If you are looking for a great West Virginia weekend getaway with lots to do, head to the capitol city of Charleston. Whether you have Saturday and Sunday or an extended weekend, here’s some suggestions. Believe us, there are plenty more!
Downtown Charleston has plenty of options within walking distance to many attractions and restaurants. You can get a room with a Kanawha River view across from Haddad Riverfront Park at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel or opt for a suite at Embassy Suites near the Town Center Mall (currently under renovations). The Embassy also offers Friday evening Happy Hour and a full breakfast buffet. Other downtown hotels include the Holiday Inn, Marriott and Hampton, with all being close to the Coleseum and Convention Center. If you want a cozy, more personal experience and unique furnishings, the Brass Pineapple Inn is a Bed and Breakfast close to the Capitol Complex on Virginia Street.
We arrived on Thursday evening and headed to Power Park to watch the Toast Master, Rod Blackstone, cheer on the hometown team and playfuly taunt the opposing team. When a Power Pitcher records a strikeout, Rod leads the crowd in his “You are Toast!” chant and starts tossing toast all over the place. It’s all in good fun at a minor league game. Thirsty Thursday is always a great night to be at the game with special drink prices and other surprises.
We started Friday with a quick breakfast bite at Swiftwater Café on Washington Street. Around the corner at 301 Capitol, is the wonderfully old-fashioned but updated Swiftwater General Store. Taylor Books, also on Capitol Street opens at 8 am offering gourmet coffee and pastries. After breakfast, we headed to the Cultural Center on the Capitol grounds to arrange a free tour of the Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion. Tours run on the half hour starting at 8:30 am. Afterwards, we toured the West Virginia State Museum at the Cultural Center for some West Virginia history and heritage. If the weather permits, you can get a picnic sandwich in the Capitol Cafeteria located in the basement and enjoy the grounds – or find a spot to view the Kanawha River and the University of Charleston on the other side. If you have time, make a stop at the Clay Center for the Arts and check out their museum exhibits. They have a permanent collection as well as special exhibits. Just check their website.
Happy hour in Charleston offers some unique food and drinks. Specials at The Block on Capitol Street are offered from 4 – 6 pm, 7 days a week. For seafood and drinks specials, check out the happy hour at The Tidewater Grill located in the Charleston Town Center Mall.
Every Friday night from the end of May through Labor Day there is free live music at Haddad Riverfront Park. If you have a camp chair for “Live on the Levee”, bring it. Have dinner on the river from one of the food trucks. If you’re still hungry, take a walk back down to Capitol Street to one of the many restaurants. Black Sheep Brews and Burritos is home to the local brew, Bad Shepherd… we suggest the taco trio. If you’re in the mood for pizza, Pies and Pints will satisfy. For sports viewing and pub food, there’s the Adelphia Sports Bar and Grill right next door.
If you’re in Charleston on a Saturday morning, the Capitol Market is a must. Start with coffee from Mia Cuppa with a muffin and watch the outdoor vendors stock their fresh produce and colorful plants. Stop by Charleston Bread adjacent to the Market on Capitol Street for some great baked goods. If it’s not raining, take your coffee outside and find a chair overlooking the bustling outdoor market. Back inside, you can shop for West Virginia themed gifts, kitchen items, special bottle of wine of favorite craft beer. If you’re there for lunch, there are plenty of options – sushi, seafood, sandwiches and Italian food from Soho’s or grab a ready made sandwich or salad from the Purple Onion. .Check out the variety of free live cooking and gardening demonstrations along with special events. Go to ww.capitolmarket.net.
You can find a little bit of everything when shopping in downtown Charleston. Stop at Odd Bird and get some interesting, quirky gifts. Taylor Books has a great selection of books (West Virginia and beyond), magazines, gifts and a quaint, relaxing atmosphere. Be sure to check their calendar for speakers, live music and activities. If you are looking for vintage items or antiques, check out The Consignment Shop and Stray Dog Antiques. You can find high end retail as well at Tony the Taylor – offering hand-tailored men’s clothing and women’s fashion at Ivor’s. Shopping always works up an appetite so a quick stop at the Peanut Shop for a snack or a sweet treat at Rock City Cakes is in order. Get a walk on the river west towards Magic Island and check out the pillar murals along the way. If you need a little indoor time, catch a movie at the Park Place Cinema or shop the Town Center Mall.
Nightlife in the Capitol City.
Before planning any trip to the capitol, check out the event calendar for the Clay Center and the newly renovated Charleston Civic Arena. Both venues feature top musical and theater acts and productions.
The Boulevard Tavern is a great place for live music and has an extensive beer menu. Top regional acts play around the corner at The Empty Glass. The Bluegrass Kitchen features some great acts and from time to time, a song writer’s workshop. For those who wish to drink beer and throw sharp objects, check out Axes and Ales located in the Lucky Dill Deli on Capitol Street. Sam’s Uptown Café, a self-proclaimed Charleston landmark, is proud to welcome all that enter it’s doors – and is the unofficial WVU Sports Bar (so they say). For a great cocktail and after work conversation, heal to Bar 101.
The Floralee Hark Cohen Cinema (also known as the Underground Theater) hidden away off Capitol Street offers diverse domestic and foreign language feature films. The entrance is through Taylor Books or the alley entrance off Lee Street.
We love lazy Sunday mornings, but after all the great food go for a run (or walk) along the river. You’ll have plenty of company – it’s a popular walking, running and biking trail. After breakfast, take the self-guided walking tour of The Block. The tour helps to recognize Charleston’s African American community history. All 8 stops are downtown. Get information at TheClio.com.
If your stay extends through Monday, check the Mountain Stage calendar for a Sunday evening show at the cultural center. Mountain Stage is live performance radio program. This is the 35th year for Mountain Stage, a West Virginia treasure that features world class musical talent.
If you are leaving Chas on Sunday make time for one last stop. The last stop destination is just outside the city of Charleston. Dickinson Salt Company, located in Malden has been producing gourmet salt and salt products for more than a century. They re closed on Sunday, but offer great tours Monday through Saturday. Go to www.jqsalt.com for all the details.
Also just a few miles out of town is the Coal River Kayak company. Rentals, transport and guides send you down the calm and contented Coal River. All proceeds go to various Coal River restoration and education projects. Find out all you need to know on the website at www.coalriverkayak.com.