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Walkable city is hip, historic, welcoming to families

Jul. 09, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

"A walkable city, Charleston is also the gateway to all that is Wild and Wonderful about West Virginia. Find out why Charleston is Hip, Historic...Almost Heaven!"

These were the words I read recently in an article describing Charleston, W.Va. My family and I could not agree more. We love traveling to Charleston for a day trip or an overnight trip for an extended weekend visit. Charleston is easy to walk and navigate. Plus, it offers a wide variety of family- and couple-friendly activities.

Our favorite spot to stay is in the Embassy Suites. It is a little pricier; however, the atrium-style hotel, with the soothing sounds of a waterfall cascading down into the beautiful and sky lit lobby, offers excellent food and rooms that are spacious and quiet with a separate sitting/dining area. Additionally, for the price you pay, you get the evening manager's reception, offering a variety of appetizer/snack type foods as well as free beverages, including plenty of nonalcoholic and alcoholic choices; as well as the fabulous breakfast buffet complete with a chef on hand to prepare individual requests. You can eat in the dining area of the lobby; or, use a tray and carry your selected chow to the room.

Another advantage of Embassy Suites is that is located directly across from the Charleston Town Center, one of the largest indoor shopping centers east of the Mississippi. Additionally, it is only a couple of blocks away from Pies and Pints, one of our all-time favorite restaurants located in the center of the city's downtown shopping district. Pies and Pints offer unique and creative pizzas. If you can dream it, it is probably on their menu. The crust is handmade, and the ingredients are fresh, running the spectrum of traditional offerings, such as pepperoni and sausage, to unique combinations like black beans and cream fraiche. Pies and Pints also offers craft beers from around the world as well as crafted-in-West Virginia-brews. The vibe is hip, yet inviting to all walks of life.

Speaking of hip . . .directly beside Pies and Pints is Taylor Books. We love this store because the locally owned bookstore, in our family's opinion, is an endangered species. Walking into Taylor Books, visitors instantly feel the power and beauty a locally owned bookstore can offer. Inside this eclectic store, readers can find rare, unique and a wide assortment of magazines, books, and even art geared toward both adults and children. There is a bakery and coffee shop. Comfortable seating with wi-fi as well as a small stage for local bands to play, or for local writers or performers to participate in poetry readings can also be found within this diverse, yet somehow harmonious setting.

Directly across the street from Taylor Book store is another downtown treasure, Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream. Need I say more? Homemade ice cream, in this day and age? Yes, it is there and it is THAT good. The flavors are unlike any other I have seen an ice-cream store offer; however, they still maintain the tried and true traditional flavors as well. Malts, milkshakes, sundaes, sorbets, and sherbets -- you can get it all. Plus, we've also noticed this ice cream stand also offers tasty-sounding wraps, sandwiches and salads for the lunch crowd. One just needs to remember when visiting Ellen's, they do not accept credit.

Of course, the Charleston Civic Center is also within walking distance of Embassy Suites. This makes it quite convenient for concert viewing, especially if you know the concert will run late, and you'd rather not make the drive home after dark with tired eyes. Plus, there is no need to worry about parking! Just walk back to the hotel.

Another favorite spot for our family when visiting Charleston is the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences. When our daughter was young, this was a favorite place to take her. The Avampato Discovery Museum includes several hands-on science galleries designed with young kids in mind. Plus, for more mature kids and parents alike, there is an outstanding art gallery with permanent as well as rotating collections. Madelyn, our daughter, especially loved the ElectricSky Theater which offers planetarium shows and large-format, educational films. Additionally, I cannot tell you the number of times we have either attended a children's symphony, ballet, or concert in the Maier Performance Hall, also located in the Clay Center.

Charleston is only a short hour or so long drive from the Huntington area. It is ideal for those who need a mini-getaway with the family; or, even, much needed couple time. Similar to Huntington, Charleston possesses small town charm and a vibrant attitude toward fun!

From my home to yours, I wish you safe and happy travels.

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net.