If you love history you will love Charleston, an old city that has been referred to as a living museum.
Named in honor of England’s King Charles II, Charles Town was originally founded in 1670 along the banks of what is now known as the Ashley River. In 1680 the settlement was moved to the current peninsular location, and in 1783 was incorporated with the name Charleston.
For the last nine years Charleston has been ranked number one in their Best Small Cities category by the magazine Conde Nast Traveler.
Must do in Charleston
It was a terrible action that led to a tragic period in American history, but the first shots of the Civil War were fired in Charleston. The target of the cannon fire was the Federal fort located in Charleston harbor and known as Fort Sumter.
Fort Sumter is part of the National Park Service, and you can get there by boat. The best way to do this is to buy a ticket at Fort Sumter Tours. This tour will include a boat trip on the harbor with some wonderful views of the city, and a visit to the fort where you will find exhibits that will provide information on the history of the fort.
What do I like best about Charleston?
Charleston has endured the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, a great fire, an earthquake, and Hurricane Hugo. None of these destroyed the city. For generations Charlestonians have made a great effort to preserve the historical residences and buildings of Charleston.
The result of this effort has made walking the streets of Charleston like being taken back in time. You can see the history and you can feel the history.
Some of the historical homes and buildings are museums open to tourists.
Best Walk in Charleston
There are a multitude of walking tours in Charleston. Some are guided and some are self-guided.
Some are generalized and some are specialized in such characteristics as ghost tours that take you to haunted places. Pirate tours typically include the true story of Blackbeard blockading the city and demanding ransom.
You can also take horse-drawn carriage tours and bus tours. There is no need to limit yourself. There is so much to see and hear about in Charleston that taking several tours is recommended.
You can find more information on the various tours by visiting the website of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitor Bureau.
When you do not want to take a tour, just stroll about the city. Charleston is a safe place to do that.
Best Restaurants in Charleston
Charleston is home to the Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Technical College. Until its relocation to Charlotte in 2006, Charleston was home to Johnson & Wales University, a school that offered programs in food service and hospitality.
As one would imagine, a city with a high number of graduates in the culinary arts would have a plethora of restaurants.
There are fine dining restaurants, there are pubs, there are cafes. There are places to eat that will accommodate a wide range of budgets.
I will list just a few below.
- 82 Queen – The food is excellent and the setting, which includes an interior garden courtyard, is truly outstanding.
- Magnolias – Everyone in Charleston knows about this restaurant. You do need to make reservations several days in advance.
- Slightly North of Broad – Broad Street runs from river to river across the Charleston peninsula. People living south of Broad are considered to be the wealthy among us. The restaurant is known as SNOB.
- Tommy Condon’s – This is an Irish pub. They have live Irish music on some nights.
- Fast & French – Here you will find a bistro owned by French folks who serve French food.
- Pane e Vino – You will discover an Italian trattoria owned by an Italian serving Italian food. They have courtyard dining available.
Best Music/Festival in Charleston
In 1958 composer Gian Carlo Menotti established Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy. This festival was a celebration of music, opera and theater.
In 1977 Gian Carlo established the same festival in Charleston. Known as Spoleto, this festival is held every Spring and has gained international fame.
The festival lasts for about 17 days, and the city comes alive with the fine arts.
You can find more information on the festival website at spoletousa.org.
Best Nightlife in Charleston
Since colonial times Charleston has been known as a city where the local population enjoys life.
Charleston folks like to dance. In the 1920’s the popular dance known as the “Charleston” was named after the city. Of course not everyone who visits Charleston enjoys dancing, and tastes in what we call nightlife are very diverse. So allow me to again refer you to the website for the Charleston Area Visitor and Convention Bureau and suggest you click on the menu item “DINING & nightlife”.
Best Day Trip Out of Charleston
Charleston is located right next to the Atlantic Ocean. There are three beaches within a short driving distance from Charleston:
- Folly Beach – We might call Folly elegantly shabby. There is a little town at the entrance to the island where you will find bars, restaurants and shops.
- Isle of Palms – There is a commercial area where most parking and beach access is found. The rest of the island is residential with limited beach access.
- Sullivans Island – There are a few restaurants and bars, but Sullivans Island is mostly residential. Beach access is fine. Historic Fort Moultrie is located on Sullivans and is open to visitors.
A trip to one of these beaches can be a relaxing way to take a break and breathe the sea air.
Something that not many travelers would know about Charleston
The old area of the city is designated by the U. S. National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark District and is listed on their National Regional Register of Historic Places.
Charleston is a unique place. So if you would like a unique experience, Charleston may be a good choice for you.