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Charleston & ME

What Locals Do in Charleston (from a local)

Stepping into Charleston, SC, is like embracing the warm hug of Southern charm, where the whisper of the past mingles effortlessly with the pulse of the present. As a local, I can tell you there's a rhythm to our days here, flavored with saltwater breezes and sunlit cobblestone paths that lead to hidden delights. The real essence of Charleston isn’t just in its postcard-perfect vistas—it’s etched in the everyday lives of those who call this enchanting city home. Join me as we journey beyond the well-trodden tourist trails and dive into the heart of what locals do to savor the sweet, slow life in Charleston, SC.

Scenes from Charleston by a local Ashely River plantation and from a rooftop looking over Ravenel Bridge and entering Dock Street Theatre
As Charleston locals, we walk the city, take picnics, visit parks and museums, attend shows, gather together around common causes, eat, shop, watch the sunrise and get on and in the water.

1. Exploring Charleston on Foot: A Walkable City

We walk a lot. Charleston, downtown that is, is a highly walkable city with a walkability rating in the 90s. Just outside our doors is a plethora of things to do and everyday necessities. We walk to parks, to the water, to eat, to visit, to tour, to shop, to peruse. You name it, we walk it. We also walk to simply enjoy the town and for exercise. You will likely see locals walking downtown streets, along The Battery or Waterfront Park, through Hampton Park or around Colonial Lake clocking their steps at all times of the day. What you will not see is a lot of locals on bikes. Yes, we sometimes bike, but the city is much more walkable than bike-able (due to the brick, cobblestone and uneven streets as well as the tourist traffic on certain streets). Bike, yes, more for transport than activity downtown. If someone lives South of Broad they may bike to North Charleston and vice versa. That being said, we do sometimes take our cruisers out for a spin.

2. Where Locals Eat in Charleston: Exploring the Culinary Delights

Where do locals eat in Charleston? This is probably the question I hear the most. This, much like wherever you call home, will be a varied answer depending on a local’s preferences. The biggest difference to the list I recommend to visitors, compared to my everyday eating, is to a visitor I suggest first exploring restaurants to experience that Charleston flavor—the foods that Charleston is known for, Southern and Coastal Southern cuisine (my favorites, by the way). In addition to these, as a local, we also enjoy a variety of other Charleston restaurants with international flavor much like you would at home—in the mood for Italian, French, Modern American, etc. Additionally, locals often enjoy quick bites for lunch at small, off-the-beaten-path gems. Furthermore, we take advantage of the abundance of local ingredients, sourcing fresh oysters, shrimp, and fish directly from the docks or in-town pick-up locations, as well as shopping at local farmer's markets for fresh produce.

Here are my favorite restaurants for Southern inspired fare and my go-to lunch spots. And, my sources for fresh seafood and produce and other locally made Charleston or Lowcountry goods.

3. Exploring Charleston's Rich Culture: A Local's Perspective

One of the many reasons I moved to Charleston was for the accessibility of such culture right at my doorstep. This partially ties in with number one on this list, as I walk about. I simply love to walk a different path (and there are so many) each day. Pick a street or area and walk and take it all in. Sometimes it is a street or area I have walked a hundred times—I still explore. I read the historical placards, take in the architecture, take a photo or two, marvel at the towering trees and hundreds-of-years-old homes, and appreciate all it takes to preserve this city. I walk by the water and take in the Charleston sunrises and sunsets, the breeze coming off the bay and the myriad birds flying overhead and dolphins dancing through the water. This is my every day.

Here is a list of my favorite streets in Charleston to peruse.

4. Locals Making a Difference: Preserving Charleston's Charm

It takes a collective effort to maintain Charleston's unique tapestry and allure. Locals play a crucial role in preserving the city's unique charm and ensuring its longevity for future generations. Through dedicated involvement, Charlestonians demonstrate their love for the city and their commitment to its preservation. From historic homes and structures to the captivating streets, the preservation and conservation efforts have shaped Charleston into the beloved place it is today. These endeavors have not only preserved the city's rich history but also contributed to its recognition as the #1 travel city for 11 consecutive years. As Charleston continues to grow in popularity, it becomes even more vital to strike a balance between development and the preservation of its distinctive elements. Locals champion this cause by actively participating in vibrant organizations dedicated to preserving and conserving the city's historic nature, architecture, waterways, marine life, and diverse histories. By joining forces with these organizations, Charlestonians ensure that the city remains a place where people want to be, now and for generations to come. Together, they are the guardians of Charleston's charm, working tirelessly to maintain its allure and safeguard its priceless heritage.

5. Southern Social Scene: Connecting, Eating, and Enjoying Charleston

This would not be a Southern city if being social were not at the forefront of society. It may be gathering at restaurants or on porches, in gardens, on the water, or at the myriad annual events, parties and outings by the organizations alluded to in number four and so many more—there is always something to join or to attend, somewhere to connect with others and enjoy this city. It is, however, not always a big affair. Many times it is the simple gathering of friends or allies of a cause coupled with good Charleston food, good conversation and some type of views.

6. Exploring Charleston Like a Local: Museums, Architecture and More!

Yes, as locals we still tour. The Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston Museum, Historical Society Museum and the recently opened IAAM Museum, all world class Charleston museums in their own right, are not just for visitors. No, these gems are worthy of frequent visits by locals, where many of us hold memberships. Historic home tours are also on the list with their continual pursuit of unearthing (literally) and sharing more Charleston history. And then there are jaunts to nearby Charleston plantations and gardens or the many tours offered along the waterways and to surrounding islands for excursions of all kinds.

7. Exploring Local Charm: Where Locals Shop in Charleston

Where do locals shop in Charleston? Why, King Street baby. King is full of shops (and eateries), from locally owned to the largest retailers including Gucci, Rolex, Pottery Barn, Anthropology, Kate Spade and more. The real gems are the Charleston centric art galleries and boutiques focusing on local-made or locally sourced goods, local style, local fun or simply family-run (some for decades). In addition to shopping on King, there are restaurants, coffee shops, and parks along the way. King Street, like most of Charleston, is best perused via foot.

8. Exploring the Water in Charleston

Charleston is a peninsula, surrounded by water. And close by are three Charleston area beaches, marshland, and waterways waiting to be traversed. Locals incorporate some form of the water into nearly every day. The easiest way is simply walking along the water at The Battery or Waterfront Park. It may include daily or weekly jaunts to a favorite Charleston beach or getting on the water via motor boat, jon boat, sail boat or kayak. One way or another locals are getting their fix on, in or by the water.

So, What Do Locals in Charleston Do Every Day?

We walk the city taking in the history, architecture, and charm. We walk by the water along The Battery, around Colonial Lake or Waterfront Park. We take picnics in Hampton Park, The Battery and Waterfront Park. We go to Charleston art and history museums and house museums. We attend world-class shows at The Gaillard and Dock Street Theatre and attend festivals all through the year. We gather together around common causes to preserve the city—its history and future, waterways and this way of life—often times outside on porches or in gardens. We peruse town and pop into our favorite local eateries and shops. We catch the Charleston sunrise and sunset and get on or in the water as often as possible. We soak in Charleston Southern culture and charm and all it entails. We continue to learn about the past and live in the present—with an eye toward the future.


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Charleston local Monica Edwards Photographing at Sullivans Island Beach

hey there!

I'm Monica Edwards

Your new local connection  

to Charleston

I'm a writer, photographer, explorer and 20+ year former magazine owner. I'm obsessed with adventure, interest and intrigue. And, a curator of Charleston's best.

You're likely to find me exploring Charleston, living large and helping others to do the same.

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