I think Charleston, South Carolina, is the garden spot of the earth.
And apparently a lot of people agree.
For the third year in a row, Travel and Leisure magazine has named Charleston the top travel destination in the U.S. and Canada — and the #2 spot to visit in the world!
Although the magazine cites Charleston’s gourmet restaurants and upscale hotels as draws, the city has a ton of attractions and activities for people of ordinary means, many of them free.
I’ve been lucky enough to live here for 30 years. When my son was young, I co-authored a popular book and newspaper column about great places to take children in the Charleston area, so I can vouch for the huge number of awesome family activities available.
Here are 8 great reasons to visit:
1) The beaches, creeks and waterways around Charleston are superb. Picturesque Shem Creek is shown above; it’s a relaxing place to have lunch in one of the restaurants and watch shrimp boats, kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders pass by. You can also amble out a long, long wooden pier there to take in a scenic view of Charleston harbor; often, you’ll see dolphins playing in the water.
2) Historic downtown Charleston is amazing. Can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy strolling around to admire the hundreds of beautifully-maintained, privately-owned historic homes with lovely gardens. You can also visit The Battery and check out Rainbow Row.
3) The city market (formerly open-air and now partially enclosed and air conditioned) is a fun place to shop for an eclectic assortment of unique souvenirs and gifts.
4) Many visitors enjoy horse-drawn carriage tours downtown to learn about the history of the area. You can also hop on and off of a free shuttle bus to take in the sights at your own pace.
5) The plantations (Magnolia Gardens, Boone Hall and Middleton Place are the big ones) and historic sites like Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter are beautiful, interesting and entertaining.
7) Nature and wildlife in the area are awesome — you can enjoy marshes, live oaks with trailing Spanish moss, and spot egrets, porpoises and other animals. Gigantic Angel Oak is a favorite tourist attraction.
8) Entertainment is outstanding, too. The area is host to the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament, the Cooper River Bridge Run, the Charleston Wine and Food Festival, the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, the Flowertown Festival and a number of other annual events that draw visitors from around the world.
In fact, the Charleston area is so popular that of all my friends, only one is a native. Everyone seems to move here from somewhere else — with good reason!
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