Next Up

30+ Best Things to Do in Charleston, South Carolina

September 20, 2021

Find out what to see and where to eat in the Holy City, one of America's perennially popular vacation spots.

1 / 46
Photo: Shutterstock

Charleston Is One of America's Top Attractions

It seems like every year Charleston, South Carolina, wins another award for being the best city to visit, or the friendliest. And as anyone who has spent time in the Holy City will tell you, the accolades are well deserved. With its palmetto palm-lined avenues and countless world class restaurants, Charleston has retained its unique pull as a memorable vacation destination. The key to a successful visit is mixing in a few locals-only hideouts with fun tourist destinations that are worth the wait.

More photos after this Ad

2 / 46
Photo: Tomas Espinoza

Charleston Offers Great Restaurants, World-Class Culture and Top-Tier Hotels

Once the center of the American slave trade, Charleston is a city always contending with the good and bad of its history — even as it has transformed into a food-centric and sophisticated Southern city. It is home to the Charleston Wine + Food festival and a wealth of memorable restaurants, both humble and haute. Known for its easygoing pace and refined lifestyle, the city has attracted a raft of wealthy New Yorkers and Hollywood types (Bill Murray, Stephen Colbert and Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker) who have scooped up homes at a ravenous pace that has threatened to price-out locals. The homes, gardens and the people of Charleston are exceptionally gracious (especially so considering the 7 million tourists who flock to the city each year). Furnishings lean toward the traditional, but there is experimentation galore when it comes to the arts and food. There are endless options in high-end lodgings, from the nouveau luxe Hotel Bennett to the bespoke, chic Zero George, whose epic porches are the local answer to Prozac. If you’re planning on visiting Charleston soon, try these recommendations of don't-miss stops.

More photos after this Ad

3 / 46
Photo: Tomas Espinoza

Take an Exceptional City Tour With a Whip-Smart Local

There are countless Charleston tour operations at work in the city, offering ample opportunities to sample the rich history, stunning architecture, restaurant recommendations and the occasional touch of quirkiness that makes Charleston such an interesting city. But you would be remiss if you undertook a local tour without first making sure that tour guide par excellence John Hodgson, a former CPA and hardcore history buff, is your history doula for the day. Book Hodgson for your Bulldog Tours "The Charleston Stroll: A Walk With History Tour," which delves into the region's indigo trade, pirates, wild parties and even wilder customs, local celebrity news (including the home where Stephen Colbert grew up), with insightful detours into how slavery impacted the region and other hard truths. If you like your local history with a serving of extra-dry wit, then Hodgson is your man.

More photos after this Ad

4 / 46
Photo: Wentworth Mansion

Try One of the City's Many Eccentric and Luxurious Boutique Hotels

If the hyper-intimacy of bed and breakfasts is not your thing, but you can't resist a stunning historic home, then the 1886 Wentworth Mansion may be your perfect stop in Charleston. Tucked into a pretty, leafy neighborhood downtown, the elegant Wentworth Mansion is warm and welcoming, but never makes you feel crowded or intruded upon or like you are staying in someone's home. Rooms are incredibly spacious, with tall ceilings and the kind of well-appointed, luxurious bathrooms (and great water pressure) to rival any newfangled 5-star stay, but with bespoke details like old-fashioned brass room keys and carved wood and stained glass architectural details that transport you to another time. A dedicated parking lot and no valet fees are especially appealing in the age of luxury hotel-parking sticker shock. There is a happy hour every evening with wine and hors d'oeuvres. A small room off of the parlor offers a boozy nook where guests can partake of a brandy, port or sherry nightcap or pre-dinner tipple. A sit-down breakfast in the pretty Circa 1886 restaurant on the hotel grounds features copious, interesting options, including daily specials like a Lowcountry-inspired crab cake Benedict, and is included with the room. Lemonade and iced tea and a cooler of to-go waters are great for beating the Charleston heat in the summer months. Best of all, it's easy to get into the spirit of this city steeped in history strolling the beautifully landscaped grounds or ascending to the rooftop cupola with an expansive view of the city and a cool breeze on balmy nights.

More photos after this Ad