Attractions in Charleston

11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Charleston, West Virginia

Charleston is located at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha rivers, in western West Virginia, not far from the Ohio-Kentucky border. Its population of just over 50,000 gives it a small-town feel, but its remarkable and eclectic arts and performance scene is one that would often envy cities its size. The area was settled by pioneers who moved west after the Revolution, and the first permanent settlement here was Fort Lee, built in 1788. Daniel Boone was an early resident and member of the Kanawha County Assembly. Three major interstate highways – I-64, I-77, and I-79 – all converge in Charleston.

1 State Capitol

State Capitol

West Virginia’s most recognizable building, the Charleston State Capitol, stands majestically above the banks of the Kanawha River, with a dome five feet higher than that of the US Capitol in Washington D.C. The 300-foot dome is completely covered with 23.5-karat gold leaf applied in small sheets less than four inches square. The building’s architect, Cass Gilbert, relied on themes from classical antiquity for this limestone building, as he did for several of his other well-known works, such as the U.S. Treasury Building and the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington. From the inside of the Capitol, the massive chandelier is suspended from the top of the dome. Address: 1900 Kanawha Blvd East, Charleston, West Virginia

Read also: Where to Stay in Charleston, SC

2 West Virginia State Museum

Trace the history of West Virginia from prehistoric times by following a route through this museum from the dark Coal Forest with displays of coal and fossils to a film of West Virginia’s contemporary landscapes. Along the way, you’ll see archaeological finds (including one of the state’s most famous hoaxes, the Braxton County Rune Stone); visit an original settler cabin; take a realistic journey through a simulated coal mine; and learn about the history, culture, traditions and arts of West Virginia. Short films and audio commentary enrich the experience.

Address: 1900 Kanawha Blvd East, Charleston, West Virginia

3 Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences

Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences Aaron Keene / photo modified
Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences Aaron Keene / photo modified

Home of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the 240,000-square-foot Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences combines performing arts, visual arts and sciences in one location. Concerts and performances here include a variety of musical genres, in addition to classical, such as gospel, swing, jazz, Motown, rock and roll and southern rock. The Broadway in Charleston series also presents its productions here.

Despite the variety offered here, this is just one of many concert halls in Charleston. The Charleston Light Opera Guild produces off-Broadway shows, and Live on the Levee is a concert series featuring local and national acts performing a variety of music, from African to country to pop, every Friday evening from May to September at Haddad Riverfront Park.

Address: One Clay Square, Charleston, West Virginia

Official site:

4 Capitol Market and East End Historical District

More commonly referred to as “East End,” the neighborhood surrounding the Clay Center and State Capitol is one of the city’s oldest and most diverse commercial districts, where modern urban styles blend with Charleston’s history. The area has recently seen a regeneration enlivened by an eclectic mix of public art, ranging from graffiti-style works to historic statues. One of the most popular features here is West Virginia’s only indoor/outdoor farmers market, Capitol Market, offering a year-round mix of fresh produce, flowers, and local food products.

Address: Main Street, Charleston, West Virginia

Official site:

5 West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Veterans Memorial Richie Diesterheft / photo modified
West Virginia Veterans Memorial Richie Diesterheft / photo modified

This impressive and poignant oval monument features four monoliths, each representing one of four 20th-century military conflicts. A reflecting pool surrounds the monument, whose interior walls are faced with polished black granite etched with the names of fallen West Virginia veterans. Sculptures of four figures representing the four major service sectors and each of the conflicts are the work of the monument’s designer, P. Joseph Mullins. The images represent a World War I boy, a World War II sailor, a Korean aviator and a Vietnamese marine, each in full gear.

Address: Greenbrier Street, Charleston, West Virginia

6 Capitol St

Capitol Street Richie Diesterheft / photo modified
Capitol Street Richie Diesterheft / photo modified

Along Capitol Street, visitors can stroll through old Charleston, with its well-maintained historic buildings. Cafes, galleries, bookstores and boutiques line the tree-lined stone sidewalks, where restaurants offer everything from pizza and Asian food to house-made ice cream. Monthly, from March to December, the street hosts ArtWalk events that celebrate the city’s artistic talent with free self-guided walking tours of shops and galleries featuring paintings, sculptures, photography and music.

Address: Capitol Street, Charleston, West Virginia

7 Governor’s Mansion

Although construction wasn’t completed until 1925, this Georgian Revival-style home designed by Charleston architect Walter Martens is a symbol of West Virginia’s storied past. Filled with priceless antiques, silver, porcelain and crystal chandeliers, the mansion is open for tours by reservation. Included in the tour are the ballroom; library; and dining room, with a 14-foot-long mahogany banquet table that extends to seat 24 for formal dinners.

Address: 1716 Kanawha Blvd., Charleston, West Virginia

8 Kanawha State Forest

Kanawha State Forest Bill Rawlinson / photo modified
Kanawha State Forest Bill Rawlinson / photo modified

Hike, bike, cross-country ski or pitch a tent at Kanawha State Forest, seven miles south of Charleston. The scenic 9,300-acre forest is especially popular with nature lovers for the birds, including 19 woodcocks that breed in the woods. The park is a popular picnic spot and has a children’s playground.

Address: 7500 Kanawha State Forest Drive, Charleston, West Virginia

Official site:

9 Avampato Discovery Museum

Two floors of family fun await visitors at the Avampato Discovery Museum in the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences. Remarkable interactive science exhibits bring life to earth sciences, technology, energy, magnetism and health. Designed as a roadside attraction, Milton Gardner’s Earth City explores earth science, while Health Royale offers innovative health and wellness experiences. Kidspace is designed for the abilities and interests of children under five, and STEAMworks explores technology, engineering and math. The museum also houses nearly 800 works of 19th, 20th and 21st century American art, as well as European counterparts that help provide insight into its development.

Address: One Clay Square, Charleston, West Virginia

Official site:

10 Craik Patton House

Craik-Patton House Richie Diesterheft / photo modified
Craik-Patton House Richie Diesterheft / photo modified

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this fine example of Greek Revival architecture was built in downtown Charleston in 1834. It later moved to its current location next to Daniel Boone Park. Most of the house is original and it is furnished with fine examples of early 19th century pieces including Queen Anne tables, Windsor chairs, Chinese export and English porcelain, French wallpaper and antique art. Next to the house you can visit the formal boxwood garden and a reconstructed log cabin that provides a vivid contrast into the lives of different classes in the early 1800s.

Address: 2809 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, West Virginia

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11 Heritage Towers Museum & Culture Centre

Following the saga of African-American life from the kingdoms of West Africa to the Appalachian coal mines, exhibits here explore some little-known chapters in West Virginia’s rich history. In collaboration with other museums and schools, the center celebrates the achievements and contributions of African Americans in West Virginia and elsewhere and promotes cultural diversity.

Address: 612 Virginia Street E, Charleston, West Virginia

Official site:

Where to Stay in Charleston for Sightseeing

Many of Charleston’s top attractions are located downtown, and this is where most people want to settle. At the northwestern end of the city center, where many of the mid-range hotels are located, is the Civic Center shopping center and city center. At the far southeast are the State Capitol and the West Virginia State Museum. Below are some highly rated hotels in good locations:

  • Luxury hotels: Charleston has a distinct lack of true luxury hotels, but there are a number of full-service, business hotels in the city. Well located downtown near the Civic Center and downtown Charleston, the Marriott Town Center features an indoor heated pool and fitness center. The Four Points by Sheraton is nearby, but closer to the Kanawha River. It offers well-appointed rooms and similar amenities. The higher floors offer great views of the city.
  • Mid-range hotels: Hampton Inn Charleston – Downtown is located just a few minutes outside of downtown but close to restaurants and shops and offers free shuttle service to downtown and the airport. The hotel features a swimming pool and fitness center and offers free breakfast. The Embassy Suites by Hilton is an all-suite hotel with a great downtown location and also has an indoor pool and free breakfast.
  • Budget Hotels: Budget hotels in the city center are limited, but the Capitol Hotel is an option in the heart of downtown and offers simple but clean rooms. For the best selection of budget and value hotels, it’s a good idea to head outside the city center. The Sleep Inn, with large rooms and free breakfast, is located 10 minutes outside the city center. With a comparable commute time, the Days Inn Charleston East offers a pool and free breakfast.

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