Charleston, SC, is one of the oldest cities in the United States, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The city at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper rivers has been hammered by earthquakes and hurricanes, but has survived, and is today a popular vacation destination.
Also known as the “Holy City” and “Chucktown,” Charleston abounds in things to do including the following area highlights.
Thirteen houses along East Bay Street compose Rainbow Row, an appellation that describes the pastel colors used to paint each home. Most of the earlier buildings were destroyed in a 1778 fire with replacement and new homes built within a few years after.
The homes front the Cooper River with proximity to The Battery, a civil-war coastal defense artillery battery. Put on your walking shoes because your best view of Rainbow Row is from the promenade overlooking the river.
Early in the city’s history, a public market was built where merchants could hock their wares. In 1788, donated land running west to east and ending on Meeting Street led to market sheds opening in 1790 followed by more permanent buildings before the Civil War.
The market served as a recruiting office during the Civil War and also housed a museum managed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Today, merchants sell a variety of wares including native Gullah sweetgrass baskets.
South Carolina Aquarium
Opened in 2000, the South Carolina Aquarium is one of the newest attractions on the Charleston peninsula. More than 10,000 animals and plants call the aquarium home with 300 animals living in its expansive three-story Great Ocean Tank.
The aquarium also features a child-friendly Touch Tank and is known for its sea turtle rescue program including a hospital for injured or stranded sea turtles.
Travel 15 miles northwest of Charleston and you’ll find Drayton Hall, an 18th-century plantation located along the Ashley River. From downtown, you’ll take Highway 61, itself a historic road that pushes past aged spanish moss-draped oak trees that line the road. Known for its Palladian architecture, the plantation house gives visitors an accurate depiction of antebellum life and the lives of both enslaved and free black Americans.
If time permits, consider visiting the Drayton’s other home — Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. Its plantation dates to 1676 and after 15 generations the home remains with the Drayton family.
No visit to Charleston is complete apart from taking a walking tour of the many churches that dot the area. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on Meeting Street was built in 1751, prized for clock and bells harkening from colonial times. The churchyard is the final resting place for two signators of the US constitution, the state’s first governor, and other individuals of distinction.
Other historic churches include Circular Congregation Church, the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, the French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, and St. Philip’s Church. On Hasell St. is Congregation Beth Elohim, the first Jewish house of worship in the United States.
From May until well past Labor Day, Charleston area beaches provide respite from hot, languid Lowcountry summers. There are five beach communities near Charleston including the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island near Mount Pleasant, and Folly Beach, Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island south of the downtown.
Hotels, inns, house rentals and resorts serve visitors, offering a variety of places to stay to suit most any budget. And if you desire to go further afield, you’ll find campgrounds aplenty.
Besides places to visit and things to do, Charleston is also much about its epicurean delights. She-crab soup, shrimp and grits, frogmore stew, Hoppin’ John, and Huguenot Torte are among the many delights served up by the city’s award-winning restaurants. These include Poogan’s Porch, McCrady’s, the Peninsula Grill, Cypress, and High Cotton, just to name a few.
See Also — Fun Things to Do in Charlotte, NC