By Agent Suzanne Ferrara
It’s one of the most preserved Colonial American cities in existence, and it will sweep you off of your feet the moment you arrive.
A visit to Charleston, South Carolina, (one of America’s 13 colonies and originally named Charles Town in honor of England’s King Charles II), is like being transported back in time. Walking along the cobblestone streets and alleys, which are skirted by buildings and houses dating back to the 1600s, is a surreal experience. Adding to its tremendous mystique and beauty are ‘modern’ offerings George Washington would not have found here during his celebrated Charleston visit. Oh, and did I mention the warm, welcoming people and the mouthwatering Charleston Low Country cuisine? Read on.
The best way to begin your experience is by a carriage tour because it will quickly give you a lay of the land and will also cover most of the fascinating sites and highlights. (Tip: While there are several great carriage tours, the Historic Charleston Carriage Tour is a great choice). The streets in Charleston’s historic district are part of a grid originally laid out by colonists in the 1600s. You will find getting around Charleston extremely easy as the entire district is walkable. (Fact: Charleston’s Downtown is only a four to five square mile area).
Charleston is known as The Holy City because of the vast array of multi-denominational historic churches, many of which were conceptualized by the colonists. The steeples punctuate the skyline and make this city’s unique horizon a sight to behold. (Tip: One of the best places to view this skyline is right across the Coopers River on Mount Pleasant because the sun will set behind this skyline and clearly outlines this unmatched view. Sip a refreshing concoction at The Beach Club Resort which, in and of itself, is ideal for taking in this amazing view. Another great location is at the Beach Club Resort’s Harbor Marina).
Among many of the most popular sites is the iconic Rainbow Row which is a series of 13 pastel-colored historic homes on East Bay Street that date back to the 1700s. A stone’s throw away from Rainbow Row is the breathtaking Battery, an historic defensive seawall that has a stunning promenade and is bordered by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. (Tip: Off in the distance, you can see Fort Sumter where the first shot in the American Civil War was fired from the Battery). This is also where you can get a great vantage point of the breathtaking Greek revival mansions of the Ansonborough, a prestigious colonial neighborhood named after Captain George Anson who acquired a 64-acre tract of land in 1726. (Tip: There is a plethora of fabulous walking tours, something for everyone’s interest, offered in Charleston).
While at the Battery, the lush White Point Garden will be calling your name, enticing you to rest on one of her benches and to take in the iconic view. The garden is actually an historic 5.7 acre park along the eastern tip of the Charleston peninsula. This was the area’s first public park back in 1837, and today is full of stunning old oak trees, Civil War cannons and monuments and, like the Battery, offers great views of Fort Sumter and of the Charleston Harbor.
Charleston’s Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District.
On your way back up the street, stop at the oldest continuous liquor store in America which has been serving spirits since 1686! Tavern Wine and Spirits is an amazing structure that holds a nice selection of liquor, many of which are local products. (Tip: There are free moonshine and whiskey tastings on Fridays and Saturdays). The store owner loves to show patrons the fascinating historic photos of the shop and talk about its intriguing history. Next door is a 250-year old Charleston landmark: the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, a national historical institute where colonial times, plus the Revolutionary and Civil Wars come to life. This is also the place where local Patriots debated and ratified the U.S. Constitution.
Hungry? Right across the street from the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon is the restaurant One Broad Street which is inside an historic four-story antebellum building. Your taste buds will sing as you savor the dishes created at this neighborhood hangout, and chefs have a unique and tasty take on breakfast, lunch, and dinner small plates. Their delicious breads come from Normandy Farms Bakery; the homemade mouthwatering desserts are second-to-none; and it’s a perfect spot to enjoy some spirits, sit back and ‘people watch’ from the large windows. By the way, you can hardly go wrong when it comes to choosing a restaurant in this culinary town because many of their eateries are award-winning. After enjoying lunch, head straight to 17 Chalmers Street where you can observe the Pink House, the second oldest residence in Charleston (preceded only by the Colonel William Rhett House).
After all of the sightseeing, you’ll be ready for a good night’s sleep. There are dozens of bed and breakfasts inside historic homes, all of which have fascinating stories of their own. (Tip: It’s easy to get a feel of the hospitality at these homes just by contacting their concierges by phone). The John Rutledge house Inn– the former home of John Rutledge, Governor of South Carolina and a signer of the United States Constitution– is a great choice. From hotels to historic bed and breakfasts, you can choose between luxury and simple, and most of these accommodations sit in the middle of all the sites.
There’s an insurmountable amount of interesting and fun things to do and see in Charleston, too many of which can be given their due in one article. But the overall magnetic draw of Charleston is its unmatched charm and historic vibes, all in a magical place that will leave you spellbound.