Fly to Charleston: Flying into the Charleston International Airport is a pretty straightforward affair. American Airlines, United, Delta, US Airways, Southwest, and JetBlue all offer flights. Other options include the inexpensive Spirit Airlines, which flies into Myrtle Beach International Airport, 90 miles north of Charleston. Once you land, you'll have to take a taxi or shuttle into the city, about 15 minutes to downtown, unless you rent a car.

Hop a Train: Amtrak pulls into Charleston thanks to the Palmetto service, which spans New York City to Savannah, Georgia, with stops in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other spots, including Charleston. The ride is pleasant, but the train station is on the rough side, so have a taxi or other ride waiting to take you the 15 minutes into town.

Drive in: Two main highways feed into Charleston—Highway 17 and Interstate 26.

To gauge driving distance, the city is 265 miles from Atlanta, 173 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina, and 85 miles from Savannah, Georgia.

In the City: A car isn't a must in this walkable city, but for those who prefer not to hoof it, there are bikes, pedicabs, tour buses, water taxis, ground taxis, and the CARTA trolley buses, plus buses that go to the burbs and beaches. Street parking is irksome, as meter readers are among the city's most efficient public servants. (But if you purchase a SmartCard from the Division of Motor Vehicles downtown, you can "deposit" meter money and credit it back to your card when you leave a metered spot.) Parking garages, both privately and publicly owned, charge approximately $1.50 an hour.

Over the Bridges: If you plan to head over the bridges to see the beaches or plantations, you'll need to rent a car. Avis, Hertz, National, and Budget have outposts at the airport, and Enterprise has offices both there and downtown.