16 Absolute Best Things To Do in Charleston Wv

Nestled in the heart of Appalachia, Charleston, West Virginia has entranced visitors since its founding in the 18th century. At dawn, the city dazzles the eye as sunrise turns the rolling fog of the valley into a golden mist, and at sunset, the rivers turn to liquid gold. Small wonder that this nook of nature has become the capital city of West Virginia.

As you tour the streets of downtown or take in the beauty of the Appalachians at twilight, you’ll discover your heart swept away by this city. In Charleston, you’ll find epic history, quintessential southern charm, and all the outdoor activities you could desire for a road trip or weekend getaway.

Ready to learn more? Here are 16 things to do in Charleston WV that you don’t want to miss!



  • Best On The Riverfront: Located in downtown Charleston, Four Points by Sheraton Charleston overlooks Haddad Riverfront Park. The hotel offers free WiFi, an indoor swimming pool, and an onsite restaurant.
  • Best Downtown: Located just off I-64, Hampton Inn Charleston Downtown is in downtown Charleston. It serves a daily breakfast buffet and provides a free airport shuttle to Yeager Airport. You’ll also find an indoor pool and hot tub here.
  • Best Tried and True: Embassy Suites Charleston is located downtown, next to the Town Center Mall, within three miles of the Capitol Market and West Virginia State Museum. Take a dip in their pool and unwind at our complimentary evening reception. Free, made-to-order breakfast provided everyday to complete your stay.


On the shore of the Kanawha River, a red-bricked Georgian mansion serenely watches over the city of Charleston. The mansion was built in 1925 and is the official residence of West Virginia’s governor and their family. Though this building has only stood for the better part of a century, the grounds have been the residence of the governors since 1893.

Visitors to the Governor’s Mansion will find themselves transported to another era in American history. The mansion’s notable features include a likeness to the White House’s foyer with its checkered marble floors and grand staircases. The mansion has wonderfully tailored gardens, historical paintings, a library, and a drawing-room that evoke 18th century American architecture.

Keep in mind that tours to the Governor’s Mansion are free, but reservations are required. The mansion is located by the Capitol Building, so you can combine your tours and get a full picture of gubernatorial life in West Virginia.


At the Avampato Discovery Museum in the Clay Center, the whole family can enjoy the fun and adventure of science. Exhibits range from the science of water at the WaterWorks exhibit to social sciences at MyTown, where kids pick a job, learn to spend money, and can even be mayor for a day. 

Avampato features hands-on activities in nearly every exhibit to engage children in the world of science. For example, in the Meier Music Studio, kids can create their own music using instruments, while over at Healthy Me, kids can explore the human body and its amazing capabilities.

The Avampato Discovery Museum also has a planetarium and theater that shows education films and space documentaries. In addition, the museum has food available, so you won’t have to leave for lunch! A visit here is one of the best things to do in Charleston WV!


Before the Civil War, Charleston was a city in the state of Virginia. But, when war broke out, West Virginia seceded from the Confederacy, becoming a state of the Union. After their statehood became official, the state required a capitol building. At first, the state capitol was in Wheeling, WV, but by 1870 the Capitol building moved to Charleston. 

The Capitol Complex began under the expertise of New York architect Cass Gilbert. The project took about six years to complete, from 1924 to 1932. It is a remarkable piece of architecture, boasting nearly two-thirds marble construction, 14 acres of floor space, and a 4,000-pound chandelier glittering with 10,080 pieces of Czechoslovakian crystal.

Tours to the Capitol are free, but reservations are recommended for guided experiences. 


Capitol Street in Charleston is home to quaint shops and picturesque boulevards of Georgian and Queen Anne architecture. It’s the perfect walking neighborhood for a curious traveler and home to one of Charleston’s favorite food and shopping venues: Capitol Market.

The Capitol Market resides in an old train station. You’ll discover a melting pot of restaurants, outdoor greenhouses, farm-fresh produce, and locally made artisan products inside. Take your time exploring; locals recommend enjoying a bite at Soho’s Italian Restaurant, grabbing a latte at Mea Cuppa Coffeebar, and topping off your day with a treat from the market’s swiss chocolatier, Holl’s Swiss Chocolates. 


If you’re looking for an exciting road trip destination near Charleston, you’ll love the Greenbrier Resort. Not only is Greenbrier a fully functioning resort, complete with a spa, casino, and golf course, but it also happens to house a bunker once designed for Congress.

Greenbrier is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. Its grounds are home to mineral springs that have drawn visitors to the area for over 200 years. In fact, Greenbrier has been a luxury resort for visitors since 1778. 

The presidential and governmental legacy of Greenbrier is impressive. Twenty-eight out of 45 presidents have stayed at the spa. Of course, visitors interested in politics need to check out the decommissioned Cold War bunker on the property. 

The bunker was designed to house all of Congress and had rooms for 1,100 people, 25,000 gallons of water storage, and meeting rooms for the House and Senate. It remained in operation until it was revealed to the public in an expose in 1992. You can visit the bunker today without staying at the Greenbrier!


Visitors to Haddad Riverfront Park by day can enjoy a jog, walk, or bike along the riverfront. It’s a wonderful space to picnic and enjoy riverfront views. I recommend swinging by at sunrise when you can see the river turn into a sheet of gold. The park also offers a docking area for boaters looking to enjoy a view of the city and river after an afternoon floating down the Kanawha.

In the summer, Charleston, WV has a thriving outdoor music scene. No area of the city has more music or prettier scenery than Haddad Riverfront Park. The park hosts the summer series “Live on the Levee” from the end of May to the beginning of September in its riverfront amphitheater. 


Enjoy the rich flavors of West Virginian country wine from one of the most famous families in the state! The Sweeter Side of the Feud Winery draws its roots from the Hatfield and McCoy Feud of 1863 – a feud so legendary the term Hatfield and McCoy is now a term for epic feuds in the U.S. 

The descendants of William Anderson Hatfield own the Sweeter Side of the Feud. Today, the family produces delicious wine varietals named after the feud. The winery specializes in sweet and semi-sweet products, perfect for any wine lover to satisfy their sweet tooth.


A serene, quiet atmosphere surrounds the West Virginia Veterans Memorial. The limestone monoliths are reminiscent of the memorials in Washington D.C. Located in the Capitol Complex; the memorial stands as a reminder of the West Virginian lives lost during the four great conflicts of the 20th century.

A visit to the West Virginia Veterans Memorial is a time for reflection and giving thanks. As you walk between the four monoliths with their bronze statues, you’ll find the names of every West Virginian life lost during the last century’s wars. 


Kanawha State Forest is a must-see destination no matter what time of year you visit West Virginia. In the fall, the forest turns into a kaleidoscope of colors as the leaves change, while winter sees the forest covered in gentle blankets of snow. In the spring and summer, wildflowers bloom, and birdsong fills the air.

The natural retreat of Kanawha provides plenty of activities for the outdoor enthusiast. The forest has over 25 miles of hiking trails for hikers of every skill level, plus mountain biking, fishing, and hunting areas as well. Families can enjoy a day picnicking around one of the playgrounds or hunting for geocaches in the area. 


The Appalachians are well known for their distilleries – so much so that moonshine and whiskey have become synonymous with the mountain range. At Mountain State Distillery, you can enjoy a taste of real, down-home American moonshine. 

Mountain State Distillery has a wonderful storefront in the Historic Shopping District of Charleston. You can try a number of their small-batch spirits there, including moonshine, vanilla whiskey, and other delicious adult libations. 


For the best view of the Capitol Building in the entire city of Charleston, head out to the Mary Price Ratrie Arboretum. The grounds of the scenic parkland overlook the Capitol and the rushing Kanawha River. 

Over 1,500 trees dot the trails at the Mary Price Ratrie Arboretum, with many several centuries old. The arboretum is unique because it is both a living museum of trees and a cemetery. During your visit, pull out your smartphone and check out the trees on PlanIT Geo, which will explore the unique species of plant life in the park. 


The West Virginia State Museum first came into being in 1894 when Governor William A. MacCorkle announced it at a party in Charleston. Since then, its collection has perpetually grown, featuring unique and educational exhibits and artifacts. The museum outgrew its original building in the 1970s, and it moved to its current state-of-the-art museum in 1976.

In the museum, you’ll discover everything from artifacts that have been at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, to exhibits on art and culture of the Appalachian region. During your visit, you can explore the surrounding buildings of the Capitol Complex, including the Governor’s Mansion and the State Capitol Building – the museum sits right next door on the shores of the Kanawha River.


The Clay Center houses some of the best educational and cultural entertainment in West Virginia. The previously mentioned Discovery Museum resides at the center, but there’s so much more to the facility than that!

The Clay Center happens to be one of Charleston’s best musical venues, with a fun lineup offered throughout the year, rivaling the popular Live on the Levee series. You’ll find symphony and opera offerings at their box office as well. Lovers of dance will relish the chance to see the Broadway and ballet performances that frequently appear here.

Visitors to the Clay Center can also count on an enjoyable time at the Juliet Art Museum, which features traveling exhibits, local artwork, and a permanent collection. And, you can always swing by the Discovery Museum or Planetarium to top off your visit with the kids.


Explore the diversity and cultural history of West Virginia at the Heritage Towers Museum & Culture Center. The center is home to the best collection of Black and African Heritage artifacts in the state. 

The Heritage Towers Museum works to preserve the history of African Americans in West Virginia. Its doors opened in 2005, which began with a traveling exhibit of the slave ship, “The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie.” Today, the museum’s exhibits include artifacts from the slavery era to modern artwork by Black artists. 

For an in-depth tour of the Black history in West Virginia, the center also offers a Heritage Tour along the Kanawha River Valley. The tour stops at Booker T. Washington’s childhood home, the remains of a plantation on the campus of West Virginia State University (WVSU), and traditionally African-American neighborhoods and other historic sites.


Baseball has a long legacy in Charleston. The sport first appeared under the guise of the Charleston Statesmen in 1910, but it was not until 2021 that the Dirty Birds were born. The team’s name is an homage to the canaries that protected coal miners from toxic carbon monoxide in the mines of West Virginia.

Visitors to Charleston can enjoy America’s Favorite Pastime at the Appalachian Power Park Field. So grab a baseball mitt, enjoy a hot dog, and get ready to cheer!


If Mother Nature is calling your name during your trip to Charleston, then heed her call and head out to New River Gorge National Park! This natural marvel resides about two hours from Charleston and is home to one of the oldest rivers in the continental U.S. Visitors will find themselves entranced by the misty valleys and ancient trees that line the trails of this majestic park.

During your trip to New River Gorge, there are a few sites you definitely want to visit. For example, Sandstone Falls is the largest waterfall on the river, and provides a scenic backdrop for photos or a picnic. Or, snag a picture of the New River Gorge Bridge, which stands over 876 feet above the river and is the largest steel span bridge in the Western Hemisphere!

The park is also home to several tiny towns, like Prince and Thurmond. If you’d like to explore the history of Appalachia, you’ll want to check out one of the living history farms like Trump-Lilly or the abandoned Nuttalberg mining town during your park visit. 



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