Photographer: Donnie Whitaker
Charleston, S.C., is a coastal gem with lush gardens, stately old homes, horse-drawn carriages, historic forts, and beautiful beaches. Visitors are drawn to its charm, history, culture, and southern hospitality. With world-class food, art, and entertainment set against gorgeous architecture, cobblestones, and Spanish moss, this refined destination will delight both classic and contemporary tastes.
Charleston is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. It attracts new residents to its vibrant city center and surrounding areas like Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, and Folly Island. If you’re considering a more permanent stay, find your dream Kiawah Island real estate with the help of Dunes Properties.
Consider Your Travel Plans
You may have heard that Charleston is a famous destination for foodies. You can indulge in everything from fried chicken and whole-hog barbecue to oysters, steak, and fine cuisine featuring locally sourced ingredients. You can have a wonderful time sailing, hanging out at the beach, or touring the city’s historic district. You can spend a weekend going from the International African American Museum to the Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park, or you can go gallery hopping with a visit to one of the theaters in Charleston’s French Quarter.
Take a Tour of the City
If you’ve never been to Charleston, consider taking a guided tour to get acquainted with the city. You can go on foot or take a carriage, boat, or minibus.
Charleston’s walking tours have something for everyone, whether you’re a history buff or a beer lover. Satisfy your curiosity about maritime and military pursuits. You can venture down dark alleyways, visit graveyards, and see a haunted jailhouse while taking a paranormal ghost tour. Kids can learn about Blackbeard’s blockade on a pirate tour and get a taste of pirate lore. Couples can take a food tour to taste amazing Lowcountry delicacies from some of the city’s most revered restaurants.
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If you prefer a less vigorous approach to sightseeing, you can view the city’s history and beautiful architecture on a horse-drawn carriage tour through downtown Charleston. Many guides have great insider tips on the best places to go and things to see around town.
From dinner cruises to water taxi rides, a boat tour offers a unique perspective of Charleston’s history on land and sea. Climb aboard the USS Yorktown, take a ferry to Fort Sumter, or hop on a tour boat to view Castle Pinckney, The Battery, and the city’s picturesque waterfront.
When comfort is key to an enjoyable tour, take a ride on a minibus. Guides will regale you with stories from the past as you view Civil War-era mansions and beautiful scenery. Many tours include stops along the way, so you can experience popular attractions like the South Carolina Aquarium, Rainbow Row, and the White Point Gardens up close.
Getting Around Town
Charleston is steeped in loveliness, and you will find countless diversions that will pass the time. Once you’re ready to explore the city on your own, you should find it easy to navigate. With a bus service, free downtown shuttle, bike share service, rideshare services, and plenty of walkable streets and sidewalks, it’s easy to get from place to place without a car.
Enjoy the Charleston Weather
As you make your travel plans, consider the climate. Summers are hot and humid, while winters bring a coastal chill. Spring and fall are known for being charming seasons. Wisteria blooms in March, followed by bright azaleas, fragrant jasmine, and sweetly scented gardenias. Mild temperatures and gentle showers continue through May when the magnolia trees bloom.
Photographer: Donnie Whitaker
By then, the sultry summer heat will be well on its way. From June through August, expect bright sunshine, high temperatures, stormy weather, and the beginning of hurricane season. Fall is characterized by balmy days and cool evenings, and October is especially pleasant. Winters in Charleston are fairly cool and sometimes damp, but it’s rarely cold enough for snow.
When Should You Visit Charleston?
People from all over the world come to Charleston in every season of the year. Some consider spring and fall to have the best combination of beautiful weather and a full slate of cultural events. Still, the winter, summer, and holiday seasons each have their own unique charm. Charleston’s festival seasons happen in the spring and fall, but the calendar is filled with special events every month of the year. You can celebrate art, music, food, and just plain fun all year long.
The spring season brings beautiful blooms and festivals on the wings of mild breezes. In March, you can attend the Charleston Wine and Food Festival and the Festival of Houses and Gardens, followed by the Summerville Flowertown Festival and the Bee Expo. As the weather warms up, the city fills with visitors who usher in the peak tourist season in early summer.
In April and May, you’ll have plenty of activities to choose from. Head to the North Charleston Arts Festival or see a concert or a play. There are car shows, tennis tournaments, sailing races, and much more for folks who love sports. The highlight of the spring cultural calendar is the Spoleto Festival, an internationally renowned 17-day performing arts event that runs from late May through early June. Artists, actors, and all kinds of musicians, young and old, take up residence in parks and outdoor spaces, theaters, and churches, treating visitors to plays, dance performances, and a variety of chamber, jazz, and orchestral music.
If you love outdoor concerts, beaches, and barbecues, the summer season may be for you. Check the schedule for outdoor concerts, enjoy the costumes at the Charleston Carifest, join a foot race, and make sure to visit the Farmer’s Market. August is fairly quiet as everyone takes a break from the heat and prepares for fall festivities.
Photographer: Donnie Whitaker
Despite the heat, humidity, and potential for hurricanes, Charleston is most crowded in the summertime. From June through August, severe thunderstorms can be common. Airy clothes, sunscreen, a hat, an umbrella, and comfortable shoes are a must.
As the weather cools down and the humidity abates, locals and tourists spend more time outdoors. Fall days are mostly clear, and the event schedule is full of cultural gatherings. Labor Day marks the arrival of the festival season with food, music, and art.
Some summertime dance events continue during warm evenings. The MOJA Arts Festival and Lowcountry Jazz Festival are September staples. The second Restaurant Week of the year is right on the heels of Oktoberfest and Follypalooza, and the Fall Tour of Homes brings thousands of people to the city. Book lovers will be in heaven at the Charleston Literary Festival in November.
Charleston is especially festive during the December holidays. Streets and homes throughout the historic district are lavishly decorated with magnolia garland, wreaths, holiday lights, and candles that shine brightly in the windows. The monthly ArtWalk kicks off a series of concerts and special performances like the Holiday Swing by the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, the Charleston Christmas Special, and the Holiday Musical Show at the Charleston Music Hall. The annual Christmas Parade at Folly Beach and the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park are great family outings.
January and February offer plenty of fun with oyster roasts and wildlife exhibitions. While the days are short and the beach may feel deserted, visitors will find more breathing room at museums, shops, and restaurants. You’ll enjoy a more intimate experience of the city and have the best of the city’s theatrical, art, and music scenes. Hotel prices are lower this time of year, so it’s the perfect time to take a relaxed extended vacation that lets you explore the city at your leisure.
More Things To Do
Whatever the time of year, you’ll find plenty of things to do when you visit. Here are just a few ideas.
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Look at Real Estate
Many people who come to Charleston fall in love with the rhythm of the city. Hoping to live a good life, they often invest in Kiawah Island and the surrounding area. You might find yourself enchanted by Mount Pleasant, a growing township on the east side of Charleston County. Adjacent to Sullivan’s Island, the town was originally popular as a getaway spot for wealthy Charleston residents who wanted a respite from the summer heat. Today, Mount Pleasant is a great place to start a business, raise kids, and enjoy the restaurants, shops, bars, and beaches close by.
Explore the Islands
Charleston is set alongside a gorgeous coastline, and visiting the beach is fun for all ages. There is plenty of coastline for everyone, and Folly Island, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, and nearby Kiawah Island each have their own unique qualities.
Folly Beach is a quintessential American beach town on Folly Island, known by locals as The Edge of America. Close to downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is a relaxed, eclectic place where you can be yourself and enjoy all kinds of recreation. With surf spots, locally owned surf, gift, and clothing shops, delicious seafood and cocktails, live music, and rooftop dancing, you’ll never get bored. Nature lovers can fish, kayak, bike, and enjoy wildlife. You may even get a chance to see the endangered North Atlantic right whales as they migrate along the coastline.
Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms, with an approximate population of 4,300, is home to part-timers and year-round residents. It’s a luxurious spot with beachfront properties and resorts. Beach volleyball is a popular summer activity, and the Windjammer hosts tournaments all year. Golf and tennis are also commonly played.
The island became a vacation spot in the late 19th century and also provided housing for World War II veterans. In the 1960s, several Civil War-era shipwrecks were discovered along the shoreline. Today, the island is home to Cooper River Marina and has no shortage of boat landings. Along the beach, you’ll find plenty of pizza, ice cream, and things to do.
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Sullivan’s Island is an affluent town at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, with just under 1,800 residents. In 1776, the island was the site of one of the major battles in the American Revolution. Its fort was renamed Fort Moultrie in honor of its American commander. Today, the town is a destination for enthusiasts of American colonial and military history, and many buildings and streets on the island are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Kiawah Island is a barrier island a half-hour drive southwest of Charleston. The per capita income is high, and the island is peppered with villas that lend themselves to a gracious, leisurely lifestyle away from the heat of the city proper. With a tiny population of fewer than 2,000 residents, the island is a haven with public and private beaches, golf courses, restaurants, tennis courts, and spas situated on Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
Enjoy Your Stay in Charleston, S.C.
No matter what you choose to do when you visit Charleston, you’re sure to have a good time. Our guide only scratches the surface, so be sure to ask the locals about the best things to do, eat, and see while you’re here. The gracious Charleston lifestyle is easy to enjoy, and we’re sure you’ll want to come by, sit down, and stay awhile.