Ninety percent of first time visitors to Charleston completely mess up their vacation. They do all of the wrong things, eat at all of the wrong places, and generally look like they have no idea where they're going or what they're doing. Granted, ignorance is bliss, and they are oblivious to the fact that Charleston is larger than East Bay Street, but it is frustrating to know that these visitors are unaware of how much more fun they could be having.
The typical tourist arrives at their hotel on Meeting Street, walks out of the door with their trusty hotel lobby map, and heads straight to the closest chain restaurant or to the City Market to buy extremely well crafted palmetto baskets and horribly made T-shirts. Little do they know that there is a world of fun beyond those places, and it's only a short ride away. Below is a list of 100% local-approved destinations that will have you re-evaluating your trip to The Holy City, and experience Charleston like a local.
Marion Square Farmer's Market
One of the city's best foodie experiences is the Marion Square Farmers Market . Local farms as well as planters from across the state set up shop every Saturday morning in Marion Square, and deal out the freshest local produce in the state. If you're visiting on a weekend, do yourself a favor and stroll through the square. The market is the best place to buy local souvenirs from very talented artists and craftsmen—not to mention, the food trucks and pop up stands beat any restaurant downtown pound-for-pound.
Rental Bikes/Church Tours
We've said it before, and we'll say it again—biking is the best way to explore downtown Charleston. Rent a bike from The Bicycle Shoppe , and cruise the shady streets South of Broad for one memorable experience. If you happen to be cruising around on a Sunday morning after church services have ended, walk into the nearest sanctuary you see. There is normally a Docent just inside the door ready to give tours on the church's history, which coincides with the founding of the city of Charleston. If you're looking to learn about the city from the best, there are few places better than a church.
Wild Blue Ropes/Road Side Seafood
Okay, a ropes course might not immediately strike you as something inherently 'local' to Charleston. But the Wild Blue Ropes is the greatest adult playground you will ever experience—and one that will test your physical power, your mental strength, and your bladder-control. With over 70 climbing and ropes routes, most of which are above 35 feet off the ground, we can wholeheartedly say that until you dangle from such challenging courses at heights that make lowcountry locals freeze up (we don't see much elevation change around here), you haven't seen the best of James Island. After your experience at Wild Blue, head to Roadside Seafood for ACTUAL local fare. Word on the street is that the Bam Bam Shrimp Tacos are the best in the city.
The 'Wich Doctor/Folly Beach County Park
Folly Beach County Park is a vast expanse of beach located on the east end of the island. It's a great place to explore, parking is normally easier to navigate if you get there early enough, and it's close to all of Folly's best grub hubs. Speaking of which, The 'Wich Doctor will change your entire perspective on what a sandwich can—and should—consist of, and what good food actually tastes like. There's nothing quite like walking up from the beach, famished from catching waves, and chowing down on a Schezuan Pork Belly Sandwich. Eat it on the porch or go sit inside beneath the fans, either way you're in sandwich paradise.
Downtown Art Walk
The Downtown Art Walk is a free, self-guided tour of local art galleries that happens on the third Thursday of every month. It may not sound like a thrilling adventure, but trust us, it's worth your time. Local art is one of the best ways to get a feel for the city and the people living in it. The art walks mainly consist of locals too, since not many tourists catch wind of the event. If you're in town on the right Thursday, head to one of the participating galleries, you can check to see which ones host visitors on the website, and get your art on. Oh, and (sometimes) there's free wine too...