The Path for a Perfect Day in Charleston


It is spring and this is about the time I start to get a lot of messages asking me where to go, what to do, and any tips for a Charleston visit. For anyone living here, we know that there is a limitless amount of places to see, things to do, history to learn, and things to eat.

So how do we wrap up all that we love in one day for a new visitor?

We don’t. It’s hard. We will give you a million different ideas. However, I decided to make a “perfect day in Charleston” guided path for you. You may be a new daytime visitor, coming in on a cruise ship; you may be here for a week; you may have lived here for 10 years and still haven’t done these things.

If I was going to be here in Charleston for just one day, this is exactly what I would do:

1. Put in your GPS: THE BATTERY. It will take you downtown and you can park right next to the water. Get out, see the park, see the old canons, and then walk on the path alongside of the water. This is my favorite walk. On one side of you is the water and a beautiful view, and on the other side you will see the most beautiful Charleston homes.

Fun fact: On the water side, in the distance, you will see Fort Sumter, the famous spot where the Civil War began. Also, on the house side, you will see the Edmondston-Alston House which is where some of the scenes from the Outer Banks show were filmed.

When you walk on the sidewalk, make sure to stop when you see the plaques on the houses and along the sidewalk. You can use your phone to scan the QR code and hear all about the history and/or read the plaque and get some incredible historical facts about Charleston.

2. You are going to make a right at the next street where you see cobblestones. You can’t miss it, but if you do, it is called S. Adgers Wharf. It is a street from a storybook with beautiful trees, houses, and again, the beautiful cobblestones. Walk down until you get to the water again. Sometimes you can spot dolphins! You can sit on the benches, look out over the water, and you can walk around this cute little area. For my friends who have people with little legs, this is a great place to sit down and get some of the breeze coming off the water.A perfect day in Charleston: a woman poses in front of a large pineapple fountain with blue skies in the background.

3. Keep walking down the palm tree-lined path and you will come to the famous PINEAPPLE water fountain, which for me, I think of as the iconic Charleston symbol. Stop and take a picture. Be prepared, kids are always in the water up to their shins and if you have kids they will be tempted to do the same. Which is okay, but a change of clothes may be needed. Then head up to the other water fountain. Again, another water cool-off spot.

4. Next, head over to the ice cream and Dutch pancake shop. It is directly across from the second water fountain. You just walked all the way there, you deserve ice cream, and if you are second-guessing the pancakes, DON’T. Get them. With Nutella. The BEST!

5. Walk up to East Bay Street, ice cream in hand, and make a right. You are just a couple blocks from the Charleston City Market which has a bunch of local shops and vendors. This is where I would go for souvenirs and to get something for myself.

While you are there, if you want to see a cool restaurant, pop into 5 Church, which is a great restaurant in an old church and even still has the stained glass. Honestly, I would look at each restaurant menu on your walk from the pineapple fountain to the market and pick a place that looks yummy to you! There are so many options and you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

A perfect day in Charleston: a mother and two school-aged kids pose in front of a horse and carriage.6. Across the street from the Charleston City Market, on Anson Street, you will see a couple of horse-drawn carriage tours. We have done this tour a couple of times and they are always fantastic. We learn something new every time we do this. It’s a great way to get to know the city, learn some history, and see it from a whole new perspective. You have plenty of tours to choose from and they run frequently so you can get in.

Fun fact: Even on hot days, the horses are well taken care of. After every tour, the horses have a mandatory break where their temperature, respiration, and overall health are evaluated. They also get time to rest and lie down whenever needed. Also, each carriage company has its own farm where the horses go back and forth with green pastures and plenty of acres to run and play. Even during a busy season, only about half of the horses work on any particular day while the rest get their time back at the farm.

A young girl and boy smile excitedly with their dessert.7. After shopping, touring the city, and letting yourself wander, you can make your way back to the Battery. On the way there, you can make a couple of stops. If you have kids, they will love Carmella’s, a dessert bar. They have the infamous cannoli cake as well as the peanut butter chocolate mini cake (my personal favorite), incredible sandwiches, drinks, and the perfect indoor and outdoor self-seating. No matter how hot it is, I would recommend sitting outside, people-watching, and going in on a mini-cake! I would also recommend the Vendue Rooftop and get a great view of the city, have a drink, and sit at the top to talk about how amazing this city is.

8. Walk back down East Bay Street, stay on the right-hand side as you are heading back to the Battery, and you will run into the famous RAINBOW ROW. Take your time down this walk and don’t be afraid to ask people to take your picture. All of the houses are absolutely beautiful and worthy of picture taking. If you are just strolling, walk down random streets that are pretty to you, get to know the city, and read the history of the houses.

9. You may be close to dinner time at this point. Downtown Charleston has incredible restaurants, however, you can see Charleston from a new perspective by going across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge for your dinner.

Shem Creek will forever be one of my favorite places to go for dinner. It was the first place we went when we came here and we fell in love. Any restaurant you choose in Shem Creek will be amazing. After dinner, walk the boardwalk of Shem Creek to the end. Usually, you will see dolphins coming up the creek following the shrimp boats as they come in. You will also see the most AMAZING sunset.

A mother and two kids stand on a dock in front of Shem Creek with boats in the background.We stayed at the Shem Creek Inn when we visited Charleston for the first time and we absolutely loved it. If you are staying for a couple of nights, this would be a great option!

Charleston has been ranked the #1 Best City in America for the 10th year in a row by Travel & Leisure magazine for a reason. The city is beautiful, the history is incredible, the people are kind, the food is fantastic, and there is no shortage of things to do here.

I hope you take this guide and run with it! If you follow my path for your own perfect day in Charleston, you will find a hundred other things to do along the way — and I hope it brings you back to do more.

Welcome to Charleston!