Information & Attractions in Charleston, South Carolina

The Citadel

Established in 1842, the original site of The Citadel Military College was on what is now Marion Square in historic downtown Charleston, SC. Today the picturesque campus, which was moved in 1922 to the bank of the Ashley River, is home to 24 major buildings and over 3,400 men and women enrolled in over 20 full and part time graduate and undergraduate programs. The Citadel of the 21st Century remains true to its vision, instilling in Cadets the core values of integrity, honesty, and responsibility in a disciplined academic environment by preparing its graduates to understand their obligations as citizens, and to become principled leaders in whatever their chosen field of endeavor. Graduates of The Citadel Military College have participated in many of the pivotal events in our nation's history, and have fought in every American war since the Mexican War of 1846. On February 18, 1865, the Citadel ceased operation as a military academy when Union troops captured the city of Charleston and occupied the Citadel building and grounds. The Citadel remained confiscated property of the federal government for nearly 17 years, and was used as a garrison by federal troops. The Citadel did not officially reopen as a military college until October 2, 1882. The Citadel Military College is open year round to the public, and hosts a dress parade on most Fridays during the school year. Modern day ceremonies are conducted to inspect troops, render honors, preserve tradition, and foster espirit de corps. At various times throughout the year The Citadel's parades are used to present awards and recognize students, faculty, staff, and other notable people. Anyone interested in the history of The Citadel is highly encouraged to take a tour of the campus.

Ft. Sumter

Named after General Thomas Sumter, Fort Sumter was built following the War of 1812, in Charleston, SC, as one of a series of fortifications on the southern U.S. coast to protect the harbors. Construction on Fort Sumter began in 1829, and the structure was still unfinished when the Civil War began in 1861. It was designed to house 650 men and 135 guns in three tiers of gun emplacements, although it was never filled near its full capacity. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots that started the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. On December 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina declared is succession, U.S Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie, spiking its large guns, burning its gun carriages, and taking its smaller cannon with him to be trained on the city of Charleston, and relocated his troops to Fort Sumter. The state of South Carolina regarded Anderson's move as a breach of faith and demanded that the U.S Government evacuate the Charleston Harbor, to which the current President Buchanan refused. Several attempts to send provisions to Fort Sumter failed. By April 4, 1861, newly appointed President Lincoln deemed it safe to send merchant steamers, protected by ships of war, to carry subsistence and other supplies to Anderson. On April 11th, Confederate General Beauregard demanded that Anderson surrender Fort Sumter, to which he refused. At 3:20am on April 12th, Anderson was informed that their batteries would open fire within the hour. By daybreak, batteries at Fort Johnson, Fort Moultrie, Cummings Point, and elsewhere were firing on Fort Sumter. By 2:00pm, Anderson agreed to a truce, and by April 14th had marched out of the fort and boarded a ship for transport back to New York

Battery/White Point Gardens

Battery Park is located in the heart of the historic district in Charleston, SC, this prominent landmark provides a spectacular view of Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor, where the Ashley and Cooper rivers empty into the Atlantic Ocean. This lovely spot on the waterfront also features southern mansions, cannons, cannon balls, oak trees, palmettos trees, statues, a gazebo, and incredible views of Castle Pinckney and the Sullivan's Island Lighthouse. Battery Park is also known as White Point Gardens. White Point gets its name from the piles of bleached oyster shells. It became a public park in 1837, however, its uses changed during the Civil War. It became a fortification for the city of Charleston, and visitors can find an impressive display of the historic mortars and cannons used to shall as well as defend the city. The cannons were placed in the Battery in response to the War of 1812, intended to defend Charleston as a last defense. In addition to the wartime history of the Battery, White Point also has a history of pirates. Dozens of pirates were hanged from oak trees and gallows in the early 1700s and left dangling from their nooses for days as a deterrent to prevent other pirates from entering Charleston Harbor. In the early 1720's the infamous "gentleman" pirate Stede Bonnette was hanged at the park. Townspeople filled the gallows area and jeered as the outlaw was brought to his rightful end. Battery Park is one of the best spots to see the true beauty of historic downtown Charleston.

Arthur Ravenel Bridge

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge over the Cooper River, and connects downtown Charleston, SC to the city of Mount Pleasant. The eight lane bridge satisfied the capacity of U.S. Route 17 when it opened in 2005 to replace two obsolete cantilever truss bridges. The bridge has a main span of 1,546 feet, making it the third longest among cable-stayed bridges in the Western Hemisphere. The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge was designed by Parsons Brinckerhoff. Raising financial support for a new eight-lane bridge over the Cooper River was a struggle 20 years in the making, prolonged by the state's insistence that it could not afford such a bridge and by the city of Charleston's reluctance to provide any funds for the project. When officials revealed in 1995 that the city's previous bridge scored a 4 out of 100 for safety and integrity, retired U.S. Congressman Arthur Ravenel Jr. ran for the South Carolina Senate with a goal of solving the funding problem. He helped to establish the S.C. Infrastructure Bank and worked with local, state, and federal officials to create partnerships that helped to materialize the final funding. The overall price of the bridge totaled around $700 million. The bridge superstructure is designed to withstand shipping accidents and the natural disasters that have plagued Charleston's history. The span is designed to endure wind gusts in excess of 300 mph, far stronger than those of the worst storm in Charleston's history. Engineers also considered the 1886 earthquake that nearly leveled Charleston. The Arthur Ravenel Bridge is designed to withstand an earthquake of approximately 7.4 on the Richter scale without total failure. To protect the bridge from errant ships, the towers are flanked by one-acre rock islands. The bridge is also home to the annual Cooper River Bridge Run on the first weekend of April.

Rainbow Row

While walking along one of Charleston's most well-known streets, one may notice the unique row of pastel colored houses that line the sidewalks. Located from 83 to 107 East Bay Street, these restored buildings were part of 18th century Charleston and served initially as local stores with residence housing on the top stories. The housing was used for the wharf and docks of the ports of the city and became the center of commerce for Charleston. After the Civil War, the houses were in poor condition, but were eventually bought, renovated, and painted based on the colonial Caribbean color scheme. Rainbow Row was then named from its span of colors and today is residentially owned. These houses are one of the most photographed sites in Charleston and serve as a must see when visiting the city!

Charleston Beaches

Some of Charleston's most unique sites of interest include its five beaches, each with their own Charleston flavor and culture. Each town is a little different with respect to size and vibe. Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms are off the coast of Mt. Pleasant, Folly Beach is off of James Island, and Seabrook and Kiawah are located on John's Island. Sullivan's Island is 3.3 miles long and is a neighbor to Isle of Palms. Sullivan's is a charming beach with quaint shops, amazing local restaurants, and plenty of places to relax and be at peace. The IOP is an all-around friendly beach that has a little something for every type of traveler. From hip bars and local restaurants to golf courses and Wild Dunes Resort to local businesses and residence communities. The coastal barrier island of Seabrook contains a community an array of outside activities: boating, fishing, kayaking, exploring the marina, and even horseback riding on the beach. Seabrook also has its own resort and vacation rental properties. Kiawah Island, Seabrook's close neighbor, is home to a beautiful and unique golf course, lots of luxurious island hotels, as well as beach rentals! In addition to its 10 mile long beach, there are lots of outdoor amenities that Kiawah has to offer which include maritime forests, dunes, marshes, and sights of turtles, white tailed deer, and of course the seagulls. The last of these five beaches to be mentioned is Folly Beach, located right off of James Island. Folly is its own world with a gorgeous beach that is always hopping with locals and visitors. Although it does not host a resort based hotel, it makes up for in many unique beach houses and a lovely community of stores and local restaurants.

Plantations in Charleston

If you are a history buff, you won't want to miss out on each of Charleston's unique plantations. There are four plantations that are a MUST SEE in Charleston; three located off of Ashley River Road, or Highway 61, in West Ashley, and the other is in Mount Pleasant over the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. The first plantation you will come to as your headed down 61 is Drayton Hall. This plantation hosts the oldest unrestored plantation house in the Americas that is open to the public with guided tours, landscape tours, an African- American cemetery, nature walks, and a museum shop. The second plantation you'll reach is Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, South Carolina's most visited plantation for its beautiful gardens. As the oldest plantation on the Ashley River, it also has the oldest public gardens in the US. The house on the property (the Veranda) was established in the 1670s by the Drayton family and was later opened for steamboat passengers around 1840. Now, the 60 acre plantation is open to the public year round and is widely known for its beauty and history with its gardens and three venues: the Veranda, Conservatory, and the Carriage House. The last property you'll reach out on Ashley River Road is a 65 acre landscape, Middleton Plantation. This old rice plantation holds a house that was built over 250 years ago and stands today as a museum for visitors. Along with learning the history of the home on the property, there are also stable yards with workers who act as craftsmen, blacksmiths, potters, carpenters, and weavers in order to recreate the scene of how life was back in the days of the working plantation. There is also a full service restaurant, African American Focus Tours, Carriage Tours, and a Garden Market and Nursery. Out in Mount Pleasant is Boone Hall plantation which welcomes you with rows of beautiful oaks as you enter the property. This plantation harps on Black history with a black History Exhibit with 9 original slave cabins, and live presentations of Gullah Culture.

Charleston City Market

Historical to Charleston since 1804, the Charleston City Market has been a hot spot for all visitors to Charleston because of its culture and unique vendors. Once known as the Centre Market, the Charleston City Market was initially used as the Beef Market for the city back in 1796 and eventually burned. It was then rebuilt as a Market Hall in 1804 and served as a common ground for farmers to sell meat and produce, now known at the Charleston City market. The architecture, when the building was rebuilt as the Market Hall, was designed from Greek and Roman Temples and are decorated with ram's heads, as symbols for the meat market that it once was. Spanning 4 city blocks, the market today hosts many vendors that sell souvenirs of Charleston and cater to the questions and interests of the Market's visitors. From clothing, to crafts, to food and drinks, to home d├ęcor, to toys and woodworking, you are guaranteed to find something worth spending a little money on as a memorabilia of your trip!

SC Aquarium

The SC Aquarium opened in May of 2000 right on the historic Charleston Harbor in Downtown Charleston, SC. The Aquarium is home to over ten thousand plants and animals, including amphibians, birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals, plants, and reptiles. There are 12 exhibits throughout in different rooms of the Aquarium which include the Mountain Forest, Piedmont, Coastal Plan, Saltmarsh Aviary, the Touch Tank, the Coast, the Ocean, Animal Care, Madagascar Journey, Carolina Seas, the 4-D Theater, and opening Spring 2015; Shark Shallows. The largest exhibit is the Great Ocean Tank located in the center of the Aquarium which holds over 385,000 gallons of water with over 700 animals within. There are many interesting creatures that make the Aquarium so unique such as the bald eagle, "Liberty" who was rescued from Naples, Florida, the many different species of jellyfish, the rare albino alligator, four Magellanic penguins, and river otters! The SC Aquarium uses its facilities to host the Sea Turtle Rescue Program, partnered with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, by aiding sick and injured sea turtles in their Sea Turtle Hospital located right in the Aquarium. If interested, visitors are able to take tours, daily, of the turtle hospital in order to learn about the current injured patients and about the care that is given to them to ensure the turtle's health. Since the South Carolina Aquarium is a private, non-profit organization, it is funded by ticket sales, souvenir/concession sales, and corporate, government, and private donations. You can even adopt an animal! Its volunteer program is strong, as well, and is a model in the community.

Patriots Point

Located on the harbor in Mount Pleasant, SC, Patriot's Point has a lot to offer including the Naval and Maritime Museum, the USS Yorktown, the Cold War Memorial, and the official Medal of Honor Museum. Established in the 1970's, the Patriots Point Development Authority was created to host a naval and maritime museum on the historic harbor of Charleston with its main attraction: the USS Yorktown. This centerpiece is a decommissioned aircraft carrier, a relic of World War II, built for the Navy. It was named so because of the loss of the USS Yorktown in the Battle of Midway in 1942, which makes the aircraft carrier the fourth ship to be named USS Yorktown. Shortly after the war, the Yorktown was recommissioned to serve in the Vietnam War, then served as a recovery ship, and is now decommissioned for good and serves a National Historic Landmark.