Charleston is the largest city and the capital of West Virginia, the only state in the nation to have gained sovereignty by Presidential proclamation. The area’s first permanent settlement was Fort Lee, built by Colonel Clendenin in 1787 on present-day Brooks Street and Kanawha Boulevard, along the Kanawha River.
Those visiting Charleston during the fall are in for a treat: viewing some of the best autumn foliage in the nation. Drive the Midland Trail or explore Kanawha State Forest, located just seven miles outside of Charleston to the southwest. The 9,300-acre, pet-friendly park grooms a series of trails for hikers and bikers and manages 46 campsites.
October in Charleston is packed with festivals and family fun. Festivall features a four-day celebration with live music, dance and theater performances, while the Pumpkins in the Park Festival lets Charleston tourists get ideas for jack-o-lanterns and play old-fashioned carnival games. Prepare for a scare with HallowEast at the end of the month, when zombies walk through Charleston’s East End, or try to guess “whodunnit” at the Main Street Murder Mystery Dinner Party.
The West Virginia Culture Center downtown offers Charleston tourists interpretive info about the state Capitol Complex. The capitol building, a majestic limestone structure completed in 1932 by Cass Gilbert, is notable for its glittering golden dome that rises several feet higher than the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, D.C.
The 30-room Georgian Revival Governor’s Mansion is also located at the Capitol Complex, along with the State Museum, with exhibits focused on the West Virginia history and culture. Kids visiting Charleston can partake in the museum’s scavenger hunt through various exhibits in search of relics from the past.
For more hands-on fun, head to the Avampato Discovery Museum’s Gizmo Factory at the Clay Center, where displays are centered on creativity in physical science. Young visitors can learn about light in the Colored Shadows exhibit, play music on a laser harp, build their own roller coasters and direct a motion picture. Adults might prefer to linger over the museum’s permanent art collection, which features 800 pieces by 19th- and 20th-century American artists as well as an extensive outdoor sculpture exhibit.
The Clay Center is also Charleston’s mecca for live performances. At the Clay Center, the Maier Foundation Performance Hall and the smaller Walker Theater host dramatic productions, including many Broadway shows like Shrek the Musical and Fiddler on the Roof. The stages also welcome local and nationally recognized musicians and the renowned West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
Dining in Charleston offers tourists a full spectrum of delicious options. Grab a gourmet sandwich at 5 Corners Café on Virginia Street, break out the chopsticks at Court Street’s Kaifu Sushi Bar or spice it up at East End’s Little India. For those strolling the riverfront, taste the legendary barbecue at Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill, a small vendor stand a few blocks off the water, on the corner of Virginia Street and Central Avenue.