Charleston City Hall is open to tourists for free historical tours.
Infrastructure and economy
Charleston is served by Charleston International Airport (IATA: CHS, ICAO: KCHS), which is the busiest passenger airport in the state of South Carolina. The airport shares runways with the adjacent Charleston Air Force Base.
Interstates and highways
Interstate 26 enters the city from the north-northwest, and connects the city to its airport, Interstate 95, and Columbia, South Carolina. It ends at the Septima Clark Expressway downtown, which travels across two-thirds of the peninsula before merging into the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge. The bridge and Septima Clark Expressway are part of U.S. Highway 17, which travels east-west through the cities of Charleston and Mount Pleasant. Interstate 526, or the Mark Clark Expressway, forms a half-circle around the city. U.S. Highway 52 is Meeting Street and its spur is Morrison Drive, which becomes East Bay Street after leaving the Eastside. This highway merges with King Street in the city's Neck area (Industrial District) to form Rivers Avenue. U.S. Highway 78 is King Street in the downtown area, eventually merging with Meeting Street to form Rivers Avenue.
U.S. Route 17
U.S. Route 52
U.S. Route 78
Interstate 26 (Eastern Terminus is in Charleston)
SC 7 - Sam Rittenberg Boulevard
SC 30 - James Island Expressway
SC 61 - St. Andrews Boulevard/Ashley River Road
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge across the Cooper River (South Carolina) opened on July 16, 2005, and is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Americas. The bridge links Mount Pleasant with downtown Charleston, and has eight lanes and a 12-foot lane shared by pedestrians and bicycles. It replaced the Grace Memorial Bridge (built in 1929) and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge (built in 1966). They were considered two of the more dangerous bridges in America and were demolished after the Ravenel Bridge opened.
The new Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, constructed in 2005, is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere.
Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority
The logo of CARTA
The city is also served by a bus system, operated by the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA). The majority of the urban area is served by regional fixed route buses which are also equipped with bike racks as part of the system's Rack & Ride program. CARTA offers connectivity to historic downtown attractions and accommodations with DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle) trolley buses, and it offers curbside pickup for disabled passengers with its Tel-A-Ride buses.
Rural parts of the city and metropolitan area are served by a different bus system, operated by Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Rural Transportation Management Association (BCD-RTMA).
Columbus Street Terminal viewed from the southwest.
The Port of Charleston consists of five terminals. Three are on the Harbor and the other two are on the Cooper River just north of Charleston's bustling harbor. The port is ranked number one in customer satisfaction across North America by supply chain executives. Port activity, behind tourism, is the leading source of Charleston's revenue.
Columbus Street Terminal
Union Pier Terminal
North Charleston Terminal
A new terminal is being built on the former Naval Station grounds to accommodate the growing needs of the port.
Map showing the major rivers of Charleston and the Charleston Harbor watershed.
The city proper consists of six distinct areas: the Peninsula/Downtown, West Ashley, Johns Island, James Island, Daniel Island, and the Cainhoy Peninsula.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 347.5 square kilometers (134.2 sq mi). 251.2 km2 (97.0 sq mi) of it is land and 44.3 km2 (17.1 sq mi) (15%) of it is water. The old city is located on a peninsula at the point where, as Charlestonians say, "The Ashley and the Cooper Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean." The entire peninsula is very low, some of it is landfill material, and as such, it frequently floods during heavy rains, storm surges and unusually high tides. The city limits have expanded across the Ashley River from the peninsula encompassing the majority of West Ashley as well as James Island and some of Johns Island. The city limits also have expanded across the Cooper River encompassing Daniel Island and the Cainhoy area. North Charleston blocks any expansion up the peninsula, and Mount Pleasant occupies the land directly east of the Cooper River.
The tidal rivers (Wando, Cooper, Stono, and Ashley) are evidence of a submergent or drowned coastline. In other words, the original rivers had a lower base line, but as the ocean rose or the land sank, the landform was changed. There is a submerged river delta off the mouth of the harbor, and the rivers are deep, affording a good location for a port. The rising of the ocean may be due to melting of glacial ice during the end of the ice age.
In recent decades, the urban area of the city has become elongated along Interstate 26, while being fairly short from east to west. Today areas with a population density of over 1,000 people per square mile extends continuously from the tip of the peninsula out to the Summerville area.
Charleston has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa), with mild winters, hot, humid summers, and significant rainfall all year long. Summer is the wettest season; almost half of the annual rainfall occurs during the summer months in the form of thundershowers. Fall remains relatively warm through November. Winter is short and mild, and is characterized by occasional rain. Snow flurries seldom occur. The highest temperature recorded (inside city limits at the Customs House on E. Bay St.) was 104 °F (40 °C), on June 2, 1985, and the lowest temperature recorded was 10 °F (−12 °C) on January 21, 1985. Hurricanes are a major threat to the area during the summer and early fall, with several severe hurricanes hitting the area — most notably Hurricane Hugo in 1989 (a Category 4 storm).
Charleston was hit by a large tornado in 1761, which temporarily emptied the Ashley River, and sank five offshore warships.
The Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville Metropolitan Statistical Area consists of three counties: Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester. As of 2006, it was estimated that the metropolitan area had a total population of about 603,178 people. North Charleston is nearly as populated as the city of Charleston and ranks as the third largest city in the state; Mount Pleasant and Summerville are the next largest cities. These cities combined with other incorporated and unincorporated areas surrounding the city of Charleston form the Charleston-North Charleston Urban Area with a population of 423,410 as of 2000. This population is slightly larger than Columbia's urban area, making Charleston's urban area the largest in the state. The metropolitan area also includes a separate and much smaller urban area within Berkeley County, Moncks Corner (2000 pop.: 9,123).
The traditional parish system persisted until the Reconstruction, when counties were imposed. Nevertheless, traditional parishes still exist in various capacities, mainly as public service districts. The city of Charleston proper, which was originally defined by the limits of the Parish of St. Philip & St. Michael. It now also includes parts of St. James' Parish, St. George's Parish, St. Andrew's Parish, and St. John's Parish, although the last two are mostly still incorporated rural parishes.
Charleston is well-known across the United States and beyond for its unique culture, which blends traditional southern American, English, French, and West African elements.
Charleston's unique but vanishing dialect has long been noted in the South and elsewhere, for the singular attributes it possesses. Alone among the various regional Southern accents, the Charleston accent traditionally has ingliding or monophthongal long mid vowels, raises /ay/ and /aw/ in certain environments, and is non-rhotic. Some attribute these unique features of Charleston's speech to its early settlement by the French Huguenots and Sephardic Jews, both of which played influential parts in Charleston's development and history. However, given Charleston's high concentration of African-Americans that spoke the Gullah language, the speech patterns were more influenced by the dialect of the Gullah African-American community.
Today, the Gullah language and dialect is still spoken among African-American locals. However, rapid development, especially on the surrounding sea islands, is slowly diminishing its prominence.
Two important works which shed light on Charleston's early dialect are "Charleston Provincialisms" and "The Huguenot Element in Charleston's Provincialisms," both written by Sylvester Primer. Further scholarship is needed on the influence of Sephardic Jews to the speech patterns of Charleston.
French Protestant (Huguenot) Church
The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist (Roman Catholic)
The city has long been noted for its numerous churches and denominations. It is the seat of both the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. The city is home to one of two remaining Huguenot churches in America, the only one that is still a Protestant congregation. The city is home to many well known churches, cathedrals, and synagogues. The churchtower spotted skyline is one of the reasons for the city's nickname, "The Holy City." Historically, Charleston was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World. Recently, the conservative Episcopal diocese of South Carolina, headquartered in Charleston, has been one of the key players in potential schism of the Anglican Church. Charleston is home to the only African-American Seventh Day Baptist Church congregation in the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference of the United States and Canada. The First Baptist Church of Charleston is the oldest Baptist church in the South and the first Southern Baptist Church in existence. It is also used as a private K-12 school.
Charleston also has a large and historic Jewish population. The American branch of the Reform Jewish movement was founded in Charleston at Synagogue Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. It is the fourth oldest Jewish congregation in the continental United States (after New York, Newport and Savannah).
Annual cultural events and fairs
Charleston annually hosts Spoleto Festival USA, a 17-day art festival featuring over 100 performances by individual artists in a variety of disciplines. Other notable festivals include the Cooper River Bridge Run and the MOJA Arts Festival.
Museums, historical sites, and other attractions
Gibbes Art Gallery
Charleston boasts many historic buildings, art and historical museums, and other attractions. The following are among those which are open to the public:
Exchange and Provost
The Exchange and Provost was built in 1767. The building features a dungeon which held various signers of the Declaration of Independence and hosted events for George Washington in 1791 and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788. It is operated as a museum by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The Gibbes Museum of Art opened in 1905 and houses a premier collection of principally American works with a Charleston or Southern connection.
Fire Department station houses for Engines 2 and 3 of the Charleston Fire Department.
The Fireproof Building houses the South Carolina Historical Society, a membership-based reference library open to the public. The archives are open Tuesday through Friday 9am to 4pm. There is a small fee for non-members. (843-723-3225 or http://www.southcarolinahistoricalsociety.org/.)
The Nathaniel Russell House
The Nathaniel Russell House is an important Federal style house. It is owned by the Historic Charleston Foundation and open to the public as a house museum.
Gov. William Aiken House
The Gov. William Aiken House, also known as the Aiken-Rhett House is a home built in 1820 for William Aiken, Jr.
The Charleston Museum was the first museum built in America, founded in 1773.
The Heyward-Washington House is a historic house museum owned and operated by the Charleston Museum. Furnished for the late 18th century, the house includes a collection of Charleston-made furniture.
Joseph Manigault House
The Joseph Manigault House is a historic house museum owned and operated by the Charleston Museum. The house was designed by Gabriel Manigault and is significant for its Adam style architecture.
Market Hall and Sheds
The Market Hall and Sheds, also known simply as the Market, stretch several blocks behind 188 Meeting St. Market Hall was built in the 1830s and houses the Museum of the Confederacy. The Sheds house some permanent stores but are mainly occupied by open-air vendors.
Charleston is home to a number of professional, minor league, and amateur sports teams:
Blackbaud Stadium, home of the Charleston Battery
The Charleston Battery, a professional soccer team, plays in the USL First Division. The Charleston Battery play on Daniel Island in Charleston, South Carolina at Blackbaud Stadium.
The Charleston River Dogs, a Minor League Baseball team, play in the South Atlantic League, and are an affiliate of the New York Yankees. The RiverDogs play at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park.
The Charleston Outlaws RFC is a Rugby Union Football Club founded in 1973. The Club is in good standing with the Palmetto Rugby Union, USA Rugby South, and USARFU. The club competes for honors in Men's Division II against the Cape Fear, Columbia, Greenville, and Charlotte "B" clubs. The club also hosts a Rugby Sevens tournament during Memorial Day weekend.
Other notable sports venues in Charleston include Johnson Hagood Stadium (home of the the Citadel Bulldogs football team) and the Carolina First Center at the College of Charleston which seats 5,700 people for the school's basketball and volleyball teams.
Charleston is a popular filming location for movies and television, both in its own right and as a stand-in for southern and/or historic settings. For a list of both, see here. In addition, many novels, plays, and other works of fiction have been set in Charleston, including the following:
Several books by Citadel alumnus and novelist Pat Conroy
The Gullah opera Porgy and Bess
Clive Barker's novel Galilee
Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 alternate history series about a Confederacy that won the Civil War
Rafael Sabatini's novel The Carolinian
The 1991 bestseller Scarlett, sequel to Gone with the Wind. In fact, Alexandra Ripley, the author of Scarlett, derived inspiration from the city for her novel Charleston and its sequel On Leaving Charleston.
The Notebook, 2004, starring Rachael McAdams and Ryan Gosling, was filmed in Charleston. The American theatre on King Street was Aly and Noah's first date spot.
Nearby cities and towns
Town of Awendaw
City of Folly Beach
City of Hanahan
City of Isle of Palms
Town of James Island
Town of Mount Pleasant
City of North Charleston
Town of Sullivan's Island
Town of Summerville
City of Goose Creek
Town of Moncks Corner
Town of Hollywood
Town of Jamestown
Town of Ridgeville
Town of St. George
Town of Rockville
Town of Meggett
Town of McClellanville
Town of St. Stephen
Town of Bonneau
Other unincorporated areas
Brittlebank Park and Fishing Pier
Charles Towne Landing (state historic site)
Corrine Jones Playground
Hazel Parker Park
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park (Home of the Charleston RiverDogs)
White Point Gardens or Battery Park
The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) operates several facilities within Charleston County.
Kiawah Beachwalker County Park, Kiawah Island, SC
Isle of Palms County Park, Isle of Palms, SC
Folly Beach County Park, Folly Beach, SC
Folly Beach Fishing Pier, Folly Beach, SC
Mt. Pleasant Pier, Mt. Pleasant, SC
Marinas and Boat Landings:
Cooper River Marina
Multiple county-wide boat landings
Palmetto Islands County Park, Mt. Pleasant, SC
Caw Caw Nature and History Interpretive Center, Ravenel, SC
Wannamaker County Park, North Charleston, SC
Mullet Hall Equestrian Center, Johns Island, SC
James Island County Park, James Island, SC
Splash Island at Palmetto Islands County Park
Splash Zone at James Island County Park
Whirlin' Waters at Wannamaker County Park
Off-leash dog parks are offered at James Island, Palmetto Islands, and Wannamaker County Parks.
Map showing the major rivers of Charleston and the Charleston Harbor watershed.
James Island County Park, approximately 10 minutes by car from downtown Charleston, features a 50-foot climbing wall and bouldering cave; cabin, RV, and tent camping facilities; rental facilties, fishing dock, challenge course, kayaking programs, summer camps, paved trails, and many special events such as the Lowcountry Cajun Festival (usually the first weekend in April), East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival (3rd weekend in April), Holiday Festival of Lights (mid-November through the first of the year), and the summer outdoor reggae concerts.
Charlestown Police Department Police Transporter
Colleges, and Universities
Public institutions of higher education in Charleston include the College of Charleston (the nation's thirteenth oldest university) and the Citadel (the state's military college). The city is home to a law school, the Charleston School of Law, as well as a medical school, the Medical University of South Carolina. Charleston is also home to the Roper Hospital School of Practical Nursing and Trident Technical College, and branches of Webster University are also located in the city. Graduate degrees from South Carolina’s top public universities are available in Charleston through the Lowcountry Graduate Center. Charleston is also the location for the only college in the country that offers bachelors degrees in the building arts, The American College of the Building Arts. The newest school to come to Charleston is The Art Institute of Charleston located downtown on North Market Street.
Main article: Media in Charleston, South Carolina
Near the exit from I-26 onto Meeting Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Intersection of Meeting Street and Line Street visible in photo
Charleston is the nation's 99th largest Designated market area (DMA), with 307,610 households and 0.269% of the U.S. TV population.
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
The new Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, constructed in 2005 and named for former U.S. Representative Arthur Ravenel, Jr., who pushed the project to fruition, was at the time of its construction the second longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere.The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge across the Cooper River opened on July 16, 2005, and was the second longest cable-stayed bridge in the Americas at the time of its construction. The bridge links Mount Pleasant with downtown Charleston, and has eight lanes plus a 12-foot lane shared by pedestrians and bicycles. It replaced the Grace Memorial Bridge (built in 1929) and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge (built in 1966). They were considered two of the more dangerous bridges in America and were demolished after the Ravenel Bridge opened.
Columbus Street Terminal viewed from the southwest.
Today the Port of Charleston boasts the deepest water in the southeast region and regularly handles ships too big to transit through the Panama Canal. A next-generation harbor deepening project is currently underway to take the Port of Charleston's shipping channel deeper than 45 feet at mean low tide.
Union Pier, in the city of Charleston, is a cruise ship passenger terminal which hosts numerous cruise departures annually. In May 2010, the Carnival Fantasy was permanently stationed in Charleston, offering weekly cruises to the Bahamas and Key West, eventually to include Bermuda. With the addition of the weekly Carnival Fantasy sailings, Union Terminal hosted 67 embarkations and ports of call in 2010.
- Wando Welch Terminal – used for container cargo, located in the Town of Mount Pleasant.
- Columbus Street Terminal – used for project cargo, breakbulk and roll-on/roll-off cargo. Located in the City of Charleston.
- Union Pier Terminal – used for cruise ship operations, located in the City of Charleston.
- North Charleston Terminal – used for container cargo, located in the City of North Charleston.
- Veterans Terminal – used for project cargo, break-bulk and roll-on/roll-off cargo. Located in the City of North Charleston.
List of people from Charleston, South Carolina
List of television shows and movies in Charleston, South Carolina
History of the Jews in Charleston, South Carolina
College of Charleston
City of Charleston Official Website
Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau
Charleston, South Carolina at the Open Directory Project
Charleston Regional Development Alliance
Charleston (South Carolina) travel guide from Wikitravel
- Old Slave Mart
- Charleston Sofa Super Store fire
- French Quarter (Charleston, South Carolina)
- Hampton Park Terrace
- John Henry Devereux
- Hurricane Hugo
- List of people from Charleston, South Carolina
- List of tallest buildings in Charleston, South Carolina
- List of television shows and movies in Charleston, South Carolina
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Charleston, South Carolina
- Riverland Terrace