We were visiting Charleston in South Carolina last week and had such an incredible time. Some of our friends were quite surprised when we said we are going to Charleston for a holiday and most of our family back in India didn’t know where exactly Charleston was. It is probably not a “known” destination for a “typical foreign tourist” but that is exactly what we wanted from this holiday. Not many (including me before planning this holiday) know that Charleston is known for it rich history, well-preserved architecture, great restaurants and extremely helpful & polite people.
So breaking from the routine of giving you restaurant reviews (which we will give you in the upcoming post), we’ll give you 10 reasons why Charleston deserves a visit.
Here they are (not in any particular order):
- A Walking City: We always love places that we can explore by walking around and we were so excited that Charleston is a true walking town. We walked almost everywhere- as much as 3 to 4 miles a day. We needed that… considering the amount and the odd times at which we were eating. Beware of the deceiving maps (google or paper ones)- Charleston downtown is a relatively small area and easily walk-able. You’ll find yourself strolling your days away in Charleston. We probably know the ways in Charleston downtown much better than here in Cincinnati. King Street, Meeting Street, Coming Street, Market Street, East Bay Street are the places where you should be spending most of your days exploring.
- Cobblestone Streets: It’s so great to see that what could be a beach-y resort like town has centuries-old cobblestone streets with horse-drawn carriages running down them. From private homes to up-scale fine dining restaurants to the one of a kind boutiques- you’ll find them all on these cobbled streets. We wished we had taken some pictures of the cobblestone street but I guess we were just so mesmerized with the beauty of the place that we didn’t. 🙁
- Horse-drawn Carriages: Yes, horse-drawn carriages. Take a walk around the lower peninsula (which is the waterfront side of the city) and you’ll see horse-drawn carriages still roll past the beautifully preserved colonial homes with well-manicured gardens and boundary walls. It’s hard to take a picture through the streets due to the street parking and the green dustbins lying around the city but even then it’s such a treat to your eyes.
- Victorian-esque Homes and Architecture: We cannot tell you enough about this. You just have to see it to enjoy it. It may be odd but we absolutely love house gazing especially when houses are this beautiful. The first day we took a stroll along these homes casually, we decided we are going to come back with our camera. Unfortunately, when we came back it started raining and the street parking didn’t quite let us take great pictures. But that didn’t deter us from walking and exploring more. The good old camera phone always comes handy. Walking towards the waterside ends of King Street and Meeting Street is where you’ll get to explore the history and find buildings with placards with their history written. We are probably too excited about these little things because we thought Charleston was unlike any other American city we’ve been to and we’ve been to a quite a few. Charleston has some great character and definitely stands out from the rest.
- Sun, Sand & the Beach: Charleston is a waterfront city after all- it’s gotta have beaches. On a cloudy and almost rainy day we hopped over to Folly Beach which is about a 12-minute drive from the downtown area and this is where the surfers and the sun-soakers hang-out. The beach is lovely and great to wander around barefoot on the warm sand. There is a beautiful fishing pier on the beach and it’s fun to see fishing enthusiasts fishing away to glory. The next day- we also took a quick drive through to Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island (which are both around 20 minutes from downtown). We stopped by at a quiet, serene and isolated beach at Sullivan’s Island and took a little walk on a slightly cold and windy day. On our way back we also stopped by these cute little antique stores. Such a great way to explore the area and a day well spent.
- Charleston City Market: I absolutely love street markets and the Charleston City Market is a colorful market with shops and vendors set up across four blocks of open-air buildings. You’ll find souvenirs, pottery, paintings, sweet grass baskets, clothes, Okra chips and just about anything here. Yes you heard it right- Okra Chips which are basically dehydrated and then baked in an oven with some wonderful spices. Irrespective of whether I want to buy anything from a street market it is always a must do on my list- it’s where you find all the local stuff. Perfect for a rainy day in Charleston.
- Spanish Moss on Oak Trees: There is another part of the city across the Ashley River which is where the plantations are located and is also where one of America’s oldest public gardens is located (Magnolia Plantations & Gardens). This part of the city felt so different and like a world away. This is also the part of the city that saw a lot of history unfold. You can’t miss the grandeur of beautiful, draping Spanish moss decorating huge oak trees.
- Shopping through King Street: Not that I don’t get enough of shopping here already (I have to admit I did a little research on places to shop in Charleston before we left for the trip) but then a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. 🙂 King Street is where all the shopping action takes place- again it’s not just about the shopping but the buildings where these shops and independent boutiques are nested in. Mixed in with the upscale chain stores on King Street are a number of independent shops, some of which have been there for a long long time. It was also the Second Sunday on King which means there is no traffic allowed on the street and King Street gets converted to a street fair. You can see locals walk around and chat like they all know each other.
- Civil War Cannons and a view of Fort Sumter from the White Points Garden: The tip of the peninsula is where the White Points Garden is located and it is a huge waterfront park with even huge-r trees (of course not even 1/10th the size of NYC’s Central Park but big enough). This is where the Cooper River and Ashley River (the two rivers that surround Charleston) meet the Atlantic Ocean. We got a glimpse of Fort Sumter (site of the first battle of the Civil War) from the edge. There are cannons and mortars spread throughout the park from the era and a beautiful little inn across the way from the park.
- Bustling Food Scene: Yes, as always we had a list of places to eat at in Charleston. I had spent a few hours researching and creating a word document with a list of restaurants and locations so we don’t spend time doing this when we are already in Charleston. But guess what? The smarty pants that I am I left the list at home. I didn’t email the document to myself and all that while I kept thinking I have the list saved on my phone. Nevertheless, we did pretty good. 🙂 Charleston has some of the most amazing places to eat. Some restaurants even had a different menu every single day for every meal. Unfortunately, a lot of those places had a very limited menu with one or no chicken or vegetarian options and so we didn’t go to some of them we wished we could go to. We will be back soon with our Charleston food adventures but for now here is a glimpse.
Hope you enjoyed our little postcards from Charleston and I’m sure many of you who’ve been there echo our thoughts. We know for sure we are going back to Charleston- it grows on you.