Regardless of what brings you to Charleston — a bachelorette getaway or a romantic weekend with your number one — chances are, you won’t be able to stop talking about it once you return home. With a rich history, gorgeous scenery, and a wide selection of fresh seafood and spices, there’s a reason that so many pack their bags to go to the lowcountry time and time again. But if you can only get away for a few days, how do you choose a must-do itinerary? Stick with us to discover the places you definitely won’t want to miss:
1. Stay in a bed and breakfast in historic downtown.
If you really want to get the vibe of his old lowcountry town, indulge in a little R&R at a B&B in downtown Charleston. With dozens of historic homes — some built more than 200 years ago! — you can learn a lot under the roof, while enjoying the view from the porches. While many of the homes are located on East Bay, other side streets offer less expensive rates and are only a short distance from sites, restaurants, and more.
2. Go for a killer run.
If you’re visiting in April, sign up to walk or run the Cooper River Bridge Run — or do a similar course on your own any time of year. This 10K (that's 6.2 miles) starts on James Island and takes you all the way to the historic downtown streets, with a finish line at city center. Best of all, you get to run across the striking Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over Cooper River. It’s so high that when you’re at the top, you can only see the clouds!
3. Live the beach life.
Charleston is located between many beaches: Folly Beach, James Island, and Isle of Palms. The white sand and fresh seafood are enough of a reason to venture to one of these spots, many of which offer parking and beach access at one (very decent) price. For a cheaper option, head to Folly, or if you want to go where locals like to venture, try Isle of Palms, about 25 minutes from downtown. To see a lighthouse and do more touring than lounging, Sullivan’s Island is your best bet.
4. Score unique souvenirs.
You have to bring back your friends (or your husband or your children...) a gift from your weekend getaway, and this famous city market is a great place to start. You’ll go through different sections, all along Market Street, to find handmade goods, spices, jewelry and local art. It’s an easy place to find a lot of inexpensive treasures you must bring back.
5. Get a history lesson.
On April 12, 1864, the Civil War started at Fort Sumter National Monument. You can see the place where the North and South decided to go at war with each other via a short — and free! — ferry to this small island from downtown or nearby James Island.
And here's another history lesson: When you first drive up to downtown Charleston, you’ll notice an impressive building that has barely aged since it was built more than 200 years ago. It’s here that President George Washington talked to locals and held meetings. It’s also here that prisoners were kept during the American Revolution. For a small fee, you can get a guided history tour around the sprawling landmark.
6. Take a romantic stroll.
Situated perfectly between Cooper River and Ashley River, this street is called Battery Park or White Point Garden by locals. As you walk along — at sunset, if you can — you’ll see timeless Southern mansions that date back to the American Revolution and Civil War.
7. Have a picnic.
As you walk along Rainbow Row — a spread of homes in bright, beautiful colors — you can also enjoy the view along this crystal-clear lake. This is where the locals enjoy outdoor lunches and cook-outs, and a nice place for you to unwind after touring around all day.
8. Shop til you drop.
If you’re up for battling tourists, locals, and college students from the College of Charleston alike, grab your wallet and head to King Street. This is the main strip where you’ll find many chain stores, as well as local antiques, handmade clothing and more. We highly recommend trying a cookie (or three) at Charleston’s many bake shops along the way.
9. Visit a plantation.
If you’re curious to what a plantation looked like, there’s no better place to get a true glimpse than Drayton Hall. It’s considered one of the oldest surviving plantations in the South, and was built in 1738 with lots and lots of red brick. Not much has changed since then, so don’t expect air conditioning or heat when you visit, and make sure to stop by the African American Cemetery. Another option is Aiken-Rhett House, which is similar in structure and background.
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