6 Tips for Planning a Summer Vacay to Charleston, SC

6 Tips for Planning a Summer Vacay to Charleston, SC

If you have booked your hotel and flight for Charleston, SC, you probably have researched what to do, where to eat, and what sites to see. However, summer crowds tend to flock to the same places and do the same things. This isn’t an issue in and of itself, but there are ways to make your trip more enjoyable. In other words, what would the locals do? Here are six tips for planning a summer vacation to Charleston, SC.

Tip 1: Leave Your Car at the Hotel

If you’re driving to Charleston or you’re renting a car, know that you won’t need it if you’re in downtown Charleston or the gorgeous historic district. You’re better off leaving your car at your hotel and just walking along the picturesque streets. Looking for historic homes for sale in Charleston, SC? The best way to do it is on foot.

Walking will allow you to discover some of the hidden gems tucked away in Charleston’s neighborhoods. There are many gardens and alleyways you can explore.

If you don’t want to walk a lot, there are other ways to get around downtown Charleston that don’t require a car. You can take the buses or the DASH trolley, which is free. Many of the sites in downtown Charleston are on a DASH line. There are three DASH lines to choose from: the orange Route 210, the green Route 211, and the purple Route 213.

Another option is to explore the peninsula (downtown Charleston and the historic district) on a bicycle. You can bike along the waterfront, go up to the brewery district, and explore the market.

You’ll also save money by leaving your car at the hotel. If you’re driving from site to site, you’ll have to find a new parking space every time you move your car. This can add up, and it’s inconvenient. Of course, some parts of Charleston are less walkable, but they’re outside the downtown area.

Tip 2: If You Have to Drive, Find Free Parking

If you do need to take your car, you don’t have to park in the parking garages downtown. Charleston has free two-hour parking in many of the residential neighborhoods. For example, you can find free parking on Church Street or Tradd Street. Just make sure not to exceed your allotted time, or you’ll get a ticket.

You may indeed have to walk a few blocks to get to your preferred destination, but you’ll save quite a bit of money by the end of the day, especially if you’re hopping from one location to another.

An alternative to residential parking is to look up the SpotAngels map to find free metered parking. The map is updated in real-time, so it’s a great way to snag a free spot. Just type in your destination and the time you’ll be there, and the map will show you all the available parking. The green spots are the free ones.

Tip 3: Be Friendly and Open to Friendly Behavior!

Depending on where you’re from or what culture you grew up in, being friendly to strangers may not be the norm. In Charleston, though, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and the locals do practice Southern hospitality. You’ll find many make eye contact, smile, and wish you a great day.

It’s not just about being polite. Charlestonians are always willing to help you out, recommend restaurants, engage in small talk, and offer directions. When visiting Charleston, try to be friendly and receptive to the welcoming behavior of Charlestonians. Friendliness is a way of life for the locals here, and many will be happy to communicate.

Tip 4: Go Where the Locals Hang Out on the Beach

Over the summer, Charleston’s beaches get busy. While visitors can enjoy miles of beachfront, some places are far more crowded than others.


Folly Beach is a popular beach located 15 minutes from downtown Charleston. It has a gorgeous beachfront, restaurants, bars, and shops. If you’re looking to avoid the tourist crowds, go straight down Folly Road, then turn left at the end onto Arctic Avenue. The farther you are away from Center Street, the less crowded it will be. You can go east or west on Folly Road, but the west side is quieter.

Another favorite beach is Sullivan’s Island, which is 20 minutes from downtown Charleston. This is a quieter beach with a more relaxed atmosphere. A great spot is near the lighthouse. You’ll be close to some of the restaurants but far away from some of the dangerous rip tides.

Finally, there is the Isle of Palms (IOP). This beach is located roughly 30 minutes from downtown Charleston. Although farther from Charleston’s center, Isle of Palms has soft white sand beaches and a family-friendly atmosphere. To make the most of your experience, stay away from the front beach or county park area.

Tip 5: Dress Casually But Modestly

Charleston has a laid-back atmosphere, especially over the summer when you’ll see the locals in shorts, flip-flops, sandals, and T-shirts. The summers get hot and humid, so you’ll want to wear fabrics and footwear that are lightweight and comfortable. Charleston is also a more conservative city, so dressing modestly is generally expected.


Tip 6: Explore Beyond the Peninsula

While the downtown area of Charleston is definitely a major draw when you visit the area, there’s a lot more to see. Just across the Cooper River is Mount Pleasant, where you can visit the USS Yorktown and the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. Looking to move to Charleston permanently? You can see if there’s a house for sale in Mount Pleasant, SC!

Another destination you’ll want to explore is the Lowcountry region. Here you’ll find historic plantations, moss-draped live oak trees, and beautiful coastal towns like Beaufort.

Once you explore Charleston and see just about every nook and cranny, it will easily become one of your favorite destinations. Just remember to keep these tips in mind to make the most of your trip.