My friend Sarah and I were both interested in visiting Charleston, South Carolina so we quickly booked a long weekend less than two months out. (We went at the beginning of March 2016.) It was a really fun and packed trip. This travel guide includes everything I learned from my trip to Charleston and I hope it helps you plan your trip!
WHY VISIT CHARLESTON?
On our second morning in Charleston, we went to Fort Sumter and in the afternoon we enjoyed a Bulldog Historic Walking Tour around downtown. It was a lot of history in one day, and a lot of painful history at that. Charleston was in the center of a horrific civil war, one that divided the country and the community. Their economy was built on plantations and the slaves that kept them up, so you can imagine the confusion and uncertainty among the subjects of morals, economics, state rights and their way of life. Most recently, it was the place of the 2015 church shooting that was fueled by racism. Charleston’s story weighed heavy on me. As we stopped by another historic church on our walking tour, our guide reminded us again that all the churches in Charleston are very welcoming to all visitors, no matter what their beliefs and even after what happened in 2015. He added that while there is a whole lot of sad history, Charleston has grown together stronger than ever, showing how the city has progressed and matured. While Charleston can’t change its history, and to be honest, some of their history is what has given the city its charm and energy, it has made sure their future is brighter than their past.
As I learned during the walking tour, Charleston’s economy was crippled after the Civil War and they couldn’t rebuild and didn’t necessarily want to become industrialized like other cities. Their decisions/set-backs created today’s economy built on tourism. The historic buildings they’ve preserved and restored are what give Charleston its charm and legacy. So while Charleston has a growing, vibrant culinary industry, the history is what draws people to the city. It doesn’t hurt that Charleston has some perfect weather!
- Rent a car for a day or two to see sights outside of downtown.
- Bring a jacket. Beware of cloudy days and cool breezes.
Charleston has perfect weather – not too hot and not too cold. The average high in the summer is in the 90s and the average low is in the 30s. A great time to visit is Spring or Fall.
You’ll be flying into the Charleston International Airport (CHS). It’s a fairly small airport with two terminals. As of March 2016, they are doing major construction, so your restaurant options are limited. Our flight from Austin (about $250 round-trip) had a quick change of planes in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Charleston is a very walking-friendly city, especially if you’re staying close to downtown. We stayed close to downtown and our walks to get to certain places ranged from 10 to 30 minutes. Our Uber ride from the airport to our hotel was about 12 miles and 22 minutes, costing about $20. Our return to the airport cost about $16. A 2 mile, 10 minute ride in downtown cost about $7. To visit sights out of town, we rented a car for a day (Volkswagen Beetle), which cost $45, including filling the tank.
WHERE TO STAY
The average hotel rate is about $177 per night. The average Airbnb is $147. We stayed at the Ansonborough Inn ($189-309 per night). Once a warehouse, its conversion into a boutique hotel gives it many historic features and charming quirks. The rooms are spacious and the hotel provides many amenities, such as complimentary breakfast, happy hour and snacks. They have a newly renovated rooftop terrace we didn’t get to check out but it looks comfortable! From our hotel, it was a comfortable 15 minute walk to downtown, and it was a good proximity to all the sights and restaurants we visited.
The Mills House is also a very popular hotel and located in the middle of downtown. For unique, high-end hotels, check out the French Quarter Inn or Zero George. There are also a handful of chain hotels around downtown that may be on the lower end of the pricing.
WHERE TO EAT/DRINK
You’ll find some fantastic eats in Charleston. Check out my post about the Best Restaurants in Charleston to plan where you’ll dine!
WHERE TO PLAY
You definitely want to plan on walking around downtown to take in the city. Check out my post about the Best Things to Do in Charleston for more recommendations.
Have additional questions about Charleston? Leave a comment below or send me a message.