(SouthernLiving.com) -- We went on 19 tours -- that's a lot of Charleston -- and then worked up this list of the five best ways to explore historic downtown.
Palmetto Carriage Works
Who it's for: First-time visitors who want a 101 overview of downtown Charleston -- or anyone looking for a refresher course.
Why we picked it: After we tried every carriage company in town, Palmetto stood out for its guides' wit and historic accuracy.
Southern Living tip: Palmetto offers free downtown parking. Take advantage of it: Arrive early and wander around the Market.
Palmetto Carriage Works: carriagetour.com or (843) 723-8145; $21
Culinary Tours of Charleston
Who it's for: Food Network addicts who dream of going behind-the-scenes and want to sample the dishes on Iron Chef.
Why we picked it: The 2½-hour overview of Lowcountry dining combines tastings and chats with some of the city's top chefs.
Southern Living tip: The Chef's Kitchen Tour is given Friday mornings. Plan it as a weekend kick-off--it may inspire a reservation.
Culinary Tours of Charleston: culinarytoursofcharleston.com or (843) 722-8687; $42
Tommy Dew's Walking History Tour
Who it's for: History buffs who prefer edu-tainment over lectures. Get some exercise and make your history professor proud.
Why we picked it: Tommy's uniquely Southern view: "It's called the War Between the States; there was nothing civil about it."
Southern Living tip: If you can't join Tommy live (the tour regularly sells out), download his "Charleston City Slicker" iPhone app.
Tommy Dew's Walking History Tour: onthemarkettours.com or (843) 853-8687; $20
Gullah Tours with Alphonso Brown
Who it's for: Anyone who's interested in the African American perspective and a snapshot view of the Gullah culture.
Why we picked it: Because Alphonso grew up in the Gullah community, he provides an invaluable insider's perspective.
Southern Living tip: Have cash ready to purchase samples of ironwork by the late renowned Gullah blacksmith Philip Simmons.
Gullah Tours with Alphonso Brown: gullahtours.com or (843) 763-7551; $18
Chai Y'all Tours with Janice Kahn
Who it's for: Those who don't know a shiksa from a yenta. Or those who want an immersion in local Jewish heritage.
Why we picked it: Janice offers visits to such sites as Beth Elohim, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the country.
Southern Living tip: Talk to Janice beforehand about your specific interests. Her shtick is all about tailoring stops to your whims.
Chai Y'all Tours with Janice Kahn: (843) 556-0664; call for prices (two-person minimum)
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