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Charleston, South Carolina

Local Details

Learn more about Charleston, South Carolina using the City Guide below. Plan a trip, find local shopping centers, or just discover what makes Charleston, South Carolina so great!

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City Guide

Charleston is a city in the state of South Carolina in the United States of America.

Understand

Charleston is in general a laid-back city and has an old-South feel as does Savannah. Most people in Charleston are helpful when approached in a polite manner. If a traveller speaks little English, Charlestonians are still generally willing to help as best they can. It is advisable, however, to at least learn a few key English phrases, and perhaps carry a traveler's phrasebook.

Get in

By plane

Charleston is served by the Charleston International Airport, located northwest of the city.

By car

Charleston is located nearly at the midpoint of South Carolina's Atlantic coastline. It can be easily reached by car using Interstate 26, or U.S. Highway 17.

Get around

Charleston is a city that is best explored by car or on foot. Several rental car services are available at the Charleston International Airport. Some area hotels also provide transportation to and from the airport.

The public transportation system in Charleston consists primarily of a fleet of buses run by the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority and privately run taxi services. The bus system is not widely used by the upper-class residents of the city, and would be rated as "fair" by the standards of most larger urban areas. Taxis are generally safe and inexpensive in Charleston, but they can be difficult to find unless they are prearranged by calling one of the Taxi services in advance or if you are in the downtown area it is easy to flag one down. The best way to tour the city is by carriage drawn by horses or mules (many vendors available at the Market in downtown Charleston), although one should also prepare oneself for derisive comment and high levels of exasperation from locals inconvenienced by such quaint methods of transit.

Luckily for the visitor to Charleston's peninsula, the historic district is easily accessible on foot. If staying in one of the many hotels on the peninsula of Charleston, a visitor could easily explore most of the city's major historical sites without benefit of a car. Unfortunately, the plantations -- a significant part of Charleston's history -- are not located within walking distance of the peninsula.

See

Charleston's primary attraction to visitors is its historical setting and landmarks. A list of some sites to visit includes:

  • The Battery, A park located at the tip of the Charleston peninsula.
  • Fort Sumter, The site of the start of the Civil War (accessible by boat, and not by foot).
  • The Market. An old shopping district where vendors still sell wares. Contrary to popular legend, the Market was never a slave exchange. However, the remnants of an old slave market are located a few blocks away.
  • Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, Four Ships. Twenty-five Aircraft.
  • Arthur Ravenel Bridge, The longest cable stay bridge in North America.
  • The Citadel, Historic military college (consult with officials from the school for visitation policies).
  • St. Philip's Church, 146 Church St.
  • St. Michael's Church, 71 Broad St.
  • Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, 120 Broad St.
  • Cathedral of Saint Luke and Saint Paul, on Coming Street in the Lower Westside.
  • Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, 90 Hasell St (within a few blocks of the market), The oldest surviving Reform synagogue in the world.
  • The College of Charleston, Founded in 1770, the College of Charleston is the oldest institution of higher education in the state of South Carolina and the thirteenth oldest in the United States.
  • Randolph Hall, at the College of Charleston, Built in 1828. Popular civil war movie-making site.

A good place to start a tour of Charleston is the Visitor Reception and Transportation Center (tel: 1-800-774-0006), located at 375 Meeting Street, not far from the entrance of I-26 into the city. Here, a visitor can receive maps and guides, book tours, and tour a small museum dedicated to the history of Charleston.

Soccer fans may want to take in a Charleston Battery match at Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island. It's a 5,000 seat stadium with a nice little English-styled pub.

Baseball can be seen at Riley Park where the Charleston Riverdogs, an affiliate of the New York Yankees, play ball.

Do

When in Charleston, consider taking a carriage tour of the city. Several groups operate horse-drawn carriage tours of the historical sites in the city. Most of these tours leave from stands on Market street, next to the Market itself. While reservations are not required for these tours, they are run on a first-come-first-served basis, so plan to wait during peak tourist season. Luckily, most of the tour services assign a departure time, rather than making customers wait in line, so tourists waiting for a carriage can take the opportunity to visit the Market shops. Discount coupons are available in free tourist maps and guides.

Equally fun walking tours include guided history tours and scary ghost tours through the streets of Charleston.

Buy

The Market and the shops lining Market street are a popular shopping destination for tourists. The Market itself is a large gathering of small vendors that sell everything from blankets to candy. More traditional shops line Market street, and most of these sell merchandise that is aimed at tourists.

Upscale shopping in downtown Charleston can be found at the shops lining King street. These shops are known for selling high-quality merchandise, but are not known for bargain prices.

Eat

A popular restaurant in downtown Charleston is Slightly North of Broad, located on East Bay street (slightly north of Broad Street). The restaurant serves traditional southern cuisine, and its menu selection varies with the seasons. Charleston Grill, in the Charleston Place Hotel, and Peninsula Grill on North Market Street are generally regarded as the finest restaurants in Charleston.

Justine's on Meeting Street offers some of the best food for the money. It has been featured on Rachel Ray's show "$40 a Day" as well as many national food publications. A must have is the "table wine" (sweet tea), fried okra, and a slice of homemade pie (choose from over 10 kinds).

Individuals from Ohio and North Carolina should enjoy a meal at the Wild Wing Cafe; alternatively, one might enjoy the 'complete' tourist experience, and a very long wait, at Hyman's Seafood or Bubba Gumps on South Market Street. Locals prefer Bowen's Island, near Folly Beach, or The Wreck, in Mount Pleasant.

Be sure to head to Mt. Pleasant to eat breakfast at the Sea Biscuit. The place is quaint and the lines are long but the food is so worth it. Be sure to try the Crab Cakes Benedict or Caprese Omelet. Also good for breakfast in Mt. Pleasant is the Bookstore Cafe. Downtown features Hominy Grill (also on Rachel Ray's "$40 a Day" and Joseph's.

By far the most successful restraunteur in the Charleston area is the owner of the Mustard Seed (3 locations), Sette VI, Uno Mas, Long Point Grill, and Boulevard Dinner. The dinning experience at each of the locations (owned by the same company) features deliciuos homemade bread or chips while pondering the daily special board as well as the menu. Meals at each of the range from $8-$22 but average about $12.

If you want a truely local experience for lunch stop by any of the Piggly Wiggly grocery locations and order a fried chicken and macaroni and cheese.

Drink

Bars are not difficult to find in Charleston. For a cruise ship crowd and fruity, daiquiri-style drinks, try Wet Willies, located on East Bay street. For the college crowd try The Brick on East Bay Street or Tsunami's. For a more sedate atmosphere and great microbrewed beer with dinner, try the South End Brewery, also located on East Bay Street. Henry's on N. Market St. has a lively 40's crowd. The Blind Tiger (an old speakeasy from the Prohibition era) is a local's favorite.

Mt Pleasant features Shem Creek and several bar and grills side by side. Red's Icehouse, RB's, and Vickery's are the most popular.

Open-pour bottles have recently been legalized in bars and restaurants, but many establishments will continue to use mini-bottles. This is important to remember, since your drinks will have an entire mini-bottle of each liquor in the recipe. Be careful when ordering.

Sleep

Charleston is serviced by virtually all of the major U.S. hotel chains. Expect to pay a premium for a room on Charleston's peninsula.

  • Harbourview Inn, 2 Vendue Range, 1-888-853-8439. This 4 Diamond inn overlooks historic Charleston Harbor and offers unparalleled service and amenities. The Harbourview is the perfect choice for tourists and business travelers alike. Please visit the hotel's website for the guaranteed lowest rate.
  • French Quarter Inn, 166 Church St., 1-866-812-1900. The French Quarter Inn is a AAA 4 Diamond award winning hotel located on Market St. right in the heart of the historic district. The superb location only serves as an accent to the hotel's luxurious accomodations and incredible amenities. 4 Diamond restaurant Tristan, is located on property and provides room service. For the lowest rate guaranteed please visit the hotel's website.
  • 1843 Battery Carriage House Inn, 20 S. Battery, 1-800-775-5575 (fax: +1 843 727-3130). The historic bed and breakfast mansion is on The Battery Park overlooking Charleston Harbor. The inn is a wonderful location for long weekend getaways in South Carolina.
  • Barksdale House Inn, 27 George Street, 1-888-577-4980. Wonderfully close to the College of Charleston and the King Street shopping district, this quiet, low-key bed and breakfast offers privacy and comfort to its guests. Call for last-minute rates, and you may get a substantial discount, but don't count on that during busy times.
  • Belvedere Bed and Breakfast, 40 Rutledge Avenue, 1-800-816-1664 (fax: +1 412-683-3934). Convenient to all of Charleston's famous house museums, many fine restaurants, and antique shops. The area is famous for its beaches, golf courses, tennis facilities, Civil War forts, gardens and plantations.
  • Embassy Suites Airport/Convention Center, 5055 International Blvd, +1 843 747-1882. Perfect for both business and leisure.
  • Hawthorn Suites Charleston, 2455 Savannah Highway, +1 843 225-4411. Conveniently located just seven miles from Historic Downtown Charleston.
  • Mills House Hotel, 115 Meeting Street. Close to downtown Charleston's most popular attractions. It is not a cheap lodging, but has the benefit of a good location, comfortable rooms, and attentive staff.
  • Charleston's NotSo Hostel, 156 Spring Street, +1 843 722-8383. Dorms beds at $19-21 per night, private rooms at $55-60 per night depending on season.

If a vehicle is accessible during the trip, one may want want to hop across the rivers to West Ashley or Mount Pleasant where hotels are less expensive. Both West Ashley and Mount Pleasant are less than a five to ten minute drive to the downtown Peninsula.

Get out

When departing Charleston, here are a few things to remember:

If a taxi to the airport is required, it must generally be arranged in advance. Expect at least a half-hour wait for a taxi to arrive. The hotel staff can help arrange for a taxi. Another option is to take a shuttle van from the airport - this may be cheaper. However, upon noting that one is leaving the city for the airport, transport will generally arrive with undue haste.

In the U.S., it is important to arrive at the airport at least one hour before the flight is scheduled to leave. This allows time for security screening.

Charleston is a hitchhiker friendly city if the intrepid traveler finds appeal in taking one's life in one's own hands.

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