Charleston is the state capital and government and commercial center of West Virginia. Hydrocarbon resources (coal, oil and gas) and salt and brine deposits led to industrial growth as a center for chemicals and chemical-related industries, which stretch up the Kanawha Valley to the east. There are some modest cultural amenities and a nice performing arts center downtown.
A new riverfront development plan is in the works. Some of the industrial areas are fairly gritty and can hurt air quality at times. White-water rafting on the Gawley and New rivers is the most prominent recreational feature. The economy is cyclical and current figures are fairly weak, but home prices and housing costs are attractive. Crime rates are moderately high, and air-service options are among the weakest in the country among capital cities.
Charleston lies at the junction of the Kanawha and Elk rivers in the western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The main urban and business areas have developed along the two river valleys, while some residential areas are in nearby valleys and on the surrounding deciduous-wooded hills. The climate is highly variable, particularly from mid-autumn through spring. Winters can vary greatly from one season to the next. Summer and early fall are more consistent, with warm temperatures and hazy humidity and an occasional hot spell.
Summer precipitation falls mainly as thundershowers. Most winters have two or three extended cold spells where temperatures stay below freezing. Snow falls, but only lingers on hilltops. Cool air may get trapped in the valley, creating fog and occasional smog. First freeze is mid-October, last is late April.