What's life like in Charleston, West Virginia?
June 26, 2019 3:07 PM   Subscribe

I have a job opportunity in Charleston, West Virginia. I have never been there, and would like to know if it's the kind of place my family might enjoy for a few years.

To be frank, we live in coastal Mississippi now, which is just not good in a lot of ways: bad schools, retrograde politics, hot sticky weather 7 months a year. So a different city with bad schools and retrograde politics but better weather and outdoor activities is something we'll strongly consider.

We're from Virginia, and have visited WV a couple of times but don't know it well. I know WV is a popular hiking/biking/rafting destination, but it looks to me like Charleston is not a big part of that. It's the capital, so are the schools any better than the rest of the state? Our kids will be in preschool and pre-k, but will be going to private school if we stay here.

My wife will be returning to work when our daughter is ready to start preschool, she works in healthcare, so any insight into CAMC would be appreciated. There are no big cities within a couple of hours, how is shopping? What about outdoor life in general, and farmers markets, which I miss from living in central Virginia? I'd be working at the federal courthouse, so ideas about neighborhoods or nearby towns within a 20-25 minute commute would be great. We'd probably have a rental budget of about $1500-1700.
posted by skewed to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't heard anything about schools, but I do have a dear friend who lived in the area for a year doing an internship. I remember him saying once that Charleston was more like Virginia than West Virginia, if that makes any sense.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:31 PM on June 26

From WV, but not near Charleston.
One of the two public high schools, George Washington, is the best high school in the state.
Your private school option is a good catholic school, really (there is only one no religious private school in the whole state- this is not really the South)

I only know a couple people in Charleston. They are all lawyers, randomly, seem to like it ok.
posted by sandmanwv at 3:40 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

oh hi, i'm originally from charleston, but haven't lived there for like 15 years or so, so take what i say with a grain of salt. i do visit family/friends there like twice a year, though!

it's a solid town, doesn't feel big, but doesn't feel small either. there's a good amount of big box shopping and chain restaurants. there's definitely been a movement toward younger, more local stores in the past few years, and they're trying to build up the west end of the city (neighborhood called elk city) as more of an artsy vibe. there's still a lot of rural poverty, and wv is definitely still trump country, but charleston is a slightly bluer pocket. i think appalachians as a whole are incredibly friendly, but wary of 'Big City' outsiders.

for farmer's markets, charleston has capitol market which has farm goods and other local products on the daily. outdoors-wise, there's a lot to do: various local parks in the area, hiking trails, festivals, etc. the washington post did a feature on charleston a couple years ago which still holds up.

can't speak for schools but i was raised on a kanawha county education and turned out ok so. a lot of my friends with kids live in putnam county - teays valley and hurricane are very suburb/family-friendly - and commute into charleston for work. lots of places to live in south charleston, too, and kanawha city if you don't want to live in charleston proper. your rental budget is solid, and you'll likely find something cheaper tbh. you'll both need a car, public transit isn't great. there are multiple hospitals in charleston, not just CAMC, but there are also a lot of nurses in the area. huntington is about a 45 minute drive down I-64W and has more hospitals too - plus more things to do.

one nice thing i loved about living in wv is that day trips to bigger cities like columbus, cincinnati, lexington, pittsburgh, nashville, etc. are all easily doable. and i used to love driving around the state and taking in the natural beauty - there are so many beautiful and unique things within a couple of hours drive, and lots of fun small towns like lewisburg, fayetteville, beckley, point pleasant (home of the mothman!), parkersburg, elkins, etc.

please eat for me: slaw dogs from church hot dog sales in the summer (hot dogs are A Big Thing in wv), biscuits from tudor's biscuit world, ramps on everything, the grape pizza from pies and pints, pumpkin ice cream from ellen's, root beer float from frostop in huntington, cinnamon ice cream from austin's in huntington, pimento cheese fries from secret sandwich society in fayetteville, the meatloaf sandwich from king tut's in beckley, the pepperoni roll from colasessano's in fairmont (and a small twist cone from dairy creme in fairmont).

so yeah, tl;dr, you'll be fine there for a few years. get in touch if you have any more questions.
posted by kerning at 7:57 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]

OMG, Tudor's Biscuit World! I was trying to remember that name! Really enjoyed them when I was visiting my friend. At the time, there was one right in the Charleston airport.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:53 PM on June 27

I grew up in Charleston and attended high school there, but we lived in a more rural suburb about a half hour's drive away from anything, which is easy to find around Charleston. It's a small city, sandman has it right that there's really only Charleston Catholic for private schools, or GW as the best public high school. I know many of my CC and GW peers went to a Montessori school as kids, so I know that's also available.

Ideally, I'd rent in historic east end if you can, as it's walking distance from the main things to do downtown (and the courthouse) and that is one of the best ways to experience Charleston and get to know it. It's a city with a lot of personality and artsy community that collaborates closely with locally owned business. You can walk up and down the riverbank, and the levee has many events in the warmer months. Kanawha State Forest is the closest hiking destination, but there's so much to do around the state you'll probably never exhaust it all. Climbing, kayaking,biking, you name it there's a place to do it.

For shopping you will need a car- corridor G is where most of the main big box stores were when I was there. Somehow no matter where you're going, you're about 30 minutes away from everything. Downtown Charleston has the farmer's market but I'm not sure they have close, easily accessible groceries to the south east side of I-64. Despite all the outdoorsy stuff to do, I think the closest REI is in Columbus Ohio.. But there is a cabela's and a dick's sporting goods.

I also rarely go home because it's so expensive to fly there, but flying into Yeager is definitely an experience.
posted by teslacoilswoah at 9:25 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]

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