The city of Charleston dates back to the frontier days of the late 1700s, and it still retains a quaint and unassuming charm with a distinctly historical twang.
You can find all kinds of old-fashioned homes, museums, and landmarks in the region, including ones named after famous residents like Daniel Boone.
Its history, however, is just one of the things that Charleston has to offer as a vacation destination.
It’s also a thriving metropolis as befits the capital of West Virginia.
You can eat out, watch the ballet, and go shopping at luxury malls.
You can attend city-wide fairs and festivals.
You can try your hand at skateboarding or ice skating.
Another great thing about Charleston is its proximity to nature.
As part of the Mountain State, it’s brimming with wild, rugged landscapes where you can go hiking, biking, camping, ziplining, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and more.
Are you intrigued yet?
Are ready to learn more about the potential of the Mountain State’s shining jewel?
Here are a few exciting things to do in Charleston, West Virginia!
Things To Do In Charleston, WV
1. West Virginia State Capitol
With a gleaming dome made from 23.5 karat gold, the West Virginia State Capitol is an iconic destination.
It isn’t just an architectural wonder, either.
It’s an active seat of governance where you can sneak a peek of politicians at work.
The easiest way to see the capitol is through a tour.
They’re available everyday, and they’ll take you through much of the neoclassical-style building, so you’ll be able to marvel at everything from light streaming through the rotunda to picturesque views of the Kanawha River outside the windows.
The grounds include fountains, flags, plazas, and famous statues such as “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight.”
Nearby, the governor’s red brick mansion sits among shaded greenery as part of the greater West Virginia Capitol Complex.
The West Virginia State Capitol is one of the biggest points of interest in the city.
It’s the stuff of postcards, especially at night with the building lit up from the other side of the dark river.
You won’t want to miss it!
Address: 1900 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, WV 25305, United States
2. Live on the Levee
Held every year from spring until fall, Live on the Levee is a live music experience that takes place in Charleston’s Haddad Riverfront Park.
Like its name suggests, it takes place right on the waterfront, and the bands kick off every Friday rain or shine.
Acts range from the local to the international, so depending on the weekend that you go, you might see everyone from indie folk performers to famous rock bands from across the pond.
Food trucks are everywhere, and some bands sell merch.
There are epic fireworks on the first and last days that cascade over the river.
If it’s the right season, and you’re looking for great things to do in Charleston this weekend, swing by the park for Live on the Levee.
There’s no admission charge, so you’ll only have to pay for the food and festivities that catch your eye.
Otherwise, it’s a fun, free, and fabulous experience that also doubles as an annual staple of the Charleston community.
Address: Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, WV 25302, United States
3. Sumthin’ Good Soul Food
You can’t visit Charleston without indulging in some southern-style cuisine, especially the perennial favorite of cornbread with a side of beans.
The good news is that Sumthin’ Good Soul Food has everything that you could want and more.
An utterly unpretentious restaurant, Sumthin’ Good serves its meals out of buffet-style tins.
You’ll line up to order and take your carefully loaded plate to a nearby table when it’s done.
As for the menu, you’ll die and go to carnivore heaven.
There’s beef brisket, ribs, pulled pork, southern fried chicken, and more.
Sides range from “Auntie Monica’s baked beans” to “Momma Fran’s mac and cheese.”
The most popular dessert is Grandma’s sweet potato pie.
You might not think much of Sumthin’ Good Soul Food from the outside, but once you’ve tasted their potato salad, you’ll never go back.
There’s a reason why they’re one of the most hyped of Charleston attractions.
Address: 4837 MacCorkle Ave SW, South Charleston, WV 25309, United States
4. Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences
The Clay Center is the place to enjoy arts and culture in Charleston.
Covering 240,000 square feet, it’s a sprawling, multi-venue complex that houses everything from concerts to science lectures to theater productions.
It’s perhaps best known for the performing arts.
The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra is based here, and it welcomes visits from the Broadway in Charleston as well.
There’s also a two-story science center, the Avampato Discovery Museum, where the entire family can engage in STEM-based learning.
Another museum, the Juliet Art Museum, is more adult oriented, but it can offer aficionados a glimpse of many famous paintings and portraits.
Last but not least, the Caperton Planetarium is always open to astronomy lovers, so it’s ideal for fueling your imagination and sending you off into space!
If you’re looking for fun places to go this weekend, check out the Clay Center.
There’s always something new lined up on the schedule, so no matter when you visit, you’ll have options.
Address: 1 Clay Square, Charleston, WV 25301, United States
5. Kanawha State Forest
West Virginia is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the US if you’re a fan of lush and undeveloped landscapes.
It’s a place that hasn’t been developed to death, so you can still venture deep into its primordial forests and disconnect with everything but the sights and sounds of nature.
Kanawha State Forest is one such place.
Spanning more than 9,000 acres, it’s home to a number of geological features that have stood for centuries, including cliffs, waterfalls, and woodlands.
It’s removed enough from civilization that parts don’t even receive cell service.
Despite its remoteness, however, the forest is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Common activities include camping, hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and shooting at the on-site gun range.
It’s also something of a mecca among bird watchers because of its high populations of both local and migratory species.
Kanawha State Forest is such a remarkable example of untouched nature that you might be surprised to learn that it’s just a few miles outside of Charleston.
You can explore the city by day and sleep under the stars by night!
Now that’s a wide-ranging vacation!
Address: 7500 Kanawha State Forest Dr, Charleston, WV 25314, United States
6. Capitol Street
If you’re looking for small-town charm, Capitol Street has a lovely, peaceful atmosphere that invokes the spirit of West Virginia circa the 1900s.
Tree-lined streets offer shade over quaint little shops, cafes, and boutiques.
Old relics, including a lamppost clock, speak to another time.
Colorful townhouses add even more character to an already picturesque neighborhood.
As for commerce, you’ll find plenty of it, most of them mom-and-pop stores selling things like rare books and artisanal baked goods.
Another option is visiting Capitol Market, the year-round farmer’s market housed out of an old freight station.
You might also want to time your visit between the months of March and December.
This is when Capitol Street holds it monthly ArtWalk, a celebration of local arts, crafts, music, photography, and more.
You can score things like discounted museum admission and free tours and workshops.
All in all, Capitol Street is one of the best places to see in Charleston, especially if you have a love of charming and historic destinations.
Turn back the clock with a stroll under the oaks and a pastry or two in hand!
Address: Charleston, WV 25301, United States
7. Tour de Coal
The Tour de Coal is one of the most unique things to see in the Appalachian region.
How many times in your life will you have the opportunity to watch hundreds of colorful kayaks bobbing along the water?
This is what it’s like at Tour de Coal, an annual “kayak float” where participants take a 12-mile trip down the Coal River Watertrail.
It isn’t a race, and there are no prizes.
It’s just a fun, family-friendly occasion where folks can get together to show off their boats, raise money for charity, and craft an awesome story to tell later.
Note that the event isn’t actually held in Charleston; it’s about a half-hour drive in the near city of Thunder.
However, people come from all across the state to enjoy it.
Tour de Coal is easily one of the most memorable things to do in West Virginia, so whether you’re interested in participating or just spectating, get there by June!
Address: WV, United States
8. Spring Hill Cemetery
Covering 172 acres, Spring Hill Cemetery is a grand and impressive graveyard that serves as a scenic site in Charleston as well as the final resting place of many prominent West Virginians.
The grounds are nestled in the rolling hills of the city’s historic district.
The graves range from simple tombstones to elaborate memorials decorated with statues and poems.
Some of the cemetery’s most famous residents include governors, military officers, and early settlers and developers.
You can spot the most influential grave sites because they’re immortalized with things like marble obelisks rising 30 feet into the air.
Generally speaking, the atmosphere of the cemetery is a calm one.
It’s a beautiful, tranquil kind of landscape that even includes trails for walkers and joggers.
However, it can also become a spooky destination and a place for things like Charleston ghost tours after-hours.
Maybe you’re wondering what to do on Halloween.
Maybe you just enjoy art, history, and the legacy of those who came before us.
Whatever your reasons for visiting Spring Hill Cemetery, you’re sure to get something out of the experience.
Address: 1555 Farnsworth Dr, Charleston, WV 25301, United States
9. Appalachian Boarding Company
If you’re eager to explore Charleston but not sure where to start, the Appalachian Boarding Company can help.
They offer guided tours around the shores and waterways of Kanawha County and beyond.
Best of all, your tour will be atop a stand-up paddleboard!
Travel destinations range from nearby rivers to far-flung lakes that can only be reached after hours of paddling.
You can decide for yourself how far you’d like to go and how you’d like to spend your time in between paddling.
You can rent fishing lines, for example, if you take a fishing expedition via paddleboard.
You can also rent kayaks if you’re bringing along kids or others unable to paddle for long.
Depending on your chosen tour, you can spend all day or just a few hours on the water.
It’s all up to you.
The Appalachian Boarding Company offers a lot of flexibility in booking, which is one of the reasons why they’re such a well-known name in Charleston adventure touring.
See the city and its surrounding wilds in a way that few tourists ever do!
Address: 744 Scott Depot, WV 25560, United States
10. South Charleston Memorial Ice Arena
Known as an excellent driving destination for watching the leaves change, many people think of Charleston with a fall-tinted lens.
However, it’s also a prime wintertime destination if you’re interested in cold weather activities like skiing and ice skating.
You don’t even have to visit the slopes.
Just head to the South Charleston Memorial Ice Arena!
Serving as Charleston’s primary rink, this is a destination that will let you have all kinds of fun on the ice.
Public skating hours are available almost every day, and you can also sign up for classes, lessons, and skill development sessions.
Stick and puck days are frequent.
There are even special days where you can ride “bumper cars” on the ice!
If you’re planning a winter vacation or just wondering what to do when it’s chilly in Charleston, consider a trip to the South Charleston Memorial Ice Arena.
It can offer memorable fun for all ages regardless of what the weather is like outside.
Address: 20 RHL Blvd, South Charleston, WV 25309, United States
11. Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center
The Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center is a gigantic complex that actually encompasses four separate venues: a coliseum, a convention center, a performing arts theater, and an auditorium.
As you might expect from such a diverse range of buildings, you can enjoy all kinds of entertainment on-site.
There are concerts, fairs, festivals, expos, and more.
There are also a number of local performing arts groups that use the center as a base of operations.
When you’re in the mood for a little culture, for example, you catch a show from the Charleston Ballet or the Charleston Light Opera Guild.
When you want to yell, you can catch a basketball game or a wrestling match.
If you’re wondering what to do in Charleston, one option is picking a venue where there’s tons of stuff to do.
At the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center, this means a four-in-one complex where you can enjoy everything from “The Nutcracker” to the West Virginia International Auto Show.
Address: 200 Civic Center Dr, Charleston, WV 25301, United States
12. Little Creek Golf Course
“Golf course” is a bit of a misnomer for this attraction.
While it’s definitely centered around golf, it also offers a swimming pool, restaurant, lounge, and ballroom.
It’s more of a multipurpose venue where the driving range just so happens to be the best feature!
Golf-wise, you can play on the hilly greens of the 18-hole course or just take a swing with the virtual simulators.
An equipment shop will rent you anything that you might need, including clubs and carts.
When you’ve hit your last hole in one, head back to the facility for everything from pool time to an episode of your favorite TV show in the lounge.
If you’re traveling with a large party, you might even want to rent out a building or two.
Your booking options range from bridal party suites to conference rooms connected with projectors and catering services.
The Little Creek Golf Course is a top destination in Charleston for anyone who loves the green.
To get your swing on, call them up and plan your visit.
Address: 99 Fairway Dr, South Charleston, WV 25303, United States
13. West Virginia Veterans Memorial
Somber yet stunning, the West Virginia Veterans Memorial is one of the most magnificent things to see in Charleston.
It’s a massive, monolithic structure divided into four parts to represent both the four major branches of the military and the four biggest wars of the 20th century.
The memorial is made from limestone except for its interior, which is covered in black granite to better see the names of 10,000 West Virginia soldiers and veterans.
A reflecting pool surrounds all four pieces of the monument, and statues of soldiers stand at attention in each cardinal direction.
They consist of a World War I doughboy, a World War II sailor, a Marine in Vietnam, and an aviator in Korea.
There’s no admission charge for the West Virginia Veterans Memorial, and it’s small enough that you won’t need a tour.
It’s just a beautiful thing to admire and a meaningful thing to appreciate.
It’s a tribute to everyone who has sacrificed their life for their country, so it’s a sadder kind of tourist attraction, but it can be a touching one as well.
Address: Charleston, WV 25305, United States
14. West Virginia State Museum
The oldest museum in Charleston is also the most impressive at telling its story.
Established in 1894, the West Virginia State Museum has spent more than a century preserving local art, culture, history, folklore, and more.
Visitors can take either a guided or self-guided tour with dozens of exhibitions to enjoy.
These range from simulated coal mines to educational touchscreens full of audio, video, and music.
Model replicas of settlers’ cabins offer a glimpse of what life was really like at the turn of the century; archaeological displays of fossils and minerals will show you how the earth has evolved since prehistoric times.
Did we mention that it’s free?
There’s no admission charge for folks wanting to learn more about West Virginia at its most venerable museum.
If you’re looking for budget-friendly things to do in Charleston, consider a trip to the West Virginia State Museum.
You’ll learn a lot, and it won’t cost you a dime!
Address: 1900 Kanawha Blvd E #435, Charleston, WV 25305, United States
15. GoMart Ballpark
Formerly known as the Appalachian Power Park, the GoMart Ballpark is a fun and quirky destination in Charleston.
It’s much more than just a baseball stadium.
It’s a place where you can soak up real Charleston spirit.
The dugout, for example, is known as “Rowdy Alley” for all of the heckling that takes place there.
There’s an electrical outlet behind home plate because of a local legend named “The Toast Man” who would fling pieces of bread at opposing teams while declaring, “You’re toast!”
Other amenities are just as delightful.
Are you feeling hungry?
Hit the party deck where you can enjoy the game while scarfing all-you-can-eat hot dogs.
Do you appreciate baseball history?
Check out the Hall of Fame with its facts and photos.
The GoMart Ballpark might not be the biggest or fanciest stadium in the region, but it’s a top 10 destination in Charleston for sure.
It has real character, so it’ll provide a memorable experience for adults and kids alike.
Address: 601 Morris St, Charleston, WV 25301, United States
16. Daniel Boone Park
Daniel Boone Park is a small and simple park, but it can be a great place to recharge your batteries after the stress of travel.
In fact, if you’re looking for tranquil, crowd-free tourist attractions, it might even top the list.
Nature’s bounty is on full display at the park, which borders the Kanawha River and is brimming with everything from tree groves to flower fields.
Amenities include picnic tables, boat ramps, shaded pavilions, and a long, old-fashioned fishing pier.
From grandpa with his rods and tackles to little kids with their sandy feet wading along the coast, the whole family can spread out and enjoy the great outdoors.
There are even friendly ducks to feed!
Take a breath.
Have a picnic lunch on the grass.
Watch the boats go by.
Daniel Boone Park is one of the best places to visit when you want some peace and quiet in Charleston.
Address: 2901 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, WV 25311, United States
17. Critter Dinner
Dunbar is a city located just 10 minutes outside of Charleston, and it’s a city with a very unique tradition.
It’s called the Critter Dinner, an annual celebration of any and all types of meat.
They’ve got it.
They’ve put it between two slices of bread with some mayo.
Other menu items through the years have ranged from frog legs to camel patties to squirrel skewers.
“Roadkill” is a popular category, though it’s not actual roadkill, of course; it’s just a reflection of the odd assortment of creatures being grilled up with a side of sauce.
The organizers aren’t just doing it for a love of wild game, either.
The entry fee to the dinner is a donation of canned or dry items, and all proceeds are given to the Dunbar Institute Food Pantry.
Who knew that “roadkill” could be one of Charleston’s attractions?
But the squirrel skewers shouldn’t be missed.
If you’re brave enough, bring your appetite to the Critter Dinner and see what’s being dished up.
Address: Dunbar, WV, United States
18. Charleston WV Skatepark
What would you do with an abandoned parking lot beneath a major highway bridge?
If you’re the city of Charleston, you turn it into a skatepark.
The Charleston WV Skatepark was a long-awaited venue for the skaters, skateboarders, and BMX bikers of the community.
It was the first skatepark of its kind for miles and miles, and today, it’s still the most popular.
Equipment at the park includes ramps, rails, grind ledges, roll-ins, jump boxes, and more.
It’s free and open to skaters of all ages, including tiny tots with their first kneepads and senior citizens who can still ollie with the best of them.
When you’re looking for fun things to do in Charleston, nothing beats shredding a half-pipe.
Visit the Charleston WV Skatepark and see what you’re made of in terms of mad skills.
Address: Charleston, WV 25309, United States
19. Charleston Ghost Tours
Many of Charleston’s attractions are historic ones, so it should come as no surprise that it’s a city filled with ghosts.
The good news is that you don’t have to wander frightfully in the dark all by yourself!
Instead, you can book a ghost tour.
Tours range in length and location, but the most popular include:
– A tour of the East End Historic District and the bloody history of some of its earliest pioneers
– A tour focusing on a scandalously haunted house that’s been forgotten by history
– A “Meet the Mortar Man” tour that includes a cameo from a local legend while you’re also exploring downtown Charleston and learning about its legends
The company behind the ghost tours is also responsible for hosting supernatural festivities like Paranormish, a convention bringing together the strange- and spooky-minded from all over Appalachia.
If you’ll be in town during the month of May, you won’t want to miss it!
Address: Charleston, WV, United States
20. Mountain State Distillery
Have you ever wondered about the process behind your favorite Buds?
Mountain State Distillery will show you.
Its on-site operations include fermenting, distilling, blending, bottling, and more.
Despite its range of services, it isn’t a large distillery.
In fact, its boutique-style building is part of its charm.
You can stroll right in and ask for Jeff, the owner, and he’ll personally come out of the kitchen to talk spirits with you.
He’s also generous with free samples!
Another great thing about the distillery is that it’s located downtown near many of Charleston’s tourist attractions, so after you’ve worked up a buzz, you can continue the party with a riverwalk.
Of the many cool things to do while visiting Charleston, a tour of the Mountain State Distillery is among the best.
Who doesn’t love a good booze, especially when it’s coming from a small local business?
If you decide to splurge on a bottle, you’ll be supporting the economy and having a fun, tipsy vacation experience.
Address: 800 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, WV 25301, United States
21. New River Gorge National Park & Preserve
Located in the mountains, it offers all kinds of recreational activities for outdoorsy types, particularly thrill seekers looking for their next rush.
Its most famous attraction is its whitewater rapids.
They range from class III to class V, so they’re a real challenge.
They’ll send you hurdling at top speeds around boulders as big as trees!
Rock climbing is also a popular pastime because of the park’s craggy cliffs and canyons.
Other defy-defying feats include rappelling and BASE jumping from the New River Gorge Bridge, a steel arch bridge that spans some 3,000 feet above the water.
Are you ready for an adventure?
New River Gorge National Park & Preserve offers everything from sky-high thrills to dunks underwater when the rapids get you.
You’re guaranteed to have a story or two when you finish your vacation and go back home!
Address: 162 Visitor Center Rd, Lansing, WV 25862, United States
Spanning 10 days in the summertime, FestivALL is such a happy and all-consuming occasion that you might feel like the revelries are never going to end.
It’s hard to imagine that it started as a tiny gathering dedicated to art and art outreach.
Today, it welcomes more than 30,000 visitors each year, and it’s an absolute spectacle of music, dance, theater, art, photography, costuming, and more.
Do you like shaking your groove thing?
Join the dance parties.
Do you want to encourage imagination in your little ones?
Sign them up for the children’s art fair.
Are you overwhelmed by all of the possibilities?
Just walk among the artists, musicians, and vendors until you find events and activities that catch your eye.
You don’t have to be an artist to recognize FestivALL as one of the most fun things to do in Charleston.
If you value creativity and enjoy seeing it expressed in all kinds of dazzling ways, you’re the target audience for FestivALL.
Address: 108 1/2 Capitol St #201, Charleston, WV 25301, United States
23. Holly Grove Mansion
Also known as the Holly Grove Inn, the Holly Grove Mansion is the oldest building in Charleston’s East End Historical District.
It was constructed all of the way back in 1815 and sits on the National Register of Historic Places today.
Originally part of a much larger plantation, it’s more of a solitary relic now, but it’s still worth a visit if you’ll be in East End.
The architecture is the most amazing thing about the mansion.
It’s dominated by a circular portico at the front that gives way to a two- and three-story residence at the back, and it rests on elegantly cultivated grounds that change with the seasons.
In the spring, their grasses are vividly green.
In the fall, their trees have ever-morphing foliage in dazzling colors.
You can’t currently visit the inside of the mansion, though restoration projects are always being proposed by the city of Charleston, so this might change some day!
Ultimately, if you’re a history buff thinking about what to see in Charleston, the Holly Grove Mansion can be a fun option.
It’s built on a bedrock of real West Virginia history, and it’s cool to see and even cooler to snap selfies with.
Address: 1710 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, WV 25305, United States
24. Charleston Town Center
Buying souvenirs is a must do while you’re on a vacation.
Thankfully, the Charleston Town Center has you covered for everything from hoodies to handbags.
It’s a shopping mall that covers almost one million square feet!
That makes it one of the largest enclosed shopping malls in America.
Places to visit in the mall include stores, restaurants, beauty salons, and even a museum.
The West Virginia Museum of Music is found on the second floor, and it can really teach you a thing or two about musical history.
Another noteworthy thing about the mall is its construction.
With three gleaming floors and a glass elevator to connect them, it’s quite nice in terms of architecture, so it’s a popular hangout spot even for those who aren’t in need of retail therapy.
Is your money burning a hole in your pocket?
Visit the Charleston Town Center.
When you have a million square feet to explore, you’re bound to find something that’ll make a good souvenir.
Address: 3000 Charleston Town Center, Charleston, WV 25389, United States
25. Haddad Riverfront Park
Haddad Riverfront Park is a bustling place for outdoor festivities.
Not only does it host Live on the Levee on the weekends, but its amphitheater also plays host to other acts, so you can catch everything from comedy shows to Shakespearean tragedies depending on when you visit.
It’s also located right on the Kanawha River, so if you enjoy waterfront views, there’s a near-constant passage of boats that can be quite scenic.
If you’re the more active type, consider hiking around the river yourself; the park serves as a hot spot along the Kanawha River Walk Trail.
All in all, Haddad Riverfront Park is one of the best places to go for wholesome fun in Charleston.
You can sing along to live music; you can grab a bite to eat from food trucks; you can get serene during a walk or picnic along the water.
It offers lots of entertainment options in addition to a beautiful oasis of scenery.
Address: Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, WV 25302, United States
Start Planning Your Trip To Charleston, WV
There’s no limit to the number of fun things to do in Charleston, West Virginia.
This list is only skimming the surface.
For more vacation ideas, start shaking a map and see what else falls out!