Below is an article I wrote years ago about Charleston, WV. Enjoy!
Charleston, West Virginia is an exceptional, first-class meeting facility filled with beautiful scenery, history, and southern charm, befitting the comforts and traditions of most sophisticated cities in West Virginia. “While we do not have the lights of Las Vegas, or the skyscrapers of New York City, what we do have is mountain beauty, Charleston is a walkable, picturesque city, and a safe, friendly environment where people actually smile at you and say hello and they are proud to help you,” said Patricia Bradley-Pitrolo, President/CEO of the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Charleston is a safe, affordable, family friendly city. The beauty and charm make it the ideal consideration for planners who seek the amenities and the pleasures of a majestic setting. Downtown Charleston has plenty of parking, seven hotels with 1,450 rooms, all conveniently located within walking distance of the Charleston Civic Center, Charleston Town Center Mall and more than 30 restaurants,” said Pitrolo. “Five of our downtown hotels provide meeting spaces from 1,200 to 14,600 square feet. The Charleston area has more than 3,500 sleeping rooms in 26 hotels, offering a variety of hospitality options.
Easily accessible, Yeager Airport is only eight minutes from downtown, providing competitive airfares and non-stop flights to 10 major cities. Strategically located within the Interstate systems, I-66, I-77, and I-79, Charleston, WV is positioned within driving distance of many popular destinations, including Charleston, and Myrtle Beach, SC, Nashville, TN and Washington, DC. If traveling by train is a preference, an Amtrak Station is located downtown.
Filled with the landscape of mountain beauty, Charleston offers many popular West Virginia activities, including skiing, world-class Tree Tops Zip Line Canopy Tours, Bridge Walk tours to the New River Gorge, whitewater rafting, ATV trails, golf, hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and many more adventures for all to enjoy, conveniently located within 90 minutes.
Charleston has many festivals, theaters, concerts, arts shows and all sorts of activities for every age and taste. The International Chili Cook-off was held there in 2009, welcoming people from all over the world.
September – February are considered the best months to book reasonably priced meetings. Since Charleston is a city where walking is encouraged and easy to do, there are many activities that are within walking distances of the civic center and other accommodations. The CVB prides itself in “going above and beyond” to exceed expectations where groups experience higher than expected attendance. Friendly locals go out of their to welcome guests.
“You can walk out the front door of your hotel, right into the Mall and we have a Mayor who cares about conferences and meetings. Creative solutions and personalized service are the key to meeting the individual needs of guests,” said Pitroli. “The Charleston CVB wants to make meetings a success. We can be as hands-on as needed and we stand by our reputation of excellent service at no cost to meeting planners and attendees.”
The largest meeting space is the Convention Center. The Grand Convention Hall contains 52,000 square feet of Class A exhibition space with the availability to accommodate 256 standard booths. The Coliseum offers a total of 30,000 square feet of space and seating for 13,500, thus becoming the premier venue for trade shows, conventions, concerts, sporting and other exciting attractions. The theater in the convention center has seating for 750. The talented culinary team is a perfect fit for an amazing selection of gourmet cuisine.
Shopping and dining is great in Charleston with much to offer. The Charleston Town Center Mall is one of the largest in the East. Downtown Renaissance Village has international cuisine, exclusive stores, and art galleries. The Downtown Capitol Market, an amazing open-air market filled with local and seasonal produce, flowers, specialty shops, butcher and wine shops, seasonal goods, and something for everyone. Browse around for seasonal and local specialties, West Virginia Southern cuisine, chocolates, wine and cheese. Easily accessible with free parking on all four sides of the Market, Capitol Market contains a treasure trove of merchandise, well worth the visit.
Recently completed renovations for Charleston include a $3.5 million renovation to the Haddad Riverfront Park, centrally located in the heart of the city. The CVB uses the park for many outdoor events. This popular destination has a retractable fabric canopy over the park’s seating area, a steel and fabric roof for the permanent stage and another canopy covering the pavilion that overlooks the Kanawha River. The riverfront park has an amphitheater, boat docking and benches located along the river. The park offers “Live on the Levee” concerts every Friday during the summer and the Charleston Symphony performs during the July 4th celebration.
FestivALL, an annual celebration where the city becomes “a work of art” offers sternwheeler rides and music, dance, theater and fun. Each year the popularity of FestivALL increases. In 2009, over 50,000 people attended. Statistics for 2010 are not finalized since the festival was held in June, but the steering committee is quickly making plans for 2011, scheduled for June 17 – 26, 2011.
The Summit Conference Center is a fabulous venue for Charleston. “Our business is well-known in the community and it is one of the best places to hold meetings, banquets, and parties of all kind. We have comfortable and private rooms with up-to-date audiovisual equipment available, including High Speed Internet access and videoconferencing. Our catering department serves a tantalizing array of food that can be at the facility or delivered and served at your favorite off-site location,” said Janet Simpson, Meeting Planner for the Summit Conference Center. Located in downtown Charleston, the Center has six meeting rooms, with a functional space of 5,627 square feet, a large banquet capacity suitable for 100 and the food and customer service are exceptional.
Ramada Plaza Hotel, located on Second Avenue, recently remodeled all boardrooms in 2010. Additional renovations include all new furniture and carpeting in all sleeping rooms and the addition of flat screen TV’s. “We have friendly, caring staff, easy access, free ground level parking, and we are located between two major shopping areas,” said Ann R. Blaylock, Convention Sales Manager. “The property has long-term stay accommodations available, 155 sleeping rooms, 49 non-smoking double beds, 16 smoking double beds, 14 non-smoking kings, 26 business class non-smoking kings, 10 business class non-smoking double beds, 6 suite non-smoking double beds, 10 suite non-smoking kings, 4 suite smoking kings, 8 non-smoking queen efficiency, 2 smoking queen efficiency, 5 non-smoking handicapped kings, 1 smoking handicapped king, with down comforters, duvets, and throws on the end of all beds, with coffeemaker, microwave, mini-fridge, iron/ironing board, blow dryer, morning paper, continental breakfast, plus full kitchens in suites, free wireless Internet access in all sleeping rooms, meeting rooms and wake-up calls, Pay Per View movies and we are a pet friendly hotel.”
“Charleston Civic Center is one of the most flexible facilities in the Mid-Atlantic region,” said Sharon King, Director of Sales, and Marketing. “We focus on conventions offering a facility that can handle exhibit space needs as well as a location that offers big city style, with warmth and ease of a small town. The Civic Center is located downtown within walking distance of five hotels, shopping and restaurants. We embrace the traditions of the Appalachian culture and endeavor always to build new ways of life. The Symphony, museums, shopping and theaters, featuring nationally know performances are only a few of the attractions you will find within the metro valley. The area is rich in culture and recreational amenities.”
The Civic Center Conference complex offers a total of 18 meeting rooms, over 6,500 square feet on the main level of the property. The rooms can provide an intimate atmosphere for meeting and small exhibits. Five executive parlors are located on the main level, providing 3,100 square feet of theater, classroom, or conference seating that can accommodate 900. The Little Theater, updated with new seating, stage, lighting, and curtains is located in the main complex seating 736. The building will undergo new upgrades in 2011. “We are in the process of ‘going green’ recycling as much as possible from paper products, packing and cans. The Charleston Civic Center is located two blocks from the Federal Court House and we are directly across the street from the Charleston Town Center Mall. Within three blocks are Summers and Capitol Streets, considered the main arteries for the downtown area. The Charleston Marriott, The Embassy Suites, and the Holiday Inn Express surround the setting, offering the ability to walk to any of these locations.”
“In-house catering at the Charleston Civic Center follows the philosophy of great service and cuisine,” said King. “Training and supervision of all team members is an important part of our process, ensuring that your event will make the desired impression. An extra bonus is our food costs are well below the national average.”
“During 2008 – 2009, Charleston, WV hosted 76 meetings/conventions and events with a total attendance of 73,000 and an economic impact of $38 million. Fiscal year 2009-2010 saw Charleston host 87 meetings/conventions and events with a total attendance of 116,000 and an economic impact of $39.5 million,” said Pitroli. Average group-based room rates are $115. The beauty and charm of Charleston make it an ideal location for planners seeking the amenities of a sophisticated business urban center and the pleasures of a setting so majestically beautiful and relaxing, can only be found in West Virginia.”
IF YOU GO:
Charleston, WV Convention and Visitors Bureau, http://www.charlestonwv.com/
Charleston Civic Center, http://www.charlestonwvciviccenter.com
Capitol Market, http://www.capitolmarket.net
Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority, http://www.rideonkrt.com/
Ramada Plaza Hotel, www.DiscoverCharlestonWV.com
Summit Conference Center, http://www.summitcenter.com/
Yeager Airport, http://yeagerairport.com/
West Virginia Fairs and Festivals, http://www.wvfairsandfestivals.org/site/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Barbie Perkins-Cooper is a freelance writer who loves the journey and exploration of hospitality, travel, and health. She works full-time as an editorial photojournalist and has published numerous articles and photographs for regional, health and beauty and travel publications, including the Travel Channel, Buick B Magazine and many more. She is the author of Condition of Limbo and Career Diary of a Photographer. Visit her website www.barbieperkinscooper.com.