When I think about the Lowcountry and its classic southern charm, my mind is immediately brought to Charleston, South Carolina. There is nothing more romantic than stately old Oaks dripping in Spanish moss and Crepe Myrtles sprouting with pink and fuschia blooms. I also love the smell and the beauty of a salt marsh.
That’s why when my husband and I were trying to decide on a quick getaway for our 20th anniversary, we decided that Charleston was the perfect place for a visit.
Due to schedules we actually traveled down to Charleston at the beginning of March, but this post will go live on April 10th, which is our actual 20th anniversary!
I will be sharing a series of posts from our amazing time there, but for today, I want to share 11 things to do in Charleston. Some are unique things to do some are free things to do, and all of them are charming things to do.
Outside of #1, all of these things are in downtown Charleston.
Ready for some sightseeing?
1. Head to Folly Beach
We stayed in the French Quarter of downtown Charleston and were driving down from Virginia. We were due to arrive before our check-in time and when I discovered that Folly Beach was just 20 minutes away we continued on and stopped there first.
Folly Beach is located on Folly Island and is just south of Charleston. I have been wanting to check it out for some time. Known as “The Edge of America”, it has the reputation of a funky, laid-back town. After living in the Jensen Beach/Stuart area of Florida for 3 years (and the first 35 years of my life in Florida), this is exactly the type of town that I am searching out. Plus, we have many surfers in our brood (I have three teenagers if you are new here) and some cities along the East Coast are better for surfing than others. Folly Beach was listed as the spot to visit for surfing in South Carolina.
We arrived at the Folly Beach pier on a very foggy day. As luck would have it, the day was also Customer Appreciation Day. This meant free parking! The pier extends more than 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean!
Our time here was brief, but I do have more to share about Folly Beach so stay tuned!
2. Walk down Philadelphia Alley
Philadelphia Alley is located between Queen Street and Cumberland Street, just behind St. Philip’s Church. According to a sign found along the Alley, the passageway was created in 1766. It is named after the city of Philadelphia’s monetary aid in rebuilding after the fire of 1810.
It was also known as Dueler’s Alley for the obvious reason that duels took place on it.
The Alley is also reputed to be haunted.
3. Stroll down Longitude Lane
I’m not sure it can get any more charming than Longitude Lane. Another alley that’s easily missed, my word to the wise “don’t miss it”. You’ll find it located off of E Bay Street just south of Tradd Street. It truly feels like you are stepping back in time as you walk along this narrow alley. Cobblestones, giant oaks, ivy-covered walls, and even more greenery galore.
Doesn’t it just look picturesque?
4. Pineapple Fountain
Of course, no trip to downtown Charleston is complete without a walk along the Waterfront Park. Among the beautiful sights at the Waterfront Park is the famous Pineapple Fountain.
We happened to visit the Waterfront Park in the evening and were able to see the beauty of the Pineapple Fountain lit up at night.
Charleston is known for its hospitality and the pineapple has long been a symbol of that. Legend has it that sea captains trading among the Caribbean Islands would return with their cargo, drop anchor in the harbor and once the work was done, he’d head home, stopping outside his house to spear a pineapple on the fence post. This let his friends know that he had returned safely from sea and was on invitation for them to visit.
5. Eat Seafood
That one is almost a given! You don’t come to the coast and not eat seafood! We filled up on plenty of seafood and tons of other foods. I’ll be sharing some of the amazing foods that we had in a post of its own.
I will tell you that it was my first time trying raw oysters.
Curious how that went? Check out this post: Where to Eat + Drink in Charleston.
6. Walk along Rainbow Row
I’m sure you’ve seen Rainbow Row as the backdrop for an Instagram shot. A row of pastel buildings doesn’t need much more qualification to rank up there in must-see places of Instaworthy places to capture a photo.
But really Rainbow Row has been an iconic location for much longer. The historic homes were originally built in 1740. The area eventually became run-down until Dorothy Porcher Legge and her husband purchased a section of these homes in 1931 and she decided to paint them pastel pink. Other owners also began to paint them pastel colors.
Rainbow Row consists of 13 houses, from 79-107 E Bay Street. It is the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States.
7. Take in the history.
Charleston was founded and settled by English colonists in 1670. That means that there is a plethora of history to be found. Not only do I love architecture and nature, but I like to walk through old graveyards and read the history written on the tombstones. I come to pay my respect to those who came before me.
And if I’m honest, I also hope that I’ll have some type of “experience”. If you’ve been around a while, then you already know that I believe in ghosts. My mother grew up in a haunted house and my grandmother was what I’d call an “attractor” of spirits. I grew up in a home that was very much open in the belief of other planes or dimensions because both of my parents had experiences with situations around those. I’ve had my own, but there’s the side of my brain still seeking more “tangible” proof.
I’m curious. Do you believe in ghosts, spirits, other planes…aliens? I do know that some of my readers have because they’ve shared them in the past. Have you ever had an experience that led you to believe in any of these?
8. Walk down a cobblestone street.
Ok. I’m a complete romantic. I find something so romantic about a cobblestone street. Don’t you? I know the reality is that they are uneven and, given our current luxuries of smooth roads (in this part of the world. And I realize that is a privilege that isn’t everywhere), would have been a nightmare to walk on daily. I think it goes back to my days of wanting to be a princess in a fairytale. I actually did go to my senior prom in a horse and carriage. See? Princess fantasies.
Chalmers Street is probably the most well-known and photographed of the cobblestone streets in Charleston. My photo is not of that location, but of another cobblestone street known as Adger’s Wharf. This street is across from Rainbow Row heading toward the public pier (which we also visited).
9. Stroll (and shop) along King Street
King Street in Charleston is synonymous with history and shopping. It’s considered the area where the past and present meet. I’m well-versed
King Street is more than 200 years old! It is the second most historically and architecturally significant street in downtown Charleston, after Meeting Street (which is where our hotel was located). It was named after King Charles II of England. Known as the King’s Highway, it ran from Boston, Massachusetts to Charleston, South Carolina. The King’s Highway is roughly 1,300 miles long and was laid out from 1650-1735.
King Street is known by three informal districts: Upper King (from Calhoun Street to Spring Street) is the design and dining district; Middle King (from Market Street to Calhoun Street) is the fashion district; Lower King (from Broad Street to Market Street) is the antique district.
10. Enjoy happy hour
Many of the restaurants have happy hour specials. Those specials run the gamut from food specials to varying drink specials.
You can’t beat the ambiance of many of the restaurants and bars in Charleston so one day we decided to bar (beer) hop our way back to the hotel. I live in Roanoke, Virginia which is a craft brew haven. That has made me want to try the local craft brews of each of the cities that I visit. I didn’t have a chance to try many of Charleston’s local brews, but the ones I did were mighty good!
Wondering where I’m at? I’ll be sharing that in my foodie post (found here: Where to Eat & Drink in Charleston).
11. Take in
Timing did not allow for me to be at the waterfront for any sunsets…but, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t take the time to admire them from where I happened to be.
If you happened to see my Instagram post from this area, then you know this was a bakery run went “bad”. I wanted a baguette. I found the place on Google and it said it was open. It was not. However, I stood on Broad Street and watched the sun as it gloriously descended, making its way lower and lower on the horizon, signifying the end of another beautiful day.
Sometimes the detours present us with the most exciting moments in life.
These 11 things to do in Charleston are just a glimpse into what we did during our brief romantic getaway for our 20th wedding anniversary. Be sure to check back for more of Charleston.
And while you’re here, go ahead and check out some of my other travels under the destinations menu.
Let your light shine!