There's no better way to take the pulse of a city than on a guided tour. These vacation itinerary staples offer visitors an overview of the area, insight into the local culture and highlights of the must-see sights.
Below are some of the best tours in South Carolina's most popular vacation destinations:
For a real "overview" of this sprawling beach town, take to the skies with OceanFront Helicopters. Trip options range from a quick intro flight over the beach to a grand tour along the coast, offering aerial views of such famed Myrtle Beach landmarks as the Skywheel, Family Kingdom Amusement Park, Cherry Grove Pier and the "Golden Mile," a stretch of multimillion dollar waterfront mansions. The three-passenger helicopters fly at an altitude between 900 and 1,200 feet, providing stunning views of the Grand Strand.
In a place known as much for its food scene as its history, you can't go wrong with a tour that offers a taste of both. Charleston Culinary Tours takes you from the historic streets of Charleston to the kitchens of some of its most acclaimed culinary innovators. Your walk through town will feature several stops at restaurants where you'll have the opportunity to meet the chefs and sample their tasty creations. In one of the three-hour tours, you'll accompany a chef through Charleston's farmers market to pick out ingredients to be used to create your own multi-course farm-to-table meal.
Hilton Head Island
To experience the unique and vibrant ecosystem of one of South Carolina's most beautiful barrier islands, you need to get on the water. Island Explorer will take you into the estuaries and tidal creeks around the island in the intimate setting of a 12-passenger Carolina skiff. On the three-hour Vanishing Island Expedition, you'll explore the salt marshes of Broad Creek, a favorite feeding area for an assortment of wildlife from wading birds to dolphins. The dolphin-watching will continue as you cruise across Calibogue Sound to a remote sandbar exposed only at low tide. This secluded spit of sand sees few visitors, offering guests prime beachcombing opportunities, especially for sand dollars.
Much like your standard walking tour, Greenville Glides offers sightseeing excursions through this urban center's historic downtown, only you cover a lot more ground riding a Segway, a high-tech, two-wheeled personal transportation vehicle perfect for cruising city sidewalks. Your guide will lead the way as you navigate through the Historic West End, along the Swamp Rabbit Trail to Falls Park and beyond. The tour includes stops at some of Greenville's most interesting landmarks. In addition to seeing the sights, you'll learn the history of this trending Upstate metropolis - and a few of its best-kept secrets.
Ransacked and burned by General Sherman during the Civil War, Columbia bears the scars of its history alongside its modern-day achievements. As the capital city's primary advocate for preservation, Historic Columbia is your best bet to learn the fascinating story of this Southern city. Each month, the nonprofit organization offers a series of programs, ranging from a walking tour of Main Street and its 50 years of architectural trends, to a bus tour of important African-American sites, among them the antebellum home of a free black midwife. Other tour options include historic cemeteries, sacred sites and Civil War and Reconstruction-era buildings. In addition, Historic Columbia offers docent-led tours of four historic house museums, including Woodrow Wilson's family home.