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A city that has as much charm as it has cobblestones, shutters, and window boxes, Charleston, South Carolina, welcomes visitors looking for delicious cuisine, strong culture, and a chance to enjoy a relaxed, Lowcountry way of life.
Although it is true that Charleston is like walking through a living museum, its years of history do not get in the way of the city’s ability to constantly keep the dining, shopping, and entertainment scene fresh. Innovative at heart, there is a great blend of the old with the new, and honoring tradition while keeping the soul of the city exciting and alluring.
That being said, this is a great place for those fascinated by history. Those who have never been to Charleston should consider taking at least one history tour whether it’s by boat, carriage, or by foot. Walking tours are great because it gives you a chance to learn what’s what from a local, while you get your bearings for future explorations on your trip. Charleston is a very easy city to navigate once you’ve seen a few of the landmarks in relation to each other.
During your trip, take a stroll down King Street. Avid shoppers will feel right at home as they duck into a plethora of stores ranging from local finds to luxury goods. This is also a great place to be if you get caught in the rain–the odds of which are very likely. Walk far enough and you’ll hit the beautiful, Marion Square, home to the Charleston farmer’s market that’s held every Saturday morning. This green space was named after Francis Marion and is the former Citadel Green.
Parallel to King is Meeting Street. Lined with chic hotels full of southern hospitality and some of the best restaurants in the area, it’ll guide you to the Charleston City Market, a seemingly endless pathway through local artists and vendors that will open out onto Church Street. In this general area, you’ll be in the thick of more shopping, sweet and savory eateries, and of course, oyster bars. Head East on Queen or any other parallel streets South of it, and you’ll end up at the waterfront park–or at the very least, the pavement will give way to a beautiful view of the Charleston Harbour. Spot the spec in the distance that is Fort Sumter, or if you’d like, arrange to visit this important piece of United States history by hopping on a ferry departing from Patriots Point or Liberty Square.
Enter the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon for a brief tour that allows you to see Charleston’s history firsthand. A piece of property that has been owned by the British, United States, Confederacy, and the Charleston government, this building was a military prison during the Revolutionary War, a site where leaders debated and ratified the U.S. Constitution, post office, city hall, and eventually the museum that it is today.
Those wanting to admire the beautiful historic architecture will be delighted to find they will be totally surrounded by it. A quick search in your exact location will bring up a long list of picture-perfect Georgian-styled landmarks that are only steps away. It goes without saying that a quick jaunt down E Bay Street will be utterly worth it, as the iconic Rainbow Row will be awaiting you, as pretty as ever.
History buffs would also enjoy driving out to Sullivan’s Island to take a walk through Fort Moultrie. While out and about, plan on visiting one of the plantations open to the public, since these properties are away from downtown. Depending on which property you visit, you’ll be able to walk through gorgeous gardens, tour grand, historic homes, and take tours to learn more about the enslaved Africans that lived and worked on these properties. The Gullah’s cultural significance and identity are being carefully preserved in many sites throughout the Charleston area in addition to the efforts made by historic plantation sites and museums. The newest site opening in January 2023, The International African American Museum, will cover the Pro-Colonial era throughout history and into the modern day.
As long as you’re exploring the surrounding area, make plans for a beach day. Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, and Isle of Palm are all great locations for pristine beaches and that great, beach town vibe. A great family-friendly stop is the Charleston Aquarium. This aquarium is incredibly fascinating and does a great deal of work in sea turtle rehabilitation for the coast of South Carolina.
The absolute best time to visit Charleston is in the spring, but don’t expect to find any fabulous deals on accommodations while planning your trip. That isn’t to say that everything is expensive and hard to find–you’ll just have to think outside the box and dig a little deeper to find quality hotels and third-party rentals at decent prices. The heat and humidity are a lot less intense during spring, making outdoor activities and exploring the city a breeze, so all in all, it’s worth it.
Also keep in mind, that because Charleston has a subtropical climate, the winter isn’t a terrible time to go by any means. Not only will you save some cash, but you’ll also run into fewer crowds. If your heart is set on visiting the beach during your getaway to the Holy City, we recommend skipping the winter as it’s a little too chilly to work on your tan. If you do decide to visit in the winter, pack a coat and get ready to attend a lineup of fun festivals and events.
Summer in Charleston is as much fun as it is hot. This season is for people who are not in a rush, want maximum beach time, and aren’t afraid of rain. If heat and extreme humidity don’t bother you, spending your summer vacation in the Holy City is ideal.
Where you stay won’t necessarily dictate all of your trip’s plans, since Charleston is very walkable, parking garages and lots are scattered throughout the city, and rideshares are always available. Unless you’re planning to stay closer to one of the beaches on surrounding islands for ample days in the sun, any location that fits your budget and you feel comfortable with is a good location. Of course, you can stay directly in the thick of the French Quarter, but expect your lodging to have a higher price tag.
We’ve included a screenshot of a quick search for a getaway in February on Quest Travel Club. This is the best way to show which areas are highly sought after, and which areas you can generally get a bit of a deal on:
This is what we meant by getting creative. Unless you’re dead set on staying in a hotel or resort, make sure to check out all of your options. These are three random selections we chose from Quest Travel Club’s home rentals. These sorts of rentals aren’t always necessarily cheaper, but sometimes you’ll find accommodations that work better for your group than a basic hotel room can.