Today I'm wrapping up my three-part series about the major cities in our great state of South Carolina. You can read previous entries about Columbia and Greenville too. Now, Charleston is probably the place most people think of when they think of a city in SC. (Well, past the tourist traps of Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head anyway.) And that's OK. It deserves the hype. I am never one to like to return to a place time and time again, but I would say I've been to Charleston about 10 to 15 times in my life. In fact, I don't even pack a map anymore for trips there!
My biggest tip to visiting Charleston and the surrounding area is to skip the beach. It's not a beach destination. Sure, there's Folly Beach and Isle of Palms, but they're mediocre at best. (Go to Myrtle or Hilton Head if you want the beach scene!) Nope... Charleston is about HISTORY. And that is where you should focus... the downtown historic area. If you can afford it (or find a good deal on Living Social) spring for a B&B or inn downtown. We love the Vendue Inn and had this awesome room on our first getaway together...
Staying here, in the heart of it all, keeps you in close proximity to all the things you need to see and do. Like the historic market or King Street for shopping, old historic churches and cemeteries, mansions along the battery, Fort Sumter, and, of course, Rainbow Row.
Are they all crazy touristy? Hell yeah. But are they totally worth your time and effort? Hell yeah.
If it's your first time to the city, check out a horse drawn carriage tour through the old town. There are a gazillion available and pick-ups are at the market. Just pick the cutest tour guide as they probably all rank about the same in quality! And it wouldn't be a trip to Chucktown for me without a ghost tour. I've done them all. I know all the stories. The last time I did one, we hit up an old jail instead of wandering the streets, and it was a nice change of pace from hearing the same old stories I've already heard. Plus, totally creepy!
As for food? Skip the chains. Hyman's is touristy, but good. (Kimhead is obsessed with their hush puppies!) Just be prepared to wait. I hear good things about Fleet Landing too. I always end up at A.W. Shucks, but don't know why... the food is mediocre and there are much better places with better atmosphere. Pick up a guide book and look for some of the more upscale places to eat too... I can't remember all the names, but there are definitely some hot spots for foodies.
A little bit farther afield are some definitely highlights of the area as well. Shem Creek is a little hidden gem with some good restaurants (RB's has been kind to us and Puff went into convulsions of love over the seafood at a dive called The Shipwreck) and the shrimp boats come and pull up right to the dock there. If southern plantations are your thing (and they should be) then check out Boone Hall Plantation for their amazing oak lined entrance...
Or check out the gardens at Middleton Place. Puff has said he prefers Magnolia Plantation, but we've never been there, so I can't judge. Regardless, they are all gorgeous. Just be sure to stay hydrated if you go in July or August! I about passed out in the gardens at Middleton on our visit there!
Wrapping this up, there really isn't anything I can say to totally avoid in Charleston... other than chain restaurants and stores. There are tons of cute boutiques and local establishments serving up fine, southern cuisine. (Unless you're from a town that doesn't have any hoity-toity name-brand shops... then spend some time on King Street. Just not on Sunday mornings!) Puff gets to go down on business in late July and part of me kinda hopes that I won't be working those few days so I can take Bimmer down to stroll on some cobblestone streets and soak in some culture.