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Charleston SightseeingBefore sightseeing on Charleston vacation, park your car. Trying to negotiate the narrow streets while sightseeing is difficult, and your trip will be much more interesting if you move at a leisurely pace. So, follow one of the AAA Walking Tours or take a guided carriage, boat, bus, van or trolley tour.

A good place to begin your exploration is at the Charleston Visitor Center, 375 Meeting St. “Forever Charleston," a multimedia presentation shown continuously at the center, provides an introduction to the city, its people and fun things to do during your stay. Self-guiding tour maps and brochures also are available.

Iconic Architecture

Two of the most prominent features of this historic destination are the two major architectural styles: the double house and the single house. The front doors of the double house face the street, with one room to each side. The typical single house is only one room wide with the narrow gable end turned toward the street. To one side is a door that opens onto a porch, and gardens or courtyards are beside or behind the house.

No one knows why there are so many single houses in Charleston, but past speculation, which is now often discounted, claimed that the design might have been prompted by taxes levied according to how many feet of a house faced the street. Similar houses were built during the 18th- and early 19th centuries in New Orleans for this reason. The more likely explanation is that this design made the most of summer breezes and blocked the interior from the most intense sun during the day.

Visitors will see plenty of both as they travel about town.

Many of Charleston's old houses have solid shutters on the first floor windows and louvered shutters on the windows of the floors above. The solid shutters helped keep the noise and dirt from entering the early houses, which had walls that rose from the edge of the street.

A Signature Shade

A leisurely stroll should be on any list of things to do; perhaps the most common sight in Charleston is not a thing, but a color. Charleston green, such an extremely dark shade that it is almost black, is seen on everything from shutters to front doors to piazza trim. The color is said to have been devised during Reconstruction, when only black paint was available in quantity. Residents mixed in a small amount of yellow pigment and were able to use colored paint.

Charleston Harbor Tours

Fort Sumter Tours

Sandlapper Water Tours

The Schooner Pride

SpiritLine Harbor Tour

Charleston Bus and Carriage Travel ToursAAA/Thuyvi Gates
Motorized tours cater to weekend visitors seeking a quick overview of city architecture, culture and history or to those with plenty of time to explore Charleston's surroundings and historic plantations.

Routes for horse-drawn carriage tours are selected randomly; therefore, each company cannot guarantee which sites will be included on any trip since the guide doesn't find out until right before the tour departs. Rest assured, you'll learn about all sorts of fun places to go so that you'll know what to do when you're exploring the city on your own.

Adventure Sightseeing Tours

Charleston Carriage Works

Classic Carriage Works

Gray Line of Charleston

Gullah Tours

Old South Carriage Co.

Palmetto Carriage Tours

Charleston Culinary Tours

Charleston Food Tours

Chow Down Charleston Food Tours

Architectural Walking Tours of Charleston

Bulldog Tours

Charleston Footprints

Charleston History Tours

Charleston Pirate Tours

Charleston Sole

Charleston Strolls

Old Charleston Walking Tours

Tommy Dew's Walking History Tour

Tour Charleston LLC

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Charleston, SC

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

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Travel Information

City Population

130,113

Elevation

10 ft.

Sales Tax

The 9 percent sales tax rate in Charleston consists of 6 percent South Carolina state sales tax, 1 percent Charleston tax and 2 percent special tax. There is no applicable county tax. There is an admissions tax of 5 percent on most amusements and a 2 percent accommodations tax.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(843) 577-7434

Hospitals

Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, (843) 402-1000; MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina), (843) 792-2300; and Roper Hospital, (843) 724-2000.

Air Travel

Most major airlines serve

Rental Cars

Hertz, (843) 767-4554 or (800) 654-3131, is at the airport and offers discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

The Amtrak train station, (800) 872-7245, is at 4565 Gaynor Ave. in North Charleston.

Buses

Service is provided by Southeastern Stages and Greyhound Lines Inc., (843) 744-4247 or (800) 231-2222, at 3610 Dorchester Rd.

Taxis

Cab companies include Safety Cab, (843) 722-4066; and Yellow Cab, (843) 577-6565. The fare is $5 for all trips that pick up and drop off on the peninsula. A $2 surcharge is added for each additional passenger. Outside of the peninsula, the fare for the first 2 miles is $4 and 35c for each succeeding one-fifth mile. A $1 surcharge is added for each additional passenger. Cabs must be ordered by phone.

Public Transportation

Bus service is provided by Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority (CARTA); phone (843) 724-7420 for information about routes and schedules.

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