Visiting Charleston - What to See and Do
(Charleston International Airport (CHS) Charleston, South Carolina, USA)
One of the American South's most gracious and genteel cities, Charleston is an absolute gem of a place. Its antebellum mansions, charming gardens and pervasive hospitality have been luring travelers to this city by the sea for more than 300 years. It has history, culture and sophistication - and it knows it.
Let a horse-drawn carriage show you the sights and attractions of the historic downtown district, or use your feet to get lost in the magic of Charleston's timeless ambience. There is world-class shopping for everything from antiques to artwork, and the dining scene is among America's finest.
Besides the wealth of history and style here, the city is well situated for outdoor fun and relaxation. The beaches of Folly Beach and Sullivan's Island are a quick drive up the coast, while 18th-century plantations and Civil War battlefields litter the countryside. Be prepared to be impressed. There just isn't another small city quite like Charleston, South Carolina.
Ten things you must do in Charleston
- The Battery epitomizes the role that this city has played in shaping America's history. Sitting at the tip of the peninsula facing the harbor and the river, it is a lovely area to explore. A shady path winds along the water boasting superb views, while there are dozens of historic markers and monuments to contemplate.
- To get a sense of what this place looked like when it was first settled in 1670, head over to the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site. This is where the original English settlers landed, and now it is a fascinating living museum attraction where park rangers dress in costume and recreate life in the 17th century. The buildings, activities and farming here is authentic. Visitors are encouraged to wander around and peek into everything, hopefully learning a thing or two.
- Cypress Gardens is the perfect representation of South Carolina's magical natural landscape. This 66-hectare / 163-acre park is filled with eerie live oaks and cypress trees dripping with grey Spanish moss. Paths wind through the swampy garden where plants, bushes and trees burst into color every spring. Plenty of native wildlife also lives here.
- A highlight of Charleston is touring one of its antebellum historic mansions. There are several to visit, including the 1818 Aiken-Rhett House that was once home to a wealthy merchant. It looks exactly as it did before the Civil War. The 1808 Nathaniel Russell House is a fine example of Federal architecture, famous for its free-flying staircase. Each of the historic homes is perfectly restored and filled with furnishings originating from the period.
- Of the many plantations that grace the countryside around Charleston, the Magnolia Plantation and its gardens is a real gem. Founded in the 1670s, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited properties in America. The grounds are a faithful representation of plantation life, and the main house is filled with a treasure trove of antiques and artwork. Wander the gardens and tour the mansion. You can easily spend half a day here.
- It will be extremely difficult to avoid the temptation of shopping in the downtown district. The main artery is King Street, where historic homes line the avenue and are now irresistible boutiques, bookstores, antique shops and cafes. A modern version of charismatic consumerism is found on Market Street's Shops at Charleston Place.
- Within a 30-minute drive of the city center are three fantastic beaches where you can wiggle your toes in golden sand, hunt for seashells and even swim in the warmer months. Folly Beach is the most developed and animated of the bunch, being ideal for families and folks looking for fun. Kiawah Island is much more upscale and pristine, while Sullivan's Island is where nature rules amongst a scene that is decidedly low-key.
- America's oldest museum is the Charleston Museum, founded in 1773. There is no better place to learn about the natural and social landscape of the Carolinas, from their birth through their colorful history. Among the star attractions is a full-size replica of the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley, sitting outside the museum.
- Claiming to be the home of American golf, Charleston is inarguably an awesome place to play a few rounds. There are 26 public and private golf courses in the immediate area, offering plenty of options for visiting golfers. One of the most memorable courses around is the Wild Dunes Resort on the Isle of Palms. Its two championship courses were designed by Tom Fazio and feature some incredibly unique obstacles and scenery.
- Eating is one of the top highlights of any visit to Charleston. This city has a deserved reputation as a culinary star among southern destinations, with a host of celebrity chefs plying their skills and dozens of 'downhome' restaurants dishing out classic southern dishes and fresh seafood. From the high-flying New American cuisine of the Anson Restaurant to the French mastery on show at the Charleston Grill, you will have your hands full trying to decide where to eat next.