Charleston, established in 1794, is the state capital of West Virginia. With a population of 53,421 (as of 2000), Charleston is the largest city in West Virginia. It's located at the junction of Interstates 77, 79, and 64, as well as the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha Rivers, the latter of which flows prominently through the city.
Charleston is accessible by three interstates - I-77 goes from Parkersburg in the northwest to Beckley and Bluefield in the south; I-64 goes from Huntington in the west to Beckley and Lewisburg in the southeast; and I-79 begins in Charleston and continues to Morgantown in the northeast. I-64 and I-77 run together along the West Virginia Turnpike, a toll road, from the far eastern end of Charleston to Beckley, and the Turnpike continues as I-77 to Princeton, near the state border with Virginia. However, tolls are not collected on the Turnpike in the immediate vicinity of Charleston; the nearest toll barrier is about 17 miles (27 km) south of downtown Charleston.
The West Virginia State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard E, +1 304-558-4839. 9AM-7PM M-Sa, 12PM-7PM Su. Guided tours available 9AM-3:30PM M-F. The largest state capitol dome in the country, covered in 23-karat gold leaf. The complex also contains the Culture Center, the Governor's Mansion and the Holly Grove Mansion, as well as many historical statues on the grounds.
Avampato Discovery Museum, 300 Leon Sullivan Way, +1 304-561-3575, . 10AM-5PM W-Sa, 12PM-5PM Su. Two floors of interactive science exhibits, an art gallery, and giant-screen films and planetarium shows in the ElectricSky domed theater. Admission $12.50.
West Virginia Culture Center, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, +1 304-558-0220, . 9AM-8PM M-Th, 9AM-6PM F-Sa, 12PM-6PM Su. Three floors of exhibition space in the West Virginia State Museum, and research materials housed in the State Archives library.
West Virginia Power, 601 Morris Street (Suite 201), +1 304-344-BATS (2287), . The local baseball team, a Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Games played at Appalachian Power Park from April through September. Tickets are $7 for one game, up to $490 for a season pass.
Charleston is home to Kanawha State Forest. There are many scenic walking, hiking, biking, and riding trails in the state forest. There is also an outdoor pool that is open in the summer, various camp sites, a shooting range, a small lake for fishing, and stables. Hunting and fishing are allowed in-season. Picnic shelters are available throughout the park and can be rented for parties. There are led walks at various times of the year, information on which is available on the website.
There are also various parks throughout the city such as Magic Island, a nice park located at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha rivers in South Charlestion which is a favorite haunt for runners, volleyball players, and frisbee lovers. It has a walking track, sand volleyball court, and picnic areas.
A stones throw from downtown, in Charleston's South Hills, the Carriage Trail is a beautiful and historical trail that leads to former Governor William MacCorkle's hilltop mansion, the former site of the Sunrise Science Museum. At the bottom of the trail lies the burial ground of two Confederate spies executed by Union troops in 1863.
Comedy Zone Charleston, 400 2nd Ave, SW (I-64, take Montrose Exit to 2nd Ave. At the Holiday Inn & Suites Charleston West), ☎ 304-744-4641, . Friday - 8pm, Saturday 7pm and 9pm. The Comedy Zone Charleston is the longest running comedy club in West Virginia. Two of the nation's funniest comedians entertain on Friday and Saturday nights. Full food and drink menus are available during the show. Admission to weekend shows are $10. Special show rates vary.Admission: $10, full food and drink menu available.
Charleston has three newspapers published under the umbrella corporation of Charleston Newspapers, 1001 Virginia Street E, +1-800-WVA-NEWS (982-6397):
The Charleston Gazette, . Daily weekday paper, published in some form since 1873.
Sunday Gazette-Mail, . Sunday paper jointly published by the Gazette and the Daily Mail.
The city also has one university within its limits, and a second is in an unincorporated community about 8 miles (13 km) west of downtown. A two-year community college recently moved from the second university to a campus about 4 miles (6.5 km) from downtown in the separate city of South Charleston.
University of Charleston, 2300 MacCorkle Avenue SE, +1 304-357-4750 or +1 800-995-GO-UC (4682), . A private, co-educational, residential university founded in 1888, offering baccalaureate degrees in 29 fields, associate degrees in 5 fields, and master's degrees in business administration and human resource management.
West Virginia State University, WV Route 25, Institute, +1 800-987-2112 . A public coeducational university founded in 1891 for the state's African American community. Following the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, it transformed from a primarily residential black college to a predominantly commuter college with a heavily white student body, although its administration remains heavily African American to this day. "State", as the school is locally called, offers about 70 different bachelor's degrees in 20 different departments, plus master's degrees in biotechnology and media studies.
Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, 2001 Union Carbide Drive, South Charleston, +1 304-205-6600 . A public two-year college, KVCTC was founded in 1953 as a unit of State. The two-year college received separate accreditation in 2003 and was separated from State in 2008; it now offers 22 associate's degree programs, 11 certificate programs, and 12 collaborative degree programs. In 2012, KVCTC moved its main facilities from State's campus to a large office park that was originally a major R&D facility for chemical manufacturer Union Carbide, but was mostly abandoned after Union Carbide was purchased by Dow Chemical.
Charleston Town Center Mall, 3000 Charleston Town Center, +1 304-345-9525, . 10AM-9PM M-Sa, 12:30PM-6PM Su. 130 specialty stores, three major department stores, Picnic Place and specialty restaurants, and an atrium with a three-story waterfall and extensive greenery.
Southridge, about 4 miles/6.5 km southwest of downtown along US 119 (locally known as "Corridor G", its designation in the Appalachian Development Highways System), is a large auto-oriented area developed since the mid-1990s. Split almost 50-50 between Charleston and the separate city of South Charleston, it consists of four adjoining centers along Corridor G—The Shops at Trace Fork and Dudley Farms Plaza on the north side, and Southridge Center and The Terrace at Southridge Centre on the south side (note that The Terrace is not fully built out). Consists mainly of "big box" discount stores and "category killers", with the usual array of fast-food and chain restaurants.
Although it isn't exactly a mecca of cuisine, Charleston is the mecca of cuisine for West Virginia, with a variety of options catering to different tastes and budgets. One of the best things about eating here is that there are very few tourist traps, since major tourism in Charleston has not yet caught on. Unfortunately, the lack of tourism also means that the restaurants can be generic; chains like T.G.I. Friday's, Outback, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster are common. There are, however, some more unique local eateries:
Delish, Inc., 110 McFarland Street, +1 304-346-4177. 10AM-3PM M, 11AM-8PM Tu-Sa. Gourmet wraps. Credit not accepted.
Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream, 225 Capitol Street, +1 304-343-6488. The best ice cream in the city! Homemade as the name of the shop has and in various flavors, including new weekly sorbet and ice cream flavors. This shop also sells coffee and various lunch foods including soups and several vegetarian dishes.
Leonoro's Spaghetti House, 1507 Washington Street, +1 304-343-1851. 11AM-8:30PM M-Th, 11AM-9PM F, 3PM-9PM Sa.
Tidewater Grill 1060 Charleston Town Ctr +1 (304) 345-2620; Serves seafood and pasta, located at the edge of the Charleston Town Center Mall, walking distance from the downtown hotels.
Kaifu Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar 150 Court St., +1 (304) 344-0500, located opposite of the mall, walking distance from the downtown hotels.
Lola's Pizza 1038 Bridge Rd Charleston, WV 25314 (304) 343-5652, located in South Hills.
Joe Fazio's1008 Bullitt St., +1 304-344-3071. Authentic Italian food, with delicious steak and pasta options and a good wine selection. Reservations are recommended but not necessary.
On January 9, 2014, a still-undetermined amount of crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) leaked into the Elk River and subsequently entered the water system in Charleston.  Although state officials have lifted the ban on water usage, many local residents are using bottled water for drinking and a state official recently announced that trace elements of formaldehyde have been found in tap water.  Visitors might wish to bring bottled water for drinking before visiting Charleston.
Residence Inn by Marriott Charleston, 200 Hotel Circle, ☎ 304-345-4200, .
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