Charleston (West Virginia)

Travel Guide North America USA Southern United States West Virginia Charleston

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Introduction

Charleston is the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of West Virginia. It is located at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha Rivers in Kanawha County. It is the county seat of Kanawha County and has about 50,000 inhabitants, though the total metropolitan area has over 300,000 inhabitants.

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Sights and Activities

  • West Virginia State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard E, ☎ +1 304 558-4839. M-Sa 9AM-7PM, Su noon-7PM. Guided tours available M-F 9AM-3:30PM. The largest state capitol dome in the country, covered in 23-karat gold leaf. The complex also contains the Culture Center, the Governor's Mansion and the Holly Grove Mansion, as well as many historical statues on the grounds.
  • The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, 300 Leon Sullivan Way, ☎ +1 304 561-3575. W-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Two floors of interactive science exhibits, an art gallery, and giant-screen films and planetarium shows in the ElectricSky domed theater. Museum $9, add Planetarium Show $4.
  • West Virginia Culture Center, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, ☎ +1 304 558-0220. M-Th 9AM-8PM, F-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su noon-6PM. Three floors of exhibition space in the West Virginia State Museum, and research materials housed in the State Archives library.
  • West Virginia Power, 601 Morris St., ☎ +1 304-344-BATS (2287). (Suite 201). The local baseball team, a Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Games played at Appalachian Power Park from April through September. Tickets are $7 for one game, up to $490 for a season pass.
  • Craik-Patton House, ☎ +1 304 925-5341. Free.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Charleston has a four-season climate lying within the northern fringes of a humid subtropical climate. Especially in winter, Charleston's average temperatures are usually warmer than the rest of the state, due to the city being west of the higher elevations. Spring is the most unpredictable season, and spring-like weather usually arrives in late March or early April. Temperatures warm up considerably in late May, with warm summer-like days. Summer is hot, with 23 days of highs at or above 32 °C, sometimes reaching 38 °C, often accompanied by high humidity. Autumn features crisp evenings that warm quickly to mild to warm afternoons. Winters are cool, with a January daily average of 1.3 °C, but with occasional temperatures below -15 °C. Extremes have ranged from -27 °C in December 1917 to 42 °C in July 1931 and August 1918.
Snowfall generally occurs from late November to early April, with the heaviest period being January and February. However, major snowstorms of more than 25 centimetres are rare. The area receives, excepting October, more than 76 mm of precipitation each month, with measurable amounts falling on more than 150 days per year. Thunderstorms are frequent during the late spring and throughout the summer, and occasionally they can be quite severe, producing the rare tornado.

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Getting There

By Plane

Yeager Airport () near Charleston has flights to/from New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Myrtle Beach, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Houston and Charlotte.

By Train

The Cardinal/Hoosier State, operated by Amtrak, travels between New York and Chicago, stopping in Charleston.

By Car

Charleston is accessible by three interstates - I-77 goes from Parkersburg in the northwest to Beckley and Bluefield in the south; I-64 goes from Huntington in the west to Beckley and Lewisburg in the southeast; and I-79 begins in Charleston and continues to Morgantown in the northeast. I-64 and I-77 run together along the West Virginia Turnpike, a toll road, from the far eastern end of Charleston to Beckley, and the Turnpike continues as I-77 to Princeton, near the state border with Virginia. However, tolls are not collected on the Turnpike in the immediate vicinity of Charleston; the nearest toll barrier is about 17 miles (27 km) south of downtown Charleston.

By Bus

Check Greyhound buses for options.

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Getting Around

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority, popularly called "KRT".

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Eat

Although it isn't exactly a mecca of cuisine, Charleston is the mecca of cuisine for West Virginia, with a variety of options catering to different tastes and budgets. One of the best things about eating here is that there are very few tourist traps, since major tourism in Charleston has not yet caught on. Unfortunately, the lack of tourism also means that the restaurants can be generic; chains like T.G.I. Friday's, Outback, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster are common.

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Sleep

  • Residence Inn by Marriott Charleston, 200 Hotel Circle, ☎ +1 304-345-4200.
  • Embassy Suites Charleston, 300 Court Street, ☎ +1 304-347-8700.
  • Charleston Marriott Town Center, 200 Lee Street East, ☎ +1 304-345-6500. A hotel in downtown Charleston offering a health club, meeting and event facilities, swimming pool and Whitewater Grille.
  • Charleston Plaza Hotel, 1010 Washington Street East, ☎ +1 304-345-9779.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 10. Last edited at 9:58 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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