibition is scheduled through Sept. 8, 2014, and there are many more exhibits planned throughout this year and next.

Continue your visit to the Capitol Complex with a brief walk to the West Virginia State Capitol. One of the city’s major attractions, the grand building was completed in 1932, its dome modeled after the U.S. Capitol’s, though slightly taller. That’s 23.5-carat gold that gilds the dome. Free tours are available. The grounds are quite lovely and perfect for a boxed lunch picnic.

A brief drive to historic Malden and the Booker T. Washington Boyhood Home is option one for your afternoon. West Virginia had a thriving salt industry and Malden was the center. Born into slavery and illiteracy, Washington became an educator and a leader of black Americans from 1895-1915.

Upon returning to Charleston, a visit to Heritage Towers Museum provides an in-depth look at African-Americans in Appalachia, from history to art to culture. The museum takes visitors from Africa and the slave trade to the challenges faced by African-American coal miners. (

Option two takes visitors to the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences. The facility has both gallery and performance spaces. Home to the West Virginia Symphony, the Maier Performance Hall offers a regular schedule of shows and concerts. Smaller concerts are held in the Walker Theater. The Avampato Discovery Museum houses both permanent and rotating galleries and the ElectricSky Theater’s planetarium shows and films. (

Another afternoon option is Wine & Cheese with the Charleston Ballet. For almost six decades the ballet has provided hundreds of traditional and original performances; its talent is both regional and nationally recognized. Your experience includes a performance by the American Academy Ballet, the official school of the Charleston Ballet. Wine & cheese and conversations with the director follow. (

Are you ready for dinner? You will not have to venture far for even the pickiest appetite to be satisfied. From white tablecloth and sports bars to local and ethnic specialties, there are numerous group-friendly restaurants. Reach out to the Charleston CVB for suggestions and the list of 101 unique dining options. If your evening calls for some gaming action at the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort, you’ll be treated to three delightful restaurant options. (

For a fun evening, be sure to check the schedule for the West Virginia Power, a Class-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Home games at Appalachian Power Park are a blast with fun entertainment between innings. While few things in life are better than hot dogs at the ballpark, also consider the full-service Italian restaurant, Paterno’s at the Park.

If it was necessary to pick one special time of the year to be in Charleston, it would have to be during those 10 marvelous days in June appropriately named FestivALL. With mostly free admissions, this festival features more than 125 events, including performing arts performances and visual art displays.

Regardless of the time of year you visit Charleston, one must-see stop is the Capitol Market. In addition to fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, the market has a wonderful wine selection. Plan to spend an hour (or more!) shopping for memories of your trip. In addition to the market’s regular offerings, there is a good chance that two or three Tamarack artisans will be showing.

Downtown Charleston, Greater Charleston including South Charleston, Nitro and St. Albans offer accommodations that fit every budget and afford the amenities your group may require. Most flag properties are represented. Some are conveniently located to shopping and dining options.

The Charleston Marriott Town Center is near many of the downtown shops housed in historic buildings and the Charleston Town Center Mall in the heart of downtown. The Hampton Inn Southridge is centrally located in the Southridge, Trace Fork and Dudley Farms Shops complex.

Charleston is ideal for a hub & spoke tour of southwest West Virginia. Visit actual sites of the legendary Hatfields & McCoy feud, or explore the contributions coal has made to our nation. There’s plenty of outdoor adventure, too. From skiing and rafting to ATV and fishing, there’s more than enough to satisfy your wild side.

Getting to Charleston is a snap. Ideally located in the Metro Valley region of southwest West Virginia, Charleston has three interstates (I-64, I-77 and I-79) passing through. More than 65 percent of the U.S. population is within 500 miles.

The Amtrak Cardinal route operates three days weekly, and serving Charleston on its New York-to-Chicago run, with stops in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. Yeagar Airport, just a few minutes from downtown Charleston, is serviced by American Airlines, Spirit, United and US Airways Express, with 10 daily non-stops to and from major U.S. destinations.

Regardless of how you get to the Capitol City, do plan to stay for at least two or three nights. You will not want to miss a thing. Let your fun begin at the Charleston CVB,

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