Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston

With Haven Conference moving from Atlanta to Charleston in 2018,  I wanted to share our top 10 things to do in Charleston from our trip in May 2016. It’s still one of my very favorite trips and one of my favorite destinations.

Whether you are a blogger attending Haven and coming in early or staying after the conference ends, or if you are planning a vacation and might need some travel advice for the most popular destination in the U.S. ~ Charleston ~ hopefully, these suggestions will help you enjoy Charleston.

Do you remember when your Uncle Bob or Grandpa would get out the film (that’s what we used to call video) projector and you and your family would have to watch the movies (flicks) of their summer vacation through the Ozark’s or desert or the 7 dozen RV parks they stayed in? (Please don’t take offense if you are from the Ozarks, live in the desert, or own an RV. I’m just trying to make a point!)

Yep, I remember my dad doing that. But I always loved watching my brother and I swim in the motel pool at the end of day on the road or sightseeing.

I squeezed my eyes shut in embarrassment as I watched my 5~year~old self refuse to jump off the diving board ~ multiple times.

Since then I’ve watched multiple movies that Sweet Shark took of our trips to Hong Kong, Bali, Bangkok and Italy with a camcorder the size of a portable TV. Those days are long gone. But watching travel movies or browsing through photo albums of vacation pictures (remember when we did that?) is a pastime I still treasure.

A million of you must like to do the same things. Just search Pinterest or Instagram for TRAVEL. We even have a Travel Channel. So I hope you enjoy my little Travel Channel series and will learn something new from our top 10 things to do in Charleston.

 Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston

Before we get to the top 10 things to do in Charleston, you might want to check out our first leg of this Southeast trip which began in Savannah and ended in Asheville, North Carolina. This trip was high on our bucket list as I had never been to Savannah or North or South Carolina. You might want to check out our top 10 travel tips and our Top 15 Best Dishes in Charleston and Savannah.

Now we’re ready for the second leg of our Savannah to Charleston to Asheville trip. Just so you know, this list doesn’t include where we ate or what we ate ~ I’m saving that for another time. And remember, I’m recounting the highlights of what we did in just 2 1/2 days in Charleston. I’m so excited to be going back to Charleston. Sweet Shark is flying in on Sunday afternoon and we are staying to Wednesday so  we will have time to see more of this wonderful gem of a city.

Getting Around Charleston

Walking ~ Charleston is a town to walk about. Just like Savannah, it’s easy to get around ~ be sure to get a map ~ and you want to be sure to see things up close and personal. It will be hot and humid in Charleston in July, so dress accordingly and wear comfortable shoes.

Carriage Rides ~ Savannah has its trolley tours, Charleston has its carriage rides. A horse~drawn (or mule~drawn) carriage slows your day down and lets you enjoy the scenery ~the beautiful homes, gardens and flowers, the churches and historical sites. There are several carriage companies in Charleston and they all start at Market Street and Anson across from the City Market.

Our hotel recommended Carolina Polo so that’s the one we used. Carriage companies in Charleston are highly regulated: only 20 carriages can be touring at the same time; the carriage driver has to check in with the “dispatcher” with the name of his company, his horse’s name, how many passengers, and his carriage number. There are only 3 routes and each carriage’s route is chosen by a ball dropping 1, 2, or 3; that way the carriages are spread out around town. The horses (mostly Clydesdale or 2 mules) must be rested between carriage rides and worked a maximum of 5 hours a day. And to keep the streets of Charleston clean, all animals must wear “drop bags”. I’ll let you figure that out.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

There’s something quaint and soothing about listening to the horse’s hooves clopping on the streets as your driver explains the history, culture and sites of Charleston. We were on route 3 which was perfect ~ all around the beautiful residential area south of Broad (If you’ve ever read Pat Conroy’s South of Broad, you’ll know why it’s such a special part of the city.) The tour lasts 1 hour and was definitely worth it.

PediCab ~ Ff you just need to get from point A to point B, you can’t beat the bicycle~powered PediCab. Kind of like a rickshaw, with seating for 2, peddled by a college student. We used PediCab 3 times and it got us where we needed to go fast and it was fun; the fee is $11 for a 10 minute ride. Just call them on your cell phone and they will pick you up or stop at the gathering place at Market and Church Streets. The number is 843~577~7088.

Top 10 things to do in Charleston

City Market

Situated down the center of Market Street between Meeting and East Bay Streets, the City Market  has been a landmark since the 1790’s. Spend a couple of hours shopping for local food products, such as Carolina Gold rice ( I bought some) or grits, the quintessential sweet grass baskets, and other locally~made goods. Inside the City Market, the Charleston Historical Foundation has its own store. I bought 2 books on Charleston and the Carolina Gold Rice (everything there is tax~free) there.  It was really enjoyable browsing through the shops.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

This is the front of the City Market facing Meeting Street. Our hotel, The Planter’s Inn (which I highly recommend) was across Market Street to the left of this photo ~ a 30 second walk.

TIP: Not one of my top 10 things to do in Charleston, but definitely on a to~do list: drop in Champagne Bar in the The Planter’s Inn and order a slice of the 12-layer Coconut Cake. It’s definitely sharable and a must.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

King Street

Running from north to south in the center of Charleston, King Street, is the place to shop for beautiful clothing (St. John’s, for one), seersucker suits for men (M. Dumas and Sons, Ben Silver, or Berlin’s) or antiques, art or silver. Even if you are not in the market for luxury goods, it’s still an enjoyable stroll down the Rodeo Drive of Charleston. We bought a brass candle snuffer at Birlant’s, a beautiful store featuring fine antiques and collectables.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

East Bay Street to the Battery

East Bay is close to the Cooper River on the east side of Historical Charleston. Full of restaurants and shops between Market and Broad Streets, it’s a bustling street where you will never go hungry. Starting at Broad, East Bay becomes a quieter avenue, lined on the west by beautiful homes and on the east by the Cooper River. Stroll down along Waterfront Park and try to see Fort Sumter out in Charleston Bay, where in April, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired as wealthy residents watched from the balconies of their piazzas.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

Where you see the people walking to the right in the picture is the seawall which was built in the early 19th century. Everything this side of the seawall had previously been swamp. When you reach the end of the Charleston Peninsula you’re at the Battery.

White Point Gardens @ The Battery

After your walk along (I should say a long walk) East Bay Street, stop at this lovely green spot at the point of Charleston Peninsula and relax on a bench under the spreading trees. You can see where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers come together. We tried to imagine what it was like 2 or 3 hundred years ago. Hint: it was swamp! Today it’s a lovely place to rest before heading back up East Bay or through the residential streets, which is what we did.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

The Rooftop at The Vendue

While you are on East Bay, be sure to stop in The Vendue at the corner of East Bay and Vendue. It calls itself an art hotel, but the main attraction is the 2~level The Rooftop bar with awesome views of the city, Cooper River and the Ravenel Bridge. Charleston has an ordinance that no building can be taller than the church steeples (maximum of 4 stories), which means that you can see everywhere.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

This is the inside of The Rooftop. That’s Sweet Shark on the right looking at the wine list.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

We were there on Sunday afternoon and enjoyed the live music; the special ($5) was prosecco which was perfect for sipping while enjoying the views, visiting with locals and watching the sunlight light up the bridge.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

As we were standing with our glass of prosecco looking at the bridge in the distance, the sunlight went from left to right, slowly highlighting the struts of the bridge. It was beautiful.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

In case, you are still in Charleston on Sunday afternoon after Haven, come on over to The Rooftop at the Vendue. Sweet Shark and I will be there.

Rainbow Houses

Charleston is a city of beautiful homes and architecture, many dating back to the 1700’s. As you walk along East Bay, you’ll pass some of the most iconic ones, the Rainbow Houses, named for the lovely pastel colors on their exteriors: beige, yellow, green, blue, pink, lavender. Definitely make a point to stop and admire them.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

The Edmondston~Alston House

Charleston has over a dozen historic homes to tour. Fortunately, they all have been beautifully restored to allow visitors to see the furnishings, design, and architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries. These homes have been passed down through families for over 2 hundred years and in some, family members may still live in them. We toured 3, 2 of which I strongly recommend.

Located on East Bay Street, The Edmondston~Alston House is outstanding. Built in 1825 in the “new” neighborhood created by the back~filled wetlands to the west of the seawall by Charles Edmondson and later sold to Charles Alston, the home was a family home with beautiful furniture and accessories. The side porch and garden is lovely as well as the 2nd story piazza from which you can see Charleston Harbor. Well worth the time.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

On the lovely porch, Sweet Shark sat on a really long joggling bench, a long, pliable board that is supported on each end by wooden stands. The board is springy and a person sitting on it can easily bounce up and down. Sources differ as to the origin, whether it was used to resemble riding a horse or as a way for young men and ladies courting to get closer with each “joggle”, its usage in the Low Country of South Carolina around Charleston in the early 19th century is well-documented. You can buy one for your own porch.

The Nathaniel Russell House

Located within the residential area south of Broad on Meeting Street, this home features a free~flying staircase and beautiful craftsmanship in the architectural details of moldings, faux paint treatments and plaster work. Finished in 1808, the home has been researched for original paint colors (22 layers) and restoration continues today. Built by one of Charleston’s wealthiest merchants, the house and gardens reflect the grand living style of the 19th century. Our docent was excellent and we learned so much about Charleston.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

See the color on the walls in the Dining Room? That’s a reproduction of the original found under 22 layers of paint.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

The Window Boxes of Charleston

As you walk the residential streets of Charleston, you can’t help but notice the window boxes of gorgeous flowers. Since most Charleston homes do not have front yards, the window boxes provide the beautiful plantings favored by Charleston homeowners ~ tourists get to enjoy them too. I was alerted to the window boxes by an article in the May 2016 Southern Living ~ just in time for our trip; the flowers are planted and maintained by a group of dedicated ladies. All I can say is “thank you very much”.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

The Churches of Charleston

I know this is #11, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Charleston isn’t called The Holy City for nothing. Some of the oldest and most historical churches in America are in Charleston, many with cemeteries. We saw headstones dating back to the 18th century. Churches of every denomination are represented and in use today. You can’t miss them as you walk around. From the Rooftop at the Vendue, you can see dozens of church spires. They are so beautiful.

Top 10 Things To Do in Charleston. History, beautiful homes, gardens and churches to be savored at a slow pace. BlueskyatHome.com #charleston #southcarolina

If you have ever been to Charleston, you will recognize many of the sites I’ve mentioned here. You probably have your own top 10 things to do in Charleston and could add many more to my list. If you haven’t been to Charleston, I hope that you will put it on your bucket list. If you are going to Haven, really try to see some of these sites. Don’t wait as long as we did to go there.

I hope you enjoyed our travel to Charleston. Thanks for “watching”. If you are going to Haven, be sure to stop and say hi.

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8 Comments

  1. I love vacation stories and ideas for my future vacations and your post is one of my features on next weeks OVER THE MOON LINK PARTY which goes live on Sunday evening at 5pm central. Please stop by to see your feature and be sure to link up again!
    🙂 gwingal

  2. We were there 2 years ago for only a day and I look forward to returning. A local drove us on a fabulous tour and we saw many of the sites you mentioned (and also Tom Ravenel’s home and Patricia Altschul’s home (which was my request as I am a Bravo addict!) We hope to go back soon and spend more time there!

    1. Patti, I’d love to go across the Ravenel bridge. We may have to get Uber to drive us over there. I’ll have to look up Patricia Altschul.

  3. Thanks for sharing this fabulous post on Charleston. I’ve always wanted to go there and now I have all the info for a great trip. Pinned and shared.

  4. Hi Carol
    Thx for the ideas. I love Charleston and will use this for the next time I visit with friends. I have a recommendation too. Don’t miss the Magnolia Cemetery.

  5. What lovely descriptions about Charleston, Carol. I’ve lived here since 2004 and I’m always finding new places to explore. You’ve included lots of what makes Charleston a beautiful city and some of my favorites, too. I’m so excited that Haven will be here! I hope I’ll have the chance to meet you.

    1. Beverly, I’m so excited to learn that you live in Charleston. I’m really pleased that, as a resident, you liked my picks. I know there is so much more to see and do around Charleston. My son visited Kiawah Island for a bachelor party in April and said it was just beautiful. Hopefully we will get to see some more sights this trip. Hope to meet you next week.

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