Best Things to do in Charleston SC
- Best Things to do in Charleston SC
Charleston, South Carolina’s most lovely city, as well as its largest and most historic, is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the the whole American south. Although Charleston is not officially the state capital, residents and the millions of tourists who visit each year agree that this picturesque city is the best keeper of the state’s history, entertainment, culture, and art.
Wedding season is upon us. Though honestly, does it ever really end?. One of my favorite parts of this blessed time, besides the celebration of love, obviously, is being able to travel to different cities and destinations to join in the festivities of marriage. Needless to say, I was more than ecstatic to head to Charleston, South Carolina for a family wedding
Not a totally original concept, we later learned that there are dozens of weddings scheduled in the city every weekend, not to mention the number of engagement photo shoots and bachelor/bachelorette parties scattered throughout. It might be that Charleston just sparks the feeling of love…or that it’s the fourth largest drinking city in the U.S. Either one. Regardless the reason, the draping Spanish moss over the giant live oak trees covering historic cobbled alleyways sure does make for a pretty backdrop.
This gorgeous, quaint suburb outside of Charleston is the home to numerous restaurants, The Boone Hall Plantation and stunning lakeside mansions. Just across the infamous Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Mount Pleasant is the perfect place to park your car to enjoy the sunset on top of the bridge itself. We indulged in real southern bbq, and took in all the sweet tea we could while catching up with friends and family.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
3550 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414
Since the wedding wasn’t until later in the evening, we rented a car for the day to head out to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, this historic home is surrounded with vibrant gardens, enchanting bridges and feisty peacocks, among the many other animals that roam the grounds freely.
We opted to purchase the day pass as well as a ticket for the tram that takes your around the greenery while providing useful knowledge for when exploring on your own later on. Plus, it was much more enjoyable to see the gators from behind the vehicle. Give yourself a few hours to roam the unique petting zoo, and stroll along the picturesque bridges.
The Cigar Factory
701 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29403
After cleaning up from a day at the Magnolia, we attended the wedding ceremony as a church in Mount Pleasant and then headed over to the Cigar Factory in Downtown Charleston for the reception. Starting with delicious appetizers and ending with a night full of dancing and sparklers, it was full of the southern charm Charleston is known for. The following morning the celebration continued with a delightful brunch at the bride’s parents’ home. Views of the water channels and plenty of biscuits to go around is the only way to start a day in South Carolina.
After parting ways with family and friends, we checked into our hotel downtown and got ready to explore the city. A leisurely walk to the south end led us through charming homes, ornately decorated buildings and delicious restaurants on every corner.
Spoleto Festival USA
14 George St, Charleston, SC 29401
On our walk, we stumbled though the Spoleto Festival, which includes live music, art tents and exhibits along with and food trucks galore. We wondered in and out of the booths until the heat began to get to us.
The Historic Charleston City Market
188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
Seeking out some air conditioning, we walked down to the Historic Charleston City Market before our scheduled afternoon tour. Neatly four blocks long, this urban icon is filled with homemade gifts and souvenirs for anyone and everyone. We loved watched the sweetgrass baskets being made (a highly sought after art form only made in a few places!) as well as trying on the oversized hats and bowties. It wasn’t long until we took part in a local favorite, sweet tea, and headed over for our carriage tour a block over.
We opted to book a tour with Old South Carriage Tours, one of the most highly rated companies in the city. A step back into history, this is the best way to get an overview of the city before deciding on where you’d like to spend the rest of your stay. If you’re concerned about the treatment of these horses pulling the carriages (like me!), make sure you check out my Instagram here explaining the humane treatment of these businesses. Learning more about the history and settlement of this city made the culture even richer. We also passes a few mansions that we jotted down to visit later on. Despite being only an hour, we were able to see all sides of Charleston and the stories behind the old homes and notable buildings.
Despite having strolled passed here on our carriage tour, I wanted to stop back around to Rainbow Row for a few more pictures. As you might expect, this streets consists of brightly colored homes that emulate, you guessed it, a rainbow.
Rainbow Row is the name given to a row of brightly colored historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina. On East Bay Street, the houses are north of Tradd St. and south of Elliot St. Rainbow Row gets its name from the pastel colors used to paint all of the houses. It is a popular tourist attraction and one of Charleston’s most photographed landmarks.
According to legend, the houses were painted in different colors so that inebriated sailors returning from port could remember which houses they were supposed to bunk in. In other versions, the buildings’ colors are related to their use as stores; the colors were used so that owners could tell illiterate slaves which building to go to for shopping.
Charleston Crab House
145 Wappoo Creek Dr, Charleston, SC 29412
After the amount of walking we had accomplished thus far, our stomachs were growling for some seafood. The Charleston Crab House was an obvious choice for their fried crab claws and chilled crab dip. Go big or go home, right?
280 Meeting St B, Charleston, SC 29401
To cap our night off, we checked last minute for a comedy show downtown. A quick google search led us to Charleston for Morons at Theater 99. This hilarious show definitely gave us the background we were looking for, with a lot of laughter along the way. The schedule changes weekly but definitely make time to fit this into your itinerary. Only being an hour long, we were out of the 6pm show in time for dinner.
Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe
78 N Market St, Charleston, SC 29401
While we wondered in and out of a few restaurants for dinner, nothing was striking our fancy. That is, until we were recommend Kaminsky’s, a dessert bar (don’t tell me mom!). Instead of dinner, we decided to split a slice of key lime pie and a chocolate chip cookie sundae. No pictures because we inhaled this way too quickly. Feeling an extra pound of two heavier, we took the long walk back to our hotel to prepare for last day.
Williams Mansion (Calhoun Mansion)
16 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
After sleeping in, we had a leisurely start to the day. since Sunday morning is typically reserved for church, most businesses don’t open until the afternoon. After striking out with a few mansions that didn’t open their doors until 2pm, we settled on the Williams Mansion to step inside one of the homes we’d been eyeing on from the sidewalks. Known for it’s numerous movie appearances (Hi, The Notebook!), we purchased a house tour which ended up being more of an unorganized museum. Although the mansion was beautiful, it now just seemed to be a holding place for the art collection of the current wealthy owner.
Although the objects were interesting and the rooms were breath-taking, it wasn’t exactly home to the history we were looking for. Like my favorite Yelp review said, it would be on hoarders if it were anywhere else. If your schedule allows I would highly recommend visiting the Nathaniel Russell or Edmondston-Alston House which have high ratings and positive recommendations. Luckily, the Williams Mansion was near Battery park and we were able to enjoy a walk along the water back up the the market center.
Second Sunday on King Street
Despite a less than stellar house tour, we unintentionally were in town for the Second Sunday on King Street, a festival that shuts down King Street for pedestrian traffic. Restaurants bring tables and umbrellas out onto the road and musicians stake claim on every street corner. This was the perfect place to soak in as much Charleston as we could before our evening flight. Another round of cold beverages and ice cream and Jeni’s was just the pick me up before we said good bye to another wonderful weekend getaway.
Charleston is more than just a fun southern town. It is one of the most historically significant cities in the United States. It has stunning natural attractions, high-society living arrangements, and tons of delicious food. Spend some time in South Carolina’s capital to see just how good it is.