"Charleston is all about the atmosphere—it's a treat for the five senses," says Debra Asberry, a South Carolina native and the president and founder of Women Traveling Together. "Female travelers will appreciate and enjoy Charleston on so many different levels. The historic district of the city has been lovingly preserved with Southern charm oozing from everything: the homes, the cobblestone streets, the fabulous restaurants and tiny diners, the waterfront, the Civil War history, the city market, and of course, the residents of Charleston who love to show off their way of life."
For a small and easily walkable city, Charleston presents visitors with a wide range of activity options, especially if you're in town for one of the city's major arts or historic festivals. In March and April during the Festival of Houses and Gardens, you can tour about 150 private historic homes; in May and June, the city hosts the Spoleto Festival, a massive multi-week performing arts event that attracts artists from around the world.
"Charleston's historic district is a place the solo female traveler can enjoy during daylight as well as evening hours with complete comfort," says Asberry. "I always encourage women to walk the streets at random and just see what they discover."
Asberry suggests the following for any time of year: "Take a carriage ride around the historic district to see, smell and hear the history of the city. It's a great introduction to the city and just plain fun to do. Visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens ($15) to learn about plantation life as well as soak up the amazing beauty of the grounds. Fall in love with Italian-made shoes. Visit the Rangoni Firenze Store for handcrafted Italian shoes and accessories on King Street."
Women-only tour: Asberry has been running Charleston trips for more than 10 years. Next March she's planning a five-day trip to coincide with the Houses and Gardens Festival. Starting on March 22, the trip includes accommodations at the Kings Courtyard Inn, daily breakfast and two group dinners, guided tours, and plenty of free time to explore on your own. The full tour price is $1,438, but if you pay the $45 Women Traveling Together annual member fee, the price comes down to $1,388.
Do-it-yourself: Staying in one of the city's historic inns is a great way to experience Charleston's heritage up close. Try the luxurious 1853-built Kings Courtyard Inn, where rates start at $150 per night. Or, stay at the more modest but still comfortable Hayne House Bed and Breakfast, which dates to 1755 and starts at $120 per night.
The Charleston airport, which is about 12 miles from the historic district, is served by all the legacy airlines plus AirTran.