Books and Burritos in West Virginia’s Capital City

After enjoying beer and hiking in Morgantown and a wild weekend rafting the Gauley River, we had another important stop to make in West Virginia: the capitol city, Charleston. (I should mention that when trying to plan things to do in Charleston, you must always specify “Charleston West Virginia,” or you’ll just get a bunch of results about Charleston South Carolina, and then you’ll be just a little sad you aren’t going there instead. Actually, sometimes that happens even when you do specify West Virginia. But I digress.)

I should mention before I get started that this post will be a tad light on pictures. That’s not because we didn’t enjoy our time in Charleston; quite the contrary! We were surprised by how much the city had to offer and how much we found to do there. Instead, it’s because we spent a good part of our time in Charleston doing this:

Taylor Books Charleston West Virginia Our Streamlined Life

After a week of fun, it was time to get caught up on some work — and we spent a good part of each day we were in Charleston in front of the computer. Unfortunately our campground, despite being just 20 min outside the city, had absolutely zero cell service — which meant no Internet for us, either. So each day we’d pack up our bags, head into town, get some work done, then wander the streets. It ended up being a pretty pleasant way to explore the city.

I should back up to give you the timeline for this trip. We headed to Charleston on Sunday evening. It was a pleasant two-ish hour drive from Fayetteville, and we arrived at our campground in Kanawha State Forest in plenty of time to get set up before dark. On Monday morning we dropped Ryan’s cousin Barry off at Charleston’s teeny-tiny airport, and set off to explore downtown.

The one piece of the trip we did manage to photograph extensively: the West Virginia state capitol building.

West Virginia Capitol Building 3 Our Streamlined Life

Constructed from 1924-1932 from buff Indiana limestone, the building’s magnificent 293- foot gold dome is five feet higher than the dome of the U.S. Capitol!

West Virginia Capitol Building 2 Our Streamlined Life

And two-thirds of the interior is marble. The building features classical styling throughout — it was absolutely gorgeous. It reminded us a lot of the Utah state capitol building in Salt Lake City.

West Virginia Capitol Building 1 Our Streamlined Life

Like I said, that’s where our photographing ended … but it’s certainly not where the fun ended! Charleston blew us away with its delicious food, awesome riverfront downtown, and welcoming atmosphere. The highlights of our stay include:

  • Taylor Books, an independent bookstore and cafe on Capitol Street in downtown. We loved Taylor Books and it’s where we ended up going for wifi (and coffee!) every day. The bookstore was terrific and had a welcoming, laid back vibe.
  • Black Sheep Burrito & Brews was so delicious that I’m not ashamed to admit we went there two days in a row. I can’t even express to you how delicious the Tempura-Fried Fresh Avocado tacos (topped with chipotle-orange mayo) were … and then there were the spicy pineapple margaritas. Perfection.
  • Haddad Riverfront Park offers gorgeous views of the Kanawha River, and some pretty terrific waterfront homes, too. (I have to admit, Charleston low prices and friendly, small-southern-city vibe had us looking up real estate listings like crazy.) It would make a great spot for running and also hosts frequent events.

Our final verdict on Charleston was that it was a great place to visit … and it seemed like it could also be a good place to live. The downtown was bustling with young professionals, and it looked like there were plenty of cool apartments over shops available, which reminded us of our darling downtown apartment in Leesburg, Virginia. And we have plenty to go back for: Ellen’s Ice Cream, Brick + Salt, and Capitol Market were all spots we didn’t get to visit (apparently we were too busy eating flights of tacos!).

Do any of our readers know and love Charleston, West Virginia? What are your must-see sights? 


I’m the oldest of 12 crazy kids and two pretty awesome parents. My love of travel developed during my early years traveling the globe as an Air Force brat. I’m a runner, a writer, and a reader, and I love cooking up good food and cozying up our camper.

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