Charleston, West Virginia is a small city, with a population just under 50,000, which means that no matter where you’re living or staying while visiting, nothing is too far away. There are also areas outside the city that offer easy access to everything Charleston has to offer. Here are some of the best areas to explore.
City Center / Historic District
Extending up from the Kanawha River along Capitol Street is the center of Charleston and the historic district. On the river, you’ll find the Haddad Riverfront Park, home to the Live on the Levee concert series and other family-friendly events. Along Capitol Street you can stop into Taylor Books, the best and only independent bookstore in the city, and galleries that feature local artists. City Center also has lots of bars and restaurants for a fun night out. Check out Black Sheep Burrito for a West Virginia twist on Tex-Mex, Sam’s Uptown Cafe for late-night eats, or Pies & Pints Pizzeria for, what else, beer and pizza.
Between the city center and the West Virginia State Capitol is the neighborhood called East End, where the dense cityscape gives way to a neighborhood of historic homes along the Kanawha River. You can stroll around the area and take in the beautiful architecture. The 1836 McFarland-Hubbard House and grounds are owned by the West Virginia Humanities Council, and open to the public. Although mostly residential, near and along Washington Street, you’ll find the popular Moxxee Coffee, Sullivan’s Records, plus great bars and restaurants including Bluegrass Kitchen and The Empty Glass. All the way at the east side of East End is the West Virginia State Capitol Complex with the West Virginia State Museum and capitol building.
Across the Elk River from the City Center is the West Side of Charleston, also a mostly residential area. Magic Island Park is a favorite destination for families, featuring a new splash pad, grassy areas for picnics or sports, and walking trails. The West Side also includes the Luna Park Historic District, 444 homes that are on the National Register of Historic Places. The best place to grab a bite to eat on the West Side is Dem 2 Brothers & a Grill, a venture that started with Adrian “Bay” Wright grilling at pop-up locations around town. Wright has been featured on The Food Network, and owns two restaurants and two food trucks serving up home-cooked Southern Favorites such as ribs, pulled pork, coleslaw and mac and cheese. It’s worth visiting the West Side for this food experience alone.
Charleston is surrounded by mountains, and just across the Kanawha River from the city center is South Hills. Just above the city’s train station, the quiet neighborhood evokes the relaxation of the great outdoors in the state. The mix of older and newer homes on winding streets are anchored by a shopping area that has the only gelato shop in Charleston, plus some restaurants that offer good takes on American cuisine including the casual South Hills Market & Cafe and the slightly more upscale Bridge Road Bistro.
South Charleston and Dunbar
While technically not part of the city of Charleston, South Charleston and Dunbar, West Virginia are only minutes outside the city limits, and you might not even realize you’ve left the city. In South Charleston, which is south and west from the city center, you’ll find the Adena Native American burial mound known as the Criel Mound. These earthen structures are found in the West Virginia and Ohio area, and date back to around 200 BC. South Charleston also has the only Vietnamese restaurant in the area. Ten minutes driving farther west and on the north side of the Kanawha River is Dunbar, West Virginia where you’ll find the picturesque Wine Cellar Park.