Charleston is one of the dozen or so top destination cities in the United States. You can get a sense of the city by taking a carriage tour or a walking tour. These can be guided or self guided and will give you a chance to see why everyone loves Charleston’s old shade charm and history. You can tour the neighborhoods and the waterfront.Charleston South Carolina Pineapple Fountain in Historic Waterfront Park

You may spy places on the tour that you want to come back to, in order to see more. The Historic Downtown is chock full of places to explore. Chief among them the Old City Market, which is filled with vendors with interesting crafts, foods and more. Near the Old City Market are many galleries, boutiques and shops with lots of rare and special items.

The Nathaniel Russell house is perhaps the loveliest of all of the historic homes you can tour in Charleston. It is regarded as one of America’s finest Neoclassical houses, dating to 1808. Also consider touring the Heyward-Washington House, the Joseph P. Manigault House and the Aiken-Rhett House. If the doors of the historic fire station are open, be sure to go on in and see the fine antique firefighting equipment. Churches, including St Michaels and the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, give you a glimpse into the worship life of this fine old city.

aerial view of fort sumter, where the american civil war startedOf course a visit to Charleston would not be complete without seeing Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began. Fort Sumter Tours is the only authorized National Park Service commercial boat concessioner offering transportation to Fort Sumter. There are many departure times daily from Liberty Square, downtown Charleston, or from Patriots Point, in Mt. Pleasant.

As for dining, in a city that is filled with outstanding restaurants our favorite and number one place to visit is Magnolias. Other celebrated restaurants include: Cru Café, Peninsula Grill and the Brown Dog Deli. We also love Poogan’s Porch, which is tucked away not far from all the excitement.

Beautiful historic plantation home in Charleston South Carolina in morning light. Stunning!

Outside of the city, Charleston area plantation tours are popular, fill up fast, and are often crowded. Some of them are less so. Our absolute favorite is Middleton Place, which boasts tours of the 1755 guest wing and strolls in the oldest formal gardens in the United States. It is the birthplace of Arthur Middleton, Signer of the Declaration of Independence. North of the city, between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, our other favorite plantation tour is at Hopsewee Plantation, which was built in 1740 and was the home of Thomas Lynch, Jr, another Signer of the Declaration of Independence. It is owned by only the forth family to live here since the Signer himself. The tour is like a warm welcome into a friend’s home. And if you ask kindly, they may even direct you to the old church where the Signer worshiped, well off every beaten path on the unpaved Old King’s Highway.

As you drive to and from Hopsewee, you will see the sweetgrass basket makers at stands along the highway. If you are tempted to browse and buy, please do. These wonderful baskets become treasured family heirlooms.

Quick Guide to Charleston