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Charleston, West Virginia

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Charleston in West Virginia.


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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. As of the 2010 census, it has a population of 51,400, and its metropolitan area 304,214. It is the county seat of Kanawha County.

The city also contains public parks, such as Cato Park and Coonskin Park, and the Kanawha State Forest, a large public state park that sustains a pool, camping sites, several biking/walking trails, picnic areas, as well as several shelters provided for recreational use.


Annual events and fairs

Charleston is home to numerous annual events and fairs that take place throughout the city, from the banks of the Kanawha River to the capitol grounds.

The West Virginia Dance Festival, held between April 25 and 30, features dance students from across the state that attend classes and workshops in ballet, jazz and modern dance. At the finale, the students perform in the West Virginia State Theatre; these are free to the public.

Beginning in 1982, Symphony Sunday, held annually usually the first weekend in June, is a full day of music, food, and family fun, culminating in a free performance by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and a fireworks display following. Throughout the day, local performing community dance and music ensembles present a series of their own selected pieces with the final performance being by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The local performing community dance and music ensembles that perform for Symphony Sunday include the Kanawha Valley Ringers, the West Virginia Kickers, the Charleston Metro Band, the West Virginia Youth Symphony, the Mountain State Brass Band, and the Kanawha Valley Community Band. The now defunct Charleston Neophonic Orchestra has also performed at the event. The event is held on the front lawn of the University of Charleston. The WVSO annually closes the event with the 1812 Overture before the fireworks display.

Twice a year, in late April and again in early November, the West Virginia International Film Festival occurs, where many domestic and international films are shown that range from "full-length feature films, shorts, documentaries, animation and student films. It is the official state film festival.

At the end of September of each year, usually the last Tuesday of September, Charleston hosts the Daily Mail Kanawha County Majorette and Band Festival for the eight public high schools in Kanawha County. The festival began in 1947 and has continued on as an annual tradition. The festival is held at the University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field in downtown Charleston. It is West Virginia's longest running music festival.

On the Saturday of Valentine's Day Weekend every year, residents gather together for the not-quite-a-5k Grumble Run 5k. The Run attracts those who aren't runners and the 5k features frequent stops for candy, conversation, ice cream, smoke breaks and general Grumbling about having to walk or jog for more than three miles. This is paired with an Anti / Pro Valentine's Day Party which is hosted annually in the evenings.

On May 6, the Kanawha Kordsmen Barbershop Chorus performs at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences. The 40-man a cappella chorus performs music in a show titled "Songs America Sings." On Memorial Day weekend, the Vandalia Gathering is held on the grounds of the state capitol. Thousands of visitors each year enjoy traditional music, art, dance, stories, crafts and food that stems from the "uniqueness of West Virginia's mountain culture." There is no fee for admission.

Since 2005 FestivALL has provided the Charleston area with cultural and artistic events beginning on June 20 (West Virginia Day) and including dance, theater, and music. FestivALL provides local artists a valuable chance to display their works and help get others interested in, and involved with, the local artistic community. Highlights include an art fair on Capitol Street and local bands playing live music at stages set up throughout downtown, as well as a wine and jazz festival on the campus of the University of Charleston featuring local and nationally known jazz artists and showcasing the products of West Virginia vineyards.

The Charleston Sternwheel Regatta, founded in 1970, is a former annual event that was held on Labor Day weekend of each year. The event had carnival style rides and attractions and live music from local and nationally known bands. It was held on the Kanawha Boulevard by Haddad Riverfront Park on the Kanawha River. The event started the Wednesday before Labor Day Weekend and ended the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend with a fireworks show on Sunday evening. Due to "political differences" between local sternwheel owners and factions of city government, sternwheel attendance declined in recent years. Once a promising regatta, rivaling Tall Stacks in Cincinnati, it was discontinued after the 2008 festival season. Charleston, home to the largest population of privately owned sternwheel vessels in the United States is the only city in the region not home to an annual river festival.

The 2008 World's Strongest Man Competition was hosted in Charleston, the hometown of Phil Pfister, the champion of the 2006 games.

The Beach Sports Network, comprising The EVP Tour and Upstate Watercraft Promotions, produced the first annual "EVP Rocks the River" from July 31-August 2, 2009. This consisted of a Volleyball tournament along side world class Watercross.

Historical structures and museums

Charleston possesses a number of older buildings which represent a variety of historical architectural styles. About fifty places in Charleston are included on the National Register of Historic Places. A segment of the East End consisting of several blocks of both Virginia and Quarrier Streets, encompassing an area of nearly a full square mile, has been officially designated as a historical neighborhood. This residential neighborhood has many houses dating from the late 19th and early 20th century as well as a few art deco style apartment buildings dating from the 1920s and early 30s.

Downtown Charleston is home to several commercial buildings that are between 80 to 115 years old, including such notable structures as the Security Building (corner of Virginia and Capitol Street), 401 Capitol Street (the former Daniel Boone Hotel), the Union Building (at the southern end of Capitol Street), the Kanawha County Courthouse, the Public Library (corner of Capitol and Quarrier Streets) and the Masonic Temple (corner of Virginia and Dickenson Street).

Also of note are several historic churches grouped closely together in a neighborhood just to the east of downtown; Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral (one of the two cathedrals of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston), First Presbyterian Church, Kanawha United Presbyterian Church, St. John's Episcopal Church, Charleston Baptist Temple, St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, and All Saints United Methodist Church.

Additional historic buildings can be found throughout the city, particularly in the broader East End, the West Side and Kanawha City. Some of these buildings include:

Avampato Discovery Museum — (Part of the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences.)
Sunrise Museum — (Now part of the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences.)
West Virginia State Museum
South Charleston Museum — (Located in South Charleston.)
St. George Orthodox Cathedral, founded in 1892.
St. Marks United Methodist Church
The Capitol Theater
Woman's Club of Charleston

Parks and outdoor attractions

University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field — Used for football, soccer, track, and festivals
Appalachian Power Park — Stadium of the West Virginia Power
Cato Park — Charleston's largest municipal park, including a golf course, Olympic-size swimming pool and picnic areas
Coonskin Park — Includes swimming pool, boathouse, clubhouse with dining facilities, tennis courts, putt putt golf, an 18-hole par 3 golf course and fishing lake. Schoenbaum Soccer Field and Amphitheatre inside the park is the home of the West Virginia Chaos soccer team
Daniel Boone Park — A 4-acre (16,000 m2) park with a boat ramp, fishing and picnic facilities
Danner Meadow Park
Kanawha State Forest — (A 9,300-acre (38 km2) forest, including 46 campsites (located in the community of Loudendale))
Little Creek Park — Used for basketball, tennis, and soapbox derbies
Magic Island — An area located at the junction of the Elk River and the Kanawha River, near Kanawha Boulevard.
Davis Park
Haddad Riverfront Park
Ruffner Park
Shawnee Park


Currently there is only one shopping mall in the city of Charleston, the Charleston Town Center. Opened in 1983, the Town Center Mall is a three-story shopping and dining facility, with 130 specialty stores. Macy's, Sears and J.C. Penney are the mall's current anchor stores. The fourth anchor pad is occupied by the new headquarters for BrickStreet Mutual Insurance Co., the private West Virginia–based workers' compensation carrier. There are also six major restaurants located on street level and 12 fast food restaurants representing the food court, located on the third floor of the mall.

There are four major shopping plazas located in Charleston, one in the Kanawha City neighborhood - The Shops at Kanawha - and three in the Southridge area, divided between Charleston and South Charleston — Southridge Centre, Dudley Farms Plaza, and The Shops at Trace Fork.

Major stores:

The Shops at Kanawha plaza, formerly The Kanawha Mall, includes Elder-Beerman and Gabriel Brothers as its anchor stores, with the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Customer Service Center as the only remaining tenant in the indoor mall section of the facility. Lowes and Kroger, while not attached to the plaza, are also an integral part of the area. Taco Bell, Applebees, Burger King, Arbys, Captain Dee's, and Cracker Barrel restaurants, as well as two bank branches and several local restaurants, round out the area.

Southridge Centre plaza includes Wal-Mart, Staples, Toys "R" Us, Gander Mountain, Ashley Home Furnishings, and Sam's Club. Southridge is also home to Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Famous Dave's BBQ, Chucky Cheese, Quaker Steak & Lube, Wendy's, Taco Bell, McDonald's, New York Steak House, and several other restaurants, along with two bank branches, Marquee Cinemas, the regional jail, and a US Postal Service regional facility.

Dudley Farms Plaza includes Kohl's, Office Max, Radio Shack, Books-A-Million, and Michaels. Logan's Roadhouse is the only restaurant that is part of the plaza itself.

The Shops at Trace Fork plaza includes Marshall's, Men's Wearhouse, PetSmart, Dick's Sporting Goods, Target, Best Buy, Lowe's, Dress Barn, and Pier 1 Imports.

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