Charleston, South Carolina, is a beautiful place, especially in summer. Downtown, you can walk on cobblestone streets, see trees covered with Spanish moss, and check out historic homes. The city also has awesome Southern food and beautiful beaches. You can even ride in a horse-drawn carriage. Charleston is an ideal home away from home for people traveling solo, for families, or for couples ready for romance. Book your flight, decide which attractions you want to see most, and make reservations at a great hotel for an unforgettable visit to South Carolina.

The Battery
The Battery in Charleston.

Early Morning: The Battery

This row of picturesque Southern mansions overlooking Charleston Harbor used to be the center of the city’s maritime activity. Today, it’s one of Charleston’s most popular tourist attractions. Start your tour of The Battery at the 12-acre Waterfront Park. It’s a great place to watch the sunrise, and its giant pineapple fountain is a favorite for selfies. You can also find it on lots of postcards.

Then, take a scenic stroll on East Battery Street to the nearby White Point Gardens, where you can see several Civil War relics and memorials. Many downtown hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are within walking distance, and street parking is available. Spaces should be easy to find before rush hour.

Late Morning: A Decadent Brunch

Brunch is a Southern tradition all visitors to Charleston need to try. Check out Poogan’s Porch, a small spot on Queen Street that’s named for Poogan the dog. Back in the 1970s, when this great restaurant opened, he hung out on the front porch. Try the Charlestowne Fry Omelet, a local favorite. This open-faced masterpiece is topped with lightly fried oysters, white Cheddar, and applewood-smoked bacon. The Sunrise Shrimp & Grits is excellent as well, with ham gravy, peppers, onions, and sausage. Brunch is available on weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It starts half an hour earlier on weekends.

High Cotton on East Bay Street also serves one of the best brunches in town. In the South, people often say that a rich or successful person is walking in high cotton. This excellent restaurant has a very appropriate name. Start with the She Crab Soup, a simple bisque with chives and sherry. Then, try the Crab Cakes Benedict. It comes with a grilled English muffin, local spinach, poached eggs, Creole hollandaise, and Cheddar grits or potatoes. Brunch is on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and a local bluegrass band often plays.

Noon: Cool Off at the Charleston City Market

One of Charleston’s oldest landmarks is the 200-year-old Historic City Market, one of the oldest public markets in the United States and home to more than 300 merchants. The Great Hall is at the intersection of Meeting and Market streets, and it has striking architecture with brownstone stucco, red sandstone, and green ironwork. It was recently renovated and equipped with air conditioning, so it’s a great place to cool off when the sun starts to get hot. A huge skylight covers the ceiling, so it still feels like you’re outdoors.

Make sure you check out the iconic handmade sweetgrass baskets. More than 50 artisans offer these West African crafts at the market, and people have been making them in Charleston for centuries. They make great gifts or souvenirs. For more information about sweetgrass baskets and the rest of the city’s history, visit the Historic Charleston Foundation in the Great Hall. You can find hundreds of high-quality products, including reproduction furniture and a ton of books about Charleston. The City Market is open every day of the year except Christmas.

Fort Moultrie
Fort Moultrie National Monument.

Afternoon: Have a Nap and a Snack

Visit one of Charleston’s many nearby beaches for a relaxing afternoon nap, and then have a snack to tide you over until dinner. The Isle of Palms is just 16 miles east of the city with about 7 miles of shoreline. It’s great for swimming, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, or simply taking a nap or sunbathing with an entertaining book. Also, two different golf courses are open to the public. At Folly Beach, you can watch surfers and dolphins. Families of dolphins often strand feed, herding schools of fish onto the shore, and then launching themselves onto the sand to eat.

Sullivan’s Beach on Sullivan’s Island is only a few miles long, but it has a charming town nearby. Explore the Fort Moultrie National Monument, which was built during the Civil War. Edgar Allan Poe was stationed there in 1827.

The Obstinate Daughter on Sullivan’s Island has some of Charleston’s best mussels, as well as gourmet pasta and pizza. If you’re looking for a smaller snack, check out the Darling Oyster Bar on King Street downtown. Its Monster Bloody Mary has a hush puppy, a lobster tail, a king crab leg, Old Bay spiced shrimp, and a pickle on top, so it’s a great drink and a snack in one.

Boone Hall Plantation
The Boone Hall Plantation in Charleston.

Late Afternoon: Tour the Historic Boone Hall Plantation

This picturesque plantation has been in several big Hollywood films, including “The Notebook” and “North and South.” It’s been around since 1681, and the current mansion was built in 1936. Boone Hall is still a working plantation, and visitors can tour the mansion and the surrounding 738 acres.

The garden has roses that are over 100 years old, and you can see many species of butterflies in the Butterfly Pavilion. Admission to Boone Hall Plantation is $24 for adults, $12 for kids under 13, and free for kids under 6 years old. If you don’t have time to see all the sights, just save your ticket. That way, you can come back the next day and finish your tour for free.

Evening: Have a Great Dinner

At the Hominy Grill, chef and owner Robert Stehling serves deep-fried grits, fried green tomatoes with ranch dressing, sautéed chicken livers with country ham gravy, and other delicious dishes in a classic 1950s-style diner. He’s a winner of the prestigious James Beard Award, and the restaurant was featured on the Food Network and the Travel Channel.

Relax in the comfy chairs and try catfish Creole, fried catfish with tomatoes, onions, peppers, ham sauce, and celery over jasmine rice with fried okra. You can also try the Nasty Biscuit with fried chicken breast, Cheddar cheese, and sausage gravy. The wide selection of decadent seasonal desserts like persimmon pudding changes often. The building was built in the 1800s, and it was a barber shop before it became a restaurant. Remember to make reservations so you can avoid a long wait for a table at this popular place.

French Quarter
The French Quarter.

Late Evening: See a Show

The historic Dock Street Theatre opened in 1736 in Charleston’s French Quarter. The current building dates to 1809, and it was rebuilt after a fire. Some of its most famous additions came in 1835, including the ornate wrought iron on the top balcony and the pillars next to the dark green doors. The Dock Street Theatre recently went through a three-year, $19 million renovation that added state-of-the-art sound quality, air conditioning, and new seats. Now you can see local and touring Broadway productions at one of the oldest operational theaters in the United States.

After the show, you can explore the French Quarter’s beautiful architecture. The many art galleries in the area are open late on the first Friday of every month for the French Quarter Art Walk, and lots of them offer wine and other refreshments. You can also see a different kind of show by walking or biking across the Ravenel Bridge. The harbor and the lights from the city are beautiful, and Fort Sumter is visible as well. The eight-lane highway that crosses this unique suspension bridge is usually much quieter at night. You can rent a bike to cross the bridge and then take a relaxing cruise back to Charleston in a water taxi.

Charleston International Airport Guide

The Charleston International Airport is the busiest airport in South Carolina, and it’s the only airport in the state that offers flights to all four time zones in the continental United States. The Charleston County Aviation Authority and Joint Base Charleston run the airport under a joint use agreement. Joint Base is a combined Air Force and Navy base, and the airport also has a Boeing facility that assembles the 787 Dreamliner. In this popular airport, you can find shopping, dining, and more to make your trip easier.

How to Find Your Way Around

The airport has one terminal and two runways. In 2016, it completed a three-year, $200 million redevelopment project. Now there are 15 gates and two concourses. Concourse B is mostly for arrivals, and it has 10 gates and a U.S. Customs & Border Protection facility for international passengers. Concourse A has five gates, and the TSA security checkpoint is nearby, past the airline check-in desks by the entrance. Delta mostly uses Concourse A, and other airlines, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, American Eagle, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and United Express, use Concourse B.

Dining

There are several restaurants in a food court between the concourses, and you can also find a few places to eat near the gates inside both concourses. However, you’ll have to go through security first. The Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear Grill serves Southern-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Caviar & Bananas also has a location in Charleston’s Historic District, and it serves gourmet food and coffee. You can design your own sandwiches, breakfasts, salads, and pastries.

Harvest & Grounds has two locations in the airport between the concourses, and it’s another great place for coffee, pastries, salads, and sandwiches. There’s also a Burger King and DeSano Pizzeria Napoletana with authentic wood-fired pizza. For a relaxing drink, visit Charleston Beer Works or the Samuel Adams Charleston Brewhouse in Concourse A.

Shopping

Most of the stores at Charleston International Airport are in the Central Hall between the concourses and across from the food court. Veranda News Discover Charleston is near the ticket counter before security, and it’s a great place for souvenirs. Three different Hudson stores offer books, snacks, and other items to make your trip easier. Low Country Harley-Davidson has a variety of motorcycle merchandise, and Tech on the Go has MP3 players, headphones, chargers, and other helpful gadgets.

Airport Conveniences

ATMs are available before and after security, and Southwest and Delta offer curbside check-in. The airport also has free Wi-Fi, over 2,000 electrical outlets and USB ports for charging electronics, vending machines, family restrooms, and public phones.

Animal relief stations are outside the ticket area and the Rental Car Pavilion, and the Information Desk is between Arrivals and Baggage Claims. If you have items that can’t go through security, you can use the mail back service. Just buy shipping boxes and postage at the Information Desk. It’s open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. There’s a smoking area by the curb outside the terminal. Ask a volunteer Airport Ambassador if you’re not sure where you need to go.

Transportation Options

Valet parking is available, and handicapped parking is free for the first 48 hours. Commercial flight crews get a substantial discount as well. You can rent cars from Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National in the Rental Car Pavilion. Alamo, Dollar, and Thrifty also rent cars nearby, and you can contact a shuttle to take you to and from the airport.

Shuttle pickup is by the curb outside the Baggage Claims area, and a shuttle to downtown Charleston is $14. Your shuttle will leave within 15 minutes of your request. You can also take a taxi or use a ride-sharing service. Drivers wait for passengers at a staging area near the parking lots, so you’ll only have to wait a few minutes for a ride.

CARTA, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority, offers nonstop bus service to and from downtown for just $3.50 per trip. Once you get downtown, you can take the free Downtown Area Shuttle to The Citadel, the Medical University of South Carolina, the Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston Place, the South Carolina Aquarium, the corner of King and Broad streets, and more.

White Point Gardens
A Confederatre Soldier Memorial at White Point Gardens in Charleston.

Where to Stay in Charleston

In Charleston, there are plenty of places to stay at every price point. You can splurge on a luxurious hotel, enjoy a quaint inn, get a private rental, or save with a budget motel. Charleston has a great room for every traveler.

The Top Hotels

The Francis Marion Hotel is beautiful inside and out, with historic architecture and decor. It’s perfect for a luxurious honeymoon or wedding, or you can travel alone and treat yourself to an awesome suite. Room service options include sparkling wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, gourmet cheeses, candied pecans, and more. You can also visit the Swamp Fox Restaurant & Bar or get a souvenir from the gift shop. Spa Adagio is a full-service day spa with massages, facials, stone therapy, aromatherapy, and more. There’s also a convenient fitness center.

Belmond Charleston Place has a similar style, and there’s a heated rooftop saltwater pool with lush plants, a Jacuzzi, and a beautiful view of downtown Charleston. You can also have cocktails at the rooftop Clocktower Terrace, use the spacious gym, or make copies and take care of other common tasks at the business center. Several excellent shops and restaurants are on the bottom floor, including GUCCI and Godiva.

The Best Budget Rooms

With a budget hotel, you’ll have more money available to see and enjoy more of the city. The Hampton Inn Mount Pleasant-Patriots Point hotel is just steps away from the Patriots Point Naval Museum, the home of the breathtaking USS Yorktown warship. It has a fitness center, a pool, and free hot breakfasts. Pets are also welcome.

The recently updated Holiday Inn in Mount Pleasant is just a few miles from downtown Charleston’s Historic District, and it has free parking, an outdoor pool, and a fitness center. It’s close to Waterfront Park and the Ravenel Bridge, but pets aren’t allowed. The SpringHill Suites by Marriott Charleston Riverview hotel overlooks a small marina for inexpensive rooms with great views. Parking, breakfast, and wireless internet service are free, but pets aren’t allowed. You can take a free shuttle to and from downtown from 5 to 11 p.m.

The Coolest Rentals

With a private vacation rental in Charleston, you can experience the city like a native and enjoy all the conveniences of home. The city has hundreds of options available, and you can choose anything from a small cottage to a luxurious mansion. If you stay at Folly Beach or the Isle of Palms, your family will only be a few steps from the water. You’ll have access to a full kitchen, so you can save money by eating in. Also, even kids can enjoy privacy with their own rooms.

The hardest part of planning a trip to Charleston is choosing from all the great options. You can find cultural highlights, gourmet food, beautiful beaches, and more. Charleston has something for everyone, from history lovers to jazz fans to nature lovers.