Located in the center of South Carolina's coastline, Charleston is a welcoming waterfront community with a rich history. It boasts wonderfully-preserved architecture and is consistently voted one of the most beautiful cities in America. Take a step back in time, and embrace the well-mannered atmosphere and charming surroundings.
The city has a vast collection of landmarks with historical significance, offering visitors a sense of many pivotal moments in the development of the United States. The Fort Sumter National Monument gives visitors a chance to view where the first shots were fired during the Civil War.
To get an inside glimpse into antebellum life, a must-visit attraction is the Aiken-Rhett House Museum. Originally constructed in the early 1800s, this house has been completely preserved. It is a fascinating journey through a mansion complete with antiques, grand living quarters and stables.
Visitors love to stroll by the stately buildings or take a carriage ride past gorgeous mansions lined with magnolia-filled gardens. One of the most popular places to visit is the Battery. This picturesque neighborhood houses a row of Southern-styled mansions with views of the Charleston Harbor.
The Magnolia Plantation & Garden is ideal for nature lovers. The wildlife is amazing and includes otters, turtles and alligators. The petting zoo is a great place for small children, and the horticulture maze is an interesting challenge.
Charleston houses five distinct beach towns. They are great places to relax and enjoy the sun, sand and surf, along with a golf course. Kiawah Island holds miles of pure beach sand and marshland. The Isle of Palms is a family community with great sand, a marina and golfing opportunities.
Folly Beach, or "Edge of Americas," is a short distance from downtown, yet is one of the most relaxing spots in the area. Seabrook Island is another space filled with natural beauty and a laidback atmosphere. Sullivan's Island is extremely charming and offers an eclectic mixture of beach activity and historical sites: it was the site of both a Revolutionary War battle and an Edgar Allan Poe story.
Key Street is the place to head for the best Charleston shopping, but various districts offer top fashion and antiques. You can spend the day perusing the art galleries and quaint shops to discover special treasures. Antique lovers must visit George C. Birlant & Company, one of the oldest establishments in the area. To buy the most authentic souvenirs, visit the City Market to purchase sweet-grass baskets handcrafted by local artisans.
If you're looking to enjoy some down-home Southern cuisine, you’ve come to the right place. Across Charleston there are barbecue parlors, seafood houses and more upscale options. McCrady's has been a renowned downtown eatery for decades, elegantly serving the finest local foods, and boasting an award-winning wine cellar. Save room for dessert and a drink at Kaminsky's Café, which offers numerous coffees, spirits and pastries.
For an ultra-cozy experience, try the deluxe Charleston hotels in the Historic District, or the upscale boutique hotels downtown, where rates average about $300 per night. Most of the lodgings are within walking distance to the most popular attractions, and the opulence is palpable. However, Charleston has something for everyone, as the budget traveler will find less expensive chain hotels near Meeting Street. Rates are often under $100.
Charleston constantly keeps things interesting with various lively events and festivals. During May and June, the city hosts the Spoleto Festival USA. This performing-arts event showcases emerging talent and distinguished artists from around the world. Fall is the time for various food events, like the Charleston Restaurant Week and the Music and Food Festival. In December, the Christmas Special is a favorite. This two-hour variety show provides excellent family entertainment.
Spring is the best season to visit Charleston. Temperatures are mild, and foliage is beginning to bloom. However, hotel rates are at their highest. Summer temperatures rise into the 90s but still attract beach lovers. Winter temperatures are cooler but remain mild. Hotel rates are low, so it may be an ideal holiday getaway destination.