Advantages of Traveling Solo

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Although there’s nothing wrong with traveling with others…family members, friends or colleagues…I believe everyone would benefit from at least one solo excursion in their lifetime.

I’ve experienced incredibly fun trips with family members and group tours. And I look forward to more of those. I’ve also discovered a passion for traveling on my own. My solitary weekend getaways transitioned to flying alone across the US and then solo explorations in beautiful cities.

The advantages of traveling solo inspire me to pack my carry on and head out on more adventures. Perhaps they will inspire you as well!

Advantages of Traveling Solo title meme

Advantages of Traveling Solo

Whether traveling alone or with a group, always plan out a trip and let others know where you will be, your accommodations with contact info and the flight schedule. That provides peace of mind for everyone. It’s good to check in often too with loved ones back home.

I believe travel of any kind is good for the soul. Exploration opens up life by exposing the traveler to different cultures, traditions, places, people and foods. We realize how beautiful the world is and how richly varied.

Solo travel brings additional advantages that can’t be experienced otherwise. Here are seven that I’ve discovered.

Meet New People

When traveling solo you notice other people more than when traveling with others. The focus is outward rather than on a companion.

So you notice the little family traveling with toddlers or the young couple on their honeymoon. It’s natural to smile at the older woman dining alone too in the same restaurant and to strike up a conversation with the young man sharing a seat on the hop on/hop off bus.

Maintaining an attitude of openness and friendliness, if that’s what you desire to do, draws others to you. Take time to get know the staff at your accommodations, the bus and cab drivers, the people in your city tour.

I knew absolutely no one when I arrived in Charleston on my own. And I left feeling like I made friends that I can call upon when I return. Do people express surprise when they find out you are traveling solo? Yes, especially if you are female. And some have opinions about it. Just remember, it’s your adventure. Don’t let someone’s fear about traveling solo sway your intentions.

When I joined a group tour to Magnolia Plantation, I was the only solitary person in the crowd. The rest were couples and families. I enjoyed chatting with some of the other group members. However, one woman took it upon herself to question me continually about why I want to travel solo. I politely answered her questions and then avoided her as best I could. Toward the end of the tour, she singled me out to take photos of her and her husband and chatted like we were old friends. She seemed to finally accept me and my desire for travelling solo.

Advantages of Traveling Solo meet new people
Advantages of Traveling Solo – meeting new people on the historical tour

Personalize Your Schedule

Exploring on your own gives you the freedom to create a schedule that fits you precisely. Want to sleep in? Wake up early? Visit every museum in the city? Hike? Walk historic neighborhoods? Find the best eats? You can do all of those things without concern about what others want to do.

If you are a planner, have fun creating an itinerary ideally suited to your interests. And if you are a spontaneous explorer, then head out, get a little lost and see where the path leads.

I LOVE this aspect of solo traveling. There are so many things I want to see and do. Before the trip, I create a personalized itinerary that includes all the places I want to see, the cafés I want to eat at and the photos I hope to capture. There’s no one except me to please, so I fully indulge my curiosity. And I include at least a couple of experiences that I might not normally do, just for the growth factor!

Advantages of Traveling Solo personalize schedule
Advantages of Traveling Solo – personalize your schedule

Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Solo travel provides many opportunities for going beyond your comfort zone. Flying or driving alone, staying in an Airbnb or a hotel by yourself, solitary dining, exploring on your own and figuring out how to navigate challenges all move you beyond that comfort zone, especially during the first solo adventure.

It’s so important to choose experiences that take you out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just a step or two over the edge. Stepping out of your comfort zone keeps the brain alert and active. You learn and grow and adapt and gain confidence. And, it’s a key aspect of solo travel.

Choose at least one activity on your solitary adventure that takes you out of your comfort zone. It just might become your favorite memory of the trip.

During the first Charleston trip, I participated in a ghost tour. That part didn’t take me out of my comfort zone. However, experiencing the tour at night and not knowing how far from my accommodations it would end DID move beyond the edges. I knew I’d be walking back to Meeting Street Inn alone. I’m so glad I didn’t let mild discomfort prevent me from going on the ghost tour. It all worked out perfectly, with the tour ending two short blocks from the inn.

Advantages of Traveling Solo go beyond comfort zone
The Hatman features in a popular Charleston ghost story.

Learn More About Yourself

Exploring solo is a great way to build confidence and learn more about yourself and what you are capable of.

From planning the trip to arranging flights and/or rental cars to setting out into the wilderness, city or community on adventures, the experiences give opportunities for growth. You learn what you can handle. Plus you learn more about what you love…or don’t love, what brings you joy and what draws your curiosity.

Spending time alone gives time for reflection as well without the distractions of being with someone else. It’s the perfect time to journal, read, meditate, jot down big ideas, or create art. All of these expressions of yourself reveal more about who you are. Take advantage of the time alone to get to know you…in deeper and more meaningful ways.

One important thing that I learned about myself last year, due to solo travels, is that I prefer exploring cities rather than national parks or wilderness areas.

Advantages of Traveling Solo learn more about yourself
Advantages of Traveling Solo – learning more about myself at Culture Boutique Hotel in Springfield

Decision Making Skills Improve

Have you ever experienced this scenario on a shared trip?

“What do you want to do next?” “I dunno. What do you want to do?” And you spend precious time trying to decide where to go or what to do.

During solo travel YOU are the only one making the decisions about what to do next, which site to visit, when you want to take that tour and what restaurant to try.  If you don’t make decisions, it doesn’t happen. And if you change your mind and do something else, no one complains.

Better decision making skills develop better problem solving skills as well. And when something doesn’t work out, you learn to roll with it and move on to another experience, knowing that everything happens for a reason and all happens as it should, at the right time.

Although many people don’t like to dine alone, I find it a fun experience. Sometimes the place I want to try works out. Sometimes, after walking to the restaurant, I discover that it’s closed for an unexpected reason. Or a storm rolls into the area and I don’t make it to ANY of my chosen restaurants. When those things happen, I find another café or wait out the weather.

In Springfield I coordinated a reservation at Café Cusco with afternoon tea at Gilmore’s down the street. I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get when making those arrangements.

Advantages of Traveling Solo make decisions
Advantages of Traveling Solo – you learn to make decisions

Power of Anonymity

When traveling by yourself, you get to choose who you want to be…quiet and observant, outgoing and friendly or hysterically funny. No one knows you and there are no expectations about who you are. That kind of freedom can allow a side of you that few see to emerge. You can shine as your true self…or work on discovering who that true self is.

I tend toward friendly and observant. People watching while sitting on a park bench is fun for me. And while I’m not a chatterbox, I do enjoy meaningful conversations with locals and people from other parts of the US and other countries. It’s how we get to know each other and develop connections.

Advantages of Traveling Solo anonymity
Advantages of Traveling Solo – shine as yourself while exploring different parts of your personality

Empowering Experience

Solo travel brings fulfillment and empowerment. You learn to plan and execute a trip, meet challenges head on and make decisions. It’s an incredible way to build up confidence and grow as a person and of course, feel empowered to go on another solo trip.

My favorite kind of film is one where the characters’ lives are transformed by their journeys. Solo travel has that power to transform and create change. During my travels, I always leave a place different from the Cindy who arrived. I see the world differently. My life is more expansive and inclusive.

Do You Enjoy Solo Travel?

Do you go on solo adventures? If now doesn’t feel like the right time, don’t rule out the experience for another time in your life. Stay open to possibilities and opportunities. Which of the advantages above appeals most to you?

If you already enjoy solo travel, share with me your favorite experience so far! And have you discovered any other advantages from traveling on your own?

To more adventures, both shared and solo.

Advantages of Traveling Solo slave mart museum

 


 

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Ms Gilmore’s Springfield, Missouri

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During my solo getaway weekend in Springfield, Missouri, I enjoyed exploring historic C Street. What a delightful mix of unique restaurants and shops and home to the beautiful Culture Boutique Hotel, my accommodations for the weekend.

As a long time hot tea drinker, a visit to Chabom Teas & Spices allowed me to bring home an assortment of fragrant teas. And located next door, the most wonderful surprise awaited.

Ms Gilmore’s delighted me the moment I walked through the door. With its Alice in Wonderland themed décor, tea rooms and wide selection of new and vintage items, I truly fell down the rabbit hole into a whimsical place that I wanted to linger in.

Ms Gilmore's Springfield, Missouri

 

Ms Gilmore’s Story

Robin Gilmore grew up in the Branson, Missouri area. As a young girl she and her friends loved visiting the wonderful shops on the square there. After their favorite lunch, consisting of an egg salad sandwich and a soda, the girls enjoyed chocolate from the candy counter.

In their teens, the friends traveled frequently to Springfield to try on vintage clothing at Nellie Dunn’s. The tin ceilings in the building caught young Robin’s eyes and snagged her heart. She wished she owned such a building.

Eventually, she did. Ms Gilmore’s continued to honor the thrill of looking through antiques and finding treasures and enjoying memorable meals and afternoon teas. Many of the entrées on the menu carry the names of historic sites in Springfield.

The historic building, built in 1874, was originally part of a manufacturing complex for Parce and Gray Wagon Builders. Over the years it housed a clothing company, a men’s fine fashion retail shop, a salvage and sales company and Nellie Dunn’s.

Robin Gilmore retired in 2020 and the business continues under new ownership,

Ms Gilmore's exterior
Ms Gilmore’s inviting exterior

Shop for Treasures or New Merchandise

The charming building is divided into retail space and tea rooms on the first floor with antiques, vintage pieces and collectibles on the second floor.

Walking through the front door, the cute décor is the first thing you notice. The Wonderland theme is apparent everywhere and creates a magical experience. Umbrellas and teacup chandeliers hang from the ceilings while prints and treasures adorn the walls.

Tea rooms occupy space to the right and left. However, the center of the first floor…and various nooks…offer a variety of unique items. Specialty gifts share space with bohemian style clothing, cozy throws and fun collectibles. During the holidays, shop for Christmas gifts, ornaments and decorations,

Upstairs, browse for one of a kind finds among antiques, vintage pieces and craft type items. The large windows at the front of the building drew me to the rooms there, full of golden sunlight.

As I visited in December, Christmas dominated the retail shop. I purchased an ornament, as a memento of my trip.

Ms Gilmore's Springfield, Missouri
Ms Gilmore’s whimsical décor
Ms Gilmore's Springfield, Missouri upstairs
An upstairs room at Ms Gilmore’s.

The Tea Rooms

Ms Gilmore’s offers lunch, tea and desserts. They have a full lunch menu and scrumptious desserts plus an assortment of teas.

Their large tea rooms accommodate large parties and private events.

Before settling into the main tea room, for afternoon tea, I wandered about in the other rooms, charmed by the incredible details. One tea room features a mural with the famous words from Alice in Wonderland, “It’s always tea time.”

I agree!

One of the other rooms on the left, as you enter the building, featured a lovely gown with a Christmas tree beneath the raised up skirt. I could happily enjoy tea or lunch in any of these amazing spaces.

Ms Gilmore's Springfield, Missouri
One of the magical tea rooms at Ms Gilmore’s.
Ms Gilmore's Springfield, Missouri
The farther down the rabbit hole you, go the more incredible it gets!
Ms Gilmore's Springfield, Missouri
It’s always tea time at Ms Gilmore’s!

Tea for One

I actually stopped by Ms Gilmore’s twice on the Saturday of my trip. I spent a wonderful hour there before my lunch at Café Cusco, exploring the downstairs and snapping photos.

After lunch, and a brisk walk down C Street, I returned to warm up with a cup of hot tea. Although past the lunch hour rush, the main tea room remained filled with people. I enjoyed my table for one, sipping hot strawberry hibiscus tea while people watching.

Ms Gilmore’s is perfect for a family lunch, girls’ afternoon out or a mother/daughter tea. While the lunch menu offers vegan options, the dessert menu, unfortunately, does not. Perhaps that will change in the future!

After my tea time, I explored the upstairs, admiring the assortment of vintage treasures and antiques.

Ms Gilmore's Springfield, Missouri
Look at that fun chandelier in the main tea room!
Ms Gilmore's Springfield, Missouri
Strawberry hibiscus tea for one at Ms Gilmore’s.

Location and Hours

Ms Gilmore’s is located at 211 East Commercial Street in Springfield, Missouri.

The shop and bakery counter are open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 am until 4:00 pm.

The tea rooms/café are open Tuesday – Saturday, 11:00 am until 2:30 pm on weekdays and open until 3:00 pm on Saturdays.

If you are passing through Springfield, or live in the southwest Missouri area, drop down the rabbit hole into the fantasy world of Ms Gilmore’s. Enjoy a meal, a cup of tea or shop the eclectic mix of items there.

I spent a couple of hours there, however, I’d love more time in Wonderland. I’m planning another visit. It’s always tea time for me!

Ms Gilmore's Springfield, Missouri

 

It’s Always Tea Time

 

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Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston?

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I recently enjoyed a solo trip to Charleston, South Carolina, spending four days exploring that city on my own.

Previously, I’ve enjoyed solo weekends away within 100 miles of home. And I’ve flown alone across country, meeting friends or colleagues at my destinations. However, this was my first solo trip to a new to me city.

Inspired by the Tradd Street series of books, by Karen White, I set off on an adventure to see this gorgeous city for myself. Was I nervous? Yes, a little bit. Lying awake the night before my flight I wondered, “What am I doing??”

My excitement overrode my slight reservations though…and I’m glad. That trips set the stage for more solo trips next year.

So…is it safe to travel solo to Charleston?

Read my thoughts about it and what I learned.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is a port city in South Carolina, founded in 1670 as Charles Town. It soon became the fourth largest city in the colonies and the wealthiest.

Charleston is known for its cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages, antebellum houses and a rich history that stretches back to the Revolutionary War. The downtown historical district includes the French Quarter, the South of Broad neighborhood, the Battery promenade and Waterfront Park that overlooks Charleston Harbor.

I visited in early September, 2021, flying from Tulsa International Airport to Charleston Airport, with one layover in Dallas, Texas. After arriving in Charleston about 5:30 PM, I took a taxi to my accommodations, Meeting Street Inn on Meeting Street in the historic district. And I arrived home about 1:00 am Friday morning, after travel delays due to a tropical storm.

Those are the basic details of my trip. However, it’s the time spent between arriving and leaving that will remain in my memory forever.

Here are my suggestions for traveling solo to Charleston…or to any other destination.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston the battery
Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston? The Battery along Charleston Harbor.

Plan Ahead

I began planning my solo trip months before departure. After arranging accommodations and securing a flight, I turned my attention to studying Charleston and reading posts from other travelers about their experiences there.

Part of my preparation included studying maps of the historic district. Since I was on foot, I studied the layout of streets and found the locations of all the sites I wanted to visit, using Google Maps and a historic map that I bought from Amazon. In my imagination, I walked those streets.

By the time I arrived in Charleston, I felt like I knew the city. Wandering the streets the first 24 hours brought a sense of familiarity that kept me centered and aware. I never got lost walking in Charleston, even though it was my first time there. Always, I knew exactly where I was.

I keep a travel notebook and it accompanied me on my trip. I added lists of places I wanted to see, tour info, accommodation info, vegan restaurants, sites I wanted to photograph and even possible blog post topics. Plus I created a loose itinerary for each day. That notebook proved valuable to me.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston broad street
Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston? Broad Street at sunset.

Choose Accommodations that Work Well for You

Accommodations are always an important component of a trip and perhaps even more so for solo travel.

I chose to stay in the historic district, since most of what I wanted to see was there. And, I wanted to feel safe. I researched accommodations in Charleston’s historic district and jotted down info about the ones that appealed to me.

It became an easy choice for me. Meeting Street Inn checked all my boxes: a beautiful outdoor space, historic stories, charming rooms, in-room refrigerator, central location, free breakfast and evening nibbles and a secure set up.

I loved my stay at the inn. It became my base of operations.

Create a list of what’s most important, in accommodations, and use that list as a guide for finding the perfect spot for your stay. Top of the list…do you feel safe staying in the hotel/inn/resort and in that particular location?

Is it Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston meeting street inn
Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston? Lion statue in Meeting Street Inn courtyard.

Explore During the Day and Stay Aware

I used the daylight hours to thoroughly explore the neighborhoods around Meeting Street Inn, traveling the streets for real and finding the sites on my list. Two of my booked tours were in the historic district as well. I located the meetup places for both and noted the distance from the inn so I knew how long it took to walk there. And I made a stop at the Visitor Center to chat with staff there, pick up information and get the bus schedule.

Charleston has a wonderful…and free…downtown bus system called DASH. It serves as a hop on/hop off bus with multiple stops in the historic district. I rode the DASH bus my first morning in town, to get a great overview of the area, and then took off on foot.

My familiarity with Charleston served me well during the evening ghost tour. I knew where the tour began. I did not know where it ended and how far I’d need to walk to get back to my accommodations. As the tour finished, I knew exactly where I was…a short two blocks from the inn. Knowing the streets gave me the confidence to get back to my room, without concern. As a bonus, other people were walking that direction. I tagged along behind the group!

Stay Aware

When out walking, during the day or evening, always remain aware of what’s going on around you. Watch people and traffic. Keep your phone close. And if anything makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to ask for help or enter a store or business.

And make sure someone knows where you are. Keep in touch with family or friends back home. And communicate plans with the front desk person at your accommodations.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston circular congregational church
One of the stops on the ghost tour…Circular Congregational Church and graveyard.

Talk to Strangers

Although we all grew up with the warning about “stranger danger”, talking to people I met in Charleston remains one of my favorite memories. I consider myself a mix between an extrovert and an introvert. I enjoy engaging with others…and I’m perfectly happy in solitude.

From the moment I arrived in Charleston until I exited a taxi at the airport to depart, I enjoyed chatting with strangers. Some lived in Charleston. Others came for a visit, like me. I learned much by asking questions and listening to stories.

The people of Charleston are friendly and helpful. I talked to the staff at Meeting Street Inn, the staff at the Visitor Center, bus drivers, taxi drivers, restaurant waitstaff, museum curators, tour guides, children playing in fountains and their patient parents, workers, artists and those riding buses and participating in tours with me. I met local residents and people from far away places.

It was fun to put myself out there and talk to strangers who quickly became friends. Even if you don’t typically talk to strangers, try it. Try going beyond your comfort zone and engaging with others in genuine ways.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston gullah woman
Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston? Mildred, a Gullah Woman who makes sweet grass baskets.

Have Fun

By my second day in Charleston, I had a detailed understanding of the city. It was time to really enjoy myself. I wandered the cobblestone streets, snapped lots of photos and discovered beautiful hidden alleyways.

I used my list of “must sees” to do what I most love to do…explore. And I visited the vegan restaurants in my notebook, for lunches and suppers.

I knew that I walked the city as a solo traveler…and a female one at that. Yet I never felt afraid or uncomfortable. And I certainly never felt bored or unsure about what to do next.

I made the most of my time in Charleston and had an incredibly fun visit.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston dinner for one
Beautiful supper for one at Basic Kitchen.

Traveling Solo

Is it safe to travel solo to Charleston? My experience says yes.

Will I travel solo again?

Yes! I enjoyed my trip to Charleston so much that I’ll definitely travel solo again.

I learned important things about myself on this trip. City energy appeals to me, especially cities with a historic district. I discovered I can take care of all the details of getting to where I need to go and getting back home. People have good, kind hearts, for the most part, and a willingness to engage with others. And I found that I love the freedom of deciding what I’ll do and when I’ll do it.

Solo travel empowers me and brings me joy.

I already have a couple of trips scheduled for next year, with many more in the planning stages. The majority of these are solo adventures.

Do you enjoy solo travel? Where have you journeyed to, on your own?

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston city girl

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Fun Things to Do in Charleston

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I recently returned from a solo trip to beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. Although I’ve experienced solitary getaways within 100 miles from home and flown solo across the US to meet up with other people, this was my first big solo adventure. For the first time, I explored a city I’ve never visited before…on my own.

It was a wonderful experience and one I’ll never forget.

I have a wealth of information and photos to share from my trip. I’m starting this series with Fun Things to Do in Charleston.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston title meme

Charleston South Carolina

Charleston is a port city in South Carolina, founded in 1670 as Charles Town. It soon became the fourth largest city in the colonies and the wealthiest.

Charleston is known for its cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages, antebellum houses and a rich history that stretches back to the Revolutionary War. The downtown historical district includes the French Quarter, the South of Broad neighborhood, the Battery promenade and Waterfront Park that overlooks Charleston Harbor.

Why Charleston as a destination for my solo adventure?

I felt drawn to Charleston after reading a series of books by author Karen White. Her Tradd Street Series, set in the historic district, features an endearing cast of characters, ghosts and mysteries to solve. Karen writes so beautifully about Charleston that I felt compelled to see the city for myself and wander the streets South of Broad.

With the help of my travel agent Ken, from Galaxsea Cruises & Tours, my solo trip came together for September.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston

While in no way a complete list of fun things to do, these activities are a great way to get to know Charleston, especially for first time visitors.

Begin at the Charleston Visitor Center

A great first stop, after arriving in the city, is the Charleston Visitor Center. You can request a Visitor’s Guide online before your trip and find a wealth of information about the city, including itineraries, first time visitor guides and hotels and lodgings.

Located at 375 Meeting Street, the visitor center is housed in an old railroad building, constructed between 1840 and 1856. The center is open daily, from 8:30 – 5:00. Helpful staff offer city maps, the DASH Trolley map and suggestions, plus they can make reservations for tours and attractions. The tour buses depart and return to the center.

The DASH Trolley is a free transportation system for the downtown area. It is very similar to a hop on/hop off bus that makes numerous stops on its circuit around historic downtown. You can board the trolley at the Visitor Center and get off…and back on…at any of the stops around town. While I enjoy walking a city, the trolley was extremely helpful when I wanted to get across town quickly.

Currently, masks are required when riding the trolley.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston trolley
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – Visitor Center and free Trolley. You can see part of the brick visitor center reflected in the trolley windows!

Shop the Historic Charleston City Market

One of the stops on the trolley route is the Historic Charleston City Market.

Charleston’s number one most visited attraction is the City Market. Located at the corner of Meeting and Market Streets, this is the nation’s oldest public market and the cultural heart of Charleston.

Three hundred vendors sell their wares there, ranging from traditional sweetgrass baskets to clothing and jewelry to arts and crafts to food. The city market is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir from Charleston or to get a feel for the community.

The market stretches down Market Street, with three long open air sheds and an enclosed air conditioned Great Hall.  There are public restrooms available on site. The city market is open daily from 9:30 – 5:30.

Currently, masks are required inside the city market.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston city market
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – City Market

Pineapple Fountain Photos

This iconic landmark in Charleston is located in Waterfront Park, next to the harbor.

Waterfront Park is a 12 acre park featuring walking paths beneath live oak trees, benches, wharfs and two fountains. One is attractive to children as a place to splash and play. The other, Pineapple Fountain, draws visitors with cameras ready to snap photos.

Pineapples are a common symbol in Charleston, representing hospitality. Children and adults are encouraged to wade in Pineapple Fountain. Because of its popularity with families, tourists and photographers, you may have to wait to get that perfect shot. Or visit early in the morning, before parents bring the kids to play.

I timed my photos carefully, snapping pictures when kids disappeared around the other side of the fountain!

Fun Things to Do in Charleston pineapple fountain
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – Pineapple Fountain photos

Walk Along the Battery

After snapping photos at Pineapple Fountain, walk the Battery located alongside Charleston Harbor.

Gorgeous harbor views draw the eye on one side of the Battery while parks and pastel antebellum houses vie for attention on the other side.

The Battery is a defensive seawall and promenade, paralleling East Bay Street as it heads south to the end of the peninsula. Fort Sumter is visible out in the harbor, as is Pinckney Castle, the World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, Fort Moultie and Sullivan’s Island.

The Battery is a refreshing place for a morning or evening stroll, with the breezes blowing in from the harbor.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston the battery
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – walk the Battery

Explore South of Broad

South of Broad is the neighborhood literally south of Broad Street in the historic district, at the tip of the peninsula. This neighborhood of tree lined streets features magnificent 18th and 19th century houses and churches.

South of Broad housed Charleston’s original residential area for wealthy planters. There are so many historic structures here, including the Heyward-Washington House where President Washington stayed for eight days while visiting the city.

Spend an afternoon strolling this neighborhood. There are pretty hidden alleyways to wander down, cobblestone streets to explore and impressive wrought iron gates to oooh and aaah over. It’s a beautiful area that includes Tradd Street, my inspiration to visit Charleston.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – explore South of Broad

Photograph Rainbow Row

While in the South of Broad area, head back toward East Bay Street for one of Charleston’s most famous block of houses, Rainbow Row.

Located from 79 – 107 East Bay Street, these colorful houses have a unique history. Built in the 1740s, the 13 townhouses originally featured drab colors. Merchants ran their businesses on the ground floors and lived on the top floors.

After the Civil War, the area became run down and neglected. All that changed in 1931 when Dorothy Porcher Legge and her husband Lionel Legge purchased a section of the houses. She restored the homes, painting them in pastel colors to brighten up the area. Owners of the other houses on the block followed Dorothy’s example and painted their houses pastel colors too.

Rainbow Row is another spot frequently visited in the city. Because the houses are occupied, with cars parked along the front sidewalk, it can be difficult to get a clean photo. I found that snapping one from the corner, down the row of houses, worked best for me.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston rainbow row
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – photograph Rainbow Row

Shop and Dine on King Street

If shopping is your thing, take a walk up and down King Street, located one block over from Meeting Street.

King Street offers hotels, shopping, dining, nightlife, fashions, arts and antique stores in the historic district. At more than 300 years old, King Street is the second most historically and architecturally significant street in Charleston, after Meeting Street.

King Street features some of the city’s trendiest restaurants plus art galleries, flourishing businesses, exceptional shops and a robust nightlife. The street is divided into three districts: Lower King is the antiques district, Middle King is the fashion district and Upper King offers dining.

The free trolley makes several stops along King Street. I dined there several times, at different vegan cafes, riding the trolley to my destination and then walking back to my accommodations.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston king street
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – shop and dine on King Street

Learn About Charleston with a Historic Tour

There are many, many tour options available in Charleston. You can take a horse drawn carriage ride, take a city tour bus or participate in a walking tour.

Personally, I prefer a walking tour as it seems to me the best way to really get to know a city. How interesting it is to walk the city with a knowledgeable guide who can tell the stories that make up the history of Charleston.

I highly recommend Two Sisters Tours. Join sisters Therese and/or Mary Helen, seventh generation Charlestonians, on a two hour walking tour of the city. These ladies, both retired attorneys, know their city intimately.

I enjoyed this tour on my second day in Charleston, with Therese as the guide.

Therese is energetic, personable and extremely knowledgeable about Charleston. She didn’t recite a memorized list of facts about Charleston. Therese knows Charleston and tells the old city’s stories with humor and a heart for her community. I learned so much about Charleston from Therese and appreciate her passion and enthusiasm.

Click link for more info about Two Sisters Tours.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston historical tour
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – historical tour with Therese of Two Sisters Tours

Scare Yourself with a Ghost Tour

For a journey into Charleston’s darker side, schedule a nighttime ghost tour through the city. Again, many such tours exists, from horse drawn carriage rides to tour buses to walking tours. You just can’t beat walking next to those graveyards and spooky old houses at night though.

I joined tour guide John, with Ghost City Tours, after my first full day in Charleston. Due to its long history, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, pirates, fires and hurricanes, Charleston is considered one of America’s most haunted cities. Ghost City Tours offers two tours, one for adults only, with more macabre themes and stories, and one for families with slightly more tame stories suitable for all ages.

I chose the family ghost tour simply because it began earlier, at 7:00 PM rather than 10:00.

John guided us expertly through Charleston’s more tragic sites, with intriguing stories of the restless undead. He told us at the beginning of the tour that his job wasn’t to convince us that ghosts exist. His job was to share the stories and let us make up our own minds. John didn’t need to convince me. I already believe in ghosts! I highly recommend this tour. Click link for more info.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston ghost tour
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – ghost tour with John of Ghost City Tours

Educate Yourself at the Old Slave Mart Museum

There is no denying that slavery and Charleston are intricately entwined. It’s a part of Charleston’s history that is difficult. I appreciate that the city does not gloss over this dark past or attempt to downplay its significance.

Rather, Charleston seeks to expand the stories of the enslaved people who helped to make the city what it was in the past…and what it is today.

On Chalmers Street is the Slave Mart Museum, the place where traders brought people to sell and trade them from 1856 – 1863. The Old Slave Mart is the only known such building still in existence in South Carolina. Auctions of the enslaved ended November 1863. The property changed hands many times until 1938 when Miriam Wilson bought it and opened  a museum featuring African and African American arts and crafts. The city acquired the building in 1988 and opened it as a historic site and museum in 2007.

The museum features displays that chronicle Charleston’s role in the international slave trade and the domestic trade within the south. It is often staffed by individuals who can trace their history to Charleston slaves.  While it is a painful history to learn more about, I believe it is so essential that we do so. I spent a solemn hour there, studying the displays, pondering the significance and feeling all of the emotions.

The Old Slave Mart Museum at 6 Chalmers Street is open Monday – Saturday, 9:00 – 5:00. Currently a mask is required while inside.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston slave mart museum
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – educate yourself at Old Slave Mart Museum

Visit a Plantation

There are several plantations in the Charleston area, accessible by car or by tour bus. The good people at the Charleston Visitor Center can help set up the tour of choice.

I originally wanted to visit the tea plantation, owned and operated by the Bigelow family, because that’s the brand of tea I drink. Alas, this plantation is far enough away from Charleston that it’s difficult to get there…and get back…without a car.

So with the help of a staff member at the Visitor Center, I chose a Magnolia Plantation and Garden tour, primarily because of the acres and acres of wild gardens there. As destiny would have it, it was the right plantation for me to visit. I’ll share in a separate upcoming post about Magnolia Plantation and what makes it so very special.

I enjoyed wandering the extensive gardens, riding a tram through marshes, swamps and woodlands and taking a guided tour inside the plantation house.

Fun Things to Do in Charleston magnolia plantation
Fun Things to Do in Charleston – visit a plantation

Charleston Series

Over the next few months, I’ll share more posts about Charleston…the city’s historical tales, ghost stories, the inn I called home for five days, vegan eats and more.

This was an important trip for me and perfectly timed during my Year of the Wild Woman. I proved to myself that I enjoy solo travel, that I can handle all the details involved in traveling this way and that in general, people are good hearted and kind.

It was fun to experience “going beyond” and “following curiosity” in such new to me ways. I left Charleston a few days ago, grateful for all that this trip taught me and grateful as well for the warm welcome I received in this beautiful city.

I’m ready to plan another adventure…

 

Have you visited Charleston, South Carolina? What was your favorite thing to do there?

Cindy in Charleston
How I explored sunny, humid Charleston…in breezy layers plus hat and sunglasses.

 


 

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