LIKE A LOCAL
Discover Charleston like a local and head to the heart of the city and walk the historic cobblestone streets.
As an influential port city and the wealthiest colony in the country’s earliest days, Charleston built a reputation and visual foundation that has carried through to the 21st century. Far from a boom and bust town, the Holy City has deep roots that can be seen and felt on just about every street. Whether you’re in search of well-preserved architectural treasures or tributes to the city’s culturally diverse history, you don’t have to walk very far to find impressive examples of the city’s fascinating past and signs of its promising future.
Take a Tour
It’s a pleasure to stroll Charleston’s streets, alleys and parks and see where the day takes you. From areas with a high concentration of 18th-century sites to famously picturesque settings — looking at you Rainbow Row — and grim reminders of a troubled history, Charleston goes beyond offering hospitality and invites visitors to become a part of an ongoing story. You are likely to see myriad styles and movements in a single day and sometimes on a single street, from Georgian to Art Deco. Great sites to visit include the aptly named Old Slave Mart, whose harrowing purpose transformed into one of education in 1938 when the former blocks turned into a museum — the first museum to focus on this important aspect of the African-American experience in the country. Around the block, the Historic Dock Street Theatre, which was finished in 1936, was the first structure in America built specifically with theatrical performances in mind. Closer to the harbor you can see the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, or Custom House, which was used to chain prisoners held by the British during the Revolutionary War. And just down East Bay Street is famed Rainbow Row, a series of pastel-hued row houses that have become emblematic of the city.
If you want to learn about these sites, as well as the many churches, peculiar street markers, and structural features throughout the city, you should do more than just take a tour: You should book one. A stand-out option is Bulldog Tours. In a city where guides must be certified to work, Bulldog Tours offers premier walking programs with some of the best in the business. Their tours take a deep dive into Charleston’s most intriguing stories, from the historic and the culinary to the paranormal.
Park It Anywhere
If you’re looking for a more active experience, Charleston County Parks offers a wide network of facilities, events and programs to help you become better acquainted with the area — whether you’re in the heart of the city or just outside. Fishing is a popular pastime at multiple parks, where you can rent rods, participate in tournaments or simply set off for a day of fishing from one of the 19 boat landings the parks system maintains. But if that isn’t your thing, you can always take a stroll, admiring the loons, grebes, terns, sea ducks and other wildlife attracted to the area. Several restaurants are located nearby, too.
Beyond the natural draws, the parks system also has other places of interest, including SK8 Charleston, a 32,000-square-foot skate park; several cutting-edge water parks; an archery range; and an equestrian center. With most attractions reasonably priced, it’s hard to beat the value and wide-ranging beauty of the city’s park system.