Are there things to do in Charleston, the #1 tourist destination according to so many travel experts over the last decade that we’re losing count? (Travel + Leisure, readers of Conde Nast Traveler and more.)
Enough to fill a month, as it turns out, and November is a great time to visit or staycation because the edge is off the heat, while temperatures remain comfortable.
If your weekend revolves around the steeplechase on Sunday morning, that leaves plenty of time for the top three Charleston attractions: history, beauty and food.
Start at the centerpiece of historic downtown Charleston: Charleston Place. A magnificent luxury hotel ensconced in an indoor shopping complex, Charleston Place offers fine dining and superb window shopping even in inclement weather. The world-class Charleston Grill features Lowcountry specialties and a Four Diamond AAA rating. The laid-back Palmetto Café serves breakfast and lunch in a gorgeous garden-style setting. World-class views of the city come standard with your drinks on The Clocktower Terrace rooftop bar. And as long as you’re in an equine state of mind, relax in the Thoroughbred Club lounge in the lobby of the hotel, where you can enjoy tapas, cocktails and live tinkling of the keys.
Wherever you eat in this city of culinary exquisiteness, don’t leave town without sampling local delicacies – oysters, shrimp and grits, sweet tea, hush puppies, she-crab soup, collard greens and seafood of all kinds.
The Civil War only began in one place – right where you happen to be. As long as you’re here, take a cruise out to Fort Sumter and relive the firing of the first shots that set the nation ablaze. Fort Sumter sits at the mouth of the harbor, where Charlestonians like to say the Cooper and Ashley rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean.
As the nation’s oldest city still on display in its original form, Charleston is a great place to be seen by horse and carriage. Carriage rides are inexpensive, highly educational and plentiful. Learn about the city’s unique architecture, early denizens and critical place in American history dating back even before the nation’s founding. It seems like every other house of worship here is the oldest of its kind.
No Charleston visit is complete without a visit to an antebellum plantation, where the savagery of slavery and the magnificence of the work slaves did is on display for your contemplation and appreciation. Much of what makes Charleston an iconic tourist attraction was constructed on the backs of enslaved Africans. The gardens of Middleton Plantation, the slave quarters of Boone Hall and the massive oaks lining the way to McLeod Plantation are all awe-inspiring and worth a visit.
November isn’t swimming or surfing season – unless you’re a dolphin! Take a harbor cruise around the waters here and watch the playful maritime mammals breach the surface and wave to you with their tails. Charleston dolphins love to perform for visitors.
Built at a human scale, downtown Charleston is walkable and lovely from ground level. Amble down to White Point Gardens at the Battery, the tip of the Charleston peninsula. Then walk up East Bay to iconic Rainbow Row and take a photo in front of the multi-colored pastel houses. Continue along the river to the pineapple fountain, welcoming sailors from days of yore, and on to the City Market, Charleston’s answer to Boston’s Faneuil Hall and Seattle’s Pike Place.
You’ve just scratched the surface, so one more thing you will have to do is come on back!