|The Drive: Charleston, West Virginia
And Reading Too: The seventh annual West Virginia Book Festival, Oct. 13 and 14 at the Charleston Civic Center, will include workshops, book signings and children’s activities. www.wvhumanities.org
Nestled in the Appalachians along the Kanawha River, Charleston’s vigor and culture are underrated. As the capital of West Virginia, it features the usual fall explosion of color, but the bonus here is all the other sights. While other folks “explore” the state from their car windows, intrepid visitors use their own two feet.
A walkable city, Charleston feels more like a compressed village. Start with a guided tour of the gorgeous State Capitol, one of the country’s more stunning examples of 20th century classical architecture. Matching Roman Corinthian porticos stand at the north and south entrances. Limestone heads of Greek and Roman deities flank the east and west entrances.
Capitol Street, the brick, tree-lined heart of downtown Charleston, has been recently revitalized to showcase its old-time charm. It’s an ideal place for people-watching (best spot is the intersection of Capitol and Fife streets), ice cream eating (Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream) and Internet surfing (free wireless access in most cafés).
Then hit the East End historic district to check out the 240,000-square-foot Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, home to the city’s performing arts, visual arts and sciences. Inside, your kids can play at the Gizmo Factory and explore Earth City.
Of course, don’t forget you’re in the heart of West Virginia: Regulars know Charleston is a great launching point from which to enjoy the state’s whitewater rafting, mountain climbing and fishing spots. (304) 344-5057, www.charlestonwv.com