Charleston, SC, Guide and Information
Discovery Charleston SC.
Welcome to Charleston
Situated in South Carolina’s bucolic Lowcountry, the Charleston area is a veritable living museum, thanks to lovingly preserved antebellum buildings, mansions, and plantations, lamp-lit cobblestone streets, the restored Historic Charleston City Market, and renowned restaurants serving farm- and sea-to-table southern cuisine the way it was prepared in the Lowcountry centuries earlier. Originally settled by British colonists as “Charles Town” in the 1670s, the peninsula – and beyond – that is now Charleston quickly grew into a bustling seaport, with many wharves along East Bay Street (now lined with award-winning restaurants). Ships bearing deer skins, rice, indigo, and cotton sailed for England and they returned with European staples and luxury items to give the growing town a cosmopolitan air it still retains today. Many places of worship were also built, earning Charleston the nickname “The Holy City.” Today, Charleston’s rich history and hospitality spanning more than three centuries are still very much in evidence as one of America’s most beautifully preserved architectural and historical destinations – featuring a very warm welcome. For first-timers and even veteran visitors, a great way to get a welcoming overview of Charleston’s many charms is to take a carriage tour around downtown. Museums, historic houses, plantations, and restaurants take center stage in Charleston today. Depending on your interests, museum possibilities must include: the Charleston Museum, the Gibbes Museum (specializing in southern art and the Charleston Renaissance period); historic USS Yorktown and more at Patriots Point and the Civil War’s Fort Sumter National Monument– reached by various tour boat offerings. Though there are many possibilities open to the public, two of Charleston’s best historic houses (the Aiken-Rhett and Nathaniel Russell houses) can be visited through the Historic Charleston Foundation. And, don’t miss the Foundation’s two great shops at 108 Meeting Street and in the historic Charleston City Market, which is also the place to buy locally-made sweetgrass baskets. The many plantations surrounding Charleston are truly living history, with options including: Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Boone Hall Plantation, Middleton Place, Drayton Hall, McCleod Plantation Historic Site, and Charleston Tea Plantation, North America’s only tea plantation. Charleston has also made modern history by becoming one of America’s premier dining destinations. For chef-driven restaurants that feature the bounty of nearby farms and waters, make sure to make reservations at one or more of the following: Amen Street, Fish & Raw Bar Charleston Grill ,Circa 1886, FIG (“Food is Good”), Husk Magnolias, McCrady’s Restaurant, Pawpaw, Slightly North of Broad, (“SNOB” to locals), Juliet, and The Macintosh. Yep, Charleston first-timers should plan on staying several nights and making many lunch and dinner reservations in advance.
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Explore in Charleston, SC
Even those in Charleston only for 48 hours are sure to hear the story of a wealthy old Charlestonian woman who was once asked why she so seldom traveled. Puzzled, she replied, “My dear, why should I travel when I'm already here?” After two days in Charleston, it’s easy to see why she wouldn’t want to leave.
Few places on earth can rival Charleston's blend of grace, beauty, history, and tradition. Charleston has this way of charming visitors so that they never want to leave.
Charleston offers an amazingly diverse range of choices in the Arts. For 17 days and nights each spring, The Spoleto Festival fills Charleston’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with performances by renowned artists and emerging performers in opera, theater and dance, as well as chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music. Now approaching its 41st season, Spoleto is internationally recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival.
Charleston is a hotbed of American history with varied eras easy to explore over a few days (or a week). From the founding of the Carolinas to the American Revolution, the Civil War, and WWII, as well as African-American culture, Charleston has played in integral role in this country’s history. Thus, a visit to the Holy City wouldn’t be complete without exploring the places that are part of the fabric of America.
To start at the beginning, head out to Charles Town Landing State Historic Site across the Ashley River from downtown to see the spot where a small group of English settlers landed in 1670 to begin the establishment of the Carolina colony. Now part of the impressive South Carolina State Parks system, South Carolina colonial history comes alive in the visitor center and exhibit hall, self-guided history tour, and on the Adventure, a replica of the seventeenth-century trading ship used by the first settlers.