About an hour's drive east of Huntington on Interstate 64, West Virginia's capital city is steeped in history, the arts and entertainment, making it well worth a day trip — or more. Some of Charleston's most popular attractions directly relate to its capital status. The State Capitol Complex, with its gold-leaf dome Capitol building, is an icon for Charleston and the state as a whole, and the Governor's Mansion and West Virginia State Museum always draw a crowd.
Here are some of the top things to check out in Charleston:
Culture Center and State Museum: The Culture Center includes the interactive West Virginia State Museum, archives, two libraries and the state theater. Located on the state Capitol grounds, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E. Call 304-558-0220.
Governor's Mansion: Tours are free (by reservation only) at this 30-room, Georgian revival-style home on state Capitol grounds, 1716 Kanawha Blvd. Call 304-558-4839.
Clay Center for Arts & Sciences: This multi-million dollar facility with performance and gallery spaces hosts world-class shows and is home to a family friendly science museum with rotating exhibits and hands-on activities for children. The Clay Center also houses the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the 1,883-seat Maier Foundation Performance Hall, the black-box Walker Theater, the large-format film ElectricSky Theater and more. Located at 1 Clay Square, Charleston. For information, visit www.theclaycenter.org or call 304-561-3500 or 888-241-6376.
Capitol Market: Located in a charming, restored turn-of-the-century freight station from the 1800's, this all-seasons market offers a premium selection of goods and services for the shopper, traveler and Greater Charleston community. Local farmers bring fresh produce daily. Inside the market, you'll find specialty shops, lunch options, tasty treats and indulgences, West Virginia specialties and even a fine Italian restaurant. Parking is free at the market, located minutes from the Capitol complex at 800 Smith Street. Call 304-344-1905.
Charleston Town Center: Touting itself as "one of the largest indoor shopping centers east of the Mississippi," the Town Center Mall is located in the heart of the state's capital and houses more than 130 stores. The mall has a JCPenney and Macy's in addition to a wide array of specialty stores like Bath and Body Works, bookstores and more. The address is 3000 Charleston Town Center. Call 304-345-9525 or visit www.charlestontowncenter.com.
Appalachian Power Park: Don't pass on a visit to the official ball park of the West Virginia Power, a Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Located at 601 Morris St. Call 304-344-2287.
Catch a show: The arts are alive and well in Charleston, which boasts multiple art galleries and performance venues, like the Charleston Civic Center, 200 Civic Center Drive, the Kanawha Players Theater, 309 Beauregard St., Haddad Riverfront Park, 600 Kanawha Boulevard East, and more. Charleston is home to Mountain Stage, a two-hour music radio show produced by WV Public Broadcasting and distributed worldwide by National Public Radio, along with the Charleston Ballet, The Charleston Light Opera Guild and the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Visit http://charlestonwv.com/.