Charleston was recently voted the best city in the world by TRAVEL + LEISURE readers, and we're about to tell you 10 amazing reasons why. This historic South Carolina city was founded in 1670 and is defined by its Southern charm and hospitality. This city is almost suspended in time with its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel pre-Civil-War-era houses. With activities ranging from ghost tours to water sports Charleston is about to be your favorite vacation destination.
Don't Miss These 10 Beautiful Places In Charleston!
1. Waterfront Park
Finished in 1990, Waterfront Park is a favorite for visitors and locals alike. Finished in 1990, it offers fantastic views of the Charleston harbor. Relax on one of the old-fashioned park benches or have some family fun with a picnic while watching sailboats cruise the waters. The two large fountains that make great places for kids to play, splash and cool off during the day, light up at night making the harbor's waterfront truly spectacular. The park is also centrally located near The Market and other great shopping and sightseeing areas. It even has free wi-fi!
2. Middleton Place
This National Historic Landmark is home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens and has been called “the most important and most interesting garden in America” by The Garden Club of America. No matter when you visit Charleston, The Gardens have been planned so that there is something blooming at Middleton Place year-round. The House Museum was built in 1755 and contains extraordinary family furniture, silver, porcelain, rare books and portraits of four Middleton Family generations on display. After spending 320 years under Middleton ownership, it is now meticulously preserved for visitors to enjoy. Don't forget to stop by the newly rejuvenated 18th and 19th century Plantation Stableyards where costumed workers demonstrate skills like weaving, pottery and carpentry. You'll also find many rare, heritage breeds like Cashmere goats, Guinea Hogs, River Water Buffalo, Brown Swiss and Jersey cows, as well as Dominique and Rhode Island Red chickens.
3. Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is a magnificent structure for taking pictures outside, but also a grand monument to the faith of thousands and a wonderful house of prayer for all. Built on the foundation of an 1854 cathedral that burned down in 1861, the present church features unique stained glass windows including the Papal coat of arms and the seal of the state of South Carolina over each entrance. All are welcome to visit and attend mass, not just those of the Catholic faith. Some visitors even say that the cathedral is so beautiful that you might leave a convert!
4. Fort Sumter National Monument
If you're a history lover, this is the place for you. The first shots of the Civil War happened here on April 12, 1861 when Confederate artillery opened fire on this Federal fort in Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter surrendered 34 hours later, and Union forces would try for nearly four years to take it back. This sea fort is only accessible by boat and is now a National Monument with a Visitor Education Center and open for tours daily except for Thanksgiving, December 25 and January 1. Learn about the events leading up to the war, explore the grounds of Fort Sumter, take a trip around the harbor, and walk in the steps of national heroes.
5. Drayton Hall
Drayton Hall is the only 18th-century plantation located on the Ashley River to remain intact through both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. This outstanding example of Palladian architecture is now a National Historic Landmark. The main house has survived the centuries in near original condition and its grounds have been hailed as “the most significant, undisturbed historic landscape in America.” Even the imperfections, oddities, or changes that occurred over time have been preserved that way. Take a professionally guided house tour or explore the grounds on your own, including one of the oldest documented African-American cemeteries in the nation still in use.
6. Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon
The Old Exchange is a two story masonry building that served a variety of different functions including most notably as a British-operated prisoner of war facility during the American Revolutionary War. In 1973, the building was designated a National Historic Landmark and is now a museum operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Tour the Old Exchange and the Provost Dungeon with an experience docent entertaining you with wonderful tales of pirates and patriots. Costumed docents are also scattered throughout the site to answer your questions if you decide to explore on your own.
7. Charleston City Market
The Charleston City Market is the cultural heart of the City. Established in the 1790s, the market contains four city blocks of souvenir shops, local cuisine, and authentic Charleston history. The market is open day and night and is only closed one day out of the year, December 25th. The Day Market operates from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily and features several hundred artists, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs. The Night Market began as a Hand Crafted only market 3 years ago and now has over 100 various artists represented. It operates from 6:30 – 10:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday & Sunday nights as the Third Thursdays in June, July & August.
21 miles away from the bustle of downtown Charleston, Kiawah Island offers 10 miles of pristine beaches and untouched natural beauty. This is South Carolina's crown jewel of golf with five championship courses including the renowned Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Golf is just the beginning because there are endless opportunities for enjoyment and adventure. Start with Kiawah Island's perfectly preserved maritime forests, sand dunes, and marshes full of turtles, whitetail deer, and seabirds. Take your pick of water sports, take a bike ride or play tennis. Then, finish off your day with great shipping and dining.
Isle of Palms is everything you want a beach vacation to be. With seemingly endless beaches, relax at a waterfront resort, play a round of golf or tennis, dine at a local restaurant, or pick up souvenirs at a quaint shop. There are plenty of opportunities to relax and rejuvenate whether it's beachfront live music at the Windjammer, beach volleyball, or enjoying an ice cream cone with the entire family.
10. Folly Beach
Nestled between the Folly River and the Atlantic Ocean, Folly Beach is just 15 miles from downtown Charleston. Known affectionately as "The Edge of America," Folly has its own sense of time. Wide beaches provide a home for loggerhead turtles, dolphins, bald eagles, sea birds, and several endangered species, and are perfect for surfing. Its eclectic neighborhoods are full of locally-owned restaurants and shops making it the perfect place to relax. All kinds of people flock to here for its laidback vibe including George Gershwin who took a beach vacation in 1934 to write the classic musical Porgy & Bess.
This article was written by Lauren Gaw.