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Charleston’s present is rooted in its past. In 1931, the city became the first to set an ordinance establishing a historic district. The result is an extremely well-preserved pre-Civil War downtown area, plus about 2,800 historic homes in the region showcasing eight architectural styles seen in the Lowcountry: Colonial, Georgian, Federal, Classical Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Victorian, and Art Deco. The quintessentially charming Southern seaport city is also within easy reach of diverse communities, including South Carolina’s largest island, Johns Island, about 10 miles to the southwest; the fast-growing suburb of Mount Pleasant, 10 miles to the northeast; the barrier island of Sullivan’s Island, 10 miles to the east; Folly Beach, best known for its pier, 11.5 miles to the south; the oceanfront community of Seabrook Island 23.7 miles southwest, and the delightful small town of Summerville, about 25 miles to the northwest.
Charleston International Airport (CHS) has daily nonstop flights from major U.S. hubs as well as seasonal flights from London. The terminal is technically in the city of North Charleston and is about 12 miles northwest of Downtown Charleston, with bus, shuttle, rideshare, and rental car options to get into town. If you’re driving, Charleston is about two hours from Savannah, three hours from Charlotte, about four hours from Jacksonville, and about five hours from Atlanta. Once you’re here, buses, pedicabs, water taxis, cabs, and rideshares are all available to get around town. In downtown, a free shuttle runs along three routes, making ample local stops, but the best way to really get to know the city center is by exploring on foot.
Spring and fall are the most enjoyable times of year to explore Charleston, when highs are in the mid-60s to 70s Fahrenheit and lows stay in the 50s and low 60s. March through May are especially popular because of all the blooming plants, especially the magnolia trees. Summers can get stifling, with humid highs in the 80s and lows only dropping into the 70s, plus rainfall is highest from June through September, hitting a peak in August. Winters can be a pleasant time in the city, as highs are in the upper 50s and lows tend not to dip below the mid-40s.
The first shots of the Civil War rang out at this fort in 1861. It’s accessible only by ferry boat, departing from the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center in Charleston or Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant.
The historic district sits on the peninsula where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet, and mixes cobblestone streets and lowcountry architecture. Stop at the Charleston City Market, one of the country’s oldest public markets, established in 1804, and also explore King Street, which runs from uptown to the Charleston Harbor, passing through the Design, Fashion, and Antique districts.
On the southern end is this picturesque waterfront stretch of historic mansions, as well as Joe Riley Waterfront Park, home of the Pineapple Fountain.