Charleston, you beautiful city! The siren song of Charleston is its blend of history, amazing food and fun things to do. Find out all the ways this historic city in South Carolina charms visitors with its Southern hospitality. We’re spilling the tea on what locals and SC natives think are the best attractions and restaurants.
Between the beaches and the plethora of activities, restaurants, and sights in Charleston, this region is a MUST DO for all families. The numbers don’t lie: 6.9 million visitors came to the Greater Charleston Area in 2017, a 26% increase from 2016. We’re sharing our ideas on the fabulous finds in Charleston, South Carolina for dining and activities as well as how best to get around in “Chucktown.”
Thanks to Lowcountry Valet & Shuttle Company for sponsoring this post. Any chance I can share my travel tips about Charleston, I’m happy to oblige!
Things to Do in Charleston, SC
Being a South Carolina native, Charleston is embedded in my DNA. Charleston will always have a gravitational pull on me. My family once owned one of the homes on East Bay Street, so I feel a deep connection to her and everything she has to offer. And boy, is that list long! From culinary charmers to historic haunts, Charleston is steeped in Southern charm almost as much as sweet tea. Move over, Bravo TV reality series: we’ve got the deets on all the Southern charmers that will make a vacation to Charleston so wonderful.
King Street shopping
Named one of the Top 10 Shopping Streets in the United States by U.S. News and World Report, King Street blends vintage shops, upscale boutiques, and modern trendsetters all in one area. Save up your money because Charleston is a shopaholic’s dream!
Divided into 3 distinct zones, King Street has Upper King (from Calhoun Street to Spring Street), known for the design and dining options; Middle King (from Market Street to Calhoun Street) is considered the fashion district; and the antiques district can be found in Lower King (from Broad Street to Market Street).
Tops on my shopping list are Savannah Bee Company, Half-Moon Outfitters, and Candlefish. Meanwhile, my daughter’s favorites include LUSH, lululemon, and Sephora.
Charleston City Market
Housing more than 300 artisans and their wares, the Charleston City Market spans 4 blocks in downtown Charleston. One of the nation’s oldest handicrafts of African origin are the sweetgrass baskets. More than 50 local Gullah artisans trained in this amazing trade can be found at the Market. The sweetgrass baskets are woven using locally-harvested bulrush, a flexible marshgrass that thrives in the Lowcountry soil.
What better way to explore the city than in a carriage pulled by horse? Naturally, my horse-loving teen adores the horse-drawn carriage rides. What makes them special is the combination of fascinating transportation with a history lesson about the city.
The USS YORKTOWN (CV-10) was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy. It was relocated In 1975 from Bayonne, NJ to Charleston to become the centerpiece of Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. Youth groups of 10+ kids, sign up for an overnight stay onboard the historic USS Yorktown for a unique overnight camping adventure. Become one of the sailors as you sleep, eat and explore where they once lived. How cool is that?! (I actually did this back in the day with my Girls Scouts group.)
My son insisted that I include Fort Sumter on this list, and for good reason. From the moment we stepped foot on the ferry ride to Fort Sumter National Monument, we felt we were stepping back in time. After all, this was the site of the beginning of the American Civil War. Combining education AND fun? Sign me up!
There is no entrance fee for Fort Sumter. However, the fort is on an island that is only accessible by boat and there is a fee for the ferry service (adults $ 23, seniors $21, kids 4-11 are $ 15 and 3 and under are free).
Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park
Spanning the Charleston Harbor is the 8 acre Waterfront Park. The park offers fountains, green space, a walking and jogging path and a long pier. The piece de resistance is the Pineapple Fountain, a symbol of hospitality in a genteel Southern city. The fountain is flanked by water spouts that beckon both kids and hot travelers to cool off in the spraying waters. Be prepared to stay a while because the kids LOVE this play area!
This is a sentimental favorite of mine since my great aunt once owned 87 East Bay Street, one of the iconic Rainbow Row houses. I have fond memories of staying with her and exploring that beautiful house as a kid. No wonder people flock to this area with these brightly colored and diverse homes.
The idea came about in 1932 when homeowner Dorothy Porcher Legge thought that painting the homes with fresh coats of paint in a variety of tropical colors would spruce up the neighborhood. After Legge’s home received its new pink hue, other homes followed, and the rest as they say is history.
Other big draws to Charleston are the festivals and special events, including Food + Wine Festival, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Southeastern Wildlife Festival, Charleston Fashion Week, Saturday Farmer’s Market, Second Sundays on King Street, and the Cooper River Bridge Run the first weekend in April (this year April 6th).
Best Restaurants in Charleston, SC
Charleston is a foodie town! The dilemma: there are too many fabulous restaurants and not nearly enough time or room in the belly. So we’ve come up with a short list of the best foodie finds in Charleston:
For Charleston fine dining:
- Husk-locally sourced and Southern inspired dishes taken up a notch.
- Halls Chophouse-family steakhouse known to knock it out of the park for special occasions.
- FIG-the name stands for Flavor, Ingredients, and Grandeur and is the creation of Mike Lata, renowned chef.
- The Obstinate Daughter-Sullivan’s Island star with inventive menu influenced by Italian, French, and Spanish cuisine.
- McCrady’s-according to McCrady’s executive chef, menu is “lowcountry mixed with a traditional tasting menu.”
- 82 Queen-French Quarter grande dame featuring Lowcountry cuisine.
- Magnolias-upscale Southern cuisine like Shrimp and Grits to die for.
- Slightly North of Broad-eclectic bistro with the moniker SNOB.
- Hominy Grill-neighborhood restaurant serving up dishes like the “Charleston Nasty”-biscuit, fried chicken breast, cheese, and sausage gravy.
- Poogan’s Porch-Victorian home with down home country cooking.
- Bowen’s Island Restaurant-serving simple, excellent seafood like oysters and Frogmore Stew since 1946 (near Folly Beach).
- 167 Raw-hip seafood counter/raw bar featuring lobster rolls, oysters, and rose.
- Fleet Landing-casual waterfront dining with Southern seafood favorites.
- The Ordinary-former bank now turned seafood hall and oyster bar that’s a shellfish lovers mecca.
- Leon’s Oyster Shop-“We do fried chicken, oysters, lots of kick ass salads, cheap beer, soft serve, rosé on tap, frozen G&T’s, tons of grower champagne, and decent cocktails – all in an old garage.” Nuff said!
Other Charleston Charmers:
- goat.sheep.cow., north-European wine/cheese bistro.
- Butcher & Bee-elevated lunch fare featuring fine dining food sandwiched between bread.
- Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit-serves a variety of hot biscuits, pimento cheese sandwiches, and other treats for breakfast, lunch, and late night treats.
- Xiao Bao Biscuit-converted gas station serving trendy dishes from China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
- Melfi’s-a modern spin on classic Italian restaurant with fresh pasta, salads, larger plates, and thin crust pizza.
The Charleston Area Beaches Are Calling
From Folly Beach to Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, Kiawah and Seabrook Islands, Charleston has beaches to belove.
The Charleston area beaches have been my place to recharge and reconnect with what is really important. Some of my most formative memories are on Kiawah Island biking and exploring and savoring the beauty and majesty of the ocean.
Fast forward to pre-kids, and Sullivan’s Island became our go-to spot for adults and our dogs to kick back and relax! Nowadays, you can find us at Wild Dunes (on the Isle of Palms) spinning around the island on my parents’ golf cart.
Getting Around In Charleston, SC
If arriving via Charleston International Airport, Lowcountry Valet & Shuttle Company would be an excellent choice for car service. LV+SC is also an excellent option for groups traveling to the area together who would like to all be in one vehicle.
Even if you do have a car, parking in Charleston can be a bugaboo! So instead of worrying about feeding a parking meter all day or circling forever to find a garage, I suggest Lowcountry Valet and Shuttle Company especially if staying out late or if alcohol will be consumed. Makes for a perfect special occasion surprise and takes a vacation to the next level.
What sets Lowcountry Valet apart is its amazing fleet of new and vintage vehicles. Here’s a sampling of their fleet vehicles:
MODERN, TRADITIONAL AND CLASSY
- 2016 BMW 740Ld Two passenger fun with focus on elegance and comfort.
- 2017 Platinum Cadillac Escalade EXT With room for up to six passengers, the Escalade offers roominess, luxury and safety.
- 2016 Chrysler 300 Limousine 10-passenger Chrysler 300 stretch limo exudes class, comfort and luxury.
FOR LARGER GROUPS
- Cadillac Escalade Limousine King-size, 14-passenger limo.
- Executive Limo Coach 25 passenger limo bus, great for larger gathering of people.
- 2017 Mercedes Sprinter This is the new standard for small group transportation. With standing room inside, bucket seating and room for 14 passengers, takes group transportation to the next level.
- Executive Coach Buses Starting at 32 passengers and going up to 54 passenger, these are the best for larger groups to ride in a modern coach bus. Enjoy amenities like reclining bucket seats, reading lights, flatscreen TVs and more in these lavish buses.
- Two-Passenger Vehicles These areClassic cars from the 1930s-1950s and make a great surprise with WOW factor. From classic film star vehicle like the 1957 Bentley or playful whimsy in the VW bus, there’s a style for everyone!
- More Vintage Vehicles Fit groups up to 60 in fully restored vintage buses.
So I hope this has inspired vacations plans to Charleston or at least adding it to your bucket list. Share with me where you decide to eat and play..I’d love to add to my list, too!
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