A Walk About Charleston’s history-heavy guides boast more than a decade of experience navigating the city’s most notable landmarks. The 90-minute daytime tours visit vintage locales, including the site of the Civil War’s first shots, the East Battery Street sea wall, and a selection of pre-Revolutionary War residences. Sightseers will spot some of Charleston’s mansions and manicured gardens, where green thumbs can admire arrangements while guides keep their ears open for cars pulling into the driveway. Walkers will also visit the filming locations of several well-known movies including The Notebook and The Patriot.
Aromas specializes in providing the best Asian, Thai, and American-inspired cuisine all in one comprehensive restaurant setting. Machete your way through the tough outer hull of its menu to reveal the delectable, savory fare within. Burgeoning grumbles can be quickly sated with an appetizer of larb, a dish of minced chicken or steak with ground rice, onions, and Thai spices served cold with a cabbage wedge ($6.95). Chow down on some Americana with Aromas' low- country fried shrimp, served with a house salad and ranch, bleu cheese, or balsamic vinaigrette dressing ($9.95), or combine both Southern and Eastern classics with a crispy fried basil catfish, with basil leaves, onions, and bell peppers in a brown Thai sauce ($13.95). The creamy fried ice-cream dessert ($4.95) is a much tastier end to a meal than devouring fried snow or frozen chicken. Aromas' downtown location is just one block from the historic Market Place and is stocked with a friendly, knowledgeable staff, making it a perfect place to launch an outing, cap off an evening, or open a rift in the fabric of time itself.
Since 1983, Old South Carriage Co.’s tour guides have been introducing travelers to the city’s sights and history while dressed in Confederate uniforms, complete with red sashes. The company’s shaded, surrey-style carriages, pulled by a fleet of draft horses, can shuttle up to 16 people with an insatiable hunger for American history. During one-hour residential trips around the city, licensed guides point out gardens, antebellum mansions, and important landmarks, all while sharing historical anecdotes and interjecting humor.
Alfred Ray enthusiasm for Charleston's history is infectious. This passion carried him through the rough-going early days of his tour-guiding career, which started in 1980, he says, “with a pitchfork atop a pile of hose dung in a carriage barn on State Street.” Today, the Charleston native—whose forefathers arrived in the city in 1792—shares his deep knowledge during three themed tours through Charleston's walled landscape: the Old Walled City Walk, the Home and Garden Walk, and the Slavery and Freedom Walk.
Tours casually wind down the city's cobblestone streets, past precolonial and postcolonial buildings that display a confluence of architectural styles, from Georgian to Greek Revival. As tourists snap pictures of wrought-iron gates, classical columns, and carbonite-encased cotton gins, Ray shares stories about the people and events—such as the approximately 40% of slaves who entered the United States through Charleston—that transformed a 1670 pioneer settlement into a cultural hub of the South by the mid-1800s.
Charleston Culinary Tours’ guides introduce visitors and locals to the cuisine of a city rich with Southern charm, grace, and history. Their tours explore the historic districts of downtown and King Street, allowing visitors to gain knowledge of the area, taste innovative cuisines, and meet the owners and chefs responsible for crafting the meals. They also offer a farmer’s market tour, which allows guests to pick out their own ingredients, venture to a partner restaurant as a group, and watch as a chef creates a customized meal from the ingredients.
When the Charleston Museum was founded in 1773, South Carolina was still a British colony. Today, the museum is itself a historical gem, surviving both the American Revolution and Civil War and acquiring an astounding collection of South Carolinian artifacts along the way. Nine permanent exhibits include the Armory, brimming with antique weaponry, and the Lowcountry History Hall, which chronicles the land's metamorphosis from a tribal society into an agricultural empire, telling the story with early trading goods, slave badges, and pottery. Temporary exhibits change regularly, keeping visitors on their toes in the same way changing cell phone numbers every 24 hours does.
The museum extends its history-preserving mission to two area homes: the 19th-century Joseph Manigault House, once home to a wealthy rice plantation owner, and the Heyward-Washington House, where George Washington once stayed during a weeklong visit to the city. Restored rooms, period pieces, and loudly snoring grandfather clocks await guests during scheduled tours.