Explore, Dream, Discover – Charleston, West Virginia

Charleston West Virginia

How long have you lived here and where are you from? 

My entire life I’ve lived in Charleston, West Virginia. Not technically Charleston, but in a suburb of the city: Dunbar. We are only a fifteen minute drive from downtown. Recently a friend asked if I like living here. We were discussing different cities she had lived in. I told her that I loved it because no matter where I go, it is home. I’ve lived here my entire life, for 35 years. It is coal country here in West Virginia, even in the big city. You can see the coal trains run through on the outskirts of town; reminding you of the mines just a few hours away in the hills of the Appalachian mountains. 

What is it like in Winter?

Charleston Street. Erica Johnson Photography

My city is beautiful in the winter. The trees are bare of leaves, the windows and shops are all decorated for Christmas, and if we’re lucky, we get some snow. Because we live in what is called the Kanawha Valley (pronounced Ku-naw) the snow is sporadic at best. The city sparkles in the winter at night, but during the day it is cold and bare. The people hurry along the streets dressed in boots and coats and hats. The best time is when it snows. The sidewalks and streets are usually cleared with the snowplows, but the white lingers on window sills. Sometimes the streets are black with the touch of red and orange leaves left over from fall. 

Erica Johnson Photography

What are your favorite places?

Some of my favorite places are so familiar I forget they are so wonderful. One of my family’s favorite places is downtown on Capitol Street. There are lots of fun restaurants and shops. Most of the shops are locally owned and have an eclectic feel. We love Taylor Books, which is across the street from the best place to eat ice-cream. 

Taylor Books. Erica Johnson Photography

If you visit Charleston, you will find a lot of chain restaurants, bookstores, and shops. But the best part of living in a place for a long time is learning the local places. And Ellen’s is a favorite of everyone’s! It provides easy-going, counter-served, high-quality ice-cream, sandwiches, and wraps. There are seats and chairs for children with coloring supplies. Instead of lots of tables, they have couches and it feels like walking into a living room. With all-natural, high-quality ingredients and a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for more than 15 years, Ellen’s ice-cream serves up the best treats! My favorite is the homemade waffle cone with peanut-butter, chocolate ice-cream. 

Another family tradition we have is to eat at First Watch twice a month for breakfast. Serving up homemade waffles, pancakes, and fresh fruit crepes, everyone in our family loves eating there. The waitresses and staff all know us and our crazy kids because we’ve been going there for over five years. We even order things that aren’t on the menu. Although Charleston is a large town, it has a small town feel. 

Charleston Library. Erica Johnson Photography

What are your favorite memories of the city?

One of my favorite memories as a child, was going to the big downtown library. We had a small library in our town, but my mom would bring myself and my three other siblings to go to the main library every once in awhile. It was such an adventure. We’d park on the street, feed the parking meter with the spare change, and walk down the sidewalk to the main entrance.

As an avid reader, I loved all of the books, but the best thing I remember is there was an entire floor of the building just for kids. A whole floor full of books just for kids! It was a magical place. The building is still there, old and majestic. There is talk about re-doing the old library, but I hope they keep the structure and the look the same. It holds such wonderful memories for me as a child.

Another great childhood memory was riding the Trolley. One day my mom and sisters and brother and I climbed up on the bus and rode the familiar streets of Charleston. Although we had driven these streets, it was like seeing a brand new city as I felt the wind in my hair and heard the man ring the trolley bell. 

Charleston Trolley. Erica Johnson Photography

What would you miss if you moved away?

Next year our family will be embarking on a wonderful adventure to move to Central America. For the first time in my entire life I won’t be living in Charleston and the thought almost makes me sick with homesickness even now. I’ll miss so much. I’ll miss the change in seasons, and how each season reveals a beautiful  aspect of life. I’ll miss the familiar faces of people we know. I’ll miss the streets and their names like Summers and Randoph. I’ll miss the joys of trying out a new restaturant or coffee shop when it opens.

What are the people like?

Many of the people of Charleston are just plain friendly. Everyone smiles or nods as we pass each other on the streets. Men hold the doors for women and children.  The people are good, good people. Ask anyone for directions, they will immediately stop in the street, or pause while walking their dog to tell you how to get there. You might get directions like, “Turn at the Go-Mart” but you will find your destination. 

Just a short distance away 

Just a short distance away are various state parks and lots of outdoor activities. Kanawha State Forest is right in the middle of Charleston and has acres of land for fishing and camping. We love to visit there and take hikes on the various paths winding in and out of the forest. Just an hour away you can find a variety of outdoor activities like White Water Rafting, Hiking, Camping, and Fishing. One of the highest bridges in the United States is located about an hour away from Charleston. The New River Bridge hosts the annual “Bridge Day” where the bridge closes and people bungee cord jump off of the bridge, which is a staggering 876 feet high and over 3,000 feet long. All year around you can walk underneath the bridge on the “catwalk” and see the gorgeous view of the New River below. 

What has been the best discovery about your city?

The best thing about my city, for me, is that it feels like home. I don’t think it is just because I’ve lived here for 35 years, I think it is the people and the familiar places. The library, Ellen’s, and even Taylor Books (a local book store) look exactly the same now that they did 25 years ago. The shops have changed, and the landscape of the city has changed, but the people and the atmosphere hasn’t changed. If you visit, I hope you will feel like it is coming home. 

Sarah E. Frazer writes and lives in a brick house at the end of Thomas Road with her husband, five kids, a cat, a dog, and five chickens. Motherhood is her calling but her passion is to inspire focus and encourage deep-rooted Bible study for the busy mom. Life is full of seasons, but every season can be made more peaceful when time is spent in God’s word. Join Sarah on her favorite social media space: Instagram. Or you can find her on her blog, www.sarahefrazer.com

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.