Photo source: Flickr/Ron Coggswel
Charleston is consistently voted one of the top cities in America. Winning this title year after year means Charleston always has high exceptions that no city can live up to. However, unlike other cities, Charleston lives up to and even exceeds them.
What makes Charleston so special? Is it the 19th-century style houses that look as if they have jumped off the pages of an old novel? Is it the booming food and shopping scene? Could it be the waterfront, beaches, or parks?
This year I visited Charleston for the first time to see what all the fuss was about. Before my first day there was over, I knew that the city was going to live up to the hype. For those of you eager to visit one of the best cities in the US, this guide will help you dive into everything you need to know when planning your visit to Charleston.
When to visit Charleston
One of Charleston’s massive draws is the weather – it is nice all year round. In the winter months, temperatures rarely drop below 60 degrees. During the summer, the temperatures hover in the 70’s and 80’s. The hottest month of the year is July when temperatures reach the high 80’s to low 90’s. This makes it an ideal haven for those hoping to escape a cold winter or blistering summer.
Where to stay
Historic District – Charleston has a long, glorious, and yet sometimes tragic history. The city is known as one of the cultural capitals of the American South. No area of the city embodies this more than the historic district. Staying in this area puts a lot of Charleston’s main attractions, including Waterfront Park, the Battery, King Street and Fort Sumter, right on your door step. This comes with a higher price, though, as hotels in this area can be costly.
Mt. Pleasant - Just north of the Ravenel Bridge lies the suburb of Mt. Pleasant. This area offers an appealing alternative for Charleston travelers. Relatively inexpensive when compared to the Historic District, but still in close proximity to different areas of Charleston that you definitely will want to visit.
Stay at the Beach – You can also stay near one of Charleston’s beaches. Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, and Seabrook are all nice areas of the city.
What to do when visiting Charleston
When planning your visit to Charleston, your priorities will depend on how you like to travel. Charleston has a booming food scene, so if you are a foodie, you will likely want to spend your time hopping between restaurants and trying their wonderful southern cuisine. The city has an amazing waterfront area, beaches, tall ships, and nightlife. Here are a few of the things you cannot miss when visiting Charleston.
Waterfront Park - Waterfront Park is exactly what it sounds like, although the park is set up a bit different from the traditional square-layout parks.
Waterfront Park is a thin rectangle that stretches along the waterfront for over a mile and a half. The park is beautiful, with ornate water fountains, patches of small trees, stone walkways, and grassy spaces. The park is often filled with locals and tourists alike taking in the beautiful atmosphere.
The Battery - The Battery is one of Charleston’s best-known areas where locals gather to hang out. A reinforced defensive wall has played a role in defending Charleston since the 1700’s. Today the battery is another beautiful area where tourists take carriage tours, bike rides, and lazy strolls. I fell in love with the old southern style houses, shops, and buildings in the area.
Fort Sumter - Fort Sumter played a pivotal role in the nation’s history. This is where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. Today, the fort is filled with Civil War artifacts and replicas. It is also an excellent opportunity to learn about the bloodiest war our country has ever seen.
King Street - A visit to King Street, the city’s main shopping and dining district is a must when visiting Charleston. Make sure to save some room in your suitcase for the souvenirs you will buy and leave an extra knot available on your belt for all the tasty southern food.
Charleston City Market - One of the oldest markets in the entire country and a fantastic place to shop or just look around. There are more than 300 stalls and shops, and many sell local items. The market is open every day and also offers tasty food.
Day Market Hours - Open Daily from 9:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Night Market Hours - From 6:30 - 10:30 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays running from April through December
Museum Mile - Starting at Meeting Street, you can dive into the South’s rich history by meandering along the Museum Mile. The Mile holds six museums: the Nathaniel Russell House Museum, Charleston Museum, Aiken-Rhett House, Gibbes Museum of Art, Children's Museum of the Low country, Heyward-Washington House, and Confederate Museum. While walking the mile, there are also parks and historical houses to explore. The mile will make a great day for couples or families with kids.
Relax on a Beach - Those wanting to soak in the wonderful weather of Charleston should head to one of the five beaches around the city. The most popular beach in town is Folly Beach, but the other beaches are also good options.
Charleston has a big pull on travelers. It is a city that surpasses expectations and lives up to the hype. This Charleston Guide will take you to the best areas and activates that the city has to offer.
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