Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time
Best for: historic sites, golf, beach and seafood
Best time to visit: March to May, September to November
A little background
Originally called Charles Towne, Charleston was founded in 1670 by English colonists seeking religious freedom. With its warm, humid weather and a natural harbor, Charleston soon became the production and commercial center of trade in rice, tea, and indigo. By 1750, Charleston was the wealthiest and largest city south of Philadelphia. Filled with a charming sense of European elegance, Charleston is home to confection-colored architecture, historic churches, and beautiful parks. The historic city also has a contemporary side, boasting a laid-back, yet sophisticated ambiance with its new galleries, restaurants, performances, and boutique stores.
Explore the living history
Called the "Holy City," Charleston houses many churches that dominate the city's low-rise skyline. Charleston enjoyed greater religious freedom than any other British colony in North America. The high density of churches built by different dissenting groups reflects the city's religious liberty. Each church tells its own remarkable story of faith, destruction by natural or man-made disasters, and rebirth. We recommend you to take a horse carriage tour and explore the rich history of the beautiful city.
Taste the flavors of Charleston
Influenced by Charleston's coastal geography, for centuries local chefs have turned to the water for culinary inspiration. Crabs, shrimp, fish, and oysters are the most common basis of any Lowcountry dishes. Rice, once a major economic produce to Charleston, is also an integral part of the region's meals, whether it is served as a simple side dish or cooked with tomatoes. Treat your taste buds to the fresh local ingredients and authentic Charleston flavors including Carolina Gold rice, and Shrimp & Grits, and more!
Shop at City Market
A center of commerce of Charleston since 1807, the City Market is still the favorite place for locals and tourists. The four-block long City Market is the go-to place to discover handcrafted Low country souvenirs including rice beads, rice spoons, and sweetgrass baskets. If you are looking for local products, search for vendors that display a green and cream-colored ceramic tile "Certified Authentic: Handmade in Charleston."
Charleston is home to more than 90 miles of pristine beaches, filled with water activities such as surfing, fishing, kayaking, and even dolphin tours. Folly Beach, a six-mile wide beach, is a perfect spot for taking beautiful photographs and an exceptional view over the pier.
See Where the Civil War Began
A cannonball bombardment over Charleston's harbor ignited the Civil War on April 12, 1861. Take the 30-minute ferry ride to Fort Sumter, the 34-acre island citadel visible from the downtown seawall, and tour the well-preserved fortress that played a pivotal role in the American history. Near the Fort Sumter, visitors can also visit USS Yorktown, the 10th aircraft carrier to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Feel the magic of the Old Angel Oak
Located just 13 miles away from downtown Charleston, the Angel Oak Park is a must-see attraction for its fairy-talesque Oak tree that has stood firm for more than 400 years. The Angel Oak, which survived countless hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, is also believed to be one of the oldest living things east of Mississippi River. The limbs and tree trunks have become very large as the tree grows, creating an expansive canopy that offers 17,000 square feet of shade. The tree also owns a deep historical and cultural significance as it provided a space for the local community to gather under the shade.
Experience the Gullah culture
The African-American community of Gullah has been an important piece of South Carolina's history. The distinctive group formed a tight community after arriving in South Carolina, preserving many parts of the languages, rituals and customs that originated from their ancestral communities in West Africa. For example, Gullah language is very similar to the Krio of Sierra Leone, while the sweetgrass baskets are connected to the Sierra Leonean shukublay.