Things to do in and around Downtown Charleston
Charleston’s biggest attraction is the charming old town itself. Beautiful streets and cobblestoned alleyways lined with historic antebellum mansions and historic sites, interspersed with trendy boutiques, and some of the best restaurants in the nation make Charleston one of America’s favorite destinations. Here are some of our favorite things to see and to do.
South of Broad
Plan at least half a day just wandering around in the famous neighborhood adjacent to the Governor’s House Inn. Admire streets lined with Live Oaks, peer through historic iron fences at charming homes and iconic buildings until you reach the Battery at the very tip of the peninsula. Here you can enjoy the cool sea breeze while admiring the massive oak trees of White Point Gardens or looking out to Fort Sumter, where the very first shot of the Civil War was fired
African American History
Charleston played a major role in the history of slavery for our Nation. Remnants can be seen throughout the city. African Americans shaped Charleston by sharing agricultural, technical, culinary, artistic, and other talents that helped define the Lowcountry and turned Charleston into the place it is today. Discover Charleston’s unique African American historical and cultural traditions and understand their rightful place in the annals of this region. Check out the workshop of iron working legend Philip Simmons, the collection at Avery Research Center, the stands with woven baskets just down the road from the Governor’s House Inn at the corner of Broad and Meeting Streets and be sure to sample Gullah cuisine.
Plantations & Gardens
Charleston’s antebellum legacy lives on a number of plantations and gardens, all of which encompass historical buildings and gardens. While Middleton Place and Magnolia Plantations & Gardens showcase some of America’s oldest landscaped gardens, Boone Hall Plantation educates about the day-to-day- life of plantations. Its famous Live Oak Allee shouldn’t be missed! McLeod Plantation, just a few-minutes-car ride from the Governor’s House Inn, focuses on the African American perspective on life on a plantation. All that remains of Drayton Hall is the 18th century mansion, a must-see for all fans of Georgian architecture!
Charleston Colleges & Universities
Charleston is home to several colleges, two of which boast beautiful campuses. And that’s not just local pride talking, College of Charleston was actually voted “America’s Most Beautiful College Campus” by Travel and Leisure magazine. Make sure to see where the Cadets, who are walking around town make their home. The Citadel shouldn’t be missed either!
Museum of Postal History
Just a few blocks down from the Governor’s House Inn you will step back in time into an old-fashioned post office. Nestled inside the still operating post office is the Museum of Postal History, highlighting the pivotal moments, in which Charleston’s postal service coincided with and made history. The Post Office building, which also houses the U.S. Court House, makeup a quarter of the “Four Corners of Law” intersection. Each street corner represents a branch of law that helps us in our everyday lives. On one corner is City Hall with the County Courthouse, Federal Courthouse and St. Michael’s church.
Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeons
Straight down the street, at the end of Broad Street, stands one of the most historic buildings of America. You can see part of the original city wall in the dungeons. British taxed tea, seized from the authorities was stored on the premises. You will experience not just American history, but part of the Governor’s House history as well. It was here, that Edward Rutledge was elected to be one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and for this he was imprisoned in the dungeons during the British occupation of Charles Towne.
Slave Mart Museum and its surroundings
In one of the last-standing slave auction galleries you can listen to the voices of the enslaved and explore the history of transatlantic slave trade.
Sitting on a cobblestone street in the town’s oldest neighborhood, take your time to walk around and take in the houses going back to the very first settlers in the early 1700s and the beginning of Charleston’s history.
Gibbes Museum of Art
The permanent collection of the Gibbes Museum of Art spans four centuries and gives you a dynamic introduction to the visual culture of America and the American South from the colonial era to the present. Charleston has always understood the power of art – to inspire our imagination and nourish our souls.
There is no shortage of art in Charleston – and the best galleries are right on Broad Street! Just leave the Inn, go half a block to the right and you reach Gallery Row. Enjoy!
Shopping on King Street
King Street and all its lovely boutiques, from upscale antiques shops to clothing and specialty stores are just around the corner…
Churches & Synagogues
Charleston is called the Holy City for a reason! Dozens of spires dominate the skyline. You will hardly have time to check out all of them. Luckily, the two most beautiful and historically significant churches are right around the corner: St. Michael’s on Broad and Meeting Streets, built in the 1750s is the oldest surviving religious structure. Sit down in pew 43, right where George Washington, Michelle and Barack Obama and Princess Diane and Charles have prayed.
Did you know that Charleston at one time had the largest Jewish population in The United States? See why religious freedom has always been significant to the Holy City.
Don’t leave out these sights
Catfish Row (89-91 Church Street)
DuBose Heyward, resident of 76 Church Street, renamed what was originally known as Cabbage Row (due to tenants displaying vegetables for sale on the windowsills) as Catfish Row for his novel Porgy. On this novel, the opera Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin was based. We will know you have been there, when we hear you humming our most famous tune “Summertime”.
Rainbow Row (79 – 101 East Bay Street)
Once standing directly on the water line, these buildings served as warehouses and shops for the shipping trade. Over time they fell into disrepair. Revived in the 1930s, their new lives took on colorful repainting, which resulted in the nickname. Rainbow Row is now a handsome residential area.
Dock Street Theatre
The first building in the United States built exclusively for the Theater in 1736. The Theater is still operating today. What else is there to say? Oh, it’s such a beautiful building!
…and you like even more history?
Admittedly, so do we! We recommend
Visit the tenth aircraft carrier ever to serve in the US Navy, an American heroine from WW II to Vietnam. After 43 years of service, the USS Yorktown became the centerpiece of Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum where it is joined by USS destroyer Laffey, USS Submarine Clamagore and the Medal of Honor Museum.
A boat trip to Fort Sumter combines the historic experience of being where the Civil War began with a nice outing on the water. Charleston is a coastal city after all!
For the Nature lovers amongst our guests
Did you ever sit in a boat and had majestic trees rising out of the water all around you? Experience this unique landscape either on foot or by boat and don’t forget to check out the butterfly pavilion before you leave.
Experience the Oldest living organism east of the Mississippi River. The Angel Oak stands over 66 feet tall and produces shade, that covers 17,200 square feet. This is not just some big tree. The experience allows you to take in nature in all its majesty.
Relaxing Sullivan’s Island, sporty Isle of Palms or rowdy Folly Beach? We feel it’s not a matter of picking either of them, it’s more a question of deciding the order in which you are going to hit Charleston’s beautiful beaches, all of which are only a short car-ride from the Governor’s House Inn.