As an experienced Charleston tourist myself, I’ve come to realize that there are certain essentials everyone should know before diving into such a culturally rich city. While you are more than welcome to go unprepared and simply wander around the blazing sun all day, I would recommend following some of the guidelines I’ve put together for you down below.
Wear Sunscreen and Bring Water
Don’t let them fool you - Charlestonians may play off that the sun only “kisses their skin” or that they are incapable of sweating, but that is simply not true. The Charlestonian knows to apply sunscreen, how to pull off a floppy sun hat, and better yet, when it is time to rest inside an airconditioned area.
As a tourist, however, you will probably be running around trying to cram everything into one day. Sweat will be all over your Iowa University t-shirt, and the Charlestonians will sigh as they watch you wilt, sipping on their sweet teas as you crawl to the nearest Starbucks for a Vente water.
Don’t (Get Caught) Climbing the Cannons
There is something in our human DNA that prevents us from resisting the urge to climb the cannons at the Battery. The back wooden ledge just screams, “Hey, step on up!” You will see children do this all the time, and yes, adults, too. Consider it part of the hazing process of experiencing Charleston: you must mount a cannon, reenact a battle cry, and post it on Instagram.
The second you climb up, though, you must understand whatever shield of secrecy you held before is now completely gone: you are 100 percent a full-blown tourist now. If you are like me, you can lean into this idea, and make sure to wear an Ohio State Sweatshirt as you hop on the cannon.
PS: The dismount is not graceful. Not one bit.
Brush Up On Your Parallel Parking
Not only are you entering the joys of city parking, you’re having to do it on roads that were originally made for small wagons and pedestrians. There may be silent judgment if you fail your first attempt at parallel parking, but I assure you it’s not the end of the world.
I had to go the Apple store in Charleston for a laptop repair, and in my small Honda Civic, I failed to fit into the very spacious opening I had to work with. Teenagers walked by, and I could smell their judgment and Axe body spray. Thankfully, a kind gentleman from North Carolina came out, stopped traffic for me, and taught me how to park properly.
In short, maybe do a few practice park jobs, but know that there is probably some old, southern parking guardian ready in the wings to help you into your spot.
Don’t Get That Marilyn Monroe Shot
The Battery is lovely to walk along, especially on hot days because of the constant breeze that brings in the waves of water. However, this breeze can very easily turn into a gust, or even a blast from time to time. Any unsecured hats, sunglasses, or skirts are apt to fly away at any second. Don’t be that guy running down the sidewalk trying to catch your personal objects. You’ll end up sweating more. It will be sad. So, so sad.
Plan Your Feasting Accordingly
You should eat everything and be aggressive about it. Charleston has some of the best Southern food around. HOWEVER, for the love of your family, friends, and fellow tourists - do not guzzle a gallon of she-crab soup and think that you will be fun running around the entire city in 90 degree weather. It will not end well.
Also, avoid national chains if you can. Charleston has so many unique, local and regional options it would be a shame to plop down at Applebee’s just so you could get your favorite Quesadilla Burger and onion rings.
Don’t Stare at People On Their Carriage Tours….
It’s tempting, I know. But they will feel weird. Inevitably, this will make you feel weird. And then everyone will feel awkward. The only thing heavier lingering in the air between you will be the smell of horse feces.
...Or During Their Wedding
Yes, people choose to get married in Charleston. I know, crazy right? Who wants lifetime commitment? Gross. Anywho, many couples decide to have their photos taken by the gazebo in White Point Garden or around one of the many gorgeous buildings downtown has to offer. You can peek, you can even smile in acknowledgment of “Yes, you are being wed today. Good for you!” But don’t whip out your phone and start videoing the whole thing. You don’t even know them! That’s really weird! What are you going to do with that footage - photoshop the groom’s face with yours? I know, it’s tempting, just resist. Go climb a cannon, if you must, to get it out of your system.
Clogging The Sidewalk Is A Crime
Well, not technically, but know that everyone will hate you if you and your family of six stop with no warning in the middle of a tiny sidewalk so that you can take yet another photo of a Magnolia tree because quote: “they are just so big, who knew!” You can probably step onto the street a little and take whatever magnolia photos are necessary for your Facebook photo album. Creating a wall of human flesh is not appreciated by many. Those who do like it you should avoid at all costs.
Trying To Pronounce Charleston Like A Native
I’m telling you this only because I love you: if you are not Southern, it just won’t come out right. Perhaps if you are an actor or good at impressions, you’ll come close. But I give you fair warning - you’re just going to sound dumb. Chaaaaaalston. Chaahhhhhlston. Chawwwwwlston. You will sound like a two year old trying to figure out how to say your older sister’s name. And I know you, I know you’ll try this on a whim while walking down Rainbow Row. Don’t do it. Everyone will cringe, even the horses.