May 09, 2014

Destination: Charleston, SC

“Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy and partisanship... you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes.” 
- Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline


Is it possible to tire of Charleston?  From its tree-lined avenues to its historic buildings, sunny beaches to mysterious marshes, Charleston oozes charm and the refinement of Southern gentility and hospitality, offering residents and visitors alike the opportunity to soak in its unique atmosphere and culture.  In recent years Charleston has received attention through its inclusion on various travel lists such as Trip Advisor's 2014 Top 25 Traveler's Choice Destinations and ranking #1 on Travel + Leisure's 2013 World's Best Cities.  For my part, Charleston is easily in the top five of favorite American cities, and if you've ever visited, you probably understand why.

Battery Park
Photo Cred: Meghan M.
For a proper tour of the city, the Battery promenade is a great place to start.  The Battery is situated where the Ashley River enters the harbor and is named for its original purpose as a cannon defense of the city against naval attack.  Nowadays it makes for a pleasant stroll, taking in beautiful views of the water and enjoying the blooms of White Point Gardens.  The houses along the park are equally impressive, showcasing the iconic Georgian architecture that is prolific among Charleston houses.

From the Battery, head north along the waterfront or, even better, go one block over and walk along Meeting Street, making time to stop in at the Calhoun Mansion or the Nathaniel Russell House to learn more about the elite families that lived in Charleston in the 18th and 19th centuries, or to dart into one of the many churches found in Charleston.  Charleston is often called the "Holy City" due in part to the prevalence of churches in the city and its history of religious tolerance towards Jews, Huguenots, and Catholics during the colonial period.

At this point you may be getting hungry, but eschew the fast-food and restaurant chains for more of a local flavor such as what can be found at Poogan's Porch (Queen St near Meeting).  Try the fried alligator bites or a BLT with goat cheese and fried green tomatoes.  Your taste buds will thank you.

St. Matthew's German Lutheran Church
Photo Cred: Meghan M.
Next stop ought to be the Historic Charleston City Market (Meeting & Market St) to peruse and maybe purchase the handiwork of local artisans.  Paintings, pottery, baskets, jewelry, scarves and other items are all on sale in this open-air market venue.

Other sites of interest in the downtown area are the campuses of the College of Charleston and The Citadel.  The architecture of these colleges are stunning and well-worth a stroll if you appreciate fine buildings.

And before you leave the city boundaries, you should check out the South Carolina Aquarium or take the ferry to Fort Sumter.  Sumter is a five-sided brick fort best known as being the place where the American Civil War started on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked the Union garrisons at the fort. 

For those with a penchant for nature, the area around Charleston can offer a wide variety of adventures: kayaking, canoeing, sunbathing on the many beaches in the Harbor and nearby Atlantic, surfing, camping, and hiking, or tubing on the Edisto River, just to name a few.  You can even camp practically right in the middle of Charleston!  James Island County Park is a 13 minute drive outside of downtown Charleston, but you can't hear the city sounds when ensconced in the beautiful 643-acre park.

Fort Sumter
If you're looking for beaches in the area, Folly Beach is a local favorite, although the traffic getting to the island can be overwhelming as it's accessible by only one road.  Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms north of Charleston in Mt Pleasant tend to have less traffic, but are just as beautiful.  And while in Mt Pleasant, you should check out Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum and tour the U.S.S. Yorktown, an aircraft carrier which was built for and saw action in the Pacific theater during World War II.

Hand-crafted items at Downtown Crossing, Summerville, SC
Charleston's charm extends beyond the city boundaries to the towns and cities nearby.  Goose Creek and Summerville are within easy commute of the city and generally offer more affordable lodging options than what can be found in Charleston itself.  Summerville also boasts a delightful outdoor mall on its historic Central Avenue where you can purchase hand-crafted items at Downtown Crossing for a souvenir or enjoy a cold one at O'Lacy's Pub.

For more insight on Charleston, the surrounding area, and its attractions, you should check out Vacation Rick's blog for reviews, information, and pictures!  He writes about Charleston from the perspective of a vacationer who always comes back to "Chucktown" for more of what it has to offer.

Have you ever been to Charleston?  What did you like about it?

Linking up for #TravelTuesday!

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