Charleston… Southen Belle. The charming, historic harbor city that won our hearts a few years back when we visited it the first time. We decided to pay another visit to this great city with Noah in tow this time, as those antebellum mansions, cobbled streets and that delicious southern lowcountry food enticed us again.
Once described as the wealthiest town in the American South, it still presents the bygone era to the fullest. From spectacular mansions with huge verandas, to number of remarkable churches, riding the horse carriage was one of the memories we wanted to recreate with our son, Noah.
There is so much to do and see there, from museums to some of historic plantation houses to wonderful aquarium and, of course, world class food all over the city. It was absolute fun spending our 3 night mini vacation in this harbor city by the Atlantic. Here are some of the highlights you shouldn’t miss when you are in Charleston…
1. The Battery
No one leaves Charleston without a stroll by the Battery. The beautiful promenade along side the harbor of Charleston is famously known as “The Battery”. Originally, artillery battery was posted here, hence the name.
Noah had a great time running around the historic mortars and cannons and different monuments for the heroes from the war era in White Point Gardens lining the harbor. We really recommend spending an hour or two strolling through not only garden, but checking out some of the grandest stately homes and mansions running along the Battery.
Soak in the fresh breeze coming from the Atlantic enjoying the views of the harbor as well as these beautiful houses and reminisce about bygone eras.
2. Charleston Walking Tours
Charleston is great for walking tours, with centuries-old mansion and cobblestone streets. You can chose from a variety of options from learning the historic downtown district, or opt for night time ghost tours to explore city’s spooky tales over the centuries, or just go on fun gastronomic tours tasting the delicious local cuisine.
3. Charleston Museum
We love Charleston Museum with its vast exhibits that begin with Native Americans and early settlers in the Lowcountry, to plantation life with slaves, and later about life and Charleston’s role during the Civil War and Revolution.
Besides that, they had great Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, as well as lowcountry flora and fauna. It’s well worth it to spend 3-4 hours browsing through all of these exhibits.
4. South Carolina Aquarium
Now this one is Noah’s favorite place in Charleston… Fishy house. South Carolina’s museum is home to about 500 aquatic creatures ranging from sharks, turtles, sea horses, urchins and so much more. They have great interactive shows and touch tanks where you can touch the rays and sharks and learn so much about these amazing creatures. It’s a MUST for families.
5. Charleston City Market
This iconic and historic red sandstone building is very popular to browse through all the souvenirs the city has to offer. It’s a prominent landmark in the historic downtown, colorful and lively. Grab a cup of coffee and take it all in.
You can shop great local souvenirs like beautiful sweetgrass baskets, local art and food products, or small knick-knacks. The market is open every day from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.
6. Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
One of the most sought after things to do when in Charleston is visit still existing plantation houses. Magnolia Plantation, with its extensive gardens, ranks pretty high on the things to do, These are America’s oldest publicly accessed gardens, first opened to visitors in 1870. You can take a guided tour of the house, take a boat tour and see exhibits.
The plantation has a deep rooted history in slavery. It was home to many enslaved families. Their cabins are still preserved to this day and each cabin tells you a story of that significant period in history. They a have nature center and petting zoo for kiddies in your group.
7. Charleston Boat Tours
What a great way to enjoy this harbor city!! On board some vessel that takes you round the harbor, where you have great views of the city and learn more about city’s maritime history. It’s a great way to see Charleston’s top landmarks like The Battery, Waterfront park, the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge, Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney.
There are variety of tours and operators that offer all different kinds of boat tours, from sunset cruises to private charters and fishing charters.
8. Fort Sumter National Monument
Take a boat ride to Fort Sumter, the place of the start of American Civil war on April 12, 1861. The ruins of the battered fort are well preserved and National Park Rangers tell the story of Fort Sumpter and how it helped shape history. The boat departs from the Visitor Education Center downtown at Liberty Square, or from Patriots point.
9. Middleton Place Plantation
This plantation houses America’s oldest landscaped gardens. Beautiful descending terraces, hedged galleries and pools, Middledon place is worth a few hours browsing through the plantation house and its gardens blooming with all sorts of flowers.
Built in 1775, this mansion was once home of Arthur Middleton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. A great insight into the magnificence of bygone eras, and the other side of life with slavery and its hardships.
10. Waterfront Park
This one is famous for its very unique Pineapple Fountain. This waterfront park near the City Market and historic sights is very popular with tourists as well as locals. Stretch your feet, relax and enjoy Charleston Harbor views. Great place for kiddos with swings and benches scattered all through out the park.
11. Folly Beach
Though living by the beach is nothing new to us, I am always curious about other beach communities all over the world. So we decided to take a break and check out the nearest beach to downtown, Folly Beach.
It’s 12 miles south of downtown Charleston, perfect spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Go to the beach, relax and have some great drink in some of the bars and restaurants lining this small beach town.
12. Boone Hall Plantations & Gardens
We love the three-quarter-mile Avenue of Oaks, the famous entrance way to this magnificent Plantation house. It’s one of America’s oldest working plantations, and crops have been continuously grown here for more than three centuries.
Quite remarkable is that you can still buy fruits, berries and vegetables at their Boone Hall Market, close to the plantation on Hwy17. They do have a small cafeteria where we break for lunch, and I had to have try their shecrab soup.
13. Night Tour
Charleston can be as busy in the night time as day. So many tours you can choose from to know Charleston’s notorious past. You can chose from their spooky ghost tours, graveyard tours or nighttime horse carriage tours to hear the grim tales of Charleston’s haunted history.
14. USS Yorktown & Patriot Point
This one is another family activity, where young kids have fun to exploring the battleship vessel, USS Yorktown. It’s anchored at Patriots Point. This gigantic vessel was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy, winning many battle stars throughout the history.
This is the vessel selected to recover the Apollo 8 astronauts… wow. It’s a great time browsing through the Naval and Maritime Museum, aircraft, submarines and other maritime exhibits.
15. Horse-Drawn Carriage Sightseeing
We kept this horse-drawn carriage tour as the finale for our trip, as Noah was so excited to ride a horse. We love soaking up the old fashioned charm of cobblestone streets lined with antebellum houses, lush gardens and landmark churches, listening to the stories of Charleston’s history, architecture and culture.
There are several carriage companies that operate throughout the day and even in night time.
Make the most of it when you are in America’s most Historic town. We will tell you all about its Lowcountry cuisine and the foods we enjoyed on our two visits in our next post, Where to Eat in Charleston. Stay tuned.
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