Planning a trip to West Virginia? Be sure to save time in your itinerary to check out all the best things to do in Charleston, WV. Nestled in the Allegheny range of the Appalachian Mountains and at the confluence of the Elk River and Kanawha River, West Virginia’s capital is a beautiful riverside city with plenty to explore for travelers.
Many of Charleston’s top tourist attractions revolve around the great outdoors, including Coonskin Park and the Kanawha State Forest. Or, if history is more your thing, Charleston’s historic riverfront offers points of interest for all ages, like the West Virginia State Museum.
Not sure what to do in Charleston, WV? We’ve got you covered with this guide to the best places to visit in Charleston, West Virginia!
Must-see places to visit in Charleston, WV
Want to hit up some of the most vibrant boutique shops in Charleston’s city center? Head to Capitol Market and get your fill of all things retail.
Located on Capitol Street inside a turn-of-the-century train station, Capitol Market is home to a wide variety of vendors, including fresh produce, crafters, farmers, artisans, and much more. Whether you’re looking to make dinner or grab a souvenir or three, this popular market is the place to do it all.
The Capitol Market also runs a whole host of events throughout the year, including mixers and themed cook-offs. Wander down and see what’s going on—it’s bound to be a ton of fun!
West Virginia State Museum
A bit of a history buff? Check out the West Virginia State Museum on your next visit to Charleston, WV. Located in the West Virginia State Capitol, this now renovated state history museum has been running since 1885, continually adding to its varied collection.
Enjoy the wide variety of exhibits and artifacts dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the area. The best part? The history museum is completely free to visit and enjoy! And while you’re at the West Virginia State Museum, don’t forget to check out the West Virginia State Capitol building itself…
West Virginia State Capitol
Want to check out where all the statewide political action happens? Head to the West Virginia State Capitol and find out more about the state’s politics and history.
Located on the riverfront along Kanawha Boulevard, the State Capitol Complex is an imposing structure designed by Cass Gilbert in the 20th Century. Architecture fans will love the capitol building’s Colonial Revival style, complete with flooring made of white Vermont marble and dark Italian travertine.
Inside the West Virginia State Capitol complex, you’ll see how life runs for West Virginians and the sacrifices made by some via a variety of Veterans Memorials. Keep on the lookout for the majestic polished black granite memorial with the names of the fallen etched in. It’s a beautiful and reverent memorial.
Looking to get the ultimate hit of arts, culture, and science all under one roof? Then you’ve got to spend a day or two exploring the Clay Center on Clay Square.
Known fully as The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia, the Clay Center spans a gigantic 240,000 square feet and houses three museums in one. With sciences, performing arts, and visual arts all represented here, it’s the ideal place to bring a group with varied interests.
Traveling with kiddos in tow? The Clay Center’s Avampato Discovery Museum is three floors of interactive, hands-on scientific fun designed to educate, entertain and inspire visitors of all ages.
Or, if art is more your thing, slip over to the Juliet Art Museum. The popular art museum features a slate of traveling exhibits and a permanent collection of over 1,000 items focused on West Virginian and Appalachian artists.
Wanting to explore some Native American history in the great outdoors during your next trip to Charleston? Head to the Criel Mound to find out more.
One of the few surviving Kanawha Valley Mounds, the Criel Mound is thought to date back to the Woodland Period—that’s just after 500 B.C. You can go up there, wander around and soak up the history, or just go and chill, enjoying the West Virginian weather.
The Criel Mound has ample parking. It’s close to several restaurants and stores if you want to spend the entire day in this historic and culturally-significant area.
Looking to get out of the city center and into nature? Meander over to Coonskin Park, jam-packed with outdoor pursuits and amenities to keep the whole family entertained.
Located just 10 minutes from downtown Charleston, Coonskin Park is a beautiful and tranquil riverside park filled with nature trails, perfect for hiking or mountain biking. Brought your clubs with you? Take a swing at Coonskin Park’s handicapped golf club, complete with an impressive clubhouse.
Got kiddos in tow? Let them run themselves ragged on the playground, on the soccer fields, or by playing around the pond.
Magic Island Park
Like your public outdoor spaces to have an element of fun automatically built into them? Well then, grab your kiddos and head down to Magic Island Park.
Located along the Kanawha River, Magic Island Park lives up to its magical name. With numerous playgrounds, splash pads, volleyball courts, and trails, this beautiful public park is the perfect stop on your Charleston family getaway.
In the summer months, check out the outdoor cinema in Magic Island Park, showing a whole host of family favorites. And, if you’re confused, yes, the name is kind of a misnomer; the “island” is connected to the mainland, just on the other side of Kanawha Boulevard.
West Virginia Governor’s Mansion
Looking to check out one of the most historic houses in Charleston, West Virginia? Live out your deep south historic fantasy life at the West Virginia Governor’s Mansion.
Built in the Colonial Revival architecture in 1925 and located along the banks of the Kanawha River, the West Virginia Governor’s Mansion marries the grand architecture of the time with a homely feel. Over the years, the historic home has played host to dignitaries, ambassadors, and celebrities from all around the world.
You can visit and tour this magnificent mansion and imagine that it’s your own home, but you do have to make reservations in advance.
Kanawha State Forest
Want to feel like you’re out in the wilderness even though you’re only a couple of miles from Charleston? Venture over to the Kanawha State Forest and get back in touch with your roots. (Pun fully intended!)
Spanning a gigantic 9,300 acres, Kanawha State Forest is a haven for all things outdoors. With a swimming pool, picnic shelters, and more hiking trails & biking trails than you’ll ever actually complete, it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of West Virginia’s capital city.
Feel like spending multiple days out in Kanawha State Forest? Grab the family, pitch up in the 46-site campground, and make a weekend of it.
Consider yourself a history or architecture buff? Or just love having a look around old homes and gardens? Check out the Craik-Patton House and be transported to another era in West Virginia’s history.
Dating back to 1834, Craik-Patton House, built in the Greek Revival style, is filled to the brim with stunning period features. Join a tour to discover more about the rich history and culture of this wonderful house.
Once you’ve had your fill of the inside of Craik-Patton House, head outside to check out the beautiful gardens surrounding the property. Interestingly, this isn’t the home’s original location; it was moved in 1973 to save it from demolition!
Daniel Boone Park
Wanting to hit the water or cast off a line or two? Check out Daniel Boone Park during your next trip to Charleston, WV.
Offering excellent boat access to the Kanawha River, Daniel Boone Park is an ideal spot to chill out on the water and watch the world go by. Prefer to keep your feet on dry land? Grab a rod and some bait and take advantage of the park’s fishing pier.
After a long day out or near the river, come together with friends or family at one of the many picnic tables as the kiddos blow off some steam on the playground. The ideal way to spend a day in Charleston, West Virginia!
Need somewhere to entertain visitors of all ages and energy levels? Get your fill of recreational activities at Cato Park.
Featuring a nine-hole golf course, soccer fields, playgrounds, and more, Cato Park is a great spot if you need to get some outdoor time but don’t feel like driving out of the city center. Want to cool down from the West Virginia heat? Bring your swimmers and hit the public pool.
In the mood to try something a bit different? Cato Park has an archery range, complete with equipment hire and lessons to unleash your inner Robin Hood or Katniss Everdeen.
Haddad Riverfront Park
Wanting to catch a special event or concert while you’re next in Charleston, WV? Get yourself and your friends down to Haddad Riverfront Park and soak up the evening riverside vibes.
Home to Charleston’s free concert series, Live on the Levee, Haddad Riverfront Park is a hub of entertainment and art, especially in the summertime. As it’s located on the banks of the Kanawha River, you can expect gorgeous, illuminated views of Charleston at night. It’s truly a spectacular way to end your trip to Charleston, WV.
With an amphitheater that seats up to 2,500 people, Haddad Riverfront Park also has something cool & unique going on.
East End Historic District
Looking to step into history and appreciate the architecture of times gone by? Take a leisurely wander around the East End Historic District with your friends or family.
Located in between the Kanawha River and the commercial district based off Washington Street, the East End Historic District is an area of Charleston that’s been frozen in time. If you’re a fan of Victorian or Craftsman-style homes, you’re going to have a great time strolling around the tree-lined streets in this historic area.
Take a dedicated tour of the East End Historic District to learn more about the history and stories of those who lived and built this district. It’s an educational and entertaining way to learn about Charleston’s history while enjoying the fresh air.
Mountain State Distillery
No trip to Charleston, West Virginia, is complete without a drink or three. Although it’s obviously not a family-friendly attraction, if you’re an adult-only party, you need to hit up the Mountain State Distillery.
Ever wanted to try genuine mountain moonshine? That’s exactly what the guys at Mountain State Distillery specialize in! Swing by the distillery—ran and brewed by the owner, Jeff—for a sample, to buy a souvenir, or just to drop in and talk about the process.
If you do stop by, be sure to go onto their website and fill in their digital guestbook afterward. There’s an interactive Google Map showing all the different places people have visited from!
Axes and Ales
What are two things that are great on their own but probably shouldn’t go together? That’s right: Axes and Ales. But, somehow, Charleston’s only axe-throwing experience makes it all work!
Grab your best buds and take to one of the five axe-throwing lanes. Get competitive or learn the technique from one of Axes and Ales’ dedicated experts—just don’t forget to have fun with it all. (Oh yeah, and, of course, be safe!)
After you’ve thrown an axe or two, head to the bar and work your way through the many, many beers on tap. (Remember, that’s after you’ve been flinging around lethal weapons—not before!)
Charleston Town Center
In need of some serious retail therapy? There’s only one cure in these parts, and that’s Charleston Town Center, one of the largest indoor malls in America. (Yep, that’s right: It’s absolutely huge!)
With over 130 stores spread over two levels and a whole floor as a dedicated food court, you could easily spend days exploring and shopping until you drop! Explore the best of international and well-known brands right alongside local artisans and independent boutiques. You can buy all manner of things from souvenirs to clothes to local crafts.
The Charleston Town Center is open until 9 pm every day of the week except Sunday when the mall closes at 6 pm.