Founded in 1670, Charleston, South Carolina is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and recently voted #1 City In The World by Travel + Leisure Magazine. The city’s charming atmosphere includes cobblestone streets, antebellum architecture and horse-drawn carriages. While the harbor is home to Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, the Charleston peninsula boasts Rainbow Row, Battery Park and the bustling French Quarter. Whether you call this quaint southern town home or you’re visiting on vacation, there’s plenty to see and do.
And another great quality of Charleston is its proximity to other big cities. So when the urge strikes you to set out on a weekend getaway road trip, you’ll have more than enough options. Pack a weekend bag and head to these nearby cities.
To the North
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The hub of the Grand Strand and a 60-mile stretch of beaches nestled along the beautiful Atlantic Coast, Myrtle Beach is one of the country’s top vacation destinations. It features brown sugar-colored sand, celebrity-designed golf courses and a beachfront boardwalk that is lined with arcades and souvenir stands. Myrtle Beach is also home to thrilling amusement parks, museums and landscaped gardens as well as an almost endless assortment of restaurants and shopping venues that range from specialty boutiques to large outlet malls. Guests enjoy a range of adrenaline-pumping water sports during the day and exciting theater shows, musicals and other stage productions at night. There are also a number of cultural festivals held throughout the year. Despite the potential for a few afternoon showers, the best time to visit the Golf Capital of the World is from June to September. The warmer weather ensures that you can take full advantage of all that this beach resort community has to offer. And although autumn brings cooler temperatures, it also offers better room rates.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Known as the Queen City, Charlotte features a vibrant atmosphere with a variety of eateries, craft breweries and nightlife venues as well as cultural attractions like the NASCAR Hall of Fame. You can spend a relaxing day on Lake Norman, raft the rapids at the National Whitewater Center or enjoy the Carowinds Amusement Park. The city is also home to the Levine Museum of the New South and the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center as well as the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Hornets sports teams. Accommodating every style and budget, shopping opportunities span the gamut from local boutiques and specialty shops to high-end malls and designer outlet centers. From food trucks to award-winning restaurants, the city’s dining options are practically endless. You can enjoy a diverse mix of cuisines that include barbecue, farm-to-table fare and international twists on classic American favorites. In addition to the Renaissance Fair, Charlotte hosts several annual festivals. The best time to visit the Queen City is during the spring and fall. While the summer is sultry and crowded, spring and fall offer better hotel rates and milder temperatures.
Asheville, North Carolina
Home to the Biltmore Estate and its preserved furnishings, Asheville is nestled in the lush foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The city is known for its historic architecture which includes the domed-topped Basilica of Saint Lawrence and a vibrant cultural scene that features the Downtown and River Arts Districts. Visitors can enjoy the Appalachian Trail and the pristine countryside as well as the Thomas Wolfe Memorial and the heritage Biltmore Village. Known as the San Francisco of the South, Asheville hosts numerous live music venues, art galleries and eclectic shopping destinations. The city also has several award-winning restaurants offering a variety of local and international cuisines. The best time to visit Asheville is during the spring and fall foliage seasons. The moderate temperatures provide the ideal conditions for exploring the city or hiking in the country. While the summer brings higher humidity levels, Asheville does not experience much snow even though snow-capped peaks surround it during the winter months.
To the West
The largest city in the South, Atlanta offers visitors a wide range of things to see and do. The city is home to the Centennial Olympic Park, Six Flags Amusement Park and the Georgia Aquarium along with the World of Coca-Cola and the CNN Center. Cultural attractions also include the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Depending on the season, guests can root for the hometown Braves, Falcons or Hawks sports teams. Experience the natural wonders of the 189-acre Piedmont Park, the 30-acre Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Chattahoochee River. Grant Park is the picturesque setting of 40-acre Zoo Atlanta. The city’s art and cultural scene sizzles after dark. Visitors enjoy the nightlife, shopping and restaurants of Buckhead, Downtown, Little Five Points and Underground Atlanta. While spring and fall are the best times to beat the heat, the May to August period is filled with concerts and other outdoor activities. The slower winter season offers the best hotel deals in Hot ‘Lanta.
To the South
The objective of Sherman’s March to the Sea and the focus of the best-selling novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah is brimming with Spanish moss-covered oaks, antebellum mansions and Southern hospitality. The evocative scenery includes the Savannah River and historic squares filled with statues, memorials and stately architecture. Sharing the city’s unique spirit through insightful narratives, an Old Town Trolley Tour takes you by some of Savannah’s most interesting and well-known attractions. Notable points of interest include Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace, the Mercer House, Forsyth Fountain and the Telfair Museums. A tour aboard Old Town Trolley is the easiest way to see 100 attractions in Georgia’s first city. The best time to visit is March to July when the trees and azaleas are in bloom. Most of Savannah’s festivals, including its famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade, are held during this time. While winter is the low season, autumn provides a mix of cooler weather, smaller crowds and lower hotel prices.
Situated on Florida’s First Coast, Jacksonville features championship golf courses, several scenic parks and 20 miles of Atlantic beaches like Ponte Vedra. Downtown Jacksonville, straddling the St. John River, is a vibrant hub of activity on weekday evenings and weekends when locals and visitors congregate in the trendy restaurants and clubs of the Southbank Riverwalk and Jacksonville Landing dining and entertainment complexes. The city is home to museums dedicated to contemporary art, science and history. In addition to the unspoiled wetlands of the Kingsley Plantation, visitors can also enjoy the beaches and historic attractions of Amelia Island. The best time to visit Jacksonville is in the late spring and early fall. While the weather is still very pleasant, you will miss the heat and large crowds of the June through August peak summer season.
St. Augustine, Florida
Head a little further south and explore the historic city of St. Augustine. The first permanent European settlement in North America, the city is the location of Ponce de Leon’s famous Fountain of Youth. Home to the Castillo de San Marcos, the Lightner Museum and the quaint Spanish Quarter, St. Augustine takes center stage during an Old Town Trolley Tour. This unique and informative St. Augustine sightseeing tour provides humorous and little-known details about many of the city’s most popular attractions. The Old City also offers a wide range of dining and shopping options that will please any taste and budget. Although Florida is beautiful year-round, the best time to visit St. Augustine is from February to June when the milder temperatures make exploring the city more comfortable. While the summer brings larger crowds, the weather in the fall and winter is less predictable.