Where do I begin? There is so much to love about this beautiful city and its surrounding area. Charleston has been voted the “friendliest city” in the USA since 2014 and possibly even before. When you visit you will will walk away truly understanding what southern hospitality really means.
Charleston has something for everyone of all ages: history, architecture, beaches, food, and culture. Let’s begin with my favorite FREE things to do in and around Charleston. While downtown, jump on the CARTA DASH Trolley, a free trolley and stay on for the entire trip, you can see a lot of the city as well as get on and off at your leisure.
Waterfront Park – The Waterfront Park has two fountains that attract the young and old. One fountain represents southern hospitality – it is the Pineapple Fountain and the other is a ground level fountain where children run and play in the flowing waters. Beyond the children’s fountain is a wooden dock that extends over the water’s edge and provides a spectacular view of the Ravenel Bridge. Along the dock’s path you will find porch swings sheltered from the sun. Such a lovely place to stroll and relax. Find an empty swing and sit awhile.
The Battery – The battery is a defensive seawall flanked by beautiful mansions and a lovely park. There are grand houses that are a must see at Battery Park.
Charleston City Market – Established in the 1790’s, the market stretches for four city blocks. Local vendor’s sell souvenirs and other items. You will everything from the famous Gullah sweetgrass baskets to jewelry. Local artist display and sell their artwork – pottery, paintings, carvings and everything imaginable. This is a great place to pick up a gift for someone at home or a souvenir to remind you of your trip to this fabulous city.
Rainbow Row – Rainbow row is the name of a series of thirteen colorful historic houses in Charleston. The name Rainbow Row was coined after the pastel colors the Georgian houses were painted when they were restored in the 1930’s and 40;s.
Angel Oak Tree – The Angel Oak Tree is an Southern live oak located in Angel Oak Park on John’s Island. The tree is estimated to be 400-500 years old. It stands over 66 feet tall, measures 28 feet in circumference and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. It is truly the largest tree I have even seen, with one branch alone spanning over 187 feet.
Folly Beach – Folly Beach is a city on Folly Island, just outside of Charleston. You can enjoy the city shops and restaurants or walk and bask in the sun on the beautiful beach. Folly Beach is referred to by the locals as the “edge of America”. At the end of Folly Beach you can spot the Morris Island Lighthouse, which is now a historical structure. Check the Folly Beach tide schedule and be sure to stroll the beach one hour before low tide and one hour after low tide. You will find an abundance of various seashells and take a collection home.
There is so much to see and do that if you have limited time you might want to be selective about where you spend your money and your time. You can always do a little research online but here are some of my recommendations:
Take a Carriage Tour – Take a horse drawn carriage tour of Charleston”s historic district. There are several tour companies offering daytime tours. The ride is approximately 1 hour and your tour guide will point out historical sites, explain the architecture of the time and many of the customs and traditions. You will see and learn so much on this one hour relaxing tour.
Visit a Plantation – You might choose to visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Boone Hall Plantation or Drayton Hall. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a historic house with gardens located on the Ashley River. It is one of the oldest plantations in the South. The plantation dates to 1676. Historic Drayton Hall was built in 1738. Boone Hall Plantation is one of America’s oldest working plantations. At Boone Hall you can experience the Avenue of Oaks which was originally planted in 1743.
Explore Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum – Patriot’s Point is the home of the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier. In addition to the USS Yorktown you will find three other Navy ships, historic aircraft, the Vietnam Experience, the Cold War Memorial and so much more.
Experience the Coastal Waters – I highly recommend a trip on the water surrounding Charleston. If your loving fishing, consider a half day charter if fishing isn’t your thing, then just spend a half day boating and exploring scenic Charleston waterways.
During our trips we have discovered several great but less expensive dining favorites. You can experience some of the most amazing food in Charleston, but like any resort city you will pay the price. Let’s just focus on good food at a great price.
Old Towne Grill and Seafood – 229 King St, Charleston, SC Great food, great portions and great prices. Old Towne is our go to place every time we are in Charleston. We love the Greek Chicken, steaks and gyros. Every dinner comes with an amazing Creek salad and lemon rich chicken soup – so good. You can’t go wrong with what ever you select.
Surf Bar – 103 W. Cooper Ave., Folly Beach. A fun little beach bar with great food. We always sit outside on the deck and we recommend the Philly Cheese Steak or Chicken Philly Cheese Steak and of course the french fries. Oh my goodness the perfect beach food. Don’t expect to have lunch here unless it is Saturday or Sunday. Monday – Friday they don’t open until 4pm.
Charleston Sports Pub – There are several locations, two of our go to locations are: 9730 Dorchester Rd, Summerville, SC – this one because its close to our house and the other is at 1124 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. We always go on Monday nights, half price hamburgers. Their burgers are amazing and served with french fries. I’m telling you this is a great $5 meal. We also love their friend mushroom appetizer.
Poogan’s Smokehouse – 188 East Bay St, Charleston, SC. True southern bar-b-que and sides. Pulled pork, pork belly, sausage and ribs served with slaw, chips, collard greens and cornbread. One meal is big enough for two. .
California Dreaming – 1 Ashley Point Dr, Charleston, SC. California Dreaming sits on the edge of the water facing the Charleston Marina, a beautiful site. Make sure you get a table by the window and perhaps you will see a dauphin family swim past. I always and yes I mean always get the California Dreaming Salad, it large and nothing else is needed. This salad is loaded with ham, turkey and cheese, tossed with almonds and the best honey mustard and hot bacon dressing, making sure to get the house dressing, its a must. We also enjoy the baked potato soup and they make the best fried chicken strips ever. Enjoy the view, relax with a drink and savor the flavors.
Broken Egg – 99 S Market St, Charleston, SC. If your looking for breakfast a true southern breakfast awaits you at Broken Egg. It’s located on Market Street which is where you will also find Charleston City Market. Plan brunch on Sunday and then tour the market for a gift for someone back home. So many choices: Chicken and Waffles, Blackberry Stuffed French Toast, Lemon Blueberry Goat Cheese Pancakes, or Biscuits and Gravy – my mouth is watering. Make sure to get a mimosa with brunch and do it right.
There is so much more to see and do but remember to find time to just soak up the sun and splash in the waves. Enjoy your trip to Charleston, I can guarantee your first wont be your last.