A Weekend Well Spent in Charming Charleston, South Carolina

A Weekend Well Spent in Charming Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina frequently tops the lists of best destinations in the U.S. and even in the world.  When we visited we certainly saw why!  It is a town steeped in history and retains the charm of a bygone era with its cobblestone streets and gas lamps lit 24/7.  Visit in the fall like we did and enjoy shoulder season prices, pleasant temperatures, and a ghost tour thrown in for good measure.  Read on to learn all about great things to see and do during a long weekend in Charleston!

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the French Quarter Inn and it’s still to this day one of our favorite hotels we have ever stayed at.  The service was impeccable, starting with a champagne greeting at check-in.  Every evening there was an incredible wine and cheese reception.  Later in the evenings, turn down service included fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and milk.  Tea, coffee, and a variety of snacks are available 24 hours a day.

The location can’t be beat – we were walking distance to all the restaurants and activities, other than the plantation.  Bikes are also available to borrow.

The room was very spacious for five of us with two beds and a pull-out sofa.  The courtyard was beautiful and a great place to lounge after a day of busy sightseeing.  We highly recommend staying here!

A sampling of the evening wine and cheese reception

When we visited

We visited in mid-October, which was a great time to visit.  We had perfectly pleasant temperatures for sightseeing and the evenings were cozy for fall, especially the ghost tour!

Rainbow Row

If you’ve seen photos of Charleston you’ve likely seen Rainbow Row, a row of pastel-colored houses along Charleston’s waterfront.  While the houses are beautiful and a must-stop to get that gram-worthy pic, the houses hold a bit of history as well.

The famous pastel houses on Rainbow Row

The 18th century houses belonged to merchants who lived on the top floors and had businesses on the street level floor.  Over the years, the area became rather run down.  The turning point was in 1931 when the Legges, a local judge and his wife, purchased the row of homes and decided to paint them a pretty shade of pink.  Over time, other residents followed suit and painted their homes various shades of pastels.  Today, the homes are all privately owned but they must keep up the pastel exteriors.

Horse & Carriage Tour

You can’t come to Charleston without hearing the clopping of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets!  There are several companies for a horse-drawn carriage ride but we went with Old South Carriage Company.

The Old South Carriage Company

Old South Carriage Company keeps the health and well-being of their horses their top priority.  Not only do they have a large and well-ventilated stable for the horses while they are in the city, but the horses are rotated between city and farm, what they call their “horse heaven”.

The girls loving the horses

We took the Historic Charleston Carriage Tour and really enjoyed this slow paced tour throughout the town.  We learned a lot of history during this one hour tour, due to the great guide.  This was a really nice way to see Charleston.

Our lovely guided tour through history Charleston

A Ghost Tour

Known as one America’s most haunted cities, we definitely wanted to do a ghost tour during our visit in October.  Again, there are plentiful tours to choose from if looking for a ghost tour in Charleston.

We went with Bulldog Tours due to their great reviews.  Our tour was called The Charleston Ghost and Graveyard Tour and it was 90 minutes long, starting at dusk and taking place in the dark.  We met at their headquarters, which was walking distance from our hotel.  Once our group was assembled, we were on our way.

Can you feel the spook in the air?

The walking tour had just enough spook in the air to get us in the spirit of the season.  We learned a little history along the way, entered a graveyard and listened to our guide tell stories, walked among the gravestones and felt spooked for sure!  Walking with the group in the dark was a lot of fun and a must do in Charleston, especially in the fall!

Visit a Plantation

The list of plantations in Charleston is plentiful and each one offers something different.  We chose to visit Boone Hall Plantation because it checked a lot of boxes we were looking for at a plantation: beautiful grounds, a tour of the mansion, and intact slave quarters where we were able to learn about the history of slaves that lived and worked there.

We took an Uber from our hotel, The French Quarter Inn, to Boone Hall Plantation, about 20 minutes away.  Upon arrival, the long winding, tree-lined driveway looks like it’s straight out of a movie.  In fact, it is!  This plantation was the setting for several movies, including The Notebook.

The gorgeous driveway leading to Boone Hall Plantation

We explored the grounds, petting the horses and taking in the beauty here.

We then headed to the mansion for the tour.  The mansion was built in 1936 and features beautiful Georgian architecture.  The tour was of the first floor only and was relatively quick which was appreciated because we could then explore the rest of the grounds at our leisure.

The Georgian style mansion

We watched a live presentation on the Gullah culture by a woman who descended from slaves. 

Where the Gullah presentation took place – it was incredible!

From here we explored the slave quarters which includes nine intact cabins, each with a different presentation within its walls.  It definitely brought to life how the slaves lived.  This was a very moving section to learn about slave life, a very important part of American history.

The intact slave quarters

While you definitely have your pick of plantations, we highly recommend visiting Boone Hall for all that it offers.

The beautiful grounds of Boone Hall Plantation

Joe Riley Waterfront Park

Lined with palmetto palms and with the pineapple fountain as its focal point, Joe Riley Waterfront Park is a must see for a slow meander in Charleston.  There are wide paths, benches, and even swings out on the pier.  We visited both in the day and in the evening and loved seeing the fountain aglow against the dark night sky.

The beautiful fountain at night

Fort Sumter

Located on an island in Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter is only accessible by boat.  Fort Sumter played a very important role in the Civil War as the first shots were fired here.  While here, one will be taken through the opening battle of the Civil War with a park ranger.  Explore the ruins, listen to park rangers’ stories about the battles that took place here, and peruse the gift shop for souvenirs.  On the way to the island, be sure to keep your eyes out for playful dolphins in the waters with beautiful Charleston, including Rainbow Row, as a lovely backdrop.

Fort Sumter in the distance, seen from the Waterfront Park

Visits to Fort Sumter last approximately one hour. 

Charleston City Market

If you’re looking for the largest market with handmade goods in the southeast, be sure to stop at Charleston City Market.

Open since the late 1700s, it started out as a market where people would buy meat, fish, and vegetables.  Over time it evolved into a market with sought after goods and souvenirs.  One of the most coveted items to grab here are sweetgrass baskets made by weavers carrying on an old Charleston tradition.  You’ll also find treasures such as hand painted ornaments, drawn posters, soy candles and more.

You can visit during the day where it is open 364 days a year, only closed on Christmas Day.  You can also visit the Night Market which showcases works by crafts people and artists every Friday and Saturday evening March – December.  Be sure to check here for up-to-date information before your visit.

The Battery

One of downtown Charleston’s most visited spots, the Battery, treats visitors to a fortified seawall and promenade along the harbor with beautiful mansions lining the street.  One can walk, jog, or even take the horse & carriage tour through here.  Parking is free and a great place to seek respite in the ample shade if visiting in hot summer months.

Beautiful mansions along The Battery

Charleston, South Carolina is absolutely beautiful while steeped in history and southern charm.  It is no wonder it frequents best city lists – go see for yourself!

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