Defined by its horse-drawn carriages, pastel houses, and cobblestone streets, you’ll fall in love with the charm of Charleston.
Oh, Charleston…It’s easily one of my favorite cities. During our trip to South Carolina for Ferdy’s (my fiancé) work, we decided to take a day trip to Charleston to explore the “Holy City” (Charleston’s nickname thanks to the many spires that dot its skyline). It’s safe to say that I fell in love with the charming city.
From horse-drawn carriages and antique street lamps to grand homes dating back to before the Civil War, I truly felt like I had traveled back in time while walking around the city. History pervades just about every aspect of this quaint South Carolina town, from the historical architecture (there are so many beautiful, colorful buildings!) to the landmarks that showcase the city’s role in American history, including nearby Fort Sumter.
Whether you’re there for the history, looking for locally made goods (you have to go to the Charleston City Market!), or ready for some sand and gentle waves at the beach, Charleston has you covered. Consider this your Colorventurer’s Guide on what to see in Charleston, South Carolina in one day.
South of Broad, arguably the city’s most famous neighborhood, is home to Rainbow Row, one of the most famous streets in Charleston. Of all the spots in the city, this one had to, by far, be my favorite.
This block of thirteen historical Georgian row houses is likely some of the most colorful homes you will ever encounter and is a complete color lover’s paradise. Not to mention that these pastel-colored houses along the waterfront are one of Charleston’s most photographed spots. Rainbow Row has an interesting history, as they were first constructed in 1740 by merchants and ended up being considered the not-so-great part of town after the Civil War until 1931 when Dorothy Porcher Legge and her husband Judge Lionel Legge purchased the section of houses and decided to paint them a pretty shade of pastel pink to revitalize the area. These houses’ captivating stories and colorful facades are what make this a must-see spot while in Charleston.
If you’re a Civil War history buff, you’re going to want to visit Battery Park. This gorgeous green space is littered with Civil War-era cannons and lots of informational monuments for you to boost your knowledge about the historical period. Looking over the water from Battery Park, you can see Fort Sumter in the distance—the spot where the first shot of the Civil War was fired. While a trip to Fort Sumter would consume a lengthy portion of the day, you can still take a ferry ride out to the Fort Sumter National Monument and explore the grounds and all of the old canons.
Historic Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour
There is nothing more perfect than taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through Charleston (except for when it randomly starts raining cats and dogs during the summer and since you’re sitting on the edge, half of your body gets entirely soaked, but it’s fine—ha!). Carriage tours are truly one of the best ways to explore the “Holy City” and learn about its rich and vast historical areas and architecture, including antebellum mansions, like the Nathaniel Russell House. Trust me, you’ll notice when you’ve reached the Nathaniel Russell House because your eye will be immediately drawn to his initials wrought in iron over the front door.
On your carriage ride, you will be paired with a highly knowledgable tour guide who will inform and entertain you with historical facts, lore, and humor. My personal favorite moment was when our tour guide told us the history about the song “Amazing Grace,” which was written by a Charleston resident, and we proceeded to sing it together in our carriage.
Charleston City Market
The Charleston City Market is one of the nation’s oldest public markets. Established in the 1790s, the market stretches for four city blocks from the architecturally-significant Market Hall through a continuous series of one-story market sheds. The open-air market is home to over 300 entrepreneurs, so you are sure to find a beautiful and unique treasure to take home with you, from souvenirs and sweets to crafts, woven baskets, jewelry, and artwork.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens has been selected as one of America’s most beautiful gardens. Witnessing the history of our nation unfold from the American Revolution through the Civil War and beyond, it is the oldest public gardens in America, opening its doors to visitors in 1870 to view the thousands of beautiful flowers and plants. The beautiful Romantic-style garden is a popular tourist site, especially if you enjoy nature and stopping to smell the flowers.
The Pineapple Fountain in Joe Wiley Waterfront Park
Walking along the waterfront in Charleston was definitely one of the highlights of my trip there with my fiancé. The Joe Wiley Waterfront Park is eight acres and faces the Charleston Harbor and Ravenel Bridge. As you take a walk through the park, you’ll come across the beautiful Pineapple Fountain. Designed by Stu Dawson, Jay Faber, Varoujan Hagopian, and Mark Dawson, pineapples are a common motif in Charleston and represent hospitality. As summers can be rather hot in Charleston, children (and adults!) are not only permitted, but welcomed to splash around in the fountain and a nearby larger splash fountain.
If you’re in the mood for hitting up the beach, then you need to visit nearby Sullivan’s Island, a town and island in Charleston County at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. Its pristine and serene beaches are a great place for relaxing and enjoying the calming ocean waves. My fiancé and I decided to end our day at the beach to relax and watch the sunset. As a California native, this was my first time visiting the Atlantic Ocean and it was absolutely lovely.
I hope you enjoy your trip to Charleston and that you include some of these wonderful spots on your travel itinerary!