All touring companies are regulated by the city to the same rules and regulations, including where we can and cannot go. Nobody can conduct commercial walking tours north of Market St, south of Broad St, nor west of King St. However, our tour is site-specific and includes 2-3 graveyards, the Provost Dungeon, haunted homes, restaurants and other outer-buildings. It also depends on the motivation and size of the group on the tour.
What is the group size?
The City of Charleston dictates that tour groups are limited to 20 people or less per tour guide. Reservations are always recommended, especially for weekend time slots, as they tend to fill up more quickly than weekday time slots. Walk-ups are welcome with availability. Groups larger than 20 require more than one tour guide, which we can certainly arrange for you!
How long is the tour and when are tours offered?
A tour lasts around 90 minutes, although during the hot summers we’ll scale it down if the group is getting fatigued. Our tour times vary with the season, weather, popularity and other factors. We can tailor tour times for larger groups as well.
Does the tour go into the homes?
No, but we get you pretty close. The homes are privately owned, and we at Charleston’s Best Tours want to remain respectful of homeowners’ privacy.
What about the graveyards?
No, the tour does not allow entry into graveyards. However, all graveyards and cemeteries are free to the public during daylight hours. As a matter of principal, we at Charleston’s Best Tours feel that it is disrespectful to go into graveyards after dark. One company offers exclusive commercial access after dark to the Circular Church graveyard (at Cumberland/Meeting St), but it is only for a few minutes.
What about the Provost Dungeon?
No. However, the Provost Dungeon (at East Bay/Broad St) is open to the public during normal business hours. We recommend touring it during the day because it is located in the Old Exchange Building and you can actually tour the whole structure at your own leisure. It is thought by every savvy Charlestonian to be the most historically significant building in the South. The Constitution was ratified there in May, 1788 (1 of only 3 remaining buildings in the US where that document was ratified (the other two are in Boston and Philadelphia)), George Washington was entertained there (in 1791 during his tour of the South) and they elected delegates to the First Continental Congress (spring, 1774), all in that same building. It was even used for the filming of Patriot (starring Mel Gibson) in 1997.
Are your ghost stories true?
Yes, at least the way we do things. Charleston is thought to be one of the (if not the) most haunted cities in America. The peninsula (“downtown”) boasts around 2,500 historic buildings, and it is estimated that about 1 in 6 are haunted, garnering approximately 400-500 paranormally active buildings. We don’t spend time on legends/folklore (unless people have questions) as there are too many real stories to talk about. Also, no gimmicks or theatrics—we embrace our City and her true history (and spirits!) and look forward to sharing it with you.
What makes your tour the best?
That’s a good question; especially with there being over 25 different walking ghost tour companies in Charleston (we’re still the fifth oldest one!). There are actually two main reasons why we’re AAA endorsed, the first one aforementioned already. The second is our guides: since 95% of your tour experience is dictated by your presenter, we’re proud to offer 100% career guides; over half of them are native Charlestonians. Two-thirds of our staff has undergraduate degrees in History from the College of Charleston. Oh, and by the way, we’re the only haunted tour in town that starts at a bar and ends at a bar–The Griffon Tavern!
Does the tour go by the Old City Jail?
No. The Old City Jail tour is not offered on this tour.
Do you offer other types of tours?
Yes. Besides our daytime history walk, we are affiliated with Palmetto Carriage Works, LTD., which offers a one-hour daytime history tour or 30-minute nighttime ride on surrey-type (large) carriage or vis-à-vis-type (small) carriage (see website). Private tours of any length and virtually any group size are available for the walking ghost tour or history tour, day or night.
Where do I park?
Parking meters are numerous in the downtown area, though you may have to park a few blocks away to find one. They are free after 6:00pm and Sundays/Holidays. There are also several hourly parking garages and flat-rate parking lots in the immediate area. Click here for a coupon and detailed parking information.
What if it rains?
Our coastal weather systems vary quite a bit from those inland, even just a few miles away. Often times the precipitous clouds will dissipate when they hit the coast, resulting in very thin, patchy rain. We try to walk the tour if this is the case because many of the reservations still show up and this is many visitors’ only chance to do the tour. When there is widespread torrential rain with no end in sight, we can definitely understand if people want to cancel—that’s ok too—especially if you’re going to melt like a pile of sugar like the Wicked Witch. The best thing to do is to come prepared just in case…
What about footwear?
Our streets and sidewalks are dangerous as is. Flats are crucial—think of safety before style.
Do I tip the guide?
Sure. Whatever you think is appropriate, sort of like with your favorite restaurant service staff…although in this case the staff are entertaining and enlightening the group for an hour-and-a-
Can we take pictures?
Of course. We’re not actors and we don’t do theatrics—flash photography doesn’t bother us–and if anything turns up on film, feel free to share with us.
Are we going to see ghosts?
No guarantee of seeing any ghosts. Although if you’re lucky enough to see ghosts, at that point the tour’s done with—you’ve pretty much gotten your money’s worth!
Is it appropriate for young children?
We believe that it is age-appropriate although you would know your situation better than anyone else. But if your child freaks out at the slightest mention of the boogie-man or is the type that accumulates scornful glances in a movie theater for talking too much, you may want to reconsider the project altogether.