Here are a few ideas on how to spend a day in Charleston.
Tour Waterfront Park, South of Broad neighborhoods, the Battery, and the Market. To soak up Charleston best, you've either got to walk it, pedal it (via bike or pedicab), or cover it by carriage. The common thread: you've got to move slowly to see the intricate details in the gardens and architecture and to discover the sweet alleys. Start at Waterfront Park, and read the history markers there. Wander down to the Battery along East Bay and sit in White Point Gardens. Head up King or Church to gawk at the amazing antebellum residences, and then head over to the old City Market to shop for everything from sweets to sweetgrass baskets. Lunch at Husk is a good bet.
Shop King Street. King Street is Charleston's version of the Miracle Mile. On King Street, this amounts to antique, preserved storefronts that look much like they have for the past few hundred years. Start at Broad and King streets and work your way north for the most comprehensive experience. Try breakfast at Bull Street Gourmet & Market, and then wander from Broad to Market streets, checking out antiques shops and fancy clothing boutiques. Continue shopping in central King, where you'll find chic chains as well as locally born shops like Hampden Clothing. Get lunch at 39 Rue de Jean while heading into the Upper King Area. North of Calhoun, things get funkier. Here's where you'll find Blue Bicycle. Dinner at The MacIntosh makes a lovely end.
Explore the Plantations. Charleston started as a port city in the late 1600s and later dominated in the rice, indigo, and even cotton trade until the Civil War. Many of the large plantations still exist outside the city. Whether you opt to visit Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant or one or two of three other such properties along Ashley River Road in West Ashley you will get a better understanding of what built Charleston and helped the colonies break away from England so long ago.
Play at the Beach. Hit the shore at Folly Beach south of town if you like waves that you can surf, a rogue approach to living, a hopping village bar scene, and natural parks to wander. Head east from downtown to Sullivan's Island for kiteboarding and family-friendly beaches. And volleyball aficionados aim for Isle of Palms, where the sporting life and beach bars rule the surfside.