Welcome to the most laid back capitol city in America! It’s funny, most people don’t consider Charleston, West Virginia a top vacation spot, but I’m here to change your mind.. In fact, most locals even questioned us when they found out we were traveling from out of town. Our conversations usually went something like this.
“Hi, what brings you in today?”
“Oh, we’re just visiting for the weekend?”
“Wait… you’re here for vacation?”
“Yep! We’ve never been so we decided to come check it out!”
And then they continued to look surprised, and we chatted about what to see and do here. The locals are so incredibly nice! I fell in love with Charleston over Labor Day weekend when I visited and have so many good things to say about it. I didn’t know what to expect coming here, but I was so pleasantly surprised.
Charleston is located on the west side of the state, not far from its borders with Ohio and Kentucky. It’s par of the Appalachia region, tucked away in beautiful mountains and foothills with rivers flowing through downtown. This is a mix of winding mountain roads and countless bridges connecting the city.
Just a few hours away, it was an easy road trip for my three day weekend and the drive through the mountains was beautiful! For anyone looking for a unique weekend getaway this fall, I highly recommend checking out Charleston, West Virginia, or “Chucktown” as the locals call it!
Here is your ultimate guide to a weekend in Charleston, West Virginia.
For the best hotel location, you can’t beat the Four Points by Sheraton. It’s right on the water at a gorgeous amphitheater, and located just a block from downtown. You are within walking distance from everything!
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Civic Center, and it was a bit cheaper and also an easy 15 minute walk from downtown. Most of the hotels are so centrally located in this little downtown that you can walk from them, which I loved!
Charleston doesn’t have many boutique hotels or AirBNB’s, and the hotels are so reasonable already that it’s your best option for loding.
Walking is a great option in this little city. You can stroll down the main streets to explore the heart of Charleston, and everything is within a few miles so its lovely to explore by foot.
It’s an easy city to drive in, and you probably won’t have any trouble finding a parking spot downtown, even on the weekend! You can also easily take an Uber for pretty cheap to get where you’re going. If you’re going to head out into the mountains, you’ll definitely need a car because you may not have cell service to call an Uber home.
If you want to explore outside of the immediate downtown, you can hop on the local bus for just $2.50 per day! That will give you unlimited rides for the entire day. You can also purchase 5-day passes for $12.00. This is great for crossing the rivers and exploring the surrounding neighborhoods.
Charleston is a hidden foodie heaven. I could have spent a week here hopping around and trying different restaurants. I didn’t have enough time to explore all of the delicious choices they have here! There are a few restaurants you won’t want to miss.
Pints & Pies
Located in the heart of downtown, Pints & Pies has an excellent location and a wide variety of beers and pizzas. I had a Cuban pork pizza with pineapple, cilantro, feta cheese and jalepenos! What more could you want? They have sidewalk seating too.
Black Sheep Burritos & Brews
This restaurant has been raved about on Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and just about every other site. You won’t want to miss their nachos as an appetizer for the table. Then, everyone should order a flock of tacos and pick between three of their unique tacos choices! I’ll be honest, the tacos were small and not stuffed full like I was expecting and the presentation was disappointing. However, the unique combinations still made it an enjoyable experience.
The Capitol Market is a renovated train depot and is a big highlight of Charleston. If you’re staying in an AirBNB with a kitchen you’ll want to come buy some produce here and cook a meal for the family. You can also purchase wines, seasonings and other goodies. But, the market has a restaurant too! SoHo’s is an Italian restaurant serving delicious and drinks!
If you’re looking for “eclectic comfort food” then look no further. This farm-to-table restaurant specializes in that classic southern food but serves it up with a modern twist. It also serves as a gallery for local artists, so you’ll love the vibe of this place.
Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream
You can’t have a weekend here without stopping into Ellen’s for some homemade ice cream. They have one of the best pecan ice creams I’ve ever had! Grab a cone, sit outside or have a photoshoot in the cute alley next door. There’s even string lights.
There is surprisingly a lot to do in this little town! Here are my top recommendations for your stay in Charleston.
Check Out the Events Schedule
All summer long they have a concert series on the river barge, and there are many festivals coming up this fall. Don’t plan your trip without checking what’s happening because you might want to plan it around a unique market or event.
This was one of my favorite spots from the entire trip. This book store is massive, with multiple rooms of books, a coffee shop, live music stage, and a free art gallery! I was able to grab a book, enjoy a coffee and listen to live musicians one afternoon and it was just lovely! I wouldn’t want to spend my day here any other way.
The Capitol Building
Charleston is West Virginia’s capitol city, so you’re going to start seeing a trend with names of streets and buildings. Checking out their capitol building is worth it if you have time. You can see the beautiful building on the river front and take free tours inside!
Capitol Street Market
This is probably the #1 recommended thing to do in Charleston, and I agree that it’s pretty neat. If I lived in Charleston I would be a frequent visitor of this market to stock up on wine and groceries each week. It’s not as much of a tourist stop because it’s a farmers market and grocer, but there is a restaurant inside you can eat at and it’s just fun to walk around it.
Travel Tip: The visitor’s center is inside the market, so stop in and grab a few brochures if you want some travel inspiration.
Stopping by the riverfront is a must. There is a nice park where they host live music in the evenings, and you can see the bridges on either side. Walk along the city’s edge and soak it in.
Taylor’s Books, Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream, the public library & many other places are located on Capitol Street. You need to park and walk along this street. Check out the boutiques, go Whiskey Tasting at Mountain State Distillery and eat at one of the delicious restaurants with sidewalk seating.
Axes & Ales
Have you ever wanted to learn how to throw an axe? Maybe axe throwing was never even on your radar, but it should be. Reserve a court for $40 and then order some Boar’s Head sandwiches and unique beers while you enjoy this awesome night out. You have to book this ahead of time and bring closed toed shoes!
Charleston has a better nightlife scene than I was expecting! It’s partly because the locals are so nice and welcoming. Plus with such a small city, it’s easy to walk from place to place and cheap to Uber to the places more out of the way. Don’t be afraid to ask locals from recommendations on where to go, because they know of the best local spots!
Head Outside the City
You’re in the mountains! Go explore it! There are many state parks around the city, and opportunities for white water rafting, kayaking and tubing. It’s so worth it to get outside the city for a day and explore all that West Virginia has to offer.