Named by Travel and Leisure Magazine as the best city in the US and in the world in 2016, Charleston, South Carolina has crept its way onto many people’s travel list. It’s one of the many US cities that is often overlooked by foreign travelers, and sadly they’re all missing out. To be completely honest, one day in the Charleston area is definitely not enough to take in all it has to offer. From the soft-sanded beaches, the beautiful historic plantations, and all the fascinating museums, you could easily fill a whole week in Charleston.
But one day is just enough to whet your appetite for this charming southern city. If you only have one day in Charleston to explore the city, here’s what you just can’t miss.
At the very Southern tip of Charleston City is an area called The Battery. Here, there is a seawall built up to help protect the city from the Atlantic’s rising tides. Visitors enjoy walking along this seawall, searching the waters for the occasional bottlenose dolphin and gaping at the large waterfront mansions. Along the Battery, you can also find White Point Garden. What was once used as an artillery for the American Civil War is now a beautiful park with large, moss-covered oak trees, a few Confederate memorial monuments, and a beautiful, old-timey Southern bandstand.
Just around the corner from The Battery sits another iconic Charleston spot. Rainbow Row is a collection of 13 historic houses in a row. Each house boasts a different, bright pastel color, creating a rainbow of homes down East Bay Street.
There are several theories as to why these homes were painted in bright colors, ranging from making it easier for drunk sailors to find their homes, making local merchant homes more identifiable, or just trying to keep homes cool from the Carolina heat. But I just think they look pretty and that is reason enough to check out Rainbow Row!
Generally, when you think of exploring a city’s alleyways, you think of dark corners, garbage, and unsavory people doing unsavory things. But in Charleston, there are many alleyways that you will actually want to seek out!
These charming and picturesque Charleston alleyways have the power to transport you back in time, paved with old cobblestone, and lined with aging, ivy-covered brick walls. While there are several of these historic alleyways throughout the city, there are three that just cannot be missed.
Located between Queen and Cumberland streets, behind St. Philips Church, Philadelphia Alley is a popular place to visit. Steeped in history, this alley has seen two fires, receiving financial aid from the city of Philadelphia to help rebuild (hence the name). It’s also the site of many duels, one of which was fatal to a local doctor. It’s believed that the alley may be haunted by his spirit, as people have reported hearing his faint whistle as they walk the alley.
Ghosts or not, Philadelphia alley is a lovely, shady place for a quick stroll during your one day in Charleston.
Perhaps my favorite of Charleston’s historic alleyways is Stoll’s Alley. The thick greenery and high brick walls keep the hot sun away and offer a quiet break from the heat. There are some drop-dead gorgeous old homes along Stoll’s Alley that you simply cannot miss.
This alley connects Church Street with East Bay Street, and is fairly easy to find. If entering the alley from East Bay Street, don’t be turned off by the narrow and dark entryway. Following your curiosity will only pay off in this circumstance.
Just North of Stoll’s alley is another gorgeous alleyway, Longitude Lane. It is believed that this alley was one of the original streets created when Charleston was first founded in the late 1600’s. The worn down cobblestones and moss-covered walls are a visual feast for your eyes. The homes along the alley have some of the most adorable gardens and entryways, you’ll wish you’d brought along a gallon of sweet tea and a lacy white parasol.
While enjoying your one day in Charleston, you simply must keep your eyes peeled for its many historic homes. Most of the city is filled with stunning old houses that perfectly capture the spirit of the South through their architecture and design. Many of these homes that hold specific historical significance have turned into museums which you can visit and tour inside. Many others are still being used as homes to some of Charleston’s luckiest residents (can you tell I’m jealous??)
Taking a stroll around the South of Broad neighborhood (the Southern Tip of the city) you’ll find dozens of gorgeous old homes. If you’re looking for some you can tour inside, these are some of the best historic homes within the city of Charleston:
- Edmonston-Alston House
- Nathaniel Russell House
- Heyward-Washington House
- Joseph Manigault House
- Aiken-Rhett House
This is one of Charleston’s most favorite parks. Situated right along Charleston Harbor, it’s the perfect park to relax under a shady palmetto tree, cool off in one of two water fountains or sit along the waterside and watch the pelicans and other birds in their habitat.
If you walk to the end of the park’s pier, you’ll find a fantastic view of Charleston’s iconic Arthur Ravenel Bridge, which connects downtown Charleston to the neighboring town of Mount Pleasant.
The pier also has several large swinging benches which are fun to sit on, and if you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of a dolphin as you watch over the Charleston Harbor!
Within Waterfront Park is another favorite Charleston spot: The Pineapple Fountain. Pineapples are often shown as a symbol of hospitality and can be found in small details throughout downtown Charleston’s architecture. Not only is it the Pineapple Fountain a lovely sculpture with important meaning, but it’s also a great place to stick your feet in and cool off during a hot day in Charleston.
Historic Charleston City Market
The Historic City Market tops most Charleston travel itineraries, and there’s no surprise why. This market is one of the United States’ oldest public markets. With over 100 vendors, you can find almost anything here, from delicious foods, and home decorations, to handmade soaps, jewelry, and traditional Sweetgrass baskets! Charleston City Market is a great place to pick up your Charleston souvenirs or just wander and browse.
One of the things the South is known for is its mouth-watering array of foods. Charleston certainly has no shortage of fantastic dishes- both savory and sweet! It can be hard to narrow down the best restaurants in Charleston for southern food, but if you feel led by your sweet tooth, you can spend a few hours of your one day in Charleston checking out some of Charleston’s best desserts, like cola cake, red velvet cupcakes, and some world famous pecan pralines!
After spending one day in Charleston, there’s no doubt that you’ll be captured by the southern spirit of the city. Between the history, the food, and the charming atmosphere you’ll find yourself wishing for more time. While one day is certainly not enough to enjoy all that the Charleston area has to offer, it is just enough to capture your heart and make you want to visit again!
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