With summer being the time that many families take vacation, the number one question is where to go that meets the criteria of being fun, interesting, and affordable. Charleston has something for everyone; a bit of forethought will assure that everyone from child to adult has the kind of time that will make them to want to come back again. If you are a first-time visitor, here are some tips for making the most of your trip.
Where To Start
Charleston is a 400-year-old city located on the Atlantic coast, which means that there are many historical points of interest here, plus many water activities to enjoy. Parking is tight, so plan on walking a lot to avoid frustration and to offset the damage you can do to your waistline from dining in the thousands of restaurants in the area that serve up excellent Southern cuisine.
One way to see the city- and get around in it – is by water taxi. Charleston Water Taxi travels between Waterfront Park/Historic district, Aquarium Wharf, Patriots Point, and Charleston Harbor Resort every day between 9 am – 8 pm For $12 adults or $10 for kids 5-10 (3 and under are free!), you can get a whole day pass to see the city from the water, stop at attractions downtown, and board the taxi at any point. If you like sunset cruises or dolphin watching, you can do it all at on the taxi, which makes it transportation and entertainment too.
To cut down on the walking and see more, you can also take Grayline tours of Charleston that transport you via mini-bus (and sometimes a boat!) to points of interest. Unlike with the water taxi, you cannot get off the bus and stay at one point and catch another tour bus unto the next location as city laws prohibit hop off-hop on service.
As the oldest and largest city in South Carolina, the city played a role in the Revolutionary and later was the scene of the first full battle of the Civil War at Fort Sumpter. As a trade center, its history is intertwined with the history of slavery in the US, as Charleston has the first dedicate slave markets in the country. The city was notable for the number of churches it housed as South Carolina welcomed all religions except Roman Catholicism in first two centuries.
This diverse history has left Charleston with plantations, fine homes owner by merchants, historical reminders of the slave trade and early African American institutions, war memorials, old churches, and more that you can revisit in themed walking tours. You can choose your tour based on your interest and enjoy some beautiful architecture in the process.
Some of the tours center around street, churches, or historic homes but you can even tour hidden alleys and passages that resulted from how homes were built and how streets were connected. You can walk Latitude Lane, which runs through the Old Walled City of the late 1600s to get a feel for early Charleston or visit Philadelphia Alley (formerly Cow’s and Dueler’s Alley) between Queen and Cumberland Streets, the site of a famous duel that left the place haunted by the Whistling Ghost of Dr. Joseph Brown Ladd who was mortally wounded there.
Given Charleston’s location, you’d expect great beaches and plentiful fishing in the area. Numerous locations such as Folly’s Beach offer swimming, sailing, and sunbathing, while fishing charters abound. However, the area also offers surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, parasailing, kiteboarding, jet skiing, and flyboarding to please even the most adventurous vacationer. Most venues offer lessons to adults and children at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, so your time in Charleston can teach you skills that you can practice and develop over man vacations to come.
If water activities are among the main attractions in visiting the area, you might want to stay on one of the islands off the coast of the city. The Island of Palms is a favorite destination for families who might want to enjoy the beach, venture into saltwater to fish for red trout or flounder, or even shark fish. Kiawah Island offers golfing and hiking along with the water fun. Wadmalaw Island offers the additional attraction of the only working tea plantation if the US. For a more rustic experience, Bull Island offers a wilderness habitat for over 200 species of birds.
Regardless of your interest and budget, there are plenty of place to dip your toes or cast your line into the water.
Eating Your Way Through Charleston
Whether you are looking for authentic lowcountry cooking, amazing seafood, or generally tasty food, Charleston has hundreds of restaurants to try. A quick Google search before you go will pop up numerous lists of “best restaurants” but there are many culinary tours to introduce you to the most popular ones. The tours usually offer tastings of food and drink of places you may want to return for a full meal. Some torus are set up so you can talk to local chefs if you are trying to learn more about regional cooking.
Coming To Charleston With Kids
Tours through Charleston offer plenty of educational experiences for children, while the coast waters promise long days of swimming, fishing, boating, and more. The area offers many places where supervised children can run free such as Waterfront Park. This beautiful space, built over a 10 year period from 1979-1989, offers an urban park with beautiful landscaping, park benches for tired walkers to sit, two large fountains for kids to splash in, lawns to picnic on, and free wifi and internet access to enable online activity. The park is even lit with traditional gas lanterns to enable family enjoyment even as dark approaches.
One venue devoted to kids is The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. Featuring a medieval “castle” for pretending, an art room, a water room, a fishing boat replica, puppets, dress up, and more, children can enjoy themselves with many other vacationers.
As a vacation destination, Charleston has it all, while offering memories for a lifetime.