Weekend Getaway Planner: Charleston, South Carolina
About Charleston, South Carolina
Historic and charming, Charleston, South Carolina is a wonderful place to connect to the finer side of southern living. A lovely waterfront, a busy downtown, well-preserved architecture, and hospitable locals make Charleston a tourist's dream. You can wander around and discover the downtown on your own or engage a local guide to interpret its fascinating history.
We walked through the City Market to see the local craftspeople making sweetgrass baskets. Each handwoven basket made of grass and pine straw is unique. Some quite complex, others very simple but all found their origins as utility vessels. The Market also hosts a wide variety of souvenir vendors, offering everything from jewelry and tee-shirts to local handmade soaps and handbags. If you are looking for a souvenir, this place will certainly give you a few ideas.
The stroll along Waterfront Park brought us to the Pineapple Fountain sparkling in the sunlight with children splashing in the large basin. Then on to the pier where water taxis picked up their patrons. We found a couple of porch swings under two large pavilions with a great view of the cruise ships and the harbor. From there you can see Fort Sumter, the fortification at Charleston harbor where the Civil War began in April of 1861. You can catch a ferry to tour the fort or travel in the opposite direction to visit Patriot's Point, home of the aircraft carrier, Yorktown.
Back on land, we stopped by St. Michael's Episcopal Church to see its stained glass windows and unusual box pews. Built in 1762, it is both stunning and curious in Its design with a tall, free-standing pulpit in front of the altar. The church is situated at the "Four Corners of Law" with the courthouse, city hall, and the post office representing local, state, federal and ecclesial law on each corner of the intersection. No building in Charleston could be built any taller than the steeple of St. Michael's, acknowledging God's authority over mankind. Since we were so close we took a stroll through Washington Square behind City Hall, to enjoy the downtown green space along with its monuments and stories.
There is enough to do and see in Charleston to return again and again. Though I think one of their shining attributes beyond history is their variety of excellent restaurants. It would take several trips to sample them all!
Convenient Campground In Charleston
Oak Plantation RV Resort- Just 25 minutes outside of the historic downtown, and a quick "Uber" ride away, this lovely RV park is well equipped and well maintained. Full hook-ups at every site. Lovely trees and grass lawns define the level, gravel sites. Picnic table at each site, well-situated bathhouse, and group pavilion, as well as a playground area for the kids. No fire rings but you can rent a fire-bowl at check-in. Publix grocery down the street, fast food in the immediate area.
Things to Do in Charleston
Plantation Tours - There are several historic plantations in the area with home and garden tours available. We enjoyed walking the casual, naturalized gardens of Magnolia Plantation. We entered via a long driveway of live oaks draped in Spanish moss creating a stately green 'tunnel' from the street to the house. The property has been in the same family for 12 generations and soon after the Civil War, the family decided that tourist revenue could help fund the rebuilding of the plantation. It has been open for tours ever since. Built along the river, this historic home and gardens feature former rice fields transformed into ponds teeming with wildlife. See herons, egrets, alligators, and turtles from the many footbridges. The property also hosts a small zoo, cafe, and gift shop. Guided tram tours are available for history and nature buffs.
Tours of downtown Charleston- There are plenty of ways to tour historic downtown Charleston. Horse-drawn carriages, trolley tours or, our choice, a guided walking tour. There is nothing like a local to give you the "skinny" on the area! Walking the quaint streets, getting a close-up view of the alleys and side porches of the historic buildings are all part of a walking tour. Plus, there isn't any traffic to force you to "move on". We could stay and ask questions about each building while the trolley and carriage tours had to keep moving. We learned why homes were built with a 'street door' off the porch as well as a front door on the side of the house, the differences between a single and double house, and the significance of the old Slave Market building.
Pineapple Fountain - a stop on every tour. Lovely Pineapple shaped fountain overlooking the harbor. It seems to be a favorite spot for children to splash about.
Rainbow Row (South of Broad, East Bay Street) - Row houses in pastel colors. Very quaint. Window boxes overflowing with flowers and herbs adding to the charm of the cobbled streets.
Fort Sumter National Monument - Civil War-era fortification where the American Civil War began. In 1861 confederate artillery opened fire on this Federal fort in Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter surrendered 34 hours later and Union forces would try for nearly four years to take it back.
Fort Moultrie (aka Fort Sullivan) - Revolutionary War era fort at the mouth of Charleston Harbor famous for defeating the British in their attempt to invade Charleston. This is where the Palmetto Palm became the symbol for South Carolina. Its density and flexibility repelled cannon fire and lead to the British retreat from Charleston in 1776.
Patriots Point - Home of the aircraft carrier Yorktown, is a naval and maritime museum located in Mount Pleasant, at the mouth of the Cooper River on the Charleston Harbor just opposite of the City of Charleston.
Distillery or Brewery Tours - Something a bit out of the ordinary, we toured a local distillery called High Wire, featuring botanical gin, vodka, and bourbon. Complete with tastings, the short tour is a great pre-cursor to dinner at a local eatery.
Fleet Landing. Best shrimp and grits with tasso-ham gravy. Situated between the cruise ship dock and the Waterfront Park, this local favorite serves up fresh seafood in a casual atmosphere. There always seems to be a wait, but they provide a "corn hole" court to toss a few bags until your 'buzzer' signals your table is ready.
Workshop Charleston- Want something a little more exploratory? Try an upscale food court built around a brewery. Choose your favorite brew and pair it with gourmet fare from one of six rotating kitchens where emerging and renowned chefs experiment with culinary concepts. Everything from pizza, Cuban, Vietnamese, Indian, or Mexican specialties. Open-air dining area or inside the food court.
Really, Charleston is a food mecca. You can stop at almost any restaurant in the downtown and find an exceptional meal no matter your taste.
Don't forget to bring:
Comfortable shoes for walking tours
Bicycles - or rent one from the local shops around town.
An appetite for fabulous food!