Discovering the Heart of the South: Our fall trip to Charleston, South Carolina

A horse drawn carriage on Bay Street Downtown Charleston. (All photos courtesy of Lena Shah)

Embracing Charleston’s Charm: A Tapestry of History, Culture, and Natural Beauty

Charleston, South Carolina, renowned for its year-round subtropical charm, truly shines in the fall. This season not only offers splendid weather but also the perfect setting to delve into the city’s myriad indoor and outdoor attractions. Our recent autumn visit unveiled the vibrancy and rich history of this lively port city, a favorite destination in North America. Our exploration began with a helpful itinerary planned through, which offered a trove of insights into the city’s must-visit spots. This waterfront city, while connecting to the past, has become very popular, attracting many young families to make it their home.

Audubon swamp garden, Magnolia Plantation.

After picking up our rental car, our first stop was the Magnolia Plantation on Ashley River Road. Here, we immersed ourselves in the fresh air and timeless beauty of America’s oldest public gardens, dating back to 1680. The plantation’s rich history unfolded through a series of guided tours, including the ‘Nature Train’ through historic gardens, a poignant ‘Slavery to Freedom’ journey, and a visit to the Magnolia House. The Audubon swamp garden and ancient trees added layers of natural and historical depth to our visit.

A late lunch was had at Beech restaurant on King Street, which introduced us to a fresh, healthy take on modern fast food, featuring delights like acai bowls, Sperry Berry Smoothies, Hawaiian-style poke, and avocado toast.

Staying this time at Kings Courtyard Inn, a charming 41-room property nestled around intimate courtyards, was a highlight. Located just a block from the bustling City Market Area, the inn provided a serene retreat with delightful amenities like in-room continental breakfast, an afternoon wine and cheese reception, and evening sherry, all steeped in warm Southern hospitality. We strolled on famous King Street checking out elegant shops, boutiques, and restaurants.

Next morning, we walked to the wonderful “brunch-centric” restaurant Millers All day, where a team of passionate Chefs, serves specialized southern breakfast all day. These days delicious variety of Grits were offered. We enjoyed uniquely made pumpkin spiced scones with other healthy timeless food and drinks.

We enjoyed the historic highlights of Charleston’s past, sightseeing, flora, and the unique architecture of “Holy City” on a 1-hour, memorable, friendly guided, beautifully horse-drawn carriage ride of Old South Carraige, Charleston. We learned about the carriage tours’ unique city-regulated lottery system, a thoughtful approach to traffic management.

Famous square in Downtown Charleston.

There was also an enjoyable a play of iconic board game, Clue: on Stage, a captivating production of a mystery night, laughter, thrilling and suspense, at America’s First Theater on Dock Street, in the heart of downtown. Owned and managed by the City of Charleston, this historic venue was the first in America built exclusively for theatrical performances.

That day, we also visited the Isle of Palms, a beautiful beach and resorts area very thoughtfully developed. In the evening, our dinner was reserved at a dimly lit, plant based cocktail lounge and eatery Neon Tiger restaurant. We enjoyed local, natural, organic, and fresh vegan version of pizza, burger and ginger mocktail.

Iconic Pineapple Fountain.

The next day, we started strolling Waterfront Park, Pineapple Fountain, Battery, Rainbow row, historic houses. The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, near Bay Street offered insights into Charleston’s role in the American Revolution and the domestic slave trade. Built by British as the Exchange and Custom house in 1771, American Patriots were held prisoner in the Provost during the America’s Revolution and Colonial Charleston. The exchange was the most common destination for public slave auctions between revolution and civil wars, making it one of the important historic sites of domestic slave trade.

Original tea pot at Hayward-Washington House.

It was beautiful weather and the view into the harbor from the fountain was stunning. Pineapple is a symbol of hospitality and Charleston is taking it seriously. I found it in Charleston’s version of Chicago’s Bean. Enjoyed photo spots of Rainbow row houses and visited couple of Historic homes of freedom fighters and officers. A historic seawall along the city’s southern tip near Battery area makes Charleston special. Century-old mentions and cobblestone streets of Rainbow row overlooking harbor is an iconic point of interest of Charleston. We also visited Hayward-Washington Georgian style brick House, marking revolutionary war officer Heyward’s contribution to the Declaration of Independence.

After eating an original style nacho royale at authentic Juanita Greenburg’s on King Street, we then strolled through the Charleston City Market, known for its authentic hand-crafted African baskets using palmetto leaves and sweetgrass, eatery, toys, cloths, and enriched our experience.

Fort Sumter island.

Starting on the next day with Charleston’s Fort Sumter National monument, which has claims to the first shot fired in 1861 in the American Civil War, we took a most enjoyable and relaxing ferry ride to this pivotal site and listened to ranger-lead history discussion, followed by exploring thick stone caverns, civil war-era cannons and an informative museum.

View from the sailboat.

A perfect place to learn history, we also visited the iconic country’s first Museum, the Charleston Museum, focusing on the South Carolina Lowcountry. From there we went for Sunset romantic Sail cruise on the Schooner Pride at harbor. It was a beautiful view of the Holy City skyline from the water from this 84-foot, three mast wooden schooner sailboat. While learning about how sail works, we had a stunning view of Civil War landmarks, barrier islands and the longest cable-stay bridge in North America through history and one of the nation’s most picturesque harbors.

That evening, we had dinner at the Basic Kitchen, a tropical eatery, in the heart of downtown Charleston. Enjoyed nourishing and healthy vegan Avocado Toast, Rainbow Bowl, and Thai-spiced burgers.

I also recommend visiting the famous South Carolina Aquarium, Sullivan’s Island, Folley Beach, Boone Hall plantation, etc. Our visit to Charleston was a blend of historical exploration, natural beauty, culinary delights, and cultural experiences. The city’s rich history, coupled with its modern charm, made for an unforgettable autumn journey.

Lina Shah is a Freelance Writer, Editor, Teacher, Social Worker and Financial Professional. Inspired by her father, she is a multi-talented suburban Chicagoland wife and a mother of two, who also enjoys cooking, social gathering and event planning.



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