Photograph by Sean Pavone, Alamy Stock Photo
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Shops line Broad Street in Charleston's French Quarter.

Photograph by Sean Pavone, Alamy Stock Photo

Everything to Know About Charleston

Here's how to plan the best possible trip to South Carolina's biggest city.

Charleston is all about the vibe. In a word, it’s charming. Part sleepy southern town and part modern metropolis, Charleston charms with style and class. And it’s always, always, up for a good time.

When to Go

The mild temperatures of spring and early fall bring the most tourists to Charleston—and the highest hotel prices. Come instead during the late fall or early winter, when the weather is still pleasant but the crowds have left.

How to Celebrate

Come in spring for the world-famous Spoleto Festival USA, which showcases big names and soon-to-be-big names in music, theater, and dance. In March, the Charleston Wine and Food festival offers the perfect reason to eat your way around the city.

What to Eat

Charleston is worth a visit just for the food alone. Don’t leave without trying these classics that play up the best of local ingredients—namely, fresh seafood. The city’s signature dish, no question, is shrimp ‘n’ grits, a rich, creamy combination packed with flavor. Then there’s the lowcountry boil, a one-pot dish of shrimp, corn, potatoes, sausage, and whatever else catches the cook’s eye. And tangy she-crab soup stuns with crabmeat, sherry, cream, and (sometimes) roe.

Souvenir to Take Home

The best souvenirs are unique (no Starbucks mugs, please), authentic, and useful. In Charleston, a traditional Gullah sweetgrass basket fits the bill perfectly. Artfully coiled by skilled hands from local sweetgrass, the baskets were originally used by West African slaves to separate the husk from the grain in rice fields. Watch basketmaking in action at the Charleston City Market, and pick up one to take home.

Instagram-Worthy View

Rainbow Row is a candy-colored Instagrammer’s dream. The 13 row houses on East Bay Street were built between the 1740s and 1845, then fell into disrepair after the ravages of the Civil War. A preservationist painted three of the homes pale pink in the 1930s, and other homeowners followed suit with complementary hues. The result is a pastel parade of charm—and the perfect backdrop for a selfie.