During this 35-minute evening tour, you will learn about buildings, history, architecture, flora, and the people that make up the “Holy City,” all while avoiding Charleston's blistering sun and enjoying a cool evening breeze in the city.
These tours cover parts of the old walled city including:
- The Old Exchange Building where George Washington visited
- Historic churches and public buildings such as the Four Corners of Law
- Waterfront Park on the Cooper River
Located in the heart of the Market area with free evening parking included with your advance purchase, the Red Barn is everyone's favorite place to begin a tour!
See the FAQs tab above to learn about the Palmetto Guarantee!
- Do I have to buy my tickets in advance?
- Advance purchase is available and highly recommended. When you buy your ticket in advance you get free evening parking from 5pm - 12am (an $8 value!). To maximize your chances of getting the day and time you prefer, please buy your tickets well in advance. Advance tickets can only be purchased online or over the phone using a Visa, Mastercard or American Express.
- What happens if it rains?
- Unless we consider conditions to be dangerous, we give tours in the rain. Keep in mind that this is an outdoor activity and the carriages are covered, but when it rains you will get wet. Please dress appropriately!
- What is the Palmetto Guarantee?
- If, for any reason, after you've taken the carriage tour you are not satisfied with your Palmetto experience, your fare will be cheerfully refunded. That's the Palmetto Guarantee!
- When do these tours run?
- These tours run during the summer months, approximately from Memorial Day until Labor Day. The specific schedule is posted every couple of weeks as it becomes available so if there are currently no dates scheduled for the day you are interested in, please check back closer to that day to find out the available tour times.
- What about young children, can they come?
- Yes, these tours are shorter in length than the residential tours and also take place during the cooler evening, so they are perfect for children of all ages. All children between the ages of 4-11 are required to have a ticket. For children under the age of 4, they may ride in the lap of an adult for free and a "Lap Child Extra" must be reserved. Should you wish for children under the age of 4 to have their own seat, you may purchase a Child ticket for them. Note that there is a city-imposed limit of 4 free lap children per carriage - should those spots be taken, all remaining children must have a Child ticket purchased for them.
- Where should I park?
- We have a parking lot located a block away from the Red Barn, just steps away. Parking is free all evening with your advance purchase, from 5pm to 12am. Please note that parking can be tight and we encourage people to carpool.
- Are there public restrooms available?
- Yes, we have 2 restrooms in our barn. There will be no opportunity to stop to use the restroom during the 35 minute tour.
- Is getting into the carriage difficult?
- After checking in at the Big Red Barn, the evening carriage tours will board on Market Street. We use a stepladder to load guests onto the carriage. When the tour is finished, guests disembark at the Big Red Barn, where restrooms are available and you can interact with our animals. We can accommodate any handicap needs by loading in the Big Red Barn with a ramp when necessary.
- What if I'm in a wheelchair?
- We cannot get your wheelchair on the carriage, but using the ramp in the Big Red Barn, we can get you right next to the front seat and offer expert assistance in helping you to your seat. Please let us know when you check in if anyone in your group is in a wheelchair so we can assist in boarding. Also note that wheelchairs can be stored in the barn during the tour.
- Which tour route will I will take?
- On this tour, the carriage travels through the commercial district of Charleston on which you will see parts of the old walled city, historic buildings of Charleston, and the Cooper River waterfront. To ensure the privacy of our residents, tours do not operate in the residential areas in the evenings. All tours are fully narrated. The route is not scripted and each tour guide gives a unique and personalized tour.
- Is my group alone on the carriage? How many people fit in one carriage?
- Each carriage is capable of carrying up to 16 seated passengers. During a group tour, you will sit with other passengers, however, groups are seated together on the carriage.
- What if we have a large group?
- If your group is larger than 16 people, your group will be split up onto more than one carriage. If there are empty seats on the carriage, they will be filled with other guests. If you'd prefer a private tour for your group, please see the FAQ below about custom tours.
- How long will I have to wait to board a carriage when I arrive?
- The time you purchase for is the time at which we ask you to arrive at the Red Barn. Usually, you will board a carriage within 20-25 minutes of arriving at the Red Barn, but occasionally you may wait up to 30 minutes. After checking in, you may wait in our barn, which is covered from the rain and has large cooling fans during the summer months. There, you can interact with our animals or use the restroom before your tour begins. If you choose not to wait in the barn, you may also explore nearby areas of the city, such as the City Market, until your departure time.
- Where does the carriage ride begin and end?
- After checking in at the Big Red Barn, guests for our evening carriage tours will board carriages on Market Street. The tour will end back at the Big Red Barn.
- Can I bring food and drinks aboard the carriage?
- You may bring food and drink on the carriage. We have a shop in the barn where drinks and snacks are available for purchase with credit cards or cash. The shop closes at 6 pm. Alcohol is not allowed on the carriage.
- Can I bring personal items with me onto the carriage? How much room is there?
- Items such as purses, backpacks, or small shopping bags will fit on the floor beneath your seat or in your lap. Larger items, such as umbrellas, wheelchairs, crutches, scooters, bikes, or strollers will not fit on the carriage. We have ample storage space in the barn to leave these larger items during the tour. However, please note this is not a secured storage location, so it's best not to leave valuables here.
- Can I bring a pet with me on the carriage?
- Service animals and small, well behaved pets are able to sit on the floor of the carriage. Pets must remain leashed and under the control of their owners at all times.
- Is the ride safe?
- Yes! Carriage tours are a safe way to enjoy the city at a slower pace than by bus or car. Our animals are trained to work in a city environment and are comfortable working here.
- What kind of animals do you use?
- We use mule teams on our larger carriages used for public tours and single mules or horses on our smaller carriages (which are used for private tours).
- Why do you use mules?
- Mules are the best animals for pulling carriages in Charleston. After over 25 years of use, we believe that mules work better in the heat than horses. The mule has long been the beast of burden of choice in the American South - from 18th century plantations to the streets of 21st century urban America, this adaptable hybrid has proven its worth for over 5,000 years!
- If the animals are sweating, is that bad?
- No, that's actually good! Sweating is the animal's way of cooling itself. We add a Vitamin E supplement to the animals' feed to promote sweating and also add electrolytes to their feed to replace necessary elements lost through sweating. Additionally, you'll notice plenty of fans around the barn, including a misting fan that sprays a fine mist over the animals to keep them cool.
- Does it ever get too hot for the animals to work?
- Yes. When the temperature reaches 98 degrees or the heat index reaches 125 degrees, we stop our carriage tours. Each animal has its temperature checked after every tour, and if an animal's temperature ever exceeds 103 degrees it is pulled from service. Charleston is the only city in the world where the animals' temperatures are individually monitored.
- What other animals are in the barn?
- The barn is also home to chickens, goats, a miniature horse, and a miniature donkey. Our miniature animals go the the farm for some rest and relaxation on a rotational basis. Feel free to interact with our animals as you wait for your tour to depart.
- Can I book a carriage as part of my wedding?
- Sure! There's nothing more romantic than including a carriage in your wedding plans. Palmetto Carriage Works has beautiful private carriages available for wedding transportation from area churches, reception halls, and hotels. To inquire about a wedding package, please click on the "Contact Palmetto" link and let us know what you have in mind.
- Can I do a private carriage tour?
- Sure! Many of our customers prefer to take a tour in a private carriage. These elegant carriages offer a truly exceptional experience. Our private carriages accommodate up to four people. Please click on the "List of All Activities" to find out more information about these tours.
- Can I do a custom tour for a group?
- Groups can choose to board the carriage at our Red Barn or arrangements can be made to pick you up at your hotel. We also specialize in group transportation and can take you to your restaurant of choice and give you a tour along the way. Whatever your group needs may be, we can fashion a carriage experience to fit them. Please click on the "Contact Palmetto" link to inquire further.
- Are gift certificates available for the carriage tours?
- Yes, gift certificates are available for purchase and are the perfect present for a birthday, honeymoon, anniversary, special getaway package or any other occasion. To purchase a gift certificate please click on the "Gift Certificates: Purchase" link in the box above.
- Non-refundable, cannot be rescheduled.
- Once purchased, tickets cannot be refunded and cannot be rescheduled because your space is being guaranteed at the event.
- Tours take place rain or shine and may be delayed in extreme heat.
- These tours run regardless of weather conditions. In the rare case where we are forced to cancel the event, ticket-holders will be allowed to reschedule to another time (subject to availability). Also note for the safety of the animals, tours may be delayed during extremely hot temperatures to allow animals additional rest time or suspended if the temperature or heat index reaches an unsafe level.
- Tickets are for your arrival time.
- The time for which you have selected to purchase tickets is the time we ask that you please arrive to the Red Barn. Once you have arrived and checked in you will generally wait 20-25 minutes before boarding the carriage, with a maximum wait time of 30 minutes.
- All children are required to have tickets or extras.
- Children between 4 and 11 must have a Child ticket and will receive a seat. Children under the age of 4 may sit in the lap of a paying adult for free, but need a Lap Child extra. Only four free lap children are allowed on each carriage - if these spots are taken, all remaining children must have a Child ticket purchased. To reserve a seat for a child under 4, you must purchase a Child ticket.
In addition to the knowledgeable and professional employees, the animals at Palmetto Carriage Works are specifically trained and well equipped to handle carriage tours in the city. With over 40 horses and mules, Palmetto Carriage Works takes pride in its excellent animal care record. Animals receive ample pasture time throughout the year in addition to working downtown. Our farrier has over 35 years experience shoeing animals and examines them once a week, and animals are seen by a veterinarian twice a year for regular checkups.
The popularity of the tour has grown out of the Red Barn. The quality and longevity of the staff, the remarkable record of animal care, and the thousands of satisfied customers all stand testament to an outstanding product; a product that we stand behind 100% - providing customers with the greatest carriage experience in the city.
"After we tried every carriage company in town, Palmetto stood out for its guides' wit and historic accuracy."
-Southern Living Magazine
"Not the automatic monologue you might expect, but the serious historical commentary he clearly felt his city deserved."
-London Daily Telegraph