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48 Hours in Charleston
By: Danielle Max

Charleston is a gorgeous city, from its harbor-side setting to its stunning architecture. However, this historical destination is not the most accessible city for visitors who use wheelchairs or have limited mobility. Due to their age, many of the beautiful historic buildings do not have easy access and navigating cobblestone roads is not always simple. While you may not be able to see everything on your wish list, with careful planning and forward thinking, you’ll still have a full and fun itinerary in the Holy City.

Charleston-Peninsula | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

Day One: 9:00 a.m.
Go To Towne

CharlesTowne Landing Adventurer | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

Back before there was Charleston, there was Charles Towne, the place where a group of English settlers disembarked and established what would be the future Carolina colony. The Charles Towne Landing State Historical Site is a great place to learn about Charleston’s early history. There are interactive exhibits and a self-guided audio tour that will leave you with a better understanding of the city’s origins. There’s also “The Adventure,” a replica of a 17th century sailing ship. The grounds also include 80 acres of garden, the Animal Forest zoo and the beautiful Legare-Waring House. If you are there on the third Saturday of the month, be prepared for some noise when they fire the ship’s canons.

The park and facilities are wheelchair accessible, with the exception of “The Adventure,” which can be viewed from the shore. All pathways are paved, concrete or boardwalk. Visitors who use a manual wheelchair may need assistance when visiting the 17th century Common House exhibit and current archaeological research site.

All restrooms are wheelchair accessible.

There are ten designated accessible parking spots available.


11:30 a.m.
You Gotta Have Faith

You might be surprised to find out that Jews have lived in Charleston for hundreds of years (since 1695), but a visit to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE) will give you an insight not only into Reform Judaism, which originated in Charleston, but also a historical look at one of the country’s oldest Jewish communities. The synagogue was founded in 1794 and is the second-oldest in the United States and the oldest building in continuous use. The community is also known for the oldest surviving Jewish burial ground in the South. Take a docent-led tour of the historical sanctuary and discover the Jewish treasures of the South in the KKBE museum.

The KKBE building is accessible through the main entrance. The sanctuary is also accessible via a wheelchair lift system.

The synagogue provides a written pocket guide that highlights the sanctuary and history to all visitors.

The museum is wheelchair accessible and has large visual displays that describe the history of the synagogue and community.


4:00 p.m.
DASH About

DASH | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

You’ve seen Charleston from the water, now see it with a tour of a slightly different sort. Although organized bus tours are a great option, sometimes, you just want to be able to pick your own itinerary and explore at your leisure. That’s where Charleston’s DASH downtown shuttle service comes into play. The three lines of the DASH offer a great way to check out the city’s top spots – and, best of all, riding on the three lines is absolutely free so you can save your money for a quintessential Charleston souvenir or two (think, sweetgrass basket).

Until recently, riders of the DASH climbed aboard picturesque trolleys – which was all part of the fun. The city has now replaced the old trolley system with a less picturesque albeit more efficient bus service. The buses have panoramic windows – maximizing city views – and pass by a host of sites including the Visitor Center, Historic King Street, Broad Street Shopping District, Waterfront Park, City Market and the Aquarium. So hop on, sit back and see where you end up.

The shuttles are wheelchair accessible.

7:00 p.m.
A Right Performance

Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

Take the plunge and book a ticket for whatever happens to be playing at the Charleston Gaillard Center when you are in town. The center’s mission is to operate a world-class performing arts center and is, in essence, Charleston’s cultural home. The center puts on a diverse range of shows, spectacles and performances, from Broadway to dance and everything in between, so take a risk and try something new – you won’t regret it.

The main entrances on the George St. and Calhoun St. sides are accessible and lead into the shared lobby space between the Martha and John Rivers' Performance and Exhibition Hall.

There are accessible elevators located in close proximity to the entrance and once through the shared lobby and into the Performance Hall lobbies there are elevators located to the north and south of the central lobby.

Accessible restrooms are located on every floor.

The center offers accessible seating and assisted listening systems. Sign language interpretation can be scheduled with advance notice.

If you have a service animal, call to reserve an aisle seat.

Call the Ticket Office at 843-242-3099 for reservations and further information regarding accessibility.

Day Two: 9:00 a.m.
Say You Want a Revolution

Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

Journey back to the earliest days of Charleston’s history with a stop at the Old Exchange Building and discover the Colonial and Revolutionary eras. The site has seen its fair share of history – the place where Revolutionary martyr Isaac Hayne spent his last night, where Washington greeted his fellow citizens and where slaves were bought and sold. Fans of the macabre (and those who just love a good tale) should head down into the Provost Dungeon where docents guide entertains visitors with yarns about pirate, patriots and other figures found in history.

The Old Exchange Building is wheelchair accessible through the back of the museum. If you know what time you are arriving, call 843-727-2165 to arrange to be met at the back of the building (off Gillon St). There is elevator access inside the site. You can also alert one of the costumed docents on the front (Broad St & East Bay intersection) who will open the back door for you. If you do not see anyone at the front, just wait a few minutes until one of the docents returns.

Find out more here.

11:00 a.m.
Learn a New Language

There are many layers to Charleston’s history, not all of it apparent in the architecture and street names of the city. Take a Gullah Tour and learn all about Gullah, the language spoken by the Lowcountry's first black inhabitants and find out how it still thrives today in South Carolina. The tour takes in Catfish Row, the Old Slave Mart, the African Methodist Church and other places connected to the Black Charlestonians.

The tour bus is not wheelchair accessible and requires stepping up onto the vehicle. However, there is no need to get off the bus during the tour. Contact the company in advance to make arrangements for ASL interpretation. There is also written text available to accompany the various sites. Email or call 843-763-7551.

3:00 p.m.
Be Civil

You can’t come to Charleston and not at least touch on the Civil War (or the War Between the States as it is known down here). Charleston boasts a small Confederate Museum, housed in what was once known as Market Hall. The building – a replica of the Temple of the Wingless Victory in Athens, Greece – was originally the front entrance to the market and was used for running the business of the market as well as a site for social functions and meetings. That all changed in 1861 when Market Hall became the mustering point for the thousands of young men flooding into Charleston from all over the south to receive uniforms, weapons and orders as they headed off to fight against the North. As early as 1899, the idea to create a permanent Confederate Museum was mooted and the relics and souvenirs of the war have long had a home in this small museum.

The museum is wheelchair accessible via an elevator, which is located on the left-hand side of the building.


7:00 p.m.
Get in the Spirit

End your time in Charleston back on the water aboard a dinner cruise with SpiritLine Cruises. The cruise offers a three or four-course dinner made from local seasonal ingredients, a full-service bar and great live music – and don’t forget the incredible Charleston harbor sunset views. If you are celebrating a special occasion – or you just want to splurge – you can add all sorts of extras, including sparkling wine, roses or a private table just for two. The boat has two large enclosed air-conditioned dining decks and an open-air observation deck for optimal viewing of Charleston harbor.

There is limited wheelchair accessibility. Make sure you request accessible seating when making your reservation.

Getting Around

Charleston is served by Charleston International Airport.

All restrooms are accessible and are located throughout the terminal facility.

Public telephones are available in both terminals with wheelchair-accessible TDD.

The airport has two designated Animal (Pet) Relief Areas for service animals located at each end of the terminal building.

Elevators are located in the terminal building, including one on each concourse for accessible aircraft boarding. Elevators are also available in the parking garage.

Curbside attendants are available to assist passengers in selecting a wheelchair-accessible taxi cab or shuttle ride – although there are a very limited number of accessible cabs available.

The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) operates Charleston’s public transportation system covering the metro area of Charleston South Carolina. All CARTA fixed route buses are wheelchair accessible with a kneeling system. All of the buses also have ramps at the forward doors, priority seats and wheelchair securement areas.

Find out more here.


Where to Stay

Base yourself at the 4-star Courtyard Charleston Waterfront, which is one of the surprisingly few waterfront hotels in the city. Located minutes from the historic district of Charleston, the Courtyard Charleston Waterfront has a prime spot on the Ashley River so guests can enjoy the stunning river views from the terrace, outdoor pool or guest rooms. Start the day in The Ashley River Café for a filling breakfast buffet before heading out into beautiful Charleston.

There are eight mobility accessible rooms, which have either a roll-in shower or accessible tub.

Hearing-accessible features include visual alarms and notifications for door and phone.

The fitness center, business center and pool are all accessible.

The hotel offers accessible self-parking.

Find out more here.

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