Before I left for Charleston, I asked many people about the city I was going to visit. The first reaction I received was, “Oh, I love Charleston!” As much as I understand that now, it did not help me nail down restaurants, activities, beaches, etc. for things to do in Charleston. Those that know me well, know that I go on a trip with a spreadsheet filled with activities and confirmation numbers. I. did. not. have. a. spreadsheet. Mistake. So, I hope this helps my fellow travelers who will be visiting or re-visiting Charleston in the near future. Remember, these are only my personal opinions.
How to Get Around Charleston
We already knew that the parking would be atrocious before we arrived. We opted to pay for valet parking so that we could come and go (at $40 per day). The alternative would be paying $20 to come and go each time. It all came worked out in the end. There are parking garages near the water and the aquarium that charge $1 per hour or a certain amount per day. These garages fill up fast. Check the hotel you are booking regarding their parking policy. They are all different.
Where to Stay
Where you stay totally depends on what kind of trip you want to have. Do you want to know about the history of Charleston? Then you need to stay in the historic district. If you want to come and go and stay mainly at the beach, get a condo on the beach (Atlantic Ocean).
If you choose to stay in the historic district, do your research. Know where the activities are that you want to do in proximity from your hotel. As I was told when we were there, “Charleston is a walking city.” I was amazed at how patient the drivers were when it came time for us to cross the street. NOT like Memphis.
I would highly recommend the Mills House Grand Wyndam. Many hotels in Charleston do not have pools, so I chose this hotel because it had a pool knowing that Collin, Jay and I would be at the pool at least several afternoons. Our hotel was also located within walking distance to everything we wanted to do.
Where to Eat
Here again, do your research. We did eat at Poogan’s Porch by recommendation and I have to say it was my favorite. It also was across from our hotel. We also ate at Fleets Landing over the water, and it was nice, and reasonable. Don’t think you are going to find a McDonald’s within walking distance because you won’t. Collin found a Subway a block down from our hotel and it was nice on those days that we were just dog-tired. We made the mistake of eating at Bubba Gump’s. Don’t eat at chain restaurants on vacation. Our favorite breakfast was at Toast, which was also just a block or two down from our hotel. The biscuits were the size of softballs! We even went back for dinner one night and enjoyed it.
What to Do
Where do I begin? Let me just start with our week, what we did, and how I might or might not have changed it.
Fort Sumter – You cannot go to Charleston and NOT go to Fort Sumter. Even if you are not a history buff, the patriotism will overwhelm you. The fact that I was on this small Fort where the Civil War began which led to so much history of America blew me away. It is approximately $25-$30 per person which includes the ferry to and from the fort. Check the internet for coupons. Note: This is not a guided tour but you will learn about Fort Sumter on the ferry.
Visit a beach – With many recommendations, we went to Kiawah Beach. They have a public beach and you can rent chairs and an umbrella. The breeze was so nice and the water is much warmer than the Gulf. It’s not the Gulf water, by any means, nor is it the Destin sand, but it’s a different kind of enjoyment. You don’t have to dig your feet into the sand and kill your legs to walk five feet. The sand is very hard and nice for sitting as the tide rolls in. We saw many riding bikes. It reminded me of something I would see on the beaches up north. The facilities were VERY nice. They had outside showers and changing rooms. They also had a place where you could get ice cream and cold drinks.
Take in the City Market – This is just a couple of blocks from the Mills House Grand Wyndam and is about four long blocks of what amounts to be a supped up flea market. But it’s all things Charleston and anything you would want to buy and take home at a good price. I went more than once!
Rainbow Row – You hear about Rainbow Row and you see pictures of houses and you can’t imagine exactly what people are talking about. Cecelia and I had looked at Christmas ornaments before doing all our walking and after seeing Rainbow Row, there was no doubt what our Christmas ornament would be to take home from Charleston. Yes, all it is are several houses in a row painted bright colors. But we took the time (as suggested) to walk the alleyways before getting to the street and look at the window boxes and the lovely way the homes are situated. It is very quaint.
Magnolia Plantation – I’m not going to lie and tell you that I was blown away by driving up a long road and the trees opened up to a large, white-columned home. Many of the plantations today do not look that way. Yes, I was disappointed, but only a smidge. We were reminded that the Civil War burned the majority of the plantations in Charleston and they had to rebuild. After they rebuilt, a hurricane destroyed the homes again. The artifacts in the homes are all that is left. The stories of the families were very intriguing from the Civil War to present day. Yes, I would suggest a plantation.
The Pineapple Fountain – I’m not going to spoil it for you and tell you why the pineapple is so important to Charleston. Many of you may already know. I saw pineapples everywhere on Charleston souvenirs and when I was told the history, it just stuck. No pun intended! The fountain is beautiful and we went twice.
King Street – The street is much like the Magnificient Mile in Chicago with its high end shops and boutiques (except you have palmetto trees – not palm trees). Don’t think you can’t buy anything on King Street. I got a pair of Sperry’s half off! Venture out and look for the sales. Plus, the street is beautiful with its store fronts. If you wait later in the afternoon, it will get very crowded.
Tanger Outlet – Oh yes we did. Collin was with us. Enough said.
What we missed –
- We did not make it to Sullivan’s Island. It was on my mind’s list of things to do, but there just was not time. If you cannot make it to the beach, Sullivan’s Island is a great alternative in Charleston. Just remember, you’re not in Destin anymore Dorothy.
- We did not venture out in the car and ride around the historic district. I don’t know that we could have with the streets being so many different ways. It is very confusing.
- I would have liked to have seen more churches. We did see a lot, I just did not photograph them. They are back to back with gravestones dating back to the 1800’s.
- I would have liked to have done a ghost tour. To be honest, after being out in the heat all day, we were exhausted by 6 p.m. and usually hit our room to watch television. And it’s an hour ahead in Charleston. I had to stay up till 9 to what most shows!
- Lastly, and most importantly, we did not do a carriage tour. The Charlestonians are upset regarding the treatment of the horses in the heat. I witnessed these horses pulling a carriage of up to 16 people in 90 plus degree heat with their bodies heaving to breathe. I won’t go into further details about what else has happened in Charleston, but the animal lover in me wanted to support the local Charlestonians in their fight and not add to the dollars of tourism.
I hope I have given you some good information and that you will make plans to visit Charleston. I think we take for granted such beautiful and historic cities right in our own backyard.
Remember, like I told Collin, travelling is our hobby. We save, research, and make wise choices before we travel. You can do this too! Don’t let memories pass you by. I’ll treasure this trip with my boys and mother-in-law for the rest of my life.
Oh, and taking a firefighter/paramedic with you might come in handy! You never know!
Next trip, Nashville for the Tampa Bay/Titans football game for a long weekend in October. Then we cruise the Caribbean with two couples in May 2020! Secret – plan ahead!