Charleston, South Carolina is the quintessential Southern city, a mysterious collection of history, food, architecture, hospitality, art, and soul. For us Yankees, Charleston is the flickering light in the darkness and we’re drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
Honestly, Southern accents can be a bit challenging for those of us that are not natives, but if you have patience you’ll be fine. It’s actually no different than someone visiting New York City, Philly, or Boston, the only difference is that you’re heading in a southerly direction. Take your time, slow down and enjoy the ride. Southerners are not in a hurry and you shouldn’t be either.
Without a doubt, Southerners are the most gracious people you’ll ever meet, and Charleston is no exception.
Charleston has many things to do, however there are some things that you must do when you visit.
1) Eat. Take your pick! Charleston is a culinary mecca. They’re committed to locally sourced, traditional foods, and in some cases heritage foods. You should try as many different places as you can. And if you do nothing else, try the best hushpuppies in the world at Hyman’s Seafood or Aaron’s Deli. They are two sides of the same coin and these hushpuppies can make anyone quiet. Need a refreshing cold treat? Try Paolo’s Gelato Italiano. If you’re lucky he’ll have his Benne wafer gelato-simply divine! Before hitting the sack for the day, trot on over to Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe for dessert and a Chocolate Monkey. The Kaminsky’s Chocolate Monkey hot chocolate is served with a hint of banana, and ooh-la-la will your taste buds thank you!
2) Take a [historic] walk, or carriage ride. The city began as Charles Town, named after King Charles II, in 1670. That’s pretty darn old. These streets and buildings have seen a lot of history, well before the United States was a country. I recommend using the Complete Guide to Historic Charleston by Nita Swann for your walking tour. There is much to be learned, and what better way to learn than walking, or riding, off the beaten path to drench yourself in the beauty and history of this city?
3) Walk Battery Park. The Battery, a seawall and promenade at the juncture of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, offers a beautiful view of the bay and Fort Sumter, as well as the stately antebellum houses along South and East Battery. If you time it out right, you can view a picturesque sunset over the harbor.
4) Visit churches and graveyards. Known as the Holy City for the number of churches within, Charleston is centuries old and some of the most fascinating history is found in and around the churches and graveyards, some of which date back a few centuries. It may seem weird, but I like to walk in the well kept graveyards and read the tombstones. Finding someone famous or who was alive centuries ago is fascinating.
5) The City Market. This is an absolute must! Hold on to your wallet because you’ll want to spend oodles of money on food, art, seagrass baskets, or some of my favorites: Sterling silver Southern Gates jewelry and ReWined Candles. Of special note, the City Market was a farmers market where farmers sold their meats, vegetables, fruits and other foods, however no slaves were sold at this market.
6) Confederate Museum. After wandering through the City Market, take a moment to visit the Confederate Museum upstairs in the Greek temple looking building. Managed by the Daughters of the Confederacy, the Confederate Museum houses a collection of relics and war-time possessions donated by veterans of the Civil War. The museum opened in 1899.
7) Calhoun Mansion. The Calhoun Mansion, an elaborate Italianate mansion with gardens to match, was built for George W. Williams in the late 1870s. It was eventually renamed for John C. Calhoun sometime after Williams son-in-law, a Calhoun, inherited the property upon Williams’ death. The house, much like a phoenix, was reborn many times until it was condemned and then extensively restored to its original glory. Today this private residence is open for tours. Be sure to take time to walk in the garden and smell the roses!
While this isn’t an all-inclusive list of things to do in Charleston, it is a good starting point. There is so much to see, do, and eat in this town that more than one trip is almost a requirement. You’ll easily come up with reasons to return, that is certain! Take a walk through history while never leaving the comfort of the present in historic Charleston.