There’s a reason why Charleston, South Carolina was voted the friendliest city in America. With all the food, attractions and culture which the Holy City has to offer, it’s easy for the locals to be hospitable to guests.
But things can get a little daunting when visiting a place for the first time. Charleston is a relatively small city – home to just 130,000 people – but there are still plenty of things to do. Whether you’re a native looking to further explore the area or a tourist in town for a couple of days, there are plenty of things to see and places to visit.
Few places in the South hold as much historical significance as Fort Sumter. The sea fort was built in 1811 as part of the planned United States seacoast defence. 42 forts were constructed during the period but few are as well-known as Sumter.
On April 12, 1861, Confederate artillery opened fire on a Union garrison, thus beginning the American Civil War. Several battles took place at the fort over the course of the war before the American flag was raised in 1865.
Today, the Fort Sumter National Monument stands in its place as a centre for visitors to explore the island’s colourful past. Head to the National Park Service website for more information.
One thing Charleston is known for is its rich food culture. It’s a seafood-heavy diet so don’t be surprised to see more than the occasional fried oyster on your journey through the city’s eateries. For classic Southern dishes like biscuits, gravy, fried chicken and grits, head over to Hominy Grill or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try the gator tail or deep-fried shark at Roadside Seafood.
For the more seasoned eaters, there are plenty of events to sink your teeth into. Bulldog Tours offers a ‘Savor The Flavors’ food walking tour of the city. On the two-and-a-half eating epic, you’ll experience almost everything the city’s restaurants have to offer. Failing that, time your visit with the legendary Charleston Food & Wine Festival which takes place each spring.
Historic Houses & Gardens
Charleston is known for its areas of wonderful natural beauty and nowhere is that better exemplified than in Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. The 464-acre site dates back to 1676 making it one of the oldest plantations in the South.
There is, of course, a dark history in a place like this but today, Magnolia Plantation welcomes thousands of visitors into its beautiful home and gardens. There are guided tours available for both the house and the various gardens dotted around the site. Just be prepared to book in advance.
For fans of the wonderful architecture on display in the city, there are a handful of beautiful historic houses. Nathaniel Russell House, Drayton Hall, and the Aiken-Rhett House are all worth a visit.
If a day in gardens and country houses doesn’t appeal to you, how about a trip to a casino? An infographic published by Betway Casino earlier this year found that, Las Vegas has spawned the most famous casino acts in history helping the economy and artists earn millions - though let's not forget about less known places in the states. Gambling may be illegal in the city but don’t let that stop you. Big M Casino operates two large cruise ships which host daily tours a few miles off the South Carolina coast.
Each vessel is stocked with bars, restaurants, live entertainment and every casino game imaginable. Looking to stay one step ahead of the casino? You better swat up and understand when playing blackjack on the differences between the Surrender Strategy and Doubling Down Strategy and Hit and Stand.
Time for some shopping? Head over to the historic Charleston City Market. Established in 1807, the market has survived fire and hurricanes but is still operating today, day and night.
These days, the market’s local vendors sell all sorts of clothing, jewellery and local ornaments to the thousands of visitors. The art and craftsmanship on offer are certainly worth visiting for but if you can only buy one thing then go no further than the Sweetgrass Basket Ladies. There is a strong tradition for these women who have been weaving baskets using centuries-old techniques which can be traced back to Africa.
Considering that South Carolina is a relatively small city, walking tours are hugely popular. Ashleyon The Cooper offers a range of different tours including their two-hour Historic Walking Tour of the city. Visitors get to explore the captivating past of South Carolina, particularly around the Civil War days.
Want to try something a little different? Many tour companies now run slightly darker treks to explore the local area. The same company offers an interactive Murder Walk tour as well as their Chilling Charleston Macabre Ghost Tour where patrons explore all the horrors and gore of the city’s history. Not everyone in Charleston was friendly.
Horse Carriage Ride
There are few better ways to really see the city of Charleston, South Carolina than in a historic horse carriage ride. There are a number of companies which offer tours but none are older than Palmetto Carriage Works. Dating back to 1972, the family-run company offers guided mule and horse-drawn carriage trips through the city.
If you want more informative trips, check out the Old South Carriage Company. They offer a wide range of different tours including options to visit the city’s most important historical landmarks and even to meet the horses at the stables.