The hubby and I spent a week in the Charleston Historic District and did all of our sightseeing and getting around on foot or in a pedicab. When we returned the following year for the express purpose of touring a couple of the plantations, we rented a car. There is much to do in Charleston and you can easily spend a week to ten days and not cover all of the tourist ground. In this post I will discuss the first five items on my “What to See and Do in Charleston” list…
Walking Tour of the Historic District: I made arrangements ahead of time for a private walking/photography tour with local guide, Joyce Aungst. She met us at our hotel at the outset of the three-hour excursion, which was both agreeable and convenient. We covered a considerable amount of territory in that length of time and Joyce offered photography tips as well as excellent commentary. We toured St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Rainbow Row, the Pink House, the Dock Street Theater, Washington Square, and City Hall, and saw many other locations of historical significance. Joyce’s knowledge certainly enhanced our visit and gave us an expanded perspective of Charleston and its history. If you prefer not to schedule a private tour, public tours are available through various guides and tour companies. At the very least, visit the Visitor Center and pick up a walking map and some brochures.
The Battery and White Point Gardens: Home to some of the city’s oldest and finest residential dwellings and a site fraught with historical significance, the Battery is my favorite place to visit in Charleston. Whether strolling among the grand oak trees in the gardens or traversing the promenade along Charleston Harbor, I can almost hear the swishing of hoop skirts and the pounding of artillery as I am transported back to the 1860s. (I covered the Battery in greater depth in a previous post…Strolling along the Battery…Living like it’s 1861.)
Waterfront Park: This unique and beautiful park stretches for a half mile along the Cooper River and includes an iconic Pineapple Fountain (a symbol of Southern hospitality), a tree-lined park area with benches and walkways, a lengthy esplanade, a covered pier with hanging porch swings, and a floating dock that offers an unobstructed view of the water. My only complaint with this attractive waterfront venue is its popularity—no sooner does someone vacate one of the porch swings than someone else slips into their place. We never did get to do any swinging. Yet another reason to return to Charleston…in hopes of finally having access to one of the swings!
Fort Sumter: As the setting for one of the defining moments in American history, Fort Sumter is certainly worthy of a visit. The experience begins on the mainland with a tour of the museum followed by a half-hour narrated ferry ride across the harbor. (See a previous post, As seen from Charleston Harbor…, for more about that.) Once you arrive on the island, you may join a guided tour or explore on your own. The fort itself has suffered damage, deterioration, and reconfiguration over the past two hundred-plus years, but remains as a reminder of one of the darkest periods in our country’s history. (Note: You must book through Fort Sumter Tours as it is the only company authorized to actually dock at the fort. Other harbor cruises merely pass by the island.)
Tour Historic Homes: Many of the antebellum homes in Charleston offer tours to the public. We visited two homes with intriguing histories and incredible architecture. The magnificent Edmondston-Alston House is located on the Battery and boasts amazing views from the piazza out across the harbor. (The carriage house has been converted to a Bed and Breakfast.) The Nathaniel Russell House is a Federal-style townhouse on Meeting Street. Its free-flying staircase is masterfully crafted and quite unbelievable! I recommend both tours as both were informative and engaging.
What to See and Do in Charleston…Part 2 coming up next…