Charleston SC City Guide: Southern Charm, Beaches, Historical Homes, and Great Food

There’s only one legitimate problem with Charleston: you’re never going to want to leave. It is an absolute must-visit if you love history, Southern charm (not just the TV show but that too) great food, and a small town vibe with all the advantages of a big city. For crying out loud, its been voted #1 US city like 5 billion years in a row.

You’ll want to walk down every street, and alley, and peek behind all the gates into the courtyards. You will never put your phone down.

Also I’m sure there’s some kind of a flower box ordinance because you’ll be hard pressed to find a place that doesn’t have them.

You’ll want to take pictures in front of #alltheflowerboxes as I may or may not have done.

Visiting Charleston is like stepping back in time— remember The Notebook? Well much of it was filmed right in Charleston. You can drive by the theater where Noah and Ally have their first date, and the street they slow danced on. This was, of course, a major priority for me.

The city has gone to great lengths to preserve its history and architecture. They have strict ordinances around remodeling — even to the point of only allowing certain paint colors. They have a rule that anything older than 75 years can’t be removed by man, only God.

And get this: the city will hook up and pay for gas lamps on the front of your house to encourage people to use them. Can you EVEN?

Best Things To Do In Charleston

Truth be told, I had never seen Southern Charm when we visited Charleston, but after the influx of messages asking me to go find Patricia’s house — I realized I needed to check it out. Although there are SO MANY options of things to do on your visit, I’m just going to cover the ones I’ve done and can vouch for their awesomeness.

The Battery

A stroll along Battery is a MUST! Don’t even question it. So Charleston is essentially a peninsula. The Battery a stretch of seawall and adjoining walking paths that wrap along the peninsula. It is lined with the most obnoxiously beautiful, historical mansions Charleston has to offer.

If you want to see the famous giant pineapple fountain, you can start there in Waterfront Park, then take the paths all the way along The Battery until you reach White Pointe Gardens park, where you’ll find several civil war relics.

You can do this walk on your own or there are many guided tours. It is a quick bike ride/walk from downtown or you can drive there and find free or metered parking easily.

Carriage Ride Through Historic Districts

The best way to explore the history of Charleston is to take a carriage ride through the city. Several companies offer them and most of them draw random numbers to see which neighborhood you’ll be touring. Whichever one you get, it’ll be worth it.

Ours took us by some of the most amazing churches in Charleston, the oldest prison in the area, and some of the earliest homes that were built, as well as one of the most famous mansions (the Wentworth Mansion) — and as serendipity would have it — Patricia’s house from Southern Charm.

Shopping Along King Street

Charleston is known for it’s great shopping — particularly along King Street. I would say it’s a perfect blend of unique local boutiques and well known stores of all price ranges. It’s amazing how everything is so centrally located, so you can just park and walk the whole area.

The College of Charleston Campus

Hear me out. This sounds like a weird thing to do — wandering around a college campus — but first let me tell you: the College of Charleston is consistently voted as the most beautiful college campus in the country.

Secondly, you will walk around, in awe, with your jaw dropped, thinking about how much more you would have actually gone to class if this was the situation.


Rainbow Row

Perhaps one of the most notable tourist areas of Charleston is Rainbow Row. This former slum, has transformed into one of the most colorful and beautiful blocks in the city.

You’ll spend a considerable amount of time there trying to get just the right photo with the right color combo with as few tourists as possible. Like I clearly did. Good luck.

Tour the Calhoun Mansion

There’s a lot of mansion tours to choose from in Charleston. We picked the Calhoun mansion because it was located conveniently to where we were and it did not disappoint! If you’re into history and enormously beautiful homes, this is it! They give tours every hour.

You can’t take pictures inside, but just trust me, it’s incredible.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

There are several plantations to choose from when visiting the Charleston area. I chose Magnolia because it was selected as one of “America’s Most Beautiful Gardens” by Travel & Leisure, among other awards. You can wander freely, or choose one of the various tours they offer.

We did one of the gardens tours and it was quite interesting! We went in the spring so things weren’t quite full bloom, but still beautiful! You can also tour the home, however, we did not.

This was why first time seeing a magnolia flower, and they did not disappoint. They grow on huge trees and the flowers are the size of a dinner plate. They smell amazing.

Folly Beach + Sullivan’s Island

There are all sorts of beaches to choose from within quick driving distance from Charleston. We chose Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island. I’m not going to pretend like I wasn’t searching for Bill Murray’s home the entire time —he lives on Sullivan’s— and I can see why! It is the quintessential laid back beach vibe —surf shops and mom and pop shops with people cruising the island on bikes and golf carts.

Isle of Palms also has it’s own beach and if you’re a Southern Charm fan, that is where Shep has a home. It’s worth a quick drive to see some massively beautiful beach homes!

Angel Oak Tree

The Angel Oak Tree is a living oak located on John’s Island and it’s something you can’t understand until you see it. It is estimated to be one of the oldest living things in the country at 400-500 years old. It stands 66.5 ft (20 m) tall and measures 28 ft (8.5 m) in circumference.

No cost of admission.

If you have any questions or need recommendations, leave them below or feel free to email me through the contact form.

Stay tuned for part 2 on what to eat in Charleston!

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