A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC

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While I currently live in Texas, I was born and raised in South Carolina and I’m a southern girl inside and out! In my adult life I’ve lived in South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Wisconsin and now Texas. And I’ve been fortunate to have traveled extensively throughout the United States, Mexico, Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

I’ve been to some beautiful places and I’ve been to some I hope I never visit again but without a doubt my favorite U.S. city is Charleston, SC.

Apparently I’m not the only one that feels this way as Charleston, South Carolina was voted “Top City in the United States” in the 2011 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.

As a matter of fact, when people ask where I’m from and I reply South Carolina, the response usually goes one of two ways: “Where’s that place that has great golf” (usually referring to Myrtle Beach) or “Are you familiar with Charleston? It’s the most beautiful city and my favorite place to visit.”

Yes, I am familiar with Charleston, I grew up just 2 hours away and visited the city any time I had the opportunity to make the trip! I’m always happy to provide Charleston tips and off the beaten path recommendations.

What is Charleston Like?

The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive in Charleston is the stunning architecture. The city is filled with beautiful buildings, all dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the buildings are still in use today, which gives the city an old-world feel.

things to do in charleston SC -  - A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC

If you’re interested in learning about Charleston’s history, there are several tours available that will take you around to all the major landmarks. You can learn about the city’s role in the Civil War, see where some of the most famous battles were fought, and even visit plantations that were once home to slave owners.

For a more light-hearted tour, try the candlelit walking tour through the French Quarter. This tour is perfect for those who want to see Charleston’s more romantic side.

No matter what you’re looking for, Charleston has something for everyone. So pack your bags and come on down! Let me give you a few recommendations of my favorite places.

Where to Stay in Charleston, SC

There are plenty of great places to stay in Charleston, SC, whether you’re looking for a historic bed and breakfast or a modern hotel. Here are some of our favorites:

Charleston Place

If budget isn’t a factor then you must stay at Charleston Place. This hotel is a luxurious oasis in the heart of historic downtown and is one of the most iconic and well-known hotels in Charleston, South Carolina. The hotel is located in the heart of the historic district, just steps from some of the city’s most popular attractions like the Charleston Market, Waterfront Park, the Battery and Rainbow Row.

Charleston Place has been consistently ranked as one of the top hotels in Charleston, and it is easy to see why. From the moment you step into the grand lobby, you feel like a VIP.

The reimagined interiors are a perfect blend of modern elegance and Southern charm, and the customer service is impeccable. The rooms are spacious and well-appointed, with plush bedding and marble bathrooms. And the views of the city are simply stunning.

The staff is incredibly friendly and welcoming, and they are always willing to go the extra mile to make sure that guests have a wonderful stay. The hotel features luxurious accommodations, an on-site spa, three restaurants, and a heated indoor pool.

Courtyard by Marriott Charleston Waterway

For those that would like to balance quality with cost, the Courtyard by Marriott Charleston Waterway is a great place to stay while visiting Charleston, South Carolina.

Whenever I was in Charleston on business I always stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Charleston Waterway in a corner room with balcony on the river.

The location is perfect – it’s situated right on the waterway, so you can enjoy stunning views of the cityscape.

The hotel itself is clean and well appointed, with all the amenities you would expect from a Marriott property. The staff is friendly and helpful, and they make sure that your stay is enjoyable.

The rooms are comfortable and spacious, with plenty of storage for your belongings. And the beds are some of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in!

Overall, I always have a wonderful experience at the Courtyard by Marriott Charleston Waterway, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a great place to stay in Charleston.

Charleston SC Restaurants

Hank’s Seafood Restaurant

One of my favorite restaurants, and its hard to pick a favorite because the food in Charleston is really outstanding, but I’ve always enjoyed eating at Hank’s Seafood Restaurant.

seafood charleston sc -  - A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC

The ambiance and the food contribute to a great southern dining experience. Hank’s is located just outside the historic market. It’s design is modeled after the great Charleston fish houses of the 1940s and is located in a turn-of-the-century warehouse now designated as a national historic landmark.

Be sure to check out their super cool saloon style bar. It’s been voted “Best Seafood Restaurant” by the Charleston City Paper for 12 consecutive years.

SeeWee Restaurant

Now, I also must share another favorite of mine that’s off the beaten path and most often frequented by the locals, SeeWee located on Highway 17 in Awendaw, a short drive from downtown Charleston.

Here you’ll find local shrimp, they are small and sweet, the atmosphere is that of an old store with a country feel. Oh and be sure to order dessert, you won’t be sorry.

Other places I’d recommend: Hominy Grill, Poogan’s Porch (Southern cuisine), A.W Shuck’s (order the fried green tomatoes and their legendary casserole), Bowen’s Island Restaurant and Slightly North of Broad or S.N.O.B.

Things to Do in Charleston

Nestled on the coast at the intersection of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers lies Charleston, South Carolina – a city rich in history with a beautiful blend of old and new.

It’s the 2nd largest city in the state of South Carolina and is known as the “Holy city” due to the prominence of churches and numerous steeples which dot the city’s skyline. Locals often refer to Charleston as “Chucktown”.

From antebellum mansions to contemporary art galleries, there’s something for everyone in this charming city. So whether you’re a history buff or a foodie (or both!), here are some of the best things to do in Charleston.

Charleston Museum

No trip to Charleston would be complete without touring some of the city’s historic attractions. A good place to start is the Charleston Museum, which is known as “America’s first museum” and houses collections that date back to colonial times.

It was founded in 1773 and is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of Charleston and the Lowcountry region. The museum’s collections include art, furniture, jewelry, textiles, and more. Visitors can also take advantage of the museum’s education programs, which offer classes on topics such as genealogy and local history.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

For a closer look at life during the antebellum period, be sure to visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Founded in 1676, Magnolia Plantation is the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry and is well worth a visit when exploring Charleston. 

The gardens at Magnolia Plantation are truly a sight to behold. With more than 500 acres of land to explore, there is something for everyone. The plantation features several different gardens, each with its own unique charms. 

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Charleston SC -  - A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC

The Camellia Garden is home to hundreds of camellia plants, including some rare varieties. The Audubon Swamp Garden is a nature lover’s paradise – a serene Cypress and Tupelo swamp complete with alligators, otters, and numerous bird species. And the azalea-lined pathways of the Historic Decked Garden are not to be missed. 

The best way to experience Magnolia Plantation is by taking one of the plantation’s scenic boat tours. The hour-long Wildlife Boat Tour takes visitors through waterways teeming with alligators, turtles, otters, birds, and other wildlife.

The Nature Tram Tour is a great option for families with young children – a 30-minute ride on an open-air train that winds through 400 acres of plantation property. 

Rainbow Row

Charleston was founded in 1670, and Rainbow Row was built soon after that. The houses were originally built as warehouses for spices, indigo, and other goods that were imported from the West Indies. In the early 1800s, the houses were converted into private residences. 

Charleston SC Rainbow Row -  - A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC

Rainbow Row got its name in the 1930s when a group of artists started painting the houses in bright colors. Some say that they did it to make a statement about the need for beautification in Charleston.

Others say that they simply wanted to make their own homes more cheerful and inviting. Whatever the reason, the colorful facades of Rainbow Row have become one of Charleston’s most iconic images. 

Waterfront Park Pineapple Fountain

The pineapple fountain in Waterfront Park is one of Charleston’s most beloved landmarks. The park itself is a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city, and the fountain is a welcome centerpiece.

Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park Charleston SC -  - A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC

Must Do in Charleston SC

Dock Street Theatre

The Dock Street Theatre is one of Charleston, South Carolina’s most popular tourist attractions. This historic theatre first opened its doors in 1736 and has been entertaining locals and visitors alike ever since. If you’re planning a trip to Charleston, be sure to add the Dock Street Theatre to your list of must-see sights!

When you visit the Dock Street Theatre, you’ll be amazed by its ornate exterior and stunning neoclassical interior. The theatre is home to a variety of live performances throughout the year, including musicals, plays, ballets, and more.

Dock Street Theatre Charleston SC -  - A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC

Ticket prices for shows at the Dock Street Theatre vary depending on the performance and seating section. However, there are usually a few affordable options available for budget-minded travelers. You can also take a guided tour of the theatre. Tours typically last about an hour and provide a great overview of the history and architecture of this landmark Charleston building.

Battery Park

Charleston’s Battery Park is a great place to spend an afternoon. The park offers stunning views of the Charleston harbor, beautiful antebellum mansions, Spanish moss, Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, USS Yorktown, Fort Moultrie and Sullivan’s Island plus there’s plenty of room to relax or play.

Battery Park Charleston SC -  - A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC

The history of the park is also fascinating. It was originally built in the early 1800s as a defensive measure against potential attacks on the city. Today, it stands as a reminder of Charleston’s proud past.

If you’re looking for a quiet place to enjoy the outdoors, or if you’re interested in learning more about the city’s history, Battery Park is definitely worth a visit.

Old City Market

The Old City Market is a great place to find souvenirs, gifts, and locally made products in Charleston, South Carolina. The market is located in the heart of the historic district, and it features a variety of vendors selling everything from handmade jewelry to handmade sweetgrass baskets.

In addition to being a great place to shop, the Old City Market is also a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to gather and socialize. On any given day, you’re likely to see people playing music, eating food from the local vendors, and enjoying the lively atmosphere.

If you’re looking for more, check out my posts on Things to Do in Charleston SC at Night, Things to Do in Charleston Memorial Day Weekend and Things to Do in Charleston on New Year’s Eve and details on which of the Charleston SC Beaches you should visit.

Oaks Avenue

Oaks Avenue is one of Charleston’s hidden gems. This charming street is lined with stately oak trees, and is the perfect Instaworthy perfect spot to shoot stunning vacation photos.

Oaks Avenue Charleston SC -  - A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC

Special Events in Charleston

Charleston has lots of special events going on throughout the year from the Lowcountry Oyster Festival (February) – one of the top 20 events in the southeast, Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (February) to my favorite, the Spoleto Festival USA (May-June).  

Osyters Charleston SC -  - A Local’s Guide to Charleston SC

The Spoleto Festival USA is internationally recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival. Each spring the Spoleto Festival runs for 17 days and nights with performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in opera, theater, dance and chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music in Charleston’s historic theaters and outdoor space.

As you can see, I could go on and on, but I’m positive that just one visit and I think you’ll see why Charleston, SC is my favorite city and it just might become yours too!

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