Some basics: Charleston is on a peninsula surrounded by rivers, large islands and smaller barrier islands. It's an old southern city with historic homes, churches, great shopping (alt. shops: design, fabric, records, crafts, art, furniture, cupcakes), good, fresh local food (think of your favorite breakfast place, they have it too), coffee shops, beautiful flowers, parks, trees, a really green downtown and it's small enough to be walkable, but big enough you keep finding more things you haven't seen. I was there for 10 days, and I could go back for another week and find plenty to do.
Place to eat lunch: CRU CAFE
Right behind the red barn where the carriage rides begin, CRU had lunch for under $10 and the food looks and tastes amazing! Nice porch and house like interior to choose from.
Thing to Do: KAYAKING SHEM CREEK
Nature Adventure Outfitters had great, super friendly guides who really knew their stuff. Kathie, the owner, had lots of advice on which of the many locations to choose from (Shem Creek had the most birds to take pictures of and is the closest to Charleston, we walked across the bridge to get there) and Craig was probably one of the best guide I've ever had. We took a casual paddle down several creeks and back past shrimp boats (one was on Dirtiest Jobs) and pelicans, gulls and anhingas and learned about lightning whelks and horseshoe crabs. Oh, and they give a portion of their proceeds to environmental causes.
Things to See: JOSEPH MANIGAULT HOUSE
A nice quick tour of a beautiful house, with friendly and personable hosts. The plaster work on the ceilings is unbelievable, as is the furniture. The house has a rich history of different uses over the years and the family of ownership is interconnected with several of the other historic rich plantation owners in the area (it's like the Young and the Restless).
Place to stay: VACATION RENTALS.COM
There were only a few rentals to choose from, but staying in an apartment or cottage (as I did) is 100 x's better than staying in a tourist trap hotel. I was in a beautiful neighborhood close to the visitors center, trolleys, the Charleston Museum, shopping, the Aquarium, the library, restaurants and the college. The neighborhood is called Mazyck-Wraggborough. I had a great place with it's own courtyard with fountain, it's own kitchen, and a wonderful family who left snacks, fresh fruit, wine and banana bread.