Charleston is definately a beautiful town. We found it to be both charming and interesting. The people were pleasant and although it is obviously a very tourist-y area, still retained a lot of local charm and warmth. The shops ranged from the modern GAP and Chico's to a small Sak's to local people making sweet reed baskets on the streets. We wandered through a few of the markets but ignored most of the more trinket-oriented lined up on the City Market.
We also found some local eateries and managed to eat and drink our way through several on our 2 day jaunt. Lunch at AW Shucks was pretty good (although our service was not the best). A stop at the Cupcake Shop was disappointing, but could probably be atributed to the late hour when most everything was already sold.
Our hotel was across the bay in Mount Pleasant which meant that we needed to find a way into Charleston without the car (for easier parking). The water taxi that crosses the bay every half hour was a great way to do this and it was entertaining as well. The pilots were very helpful with pointing out landmarks and getting us oriented once we hit the dock. 4 different trolleys can easily get you around town for an overview of everything. We bought day passes for $5 that we used all day. They are not narrated tours, but the frequent stops made it easy to get on and off several times all day. We took at least 2 routes and covered the majority of town on them.
On our water taxi back to Mount Pleasant the pilots stopped multiple times so that we could see the local dolphins swimming near the boat. We spent nearly 20 minutes chasing and being chased by up to 30 dolphin.
In the evening we took a specialty tour of Ghosts and Graveyards. Ooooo spooky! Our guide took us around to many of the churches, graveyards and haunted houses and told some great stories. My favorite was of the spirit of the local pooch "Poogan" who is said to still greet guests at the restaurant Poogan's Porch named in honor of the deceased pup. I took plenty of photos of the graveyards hoping to pick up a spirit or two, but no such luck.
After our graveyard tour we went in search of local pubs and started out at Vendu for drinks. If you're in Charleston, skip this place, the drinks were completly non-alcoholic and far over-priced. We left there and meandered over to Moe's bar where we had decent drinks and pretty good appetizers. We did learn that Monday nights in Charleston are pretty much the same as at home...dull...not much in the way of night life. Even the tourists weren't out pub-hopping.
After breakfast we headed out of town to Magnolia Plantation. We toured the plantation on the little tram and toured the house and then walked around the grounds. It was quite lovely and if you drove quietly along the tree lined driveway with the Spanish Moss drooping overhead, you can just imagine what it must have been like living a hundred years ago and riding by horse up to the house. We stopped to think several times about the ladies strolling the grounds in long heavy wool dresses in the hot days and sweltering humidity. We were miserable in our light clothing, it's hard to imagine how they felt in their corsets and multiple layers. The "gardens" weren't formal, but mostly just open swamps and filled in rice fields. It's hard to picture the place swarming with slaves planting rice and tending the other crops.