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TripAdvisor recently released their top trending destinations around the world and Charleston was the only city in the continental U.S. that made the list. It’s not a surprise to many, as this captivating South Carolina destination is beloved for its friendly locals and picture-perfect setting, which combines a walkable downtown with centuries-old cobblestones, grand antebellum facades, and horse-drawn carriages.
Brimming with Southern charm, Charleston boasts a treasure trove of interesting attractions. In addition to waterfront parks, beautiful beaches, and antique shops, the city boasts a booming restaurant scene and a range of world-class hotels that make it the perfect Southern getaway.
Planning a trip to the Holy City? Here are some of our favorite reasons for visiting Charleston.
One of the best things about exploring Charleston is that the attractions are budget-friendly. Stroll down King Street to see antique shops filled with vintage treasures, then snap a picture of the iconic Pineapple Fountain in Joe Riley Waterfront Park before making your way to the candy-colored historic homes along Rainbow Row. Weekends are best spent picking up local produce and artisan crafts in the farmer’s market on Marion Square or browsing Charleston City Market, a historical shopping hub that dates back to the 1800s. For insight into the background of Charleston’s top attractions, you can join a walking tour to see the city’s highlights.
Charleston is a foodie favorite, offering an enticing mix of long-established hotspots and up-and-coming eateries. Some of the top restaurants in the city include Husk with its contemporary Southern fare, FIG with its seasonally rotating menu, and Nigel’s Good Food, which is considered a Charleston staple. Leon’s Oyster Shop serves cheap beer and champagne paired with oysters and extra crispy fried chicken, while Rodney Scott’s BBQ is the place to go for authentic, slow-smoked pulled pork.
Make sure you add classic local cuisine like fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, and hush puppies to your list, then wash it all down with a cold glass of sweet tea. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, join a culinary tour of Charleston to enjoy tastings of traditional favorites and contemporary cuisine at multiple locally-owned restaurants.
A Rich History
In Charleston, you can take a step back in time as you explore one of the most historic cities in the United States. Take the ferry to Fort Sumter National Monument to see where the Civil War began, then visit the Old Slave Mart Museum to hear about Charleston’s role in the slave trade. You can visit Middleton Place, a National Historic Landmark home to the oldest landscaped gardens in America, while USS Yorktown is a popular site for all ages with its impressive aircraft collection and maritime exhibits. One of the best ways to see it all is on a historic walking tour of the city with a local guide.
In downtown Charleston, you’re just a short drive from Folly Beach, Isle of Palms Beach, and Sullivan’s Island Beach. Folly Beach is a popular spot for sun-seekers with its excellent surfing and a laid-back setting, while Isle of Palm offers a ton of recreational activities on and off the water. For a quiet scene, you can head to Sullivan’s Island to sample seafood at local restaurants just steps from the shoreline.
Something for Everyone
There’s something for everyone in this charming Southern city. Those visiting Charleston with little ones in tow can say hello to local marine life at the South Carolina Aquarium, then retreat to one of the city’s top family hotels such as Holiday Inn Charleston-Riverview and Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel. Alternatively, couples can add romantic sunset boat cruises and horse-drawn carriage tours to their itinerary, then cuddle up in the luxe rooms at The Spectator Hotel or Hotel Bennett.
The famous Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort is bucket-list-worthy for golf fans, while art aficionados can admire masterpieces at the Gibbes Museum of Art. You can keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife like loggerhead turtles and bottlenose dolphins on this eco-tour of Charleston, and if you’re a fan of the paranormal, you can even explore one of America’s most haunted cities on an evening ghost tour.