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What to do in Charleston SC?


3red7s
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4 hours ago, sullyd said:

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

 Oh, please don't! There is absolutely no comparison between the two places.  If you want the beach, just go to Folly Beach.  Otherwise there's nothing to see in Myrtle Beach other than miles of condos, tourist shops, and mini and regular golf courses.

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13 hours ago, sullyd said:

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

 

During a port stop to Charleston?  Don't!!

1.  As ericosmith said, Charleston is far prettier than Myrtle Beach, which is little more than a tourist trap.  Anything you can do in Myrtle Beach, you can do in Charleston, and it will probably be a lot nicer.

2.  From the downtown port, you are looking at a 2 hour drive, each way, to get to Myrtle Beach.  You will be in heavy traffic all the way through Mt. Pleasant, and if you are driving back in the afternoon and don't get in to Mt. Pleasant before 3:30, you can count on adding another 30 minutes to the return due to school traffic.  Trust me on this- you will go right past the entrance to Wando High School, with 4000+ students, and Hwy 17 after Wando lets out (never mind the multiple middle schools traffic) you will be in a panic, wondering why traffic is at a crawl in all 3 southbound lanes.  If you go and DO get back before 3:30, and you will have basically gone to Myrtle Beach for an hour before turning around.  Not worth it!!  

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23 hours ago, sullyd said:

thank you, we will take your advice. is a rental car necessary? how far is folly beach?

 

From downtown, it's about 25 minutes to Folly Beach.  If you're trying to actually "go to the beach", head to Folly Beach County Park.  Heading the opposite direction, it's about the same to go to Isle of Palms, and there I'd head to Isle of Palms County Park.  The county park beaches have parking, restrooms and changing stations, though the hours vary according to the season.   What's the date of your cruise?

You can rent a car if you want, but Uber is pretty widely available in the Charleston area.  You'll get one quickly when you're downtown.  Allow a little extra time to get one for the return back from any of the beach towns.

There is also Sullivan's Island (my personal preference as a local, when going to the beach), but there is no county park, i.e. no facilities.  Parking is on the streets and if you do rent a car and go there, just observe the signs; some streets the parking is only on one side, all wheels have to be off the pavement, etc.  Plenty of beach access walkways though.

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23 hours ago, sullyd said:

we are going second week of May, how's the weather then?

thanks for the info.

 

May weather is generally any where from very nice to very hot.  The county beach parks should be open by 9am.  If you rent a car it will be $10 to park.  If you uber and get dropped off and walk in, it's free to enter.

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On 1/2/2020 at 6:45 PM, 3red7s said:

luckily we will be there the last week of February

 

You will find the early spring gardens around I the side courtyards of the old homes spread everywhere and the antique Iron gates and fence outstanding.

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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 🙂

 

 

 

thanks so much for the very useful information.  We will be there in June.  I can't wait to see Charleston!!

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/28/2020 at 7:04 PM, sullyd said:

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

Hi Sullyd!

 

If you have researched Myrtle Beach and find that is something that is important to you to do, certainly go for it.  However, I would caution that it's about a 2 hour drive there and back, so you would be spending at least four hours in transit.  Not sure how long you are in port.  Also, while Myrtle Beach is a popular destination, there's not much to do there...I realize that probably sounds odd, but it's a lot of high rise hotels, mini-golf, touristy souvenir shops...and the beach isn't actually that nice (it is often closed for water pollution issues because the storm water run off from the strip drains onto the beach).  I'm not trying to steer you one way or another, but unless you have found something you are very set on doing in MB, you might want to reconsider.  I would hate for you guys to miss out on the potential cool stuff in Charleston to spend half your day in a car.

 

Best of luck! 

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In rereading some of the replies, someone mentioned a visitors center near the market in Charleston.  The official Charleston Visitor Center at 375 Meeting Street is walkable from the market, but not what I'd call particularly close.   What you may see nearby are various booths advertising tourist info but be careful- these are shills for specific tour companies, which will give you biased or "leading" information.  You can probably get a free map from them, but if particular places are marked on the map (restaurants, tour companies etc.) you can bet they are probably affiliated with the "tourist info" company or getting a kickback from them for the referral.  Contact the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau (charlestoncvb.com) ahead of time to request a visitor guide.

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I mentioned walking to the visitor center after going through the market, but I did state it was a long walk.  I forgot about the other "Visitor" sites along the way.  When we went it was a change in itinerary due to weather, so we didn't have time to research the port.  I definitely advise getting a visitor guide in advance if you plan to go there 😉 I did appreciate how easy it was to navigate the area (we are fit though) since we didn't have the opportunity to check it out and ship excursions didn't seem worth it for the price.

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20 hours ago, pacruise804 said:

I mentioned walking to the visitor center after going through the market, but I did state it was a long walk.  I forgot about the other "Visitor" sites along the way. 

 

Yes you did, but someone else mentioned a visitor center "near the market" so I wanted to clarify.  

To be even more specific for the benefit of anyone visiting, from the east end of the market (the end nearest the port) it's about a 20-25 minute walk to the visitor's center at 375 Meeting Street.  

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16 hours ago, waterbug123 said:

 

Yes you did, but someone else mentioned a visitor center "near the market" so I wanted to clarify.  

To be even more specific for the benefit of anyone visiting, from the east end of the market (the end nearest the port) it's about a 20-25 minute walk to the visitor's center at 375 Meeting Street.  

Is it not possible to take the green trolley rather than walking?

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9 hours ago, ericosmith said:

Is it not possible to take the green trolley rather than walking?

 

Probably?  One route appears to go from the market to the visitors center.  I believe it runs every 30 minutes so be aware of the schedule on any given day.  Makes a number of stops along the way. Depending on how long it takes to get the info you want, you could be waiting 15 or 20 min for the return shuttle.  Again though, if all you want from the visitors center is a map and info, you can contact them ahead of time; no real need to actually visit in person.

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I would agree that there's not much use in going to the visitors center if you're just in town for the day or are just looking to buy some tickets.  On our visits to Charleston we've used the trolley as a free hoho.  Personally I didn't find the market particularly worthwhile but then I'm a male without much use for shopping.  

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6 hours ago, ericosmith said:

  Personally I didn't find the market particularly worthwhile but then I'm a male without much use for shopping.  

 

As someone mentioned, you have to keep your eyes open.  There is certainly plenty of tourist junk souvenirs to be had there, like t-shirts and shot glasses.  But there are also some local artisans who make very unique one-of-a-kind things there. 

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