A trip to Charleston is truly a must do! With its beautiful architecture, amazing cuisine, abundant history and coastal location; Charleston is the place to be! Spending three full days in Charleston is a fantastic way to experience a wide variety of what the city and area has to offer.
I have always wanted to visit Charleston, but since I’ve spent most of my life in the northern part of the country it was just not a city I ever had the opportunity to visit. I would consider myself very well traveled around the world and in the States (including South Carolina), but Charleston just never happened.
As a first timer to this Holy City this is what we did in the three days we spent in Charleston and I’ve included some other Charleston ideas for the next time we visit. And there will be a next time.
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When is the Best Time to Visit Charleston?
For me…anytime would be a good time to visit Charleston as it’s such a lovely area. However, the best time to visit Charleston is from March to May or from September to November. The temperatures aren’t quite as hot and your overall time can be more enjoyable without the constant humidity and sweating.
However, during this time hotel rates are higher and it can be more crowded. We went the second week of July and let me tell you…it was hot and humid, but that’s when we could go. It was still super busy during this time as well and things were pricey, but everything is pricey lately.
Where to Stay in Charleston
This list is rather limitless because you can stay in downtown Charleston, on one of the beaches or outlining areas. I would not consider Charleston inexpensive, but if you book early enough you can find some good deals.
We stayed in downtown Charleston and rented a lovely historical townhouse called the Lady Banks House. It was gorgeous and allowed us to experience the history of the town and its architecture. The next time I visit I would prefer to stay either at Sullivan Island Beach area or Isle of Palm Beach area and come into the city for a day excursion.
How Many Days is Enough to Visit Charleston?
Three to four days is enough time to visit Charleston for your initial visit. A long weekend in Charleston is enough time to experience the city and the amazing area for the first time. We visited the area for three days and it was enough for our first trip, but when we return I would like to stay five days and stay closer to the beach. During our trip, we explored the city, hit the beach, went on a boat ride and shopped during our stay.
We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and left for home on Saturday around noon. With so much to see and do it can be overwhelming. Take a deep breath because unless you have a couple weeks to spend you won’t be able to experience everything, the more reason to plan a return visit.
I’ve compiled a list of the attractions we did, some must see adventures and other explorations to keep on your list for the future. My list is ready to go for the next trip to this gorgeous city and area.
What We Did in Charleston – Three Day Charleston Itinerary
Our three day itinerary in Charleston was as full as I could make it without becoming too exhausted. I knew I wanted to experience the beach, explore downtown, see all the gorgeous homes/architecture, take a boat ride, see the lighthouse and visit Cypress Gardens and of course EAT!
Explore Downtown Charleston
It’s a no brainer…you have to spend time in downtown itself because it is a city not to miss. There are free things to do in Charleston, like walking around and soaking in all the sites.
We had three days in Charleston and even though I could have stayed longer I was grateful for our trip and long to return. I wanted to see as much of the area as I could; downtown Charleston, Charleston beaches, shopping, Charleston dining and other surrounding areas sites. There is so much to do in Charleston there is no way to do it all in one three day trip or even a week long trip. You have to decide what you want to do.
The famous Rainbow Row in Charleston is not to be missed. These are the famous colorful houses of downtown Charleston and is perhaps the most iconic photo spot in the city.
The Four Corners of Law
“The Four Corners of Law”: the City Hall, State House, Federal Post Office and Judiciary System, and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church are all on this corner. The name was assigned referring to City Law, State Law, Federal Law, and God’s Law.
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church dates back to 1761 and is one of the most striking churches in Charleston. Both President George Washington and General Robert E. Lee have worshipped here.
The Battery is a landmark defensive seawall and promenade in Charleston, South Carolina, famous for its stately antebellum homes. The Battery was once a Civil War defensive position and named for a Civil War coastal defense artillery battery at the site. It stretches along the lower shores of the Charleston peninsula,
Explore the Architecture
Ok the houses in Charleston are quite amazing and I could have taken any of them. Once I saw one I loved I would take a handful of steps and see another house I loved. Truly…I spent my final morning in Charleston with my camera in hand (before it got busy) and took way too many pictures. The homes are quite stellar.
The shopping in Charleston is something not to miss, but depending on your budget, you might browse more than you buy. At least that was the case for us. Prices are not what I would consider good. It is a popular tourist city and prices for dresses, hats, handbags and everything lovely in between was more than I wanted to spend. However, we did enjoy going into all the shops even if we didn’t spend.
Take a Carriage Ride
Charleston is known for being a romantic city and a carriage ride and tour throughout Charleston’s streets would be a lovely way to see all the sites. We did not a take a carriage ride, but it looked like fun.
Although there is enough to do in Charleston itself I also wanted to explore the rest of the area. I’m a beach fanatic and wanted to at least spend half the day at one of Charleston’s beaches. We went to Sullivan’s Island for a few hours, but there are other beaches in the area to also enjoy.
Folly Beach – More of a party, surf, hip place to go for the beach. We did drive through Folly Beach and it was pleasant, but not my style so likely this is a beach I would not go to on our next trip to Charleston.
As we shopped downtown we asked store clerks for the best seafood restaurants around. Charleston is definitely known for being a food lovers paradise and the food did NOT disappoint. We weren’t looking for anything fancy but tasty was really our only requirement.
While in Charleston we ate at a few different places, but this is the list of restaurants recommended by people we spoke to.
Water’s Edge – We did eat here and the food was good, however, not a restaurant I would revisit the next time we are in Charleston. The food was good, but not good enough for me to return.
The Darling – We ate here on Friday night and it was busy. They only take reservations for their tables; no walk in seating. However, you can sit at the oyster bar (which we did) or the regular bar, but it is first come and the wait was long. The food was good and I would eat here again.
Nicos – Ate here are first night in Charleston and this is across the bridge in Shem Creek. I would eat here again. The oysters were delicious and there was a large variety.
Hanks – Didn’t make it to Hanks, but were told it was one of the best. Maybe next time, but all the local shop clerks recommended this restaurant so one to add to the list for sure and make reservations.
167 Raw – I wanted to eat here since I am from New England and the blend of New England and Charleston coastal sounded great. We just didn’t have another night in town or we would have tried to get in. They say the wait is long but worth it.
Charleston Seafood Markets
If you are a seafood lover like me and you just didn’t get your fill while visiting, you could take some home with you. Now that we live in East Tennessee, getting our hands on good, fresh seafood is really not possible. We took a little home with us to enjoy later.
There are many seafood markets around Charleston and in the outlining areas, near the beaches and downtown.
This was a want to see for my husband so while they went to tour this my daughter and I decided to hit a few local thrift stores…of course.
The USS Yorktown was a nice experience for my husband and son.
Morris Island Lighthouse
I wanted to take a boat ride while in Charleston and discovered that the only way to see and get close to the Morris Island Lighthouse was to take a boat to it. We took a fun six mile boat tour, out to the uninhabited barrier island, with Charleston Outdoor Adventures.
We saw the diverse eco-systems of the Lowcountry and along the way we saw Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, wading birds, oyster flats, and sea turtles.
Once we arrived on the island, we had around 45 minutes to explore the beach in search of shells and spectacular views of the lighthouse. The Morris Island Lighthouse Tour allowed us to view picturesque marshland, walk down a natural beach, photograph the historic Morris Island lighthouse and see wild dolphins all in one trip. I couldn’t believe all the dolphins we saw.
Cypress Gardens was a must for me; however it is not in Charleston but in a suburb called Goose Greek, but let me tell you…this was a gorgeous outing outside of the city. About a 35minute drive from Charleston (depending on where you are staying) Cypress Gardens was worth the trip. Read all about our day at Cypress Gardens.
This was a destination all on its own so much so that I wrote all about the details for you to read about in a separate post. For me, Cypress Gardens was a must see.
Final Thoughts on Three Days in Charleston, SC
My only disappointment was that I haven’t been sooner to this lovely city and area. I do plan to return and stay either on Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palm and explore the city as a full day outing.
I LOVED Charleston. The food, the sites, the beach and all the history. Truly can’t wait to return to this amazing city. They Holy City of Charleston. Until next time!