Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, Charleston is the capital and largest city in West Virginia with a population of just over 50,000 residents. While coal, salt and natural gas were the first large industries in the city, the main industries are now education, government and medicine. Once you move to the area, you'll see that there are plenty of things to see and do in this lovely Appalachian city. Here is a list of the top attractions and eateries in Charleston.
West Virginia Cultural Center
The West Virginia Cultural Center was opened in 1976 as a way to house and showcase all of the heritage of the state. The lower floor holds the West Virginia State Museum, the lobby and balconies have been turned into lovely galleries centered around West Virginia arts and history, and the State Archives library is also open to the public for browsing. Events and festivals are held at the West Virginia Cultural Center in addition to being the home to the Commission on the Arts and the State Historic Preservation Office. The Cultural Center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the State Museum on the lower floor is closed on Monday. (Photo Credit: http://www.wvculture.org/agency/cultcenter.html)
West Virginia State Museum
While it's only been in its current location since 1976, the West Virginia State Museum has been a part of Charleston since 1894. The mission of the West Virginia State Museum is to educate people about the art, culture and history of the region in addition to the scientific aspects of archaeology, geology and paleontology found in West Virginia. Because West Virginia encompasses so many different terrains, industries and cultures, the museum is very diverse with heirlooms and artifacts from all parts of the state on display. If you are new to the state, the West Virginia State Museum is a great place to visit and learn more about your new home. The museum has free admission and is open Tuesday through Saturday.
The Capitol Market
In the late 1800s, when the railroad put up a rail yard at Smith Street, a market sprang up and became a center for commerce in the young city. Over the years, the rail yard was forgotten and neglected. In order to revitalize the area around Smith Street, create a draw for both locals and tourists and build a hub for the city to anchor around, the Capitol Market was created in 1997. This is a year-round market featuring indoor shops, restaurants and outdoor stalls. Visitors to the market will be able to buy everything from local artisan crafts to fresh meats, fish, cheeses, locally grown fruits and vegetables, seasonal purchases like pumpkins and Christmas trees, and more! It's a wonderful venue to simply enjoy a cup of coffee and stroll through the bustling area. The Capitol Market is open daily throughout the year with the exception of major holidays.
The Clay Center for Arts and Sciences
For families wanting to have a fun experience that is still educational, the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences is a great place to visit. With an art collection featuring over 800 pieces, there are amazing works to take in, including outdoor sculptures and a wide variety of paintings from American artists. The science wing covers over 12,000 square feet of space and features hands-on, interactive exhibits about space travel, health and the human body, and earth sciences. For small children, the KidSpace is geared toward exploring the outdoors with a giant treehouse, clouds that "rain" balls into a ball pond, games and more to encourage learning. The KidSpace also contains a separate area for nursing mothers and their infants, and there is another room for bigger kids to play and hang out while younger siblings enjoy the KidSpace area. The Clay Center is a fun experience for the entire family, and it is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Memberships are available for families who like to go often and take advantage of the many events that are held at the facility.
West Virginia Symphony
Music lovers who are new to the Charleston area will enjoy attending the West Virginia Symphony. Created in 1939, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra was originally part of a partnership between chemical plants and only had 55 members of the orchestra. Over the years, the orchestra has grown in size and has also been able to travel, performing all across West Virginia and even playing a celebratory 50th anniversary show at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra typically performs six symphonic and four pop concerts each season, so music lovers will have many opportunities to take in a concert. Subscriptions are available, and members receive several benefits throughout the year.
West Virginia State Capitol
If you want to see the government in action, a visit to the State Capitol is both educational and enjoyable. The West Virginia State Capitol is open seven days a week, with the exception of holidays, although the legislative bodies are not in session on the weekends. The building was completed and opened as the new Capitol building in 1932 and is an amazing architectural accomplishment. With columns, detailed stone work and ornamental terra cotta sculpting, the Capitol is striking. The building is topped by a gorgeous gold-leaf dome that, on a clear day, can be seen throughout the city. There are three galleries located in each congressional chamber from which visitors can watch the legislative proceedings, and there is a food court open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays.
Pies & Pints Pizzeria
For a casual dining experience where you can still enjoy great food and a good beer, check out Pies & Pints! Known for its craft pizza and craft beer selection, Pies & Pints is a very laid-back environment where diners can try creative offerings like the Grape & Gorgonzola, Sriracha Shrimp and Cuban Pork pizzas. This eatery is located right on Capitol Street in the shopping district, so it is a great way to end a fun day enjoying Charleston.
Black Sheep Burritos & Brews
Diners wanting to try something a bit different will love trying Black Sheep Burrito & Brews. The restaurant lets you try a Smoked Pekin Duck Taco, a Curry Burrito or a Korean BBQ Torta Sandwich. At Black Sheep, you can enjoy your meal with a wide variety of mixed drinks or craft beers. On the weekend, be sure to stop by for a casual and delicious lunch where you can get traditional fare or try one of the great house specialties. You won't need a reservation, and the restaurant is open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and until 10 p.m. during the week.
Wallace Hartman Nature Preserve
West Virginia is a state known for its rugged beauty and amazing primitive landscape. To truly enjoy West Virginia's natural wonders, spend a lovely day at the Wallace Hartman Nature Preserve. The 52-acre nature preserve has beautiful trails that are open to the public, and it's only a few minutes outside of downtown Charleston, so you don't have to travel far to experience nature at its finest. You can walk the trails with your family or ride your bike for a change of pace.
The Chop House
Since 2001, The Chop House has been a premier fine dining restaurant in Charleston, West Virginia. Decorated in the 1940s style invoking class and elegance, The Chop House sets a lovely ambience with marble tables, original art and gas lamps. However, The Chop House is mainly known for its food, and the chefs only use the finest cuts of meat, freshest produce and excellent ingredients to prepare their menu. While the restaurant's USDA Prime steaks are the star of the menu, the chefs also offer delicious seafood options. Any meal can be complemented by a thoughtful and extensive wine list. It is recommended that you make a reservation to The Chop House to ensure there is a table available, but you can also attend Cocktail Hour located in the lounge.
It can be difficult to relocate to a new area
, especially if you are completely unfamiliar with what your new city will have to offer. Charleston, West Virginia has a wide variety of attractions, events, shopping and dining options to keep you busy and help you explore your new city. Trying new things and visiting new places is a fun way to insert yourself into the community and make new friends in your neighborhood. You will find that the friendliness of the people and the welcoming culture can make the city feel like your new hometown.