Charleston, South Carolina holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it one of my favorite cities to visit but, it’s also ranked the #1 city in the US and the #2 city in the world according to Conde Nest Travelers’ readers choice awards. If you haven’t visited Charleston, I highly recommend putting it near the top of your list.
With the perfect balance of American history, amazing culinary options and wonderful beaches, Charleston truly has something for everyone. My favorite area to explore is a couple blocks north-west of the College of Charleston, but mostly south of the College of Charleston toward Battery Park and the water. You’ll find world-class shopping and restaurants in some of the most quaint and historic neighborhoods you’ve ever seen.
This post is strictly focused on the city of Charleston and does not include any of the surrounding beach communities, but I highly suggest checking out Isle of Palms for those who want to feel like they’re living in luxury and Folly Beach for a great surf town type vibe. I’ll touch on both of these, as well as other beach communities surrounding Charleston in a follow-up post because each one has enough options to deserve its own post.
While fitness doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of Charleston and its hot and humid summers, there are plenty of activities to keep you active and moving. In fact, Charleston is one of the best cities to walk, run or bike around because it’s relatively condensed and some of the best sights are off the main streets. Here are a couple of ideas for staying active on your trip to Charleston:
- Charleston Steeplechase (running tour) – Charleston is the perfect city to take a guided running tour. It’s a relatively small downtown and you’ll be able to slow down and see some beautiful historic houses, churches and other historic buildings around town.
- The Bicycle Shoppe, Affordable Bicycle Shop (bike rentals) – Rent a bike to get around town and you won’t have to worry about finding a parking spot or missing some of the beauty that Charleston has to offer. Check out either of these two shops which are both located in a central location.
- Charleston Sole (walking tours) – Two tours to choose from and they each cover about a mile and a half in a 2 hour walk. Chose either the Charleston history, architecture and culture tour or the Charleston houses of worship tour – you can’t go wrong.
- Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge – Walk or bike across the bridge for a beautiful view and great exercise. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor.
- Charleston Power Yoga (yoga class) – For those yogis out there – this is a great spot.
- Charleston RIDE (spin class) – For the days it’s simply too hot and humid to be outside
- Running around the city (self guided) – Charleston is a runners dream so don’t let the hot and humid temperatures stop you from exploring on foot. See the pictures below for a recommended running route, but also check MapMyRun’s route finder for alternative suggestions. Just remember – stay in safe areas and make sure at least someone knows your running route in case of emergencies.
Charleston has long been known as a foodie town, but be careful not to get sucked into meal after meal of lowcountry specialties like shrimp and grits and other buttery and fried specialties. Here are a few suggestions for both full service, true southern health food and a few quick healthy options for any circumstance.
True Southern (Full Service)
- Husk ($$$ Southern) – If it doesn’t come from the south, you won’t find it in this restaurant and that includes olive oil. Husk will not only introduce you to southern food, but you’ll leave with a new appreciation of southern culture. It’s a must-visit when you are in Charleston (or Nashville which is their only other location). Reservations recommended.
- Fig ($$$ Southern) – Fig is classic local neighborhood eatery committed to serving local and sustainable foods. They describe their food as ” honest, straightforward and pays homage to the bounty of the Lowcountry region” and we agree! Fig is only open for dinner. Reservations recommended.
- Slightly North of Broad ($$$ Southern) – “An eclectic lowcountry bistro that brings together an abundance of local ingredients and thoughtful presentation…” That’s probably a perfect description and needs no further explanation. Reservations recommended.
Quick and Healthy (Quick Service)
- Charleston farmers market (various)- The Charleston Farmers Market is a can’t miss from both a sight-seeing and food perspective. There are plenty of local foods, crafts and ready-to-eat foods that’ll make this one of the best meals you eat the entire trip. Check it out in Marion Square on Saturdays (8a – 2p) from early April to the end of November
- Verde ($ salads) – Verde is capitalizing on the make your own salad trend and they hit it out of the park. This locally owned and operated restaurant is a great meal option to make sure you are getting your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. These salads will help to balance out you’re indulgences from the night before.
- Black Bean Co ($ wraps, salads, smoothies) – “Natural, organic & vegan friendly food” is how Black Bean co describes themselves. This is a great place to grab a quick and healthy meal or to re-energize after a full day of exploring
I’ll continue to update these lists and suggestions as I continue to learn about and explore one of my favorites cities! Please send recommendations my way!! As I said up top, I plan on writing a separate post to cover all of the healthy beach activities and restaurants so send those suggestions along too!
Looking out toward the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge
A sample of some of Charleston Historic homes and churches
Recommended running route:
Charleston Farmers Market
Historic Houses in Charleston lining the waterfront near Battery Park