Written by: Rishon Hanners
Photos used: courtesy of Explore Charleston
Charleston is a vacation and tourist destination for beach bound folks, Old South romantics, and history buffs alike. The city is bordered by scenic coastlines and waterways, boundless in fantastic culinary fare, and bursting with colonial era architecture. From gorgeous gardens and endless shopping to eerie ghost tours, Charleston has something to satisfy every traveler and, even better, every member of the family.
Take a trip to the Beach
Folly Beach is a 6-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline located less than 15 miles from downtown Charleston. The perfect day trip to escape the busy city scene and find yourself relaxing in the Southern sun or fishing off the pier. The nearby beach bars and restaurants have their own reputation and serve up a variety of local hits: tacos, cocktails, and cold beers.
Another beautiful local beach located by the Isle of Palms at the mouth of Charleston Harbor is Sullivan’s Island Beach. A public beach where visitors can relax, swim, and even surf while taking in the scenic coastline. A great many restaurants serving up local seafood, Caribbean vibes, and boozy libations, shops, and even vacation rentals make it a great coastal escape from the city.
Food Tour, anyone?
Charleston is considered one of the top culinary cities in the United States and it’s only fair to take advantage of being in such a food-rich destination. Many of the restaurants are renowned for Lowcountry Southern fare, but Charleston has a rich and unique history of food influences. For an immersive experience in the food scene, it’s worth it to plan a couple hours up to a half day and go on a food tour, offered by various companies and guides around the city. A few of the popular tours in the city include Charleston Culinary Tours, Undiscovered Charleston, and Secret Food Tours Charleston.
Let’s go Shopping
Take a trip down to Charleston City Market for some of the best shopping in the city and a taste of Old South charm and history. The market is said to be one of the oldest public city markets in the country and has been a bustling scene since the 1800s. Stalls in the market are full of souvenirs, collectibles, locally made goodies, art, artisan crafted jewelry, leather, and clothes attracting tourists and locals alike. Local African American artisans called Gullah or “basket ladies” are expert sweetgrass weavers, an art form that has been passed down for centuries originating in West Africa. It’s
easy to spend an entire day at the City Market. Even better, there are plenty of delicious eateries, making it one of the most immersive activities in town.
Don’t Get Spooked
For a city with centuries of deep and dark histories there is no surprise that Charleston is home to some super spooky and supernatural stories. Also called the “Holy City,” Charleston was founded in 1670, has been home to two wars and numerous battles, it is no surprise that it is considered one the most haunted cities in the nation. If this feels right up your alley or sends chills down your spine then a ghost tour might be the perfect activity to reconcile your unrest. Take a tour of a haunted graveyard after hours with Ghosts of Charleston Night-Time Walking Tour and get to hear tales of some of the most haunted spots in the city. Haunted Evening Horse and Carriage Tour has all the excitement but without the walking, and who doesn’t want to ride around town in a horse-drawn carriage while seeing the most haunted locations in Charleston? A super fun, not scary, time which makes it perfect for the family. There are many more spooky tours to choose from, it’s just a matter of deciding which one feels right for you.
A Walk at Waterfront Park and The Battery
Built in 1990, Waterfront Park has become well-loved by visitors and locals for its shaded pathways and iconic views of Cooper River and Charleston Harbor. It is most well-known for the Pineapple fountain, attracting photo taking goers, and those wanting to dip a toe into the cool waters, especially the kids. Waterfront Park is beautiful during the day, but is also particularly lovely during sunset into the night, when the streetlights and fountain light up the scene, creating a peaceful and romantic experience.
The Battery is located less than a mile from Waterfront Park making it the ideal tangent visiting experience, especially if you’re on foot. This historic sea-bearing wall on the southern point of the city overlooks Charleston Harbor and is right across the street from Rainbow Row, an Old South colonial-style row of 13 vividly painted homes. Selfie takers and Instagrammers, lovers of Georgian-era architecture, and enthusiasts of unique history will thoroughly enjoy exploring this part of the city’s one-of-a-kind story.
A Little Bit of Nature, Please
Charleston has no shortage of natural beauty and one of the most sought out landmarks is located on Johns Island. The Angel Oak is said to be one of the most breathtaking trees on the planet and the largest living oak tree on the East Coast dating back 400-500 years. The canopy of the Angel Oak shades around 19,000 square feet and truly gives off an ethereal presence with its massive size and impressive history.
Another stop on the garden tour is Middleton Place. Well-known for its history as a plantation, it is now a museum rich with the history of the people who dwelled on the property, and is the oldest landscaped garden in the United States. Covered in a plethora of gorgeous spring and summer blooms, from azaleas to magnolias, it is said to be modeled after traditional European gardens. Spend part of the day strolling the grounds and visiting the museums, then settle in at the restaurant on the property for a Lowcountry lunch or dinner.
Magnolia Plantation and Garden is a more laid back, romantic style garden featuring spring blooms and year-round wildlife. A perfect place to bring the kiddos, visitors can observe herons, turtles, and even alligators in the Audubon Swamp Garden, see local birds in the Waterfowl refuge, and get interactive at the Wildlife Center. For the more historically focused visitors, the old plantation house and the cabins on the property have been well-preserved and remind guests of a very dark time in the region’s history. Guided tours are included with the cost of admission.
No matter what you decide to do during your time in Charleston, whether a day, weekend, or weeklong stay, hitting at least one of these highlighted things to do will definitely give you a beautiful taste of the city and leave you wanting more.