Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
3red7s

What to do in Charleston SC?

Recommended Posts

After 20+ cruises with RC, I was so happy to see the port of Charleston SC listed as a port!!  However, I think the excursions offered via RC are weak at best.  We would love to enjoy the city & hopefully do 2 different types of excursions while there.  Any and all recommendations are welcomed....and thank you!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We were there on Dec 26.  We did not take an excursion.  The ship docks several blocks from the historic area.  We walked off the ship and went to the Straw Market followed by a horse and carriage tour.  It was a very picturesque port.  There are also options to go to the Boone Plantation if that interests you.  We have been there before and it gives a good representation of early 19th century life.

 

IMG_9725.thumb.JPG.acf4c179abdc7d1693e3dca6164b6587.JPGIMG_9750.thumb.JPG.56c2b61f0073793b22d50c0187da7c47.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With one day, I would just take in the sights in the downtown area with perhaps a boat trip to Fort Sumpter if that interests you.  The carriage tour is a great idea.  There are several companies and as I recall, they all do pretty much the same three routes.  Those are assigned at random by a dispatcher that controls all of them.  There is a free downtown trolley system which will get you close to most of the downtown points of interest.

 

https://storage.googleapis.com/carta-cdn/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/DASH-Routes-210-211-213_2018.pdf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi!

 

What interests you?  I live in Charleston and am happy to offer suggestions!  As a previous poster said, Charleston is a great port because you dock right in the historic district.  Very easy walk to anything you would want to see downtown.  (or cheap uber ride if mobility is a concern).  Tons of historic sites (of course) such as home tours, City Market, museums, etc.  There are many tours you can sign up for on site; walking, driving, carriage tours.  Please, if you are visiting in the summer, don't take a carriage tour.  There is a big issue right now concerning the treatment of the carriage horses in the hot summer months. That's all I will say on that, I don't want to get too preachy!  Fort Sumter (as mentioned) is easy to get to on your own via a quick ferry trip.  There is also a pretty nice aquarium.  Tons of shopping if that interests you.  Just about any kind of food you could want. (let me know if you want suggestions, we have some gems)  Any of the plantation homes are off the peninsula (downtown historic area) and would require separate transportation if you wanted to pursue that.  

 

Enjoy your visit!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, ericosmith said:

With one day, I would just take in the sights in the downtown area with perhaps a boat trip to Fort Sumpter if that interests you.  The carriage tour is a great idea.  There are several companies and as I recall, they all do pretty much the same three routes.  Those are assigned at random by a dispatcher that controls all of them.  There is a free downtown trolley system which will get you close to most of the downtown points of interest.

 

https://storage.googleapis.com/carta-cdn/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/DASH-Routes-210-211-213_2018.pdf

 

9 hours ago, Hydro ergo said:

Hi!

 

What interests you?  I live in Charleston and am happy to offer suggestions!  As a previous poster said, Charleston is a great port because you dock right in the historic district.  Very easy walk to anything you would want to see downtown.  (or cheap uber ride if mobility is a concern).  Tons of historic sites (of course) such as home tours, City Market, museums, etc.  There are many tours you can sign up for on site; walking, driving, carriage tours.  Please, if you are visiting in the summer, don't take a carriage tour.  There is a big issue right now concerning the treatment of the carriage horses in the hot summer months. That's all I will say on that, I don't want to get too preachy!  Fort Sumter (as mentioned) is easy to get to on your own via a quick ferry trip.  There is also a pretty nice aquarium.  Tons of shopping if that interests you.  Just about any kind of food you could want. (let me know if you want suggestions, we have some gems)  Any of the plantation homes are off the peninsula (downtown historic area) and would require separate transportation if you wanted to pursue that.  

 

Enjoy your visit!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, 3red7s said:

wow lots of great ideas.....thank you for letting me know that the ship docks within walking distance to the historic downtown area.  We will be in town on 2/28 & yes, we were considering a carriage tour.....but after your thoughts, we might reconsider.  I am thinking I could probably download a walking tour.  Are there any particular streets or routes that are easy to walk & show historic homes? Do you feel a tour of the tea plantation would be interesting? So far it looks like we will take the ferry to Fort Sumpter, come back & walk.  Is the city/straw market close by?  also, I think your area is known for crabs...is that correct.  Can you recommend a restaurant that is not far from the ships that we could try to seafood?  Sorry for all the questions....just happen to have someone who can shed some light!!!  Thanks again

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Our cruise last September diverted us from Bermuda to Charleston so we didn't have time to plan (announced on board) and the ship offered excursions weren't that great.

 

We walked through the Straw Market and up the street to the visitor center (long walk, but nice sights), then over a block and down another street with lots of shopping and took it all the way to the Battery (even saw some dolphins in the water 🙂 ).  Walked back to the ship and enjoyed the water views and the little park with the pineapple fountain on the way back.

 

There were several restaurants nearby, but we docked very early and were fine just eating back on the ship.  It certainly wasn't planned, but was one of my favorite port days from 7 or 8 cruises - and we didn't even spend anything (lots of cool stuff at the market, just nothing that spoke enough to us to take home).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Happy to help---and the questions make it easier to give you useful information!

 

First thing...don't be put off by the cruise port when you arrive-it's very industrial.  Quick story...the terminal was never planned to be used for cruises, and there is a vocal minority in town that hate the cruise lines and don't want the port improved, so they are doing what they can with the old buildings. 

Anyway, once you are out of the building, you will be right across the street from Market Street, which logically enough, will bring you straight to City Market!  I would say...maybe a 10 minute walk from the ship?  Maybe 15, but easy.  And walking anywhere downtown during the day is totally safe.  I work downtown and walk around alone all the time (female, mid-30s).  I like the market even as a local and have found many great gifts there.  Yes, there are some touristy cheesy things like shot glasses and mugs that say "Charleston" but there are also some neat local jewelers (the Charleston gate jewelry is based off the old iron work found around Charleston) and the sweetgrass baskets that are hand made (pricey, but very neat to watch them being made).  There are a lot of shops around the market as well if you are interested in any shopping...all kinds off stuff from high end to unique and local.  Callie's Hot Little Biscuit has a location in City Market---they are locally famous for their biscuits if you need a snack while walking around. I highly recommend the cinnamon. 🙂

I have never tried to download a walking tour, but I would bet that there are some available--great idea!  I believe there is a visitor's center near City Market...I'm sure you could easily google it.  In fact, I think we have a few scattered throughout downtown.  Anyway, I'm sure they would try to sell you a tour, but they will also have free maps if you don't feel like google-mapping the whole time.  With a map, downtown is easy to navigate, and again, safe.

I just remembered...check out Charleston Museum Mile...they have a website that links you with many of the historic homes/sites in downtown.  You could see if you are interested in stopping at any of the homes for a tour; most tours are about an hour or hour and a half.  Some are scheduled, some self-guided.  If you are just interested in "cruising" by some lovely historic homes, I would recommend a walk down East Bay Street, past Rainbow Row, and along the Battery.  The Battery has all the fancy big homes overlooking the water.  On your return, get off East Bay and walk through Waterfront park.  Nice, lovely walk.  

Fort Sumter is a fun stop.  You can walk to the ferry dock from the cruise terminal.  That's maybe about 15-20min walk, not the prettiest walk, but still safe.  Tickets can book on days when a ship is in port, so if you are really set on going, you may want to book online in advance (I believe that's an option).  While you are waiting for the ferry (and riding the ferry) keep your eyes on the water.  We have A LOT of dolphins in the harbor and they are fun to watch.

As for the tea plantation...that would have to be a commitment and I think the easiest way to do it would be to rent a car.  It's way out on Wadmalaw Island and would probably be about a 45 min drive from downtown.  It's a lovely drive, and as a local, I really enjoyed the tour, and go there sometimes to buy tea, but I don't know that I would do it as a cruise passenger...or as a day visitor...there's so much to see in downtown that's easily accessible and you probably want to maximize your time in port.

As far as food goes...you will be able to get crabs at most seafood restaurants, but we are really known for our oysters and shrimp.  At the end of February, you will be in oyster season, so still good to eat.  Shrimp and grits is definitely the "what Charleston is known for" dish.  It's a personal favorite too!  But really, you can't go wrong with most seafood ordered.  My personal favorite restaurant in downtown is Fleet Landing.  It's also located directly next to the cruise terminal, literally on the water.  I love their food and their outdoor to seating to watch boats and dolphins go by.  If you are looking for something a bit fancier, there is Pearlz Oyster Bar and 167 Raw.  I haven't been to either, but people rave about the oysters at both locations---they are local and tourist faves.  They are both within walking distance of the port.  Charleston Crab House is right by City Market and I have never had a bad meal there.  They also have rooftop seating, which is fun if the weather is nice.  Hank's Seafood is a Charleston institution, been around forever, also very popular with tourists and locals alike.  There is almost always a wait there though, so tougher to manage on a cruise day.  There are so many amazing places to eat...it's tough.  If you want some ridiculous dessert, Kaminsky's (near City Market as well) is phenomenal and there is a small place called Christophe's Artisan Chocolatier on Society Street...sounds excessively fancy, but they have some great desserts and everything is made in house and reasonably priced.  (oh dear, now I really want to go on an eating spree downtown!!!)

 

One cool thing about Charleston is that you could get off the ship, wander around town and have a great time without spending a dime, or you could spend tons on food, tours, and souvenirs and also have a great time.  There's something for every budget. 

 

Phew, hopefully that novel wasn't too much to read!  If you have other questions, I'm more than happy to help 🙂

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hydro ergo, thank you for the great summary! We will be there in February, and your response was exactly what we wanted to know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What day in February will you be here? The first big weekend of the year is over Valentine’s weekend with the Southeastern Wildlife Expo in town. If it’s that weekend prepare for lots of congestion especially down around the Market area and you may find extended wait times getting served most restaurants and ride share services (Lyft and Uber) will most likely be having surge pricing. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

luckily we will be there the last week of February

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, 3red7s said:

luckily we will be there the last week of February

 

 

I live in Charleston and you've already been given tons of good info.  All I will add is that from November to April, the weather is  total crap shoot.  It could be 40 degrees or it could be 75 degrees, so be prepared for either!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Charlestonians for being on this thread!!!

 

I will be there January 29 with an 11 and 12 year old. I am all for walking around and wandering but with kids, it's a bit harder. Anything that would be very interesting to see in the historic area for that age group? What about non-seafood restaurants (we live so far from any lake/ocean that we aren't used to it and my 11 year old is very picky and won't try new things unfortunately)? Could we go on the ferry to the island and see the aircraft carrier museum and wander around old town in one day or is that too ambitious? What is the weather usually like end of January?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/10/2020 at 3:32 PM, BerlinLink said:

Thanks Charlestonians for being on this thread!!!

 

I will be there January 29 with an 11 and 12 year old. I am all for walking around and wandering but with kids, it's a bit harder. Anything that would be very interesting to see in the historic area for that age group? What about non-seafood restaurants (we live so far from any lake/ocean that we aren't used to it and my 11 year old is very picky and won't try new things unfortunately)? Could we go on the ferry to the island and see the aircraft carrier museum and wander around old town in one day or is that too ambitious? What is the weather usually like end of January?

 You might want to check out Charleston Pirate Tours with Eric Lavender. Eric does a great walking tour and knows his pirate history. He dresses like a pirate captain complete with a parrot on his shoulder. The tour is about two hours, covers about a mile, and has frequent stops. Plus you would never be more than a mile from the ship if that. The tour leaves from the Powder Magazine on Cumberland Street—— Maybe 4 blocks from the ship. The magazine tour is included and you can add on a tour of the beautiful and historic Exchange Building where the tour ends. Eric is great with kids. They would have a great time and learn some fascinating history too.

 

Plenty of places in the Market area to eat. For non seafood maybe try T Bonz for steaks or burgers. We also really like a great Greek family restaurant Olde Town on King Street . Their chicken is fantastic. King Street has great shopping.

 

The historic district is safe and great for walking and exploring. Most anyone will kindly give you directions and advice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/10/2020 at 3:32 PM, BerlinLink said:

I will be there January 29 with an 11 and 12 year old. I am all for walking around and wandering but with kids, it's a bit harder. Anything that would be very interesting to see in the historic area for that age group? What about non-seafood restaurants (we live so far from any lake/ocean that we aren't used to it and my 11 year old is very picky and won't try new things unfortunately)? Could we go on the ferry to the island and see the aircraft carrier museum and wander around old town in one day or is that too ambitious? What is the weather usually like end of January?

 

I think you are confusing Ft. Sumter with Patriots Point.  Ft. Sumter is on an island in Charleston Harbor and would only be accessible by ferry.  Patriots Point is on the mainland of Mt. Pleasant, just across the harbor Charleston.  This is where the Yorktown (aircraft carrier/museum) is located.  You can get there either by car (Uber) or by water taxi from downtown Charleston.   

Depending on what time your ship docks and departs, yes you can probably combine the two.  Do the Yorktown first and spend as much time as your kids seem to stay interested.  Then go back downtown and walk around for the remaining time.  If you do downtown first, you may end up getting to the Yorktown and not having as much time as you'd hoped.

It's too bad your child is a picky eater, because downtown Charleston has SO many great restaurants, but I have kids so I get it.  If you're looking for something really basic, there are a few chains like like IHOP or Another Broken Egg Cafe very close to the cruise port in downtown.  Otherwise, just walk around and look at menus of the seafood and other restaurants; most will have a burger or chicken fingers on the menu, even if they specialize in seafood or other cuisine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/12/2020 at 10:09 AM, Dive Master said:

 You might want to check out Charleston Pirate Tours with Eric Lavender.

 

 Thanks for recommending Pirate Tours. I looked them up and the reviews are fantastic too. Our ship docks at 11 so sadly the pirate one is too early in the day but the daytime ghost one works and sounds interesting too.

 

23 hours ago, waterbug123 said:

Depending on what time your ship docks and departs, yes you can probably combine the two.  Do the Yorktown first and spend as much time as your kids seem to stay interested.  Then go back downtown and walk around for the remaining time.  If you do downtown first, you may end up getting to the Yorktown and not having as much time as you'd hoped.

 

Now I just have to decide if I should do the Yorktown first (thanks for setting me straight on this vs the fort) as waterbug123 recommended vs doing the daytime ghost tour which is at 1pm.

 

I'm looking forward to Charleston and actually thinking a week vacation here might be in order sometime as there is lots to see and do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for all of your great info. Will we cruise past the Yorktown or Fort Sumpter as we enter or leave the cruise port?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Vatxal said:

Thanks everyone for all of your great info. Will we cruise past the Yorktown or Fort Sumpter as we enter or leave the cruise port?

 

You will go right past Ft. Sumter (no "P" in Sumter) on your way out of the harbor.  You won't go past the Yorktown per se, it's just across the harbor at Patriot's Point in Mt. Pleasant and ever so slightly further inland than the cruise port (so the ship won't get any closer when it leaves), but you can see it from the upper deck while the ship is still docked.   If you are interested in in though, I highly suggest touring it the day before your cruise.  Seeing the outside of it isn't all that impressive.  There are some old aircraft on deck (binoculars will be needed if you really want a good look at these), but much of the museum is inside.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/23/2020 at 7:14 AM, waterbug123 said:

 

You will go right past Ft. Sumter (no "P" in Sumter) on your way out of the harbor.  You won't go past the Yorktown per se, it's just across the harbor at Patriot's Point in Mt. Pleasant and ever so slightly further inland than the cruise port (so the ship won't get any closer when it leaves), but you can see it from the upper deck while the ship is still docked.   If you are interested in in though, I highly suggest touring it the day before your cruise.  Seeing the outside of it isn't all that impressive.  There are some old aircraft on deck (binoculars will be needed if you really want a good look at these), but much of the museum is inside.  

 

This is about as good a view as we got from our ship.

 

IMG_9676a.thumb.jpg.65389078cf411255f81a7645cff97664.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/31/2019 at 4:14 PM, Hydro ergo said:

Happy to help---and the questions make it easier to give you useful information!

 

First thing...don't be put off by the cruise port when you arrive-it's very industrial.  Quick story...the terminal was never planned to be used for cruises, and there is a vocal minority in town that hate the cruise lines and don't want the port improved, so they are doing what they can with the old buildings. 

Anyway, once you are out of the building, you will be right across the street from Market Street, which logically enough, will bring you straight to City Market!  I would say...maybe a 10 minute walk from the ship?  Maybe 15, but easy.  And walking anywhere downtown during the day is totally safe.  I work downtown and walk around alone all the time (female, mid-30s).  I like the market even as a local and have found many great gifts there.  Yes, there are some touristy cheesy things like shot glasses and mugs that say "Charleston" but there are also some neat local jewelers (the Charleston gate jewelry is based off the old iron work found around Charleston) and the sweetgrass baskets that are hand made (pricey, but very neat to watch them being made).  There are a lot of shops around the market as well if you are interested in any shopping...all kinds off stuff from high end to unique and local.  Callie's Hot Little Biscuit has a location in City Market---they are locally famous for their biscuits if you need a snack while walking around. I highly recommend the cinnamon. 🙂

I have never tried to download a walking tour, but I would bet that there are some available--great idea!  I believe there is a visitor's center near City Market...I'm sure you could easily google it.  In fact, I think we have a few scattered throughout downtown.  Anyway, I'm sure they would try to sell you a tour, but they will also have free maps if you don't feel like google-mapping the whole time.  With a map, downtown is easy to navigate, and again, safe.

I just remembered...check out Charleston Museum Mile...they have a website that links you with many of the historic homes/sites in downtown.  You could see if you are interested in stopping at any of the homes for a tour; most tours are about an hour or hour and a half.  Some are scheduled, some self-guided.  If you are just interested in "cruising" by some lovely historic homes, I would recommend a walk down East Bay Street, past Rainbow Row, and along the Battery.  The Battery has all the fancy big homes overlooking the water.  On your return, get off East Bay and walk through Waterfront park.  Nice, lovely walk.  

Fort Sumter is a fun stop.  You can walk to the ferry dock from the cruise terminal.  That's maybe about 15-20min walk, not the prettiest walk, but still safe.  Tickets can book on days when a ship is in port, so if you are really set on going, you may want to book online in advance (I believe that's an option).  While you are waiting for the ferry (and riding the ferry) keep your eyes on the water.  We have A LOT of dolphins in the harbor and they are fun to watch.

As for the tea plantation...that would have to be a commitment and I think the easiest way to do it would be to rent a car.  It's way out on Wadmalaw Island and would probably be about a 45 min drive from downtown.  It's a lovely drive, and as a local, I really enjoyed the tour, and go there sometimes to buy tea, but I don't know that I would do it as a cruise passenger...or as a day visitor...there's so much to see in downtown that's easily accessible and you probably want to maximize your time in port.

As far as food goes...you will be able to get crabs at most seafood restaurants, but we are really known for our oysters and shrimp.  At the end of February, you will be in oyster season, so still good to eat.  Shrimp and grits is definitely the "what Charleston is known for" dish.  It's a personal favorite too!  But really, you can't go wrong with most seafood ordered.  My personal favorite restaurant in downtown is Fleet Landing.  It's also located directly next to the cruise terminal, literally on the water.  I love their food and their outdoor to seating to watch boats and dolphins go by.  If you are looking for something a bit fancier, there is Pearlz Oyster Bar and 167 Raw.  I haven't been to either, but people rave about the oysters at both locations---they are local and tourist faves.  They are both within walking distance of the port.  Charleston Crab House is right by City Market and I have never had a bad meal there.  They also have rooftop seating, which is fun if the weather is nice.  Hank's Seafood is a Charleston institution, been around forever, also very popular with tourists and locals alike.  There is almost always a wait there though, so tougher to manage on a cruise day.  There are so many amazing places to eat...it's tough.  If you want some ridiculous dessert, Kaminsky's (near City Market as well) is phenomenal and there is a small place called Christophe's Artisan Chocolatier on Society Street...sounds excessively fancy, but they have some great desserts and everything is made in house and reasonably priced.  (oh dear, now I really want to go on an eating spree downtown!!!)

 

One cool thing about Charleston is that you could get off the ship, wander around town and have a great time without spending a dime, or you could spend tons on food, tours, and souvenirs and also have a great time.  There's something for every budget. 

 

Phew, hopefully that novel wasn't too much to read!  If you have other questions, I'm more than happy to help 🙂

 

 

 

We are thinking about renting a car and driveing to myrtle beach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OH wow.....thank you sooooo much.  your response and suggestions are amazing and greatly appreciated!!!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...