Charleston, South Carolina has that certain something that’s hard to put your finger on. Once travelers set foot on its charming streets and bask in the glow of southern comfort and charism, it quickly becomes a place made for returning time and again. Perhaps its magic is in the history the city holds. Since its Colonial founding in 1670, Charleston has been an exciting city on the move. Growing from a port city into a wealthy metropolis that stayed on the cutting edge of fashion, politics and economics, Charleston has long been a place that has beckoned to progressive minds.
Perhaps its charm starts with the architecture. While Charleston witnessed wars of many kinds, its citizens held fast to the belief that its buildings were worth saving. Today, that means visitors have a chance to travel through time as they encounter structures and facades that remain true to their origins from centuries past. But then again maybe it’s the food that makes Charleston so fantastic. An undeniable flair for cooking up some of the best barbeque on the planet makes this city a food lovers paradise.
Whatever the case may be, it’s easy to see that the Holy City has much to offer and plenty of travelers ready to take advantage of the sights, sounds, and scenery. Opening itself up to nearly 7 million people a year, Charleston has both made and maintained a name for itself on the map of must-see destinations in the U.S. For first timers, Charleston can seem a bit overwhelming at first glance in the name of its many good features. Where does one begin in a well-loved city saturated with stories? When you’re headed to Charleston for an adventure and are hoping to soak up the essence of the city on a timeline, make sure to add the following to your to-do list.
Magnolia Plantation and Garden
The most awe-inspiring destination on Ashley River Road is not to be missed when you’re in the Holy City. It’s earned its reputation as Charleston’s most frequently visited plantation with good cause. Its unsurpassed beauty, rich history, and romantic ambiance is quick to pull visitors in and keep them there through mind and imagination. Since its founding in 1676, Magnolia Plantation and Garden has been an oasis of color, lush foliage, and intrigue. Standing the test of time, the plantation has lived through both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars as a testament to the Lowcountry’s role in American history. Wander across intricate bridges traversing gentle ponds or take a tour of the house for an authentic encounter with 19th-century plantation life.
Charleston City Market
Understanding a city involves a bit of getting into the rhythm of daily life. A trip to Charleston City Market allows visitors to join the hustle and bustle of a Charleston pastime that has been in the works since the 1790s. Stretching four blocks along the length of Meeting Street, the historic Charleston City Market features the works of Charleston locals and everything is available for purchase. Browse stands of pottery, sweetgrass baskets, paintings, and clothing. Every item that bears the Certified Authentic seal is guaranteed to be a Charleston specialty item. Stop by day or night for a market experience that is centuries in the making.
Charleston Sailing Adventures
As a city that grew onward from portside roots, getting out on the water is a must-try when you’re in Charleston. Trade and tourism that originated at the point of primary waterways was a large part of what developed Charleston into the cultural hub it is today. When you’re here, be sure to reserve a tour with Charleston Sailing Adventures. Private day charters are the ultimate way to get an intimate look at Charleston Harbor while benefitting from the knowledgeable captain onboard. Let your eyes be dazzled by the harborside skyline while your mind soaks up the history, stories and personal insights on the part of your guide. Tour length can be customized according to time and budget restraints. Additionally, guests have the option of booking a dolphin spotting excursion or hopping aboard for a sunset sail that makes for a most romantic evening.
Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar
While Charleston’s waterside location makes it perfect for spending a day sailing around the harbor, it’s equally ideal when it comes to providing travelers and locals with the best in seafood options. A trip to Charleston can be marked exclusively by flavor and when you’re here you won’t want to forget to make a reservation at Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar. Not far from Riley Waterfront Park, this delicious dining stop will have your taste buds tingling with happiness. From crab cakes to calamari and the many oysters, mussels, shrimp and fish in between, this place is the ultimate seafood lovers’ destination in the city for freshly-caught fare. Exposed brick walls and local art on display keep the ambiance at a southern chic level that pleases the mind right along with the palate.
Whatever it is that calls you to Charleston the first time around, don’t be surprised to find yourself wandering its lovely streets again and again. Many first-time visitors find themselves transformed into life-long Holy City enthusiasts at the hands of a savory seafood meal, sensational harbor sail or a simple walk through history.
Caitlyn Knuth is a travel writer whose personal adventures have motivated her to write about everything from the most delicious cafés in Paris to the awe-inspiring salmon runs in Juneau, Alaska. Working alongside Exclusive Properties, she has fallen in love with writing about the inspiring destination of Charleston in hopes that others will take to South Carolina in the name of history, travel, and off-the-beaten-path adventure of their very own.