Have you considered visiting Charleston, South Carolina? Now that South Carolina has taken down the Confederate flag, the NAACP has lifted its 15-year economic boycott of South Carolina, and more tourists may want to visit Charleston. If your family enjoys walkable cities, history, architecture, and great food, you might want to explore Charleston. It’s a lovely romantic city you might enjoy even more without your kids.

Charleston is a Walking City

Bring comfy shoes and be prepared to walk. For each of three visits from my home in Philadelphia, my husband and I have flown into Charleston and we’ve never rented a car. It’s easy to grab a taxi or share a van from the airport to downtown Charleston. Once you’re in Charleston, lots of tourist spots and restaurants are in walking distance of the compact downtown. If you have your kids with you, they should be fine if they are good walkers. If they aren’t, bring a stroller.

Graceful mansions in Charleston (Photo Philadelphia Traveling Mom Sarah Ricks)

Graceful houses in Charleston (Photo Philadelphia Traveling Mom Sarah Ricks)

Mansions South of Broad Street in Charleston

One beautiful walk is around the neighborhood of 18th- and 19th-century mansions close to downtown, south of Broad Street. The mansions are close to the Charleston waterfront and close to each other. Many have two-story open-air porches, called “piazzas,” that help residents catch a breeze. Only a few mansions are open to the public. My husband and I were not with our kids when we visited the Edmondston-Alston House, and took the interesting guided tour about the family, furnishings, and architecture.

Open Air Markets

You can browse or buy jewelry, baskets, pottery, wood carvings, handmade soap, and other crafts at the Charleston City Market. The market stretches for four blocks under a roof, beginning at 188 Meeting Street. On Saturday mornings in season, Marion Square, a 10-acre public park located right downtown, has a farmers market.


College of Charleston Campus

We strolled around the graceful campus of the College of Charleston, wondering at the weirdness of trees draped in hanging Spanish moss, and admiring the pretty historic college buildings. The campus is located downtown, welcomes visitors, and offers both student-guided tours and a map for a self-guided tour.

Garden close to downtown Charleston (Photo Philadelphia Traveling Mom Sarah Ricks)

Garden close to downtown Charleston (Photo Philadelphia Traveling Mom Sarah Ricks)

Charleston is a Garden City

Gardening must be a competitive sport in Charleston. On long walks around Charleston, my husband and I saw gorgeous gardens flanking big houses, often fronted by elaborate wrought iron gates. While my husband and I enjoyed garden-watching, our kids would have felt differently – so it was good we left them at home on that trip to Charleston.

Where to Stay in Charleston

Embassy Suites hotel used to be the Citadel Military College and is a fortress-like building that is – incongruously – pink. Our hotel room actually had a gun port, a spot high on the wall. While the inside is a modern hotel, from the outside the building really does look like a fort.

Across Marion Square from Embassy Suites is the Francis Marion hotel, which has a large comfortable lobby that is a pleasant place for a quick rest between Charleston sightseeing. My husband and I have stayed there several times on our own, without kids. A “Charleston Getaway Deal” offered until December 2015 includes a $50 certificate for the Francis Marion restaurant, The Swamp Fox, or for any participating restaurant on Upper King Street, most located within walking distance of the hotel.

Where to Eat in Charleston

The best part of Charleston: the food! Charleston is a foodie paradise. All within walking distance of downtown, options range from fancy upscale splurges to places geared to the college student crowd. Choose from Mexican, Korean, Mediterranean, Thai, pizza, burgers, delis, and more.

If you want to explore regional food in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere, Jestine’s Kitchen, has battered fried-green tomatoes ($5.25) served piping hot, along with fried chicken, biscuits, and other regional favorites. At the host’s suggestion, we tried Jestine’s sticky sweet Coca Cola Cake, which to my surprise was very good ($5.95). There was no line for Jestine’s when my husband and I visited. But be warned, Jestine’s does not take reservations and we heard there often is a line, especially on weekends.

Nick’s Barbecue is a cafeteria style restaurant that serves huge portions of good pulled pork, brisket, and chicken, topped either with a vinegary barbecue sauce or a smoky hot habanera sauce, along with side dishes like sweet potato pecan pudding and fried green tomatoes with a thick cornmeal crust. Lunch for two – that could have fed 3 or 4 – about $25.

Charleston is a walkable city with great food, architecture, and history. (Photo Philadelphia Traveling Mom Sarah Ricks)

Charleston is a walkable city with great food, architecture, and history. (Photo Philadelphia Traveling Mom Sarah Ricks)

Charleston Welcomes Tourists

It feels good to feel welcome, and Charleston welcomes visitors. Now that South Carolina has taken down the Confederate flag from its Statehouse, the NAACP just lifted its 15-year economic boycott of South Carolina. Even more visitors now may want to visit Charleston. And if you are interested in other parts of South Carolina, Traveling Moms has you covered: Polo and horsey reasons to visit South CarolinaAnimal adventures in Myrtle Beach and Tips for kid-friendly visit to Folly Beach.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Charleston? Share with us in the comment section below.