A Charleston Cultural Odyssey
It’s easy to focus on the postcard images of Charleston: the moss-draped oaks, the details of antebellum mansions, and the skyline punctuated by steeples. But what can sometimes feel more elusive is the culture of this part of America—what makes Charleston is, of course, its people and their particular outlook on the world. Will Kiburz of Coronet Travel has designed an itinerary for those travelers who want to travel deeper, beneath the surface of this charming city and the surrounding area. In three days, you’ll be immersed in musical, artistic, and popular traditions. Anyone can leave Charleston with a sweetgrass basket, but ideally you’ll also leave with something less tangible, an understanding of how the world looks through the eyes of Charleston’s residents.
  • Cost
    $1,339 to $1,859
    Package Pricing Includes:
    • Pricing includes accommodations at one of the hotels described in the itinerary, based on double occupancy, for departures on November 18, 2016 and March 24, 2017. This trip can be booked for other dates as well. Tours, meals and other expenses are at an additional cost.
  • Itinerary
    4 days
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    Day 1
    Arrive in Charleston
    Your base in Charleston will be either the Restoration or the HarbourView Inn.

    The 54-room Restoration is an ideal hotel to introduce you to Charleston’s culture. Any traveler will appreciate the spacious apartments, complete with kitchens, but what makes the property unique is the many ways it attempts to connect visitors to Charleston locals. Works by an artist in resident, currently photographer Gately Williams, fill the common spaces, and the staff are eager to introduce guests to their favorite shops and restaurants in the neighborhood.

    The HarbourView Inn’s name and location reflect the historic importance of Charleston as a port city. Indeed, there are many notable landmarks around the harbor that are in walking distance of this luxury 56-room hotel. And every time you return, you’ll be reminded of the culture of Charleston, from the art that hangs on the walls to the cool glasses of sweet tea waiting for you.

    After you are settled in your room, take a stroll along the streets of the historic district and north on Upper King Street to the Mitchell Hill Gallery. If there’s an opening scheduled during your visit, you’ll likely meet one of the more than 30 artists represented by the gallery. The abstract works of Jared Owens, who taught himself to paint in prison; the sculptural baskets by Kim Keats; and the collages and drawings of Eva Magill-Oliver reflect some of the varied perspectives of artists working in the area.

    After the exhibit, return to the Restoration (even if you are staying at the HarbourView) for dinner at the Watch: Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits. It emphasizes ingredients provided by local suppliers in its Lowcountry dishes while using local artisanal spirits in its craft cocktails.
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    Day 2
    A Spirited Exploration of Charleston
    You’ll begin your day with a walking tour of Charleston that introduces not only to the city’s buildings and gardens, but also its history and people. The roles that both African-Americans and settlers of European descent played in shaping the city are emphasized, and the stories behind the facades will come to life.

    Continue your exploration of Charleston’s culinary culture over lunch at Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop, with its nostalgic menu of Southern comfort foods.

    Charleston has been embracing its roots in recent years, a trend most clearly scene in the city’s food scene but it also extends to the world of spirits. This afternoon you’ll visit Charleston Distilling, which is making small-batch handcrafted spirits at the only distillery located within Charleston. Tours are followed with tastings of the bourbon, gin, whiskey, and other spirits produced on site.

    This evening’s plans are spirited in a different way. You’ll attend the weekly Sounds of Charleston concert, featuring some of the city’s top musicians performing a variety of songs associated with the city, from spirituals to jazz standards. Every concert concludes with “Amazing Grace,” written by the onetime slave trader John Newton, who worshipped at the Circular Congregational Church, where the concerts are held, when he was in Charleston.

    After the concert, get a late dinner at the Macintosh, helmed by a James Beard nominee who is part of the renaissance of Southern cuisine taking place in Charleston.
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    Day 3
    Plantation Life
    It is impossible to truly understand the culture of Charleston without a visit to one of the area’s plantations. It was the trade in rice, cotton, indigo, and other crops grown on the Lowcountry plantations that underwrote the stately homes in the city, while Gullah culture flourished among the slaves on those same estates. Drayton Hall, on the Ashley River, is America’s oldest plantation house open to the public. Your tour will cover the architectural history of the building itself as well as the connections between the Lowcountry and Africa through the slaves who once worked here. Note that Drayton Hall is near Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, making it easy to visit both plantations in a day if you wish.

    After lunch at your leisure back in town, learn more about the artistic heritage of Charleston at the newly renovated Gibbes Museum of Art. From September 15, 2017 to May 13, 2018, a temporary exhibition unites two of our favorite destinations. Mexico and the Charleston Renaissance focuses on the influence of Mexican artists on those working in Charleston between the two world wars. For a dose of even-more-modern art, just down the street, the Principle Gallery, represents both local and leading international talents.

    Ease into the evening with a visit to Holy City Brewing in North Charleston. One of the country’s most dynamic craft beer scenes is brewing here, with Holy City Brewing leading the way. And, honestly, there’s perhaps no easier way to get to know the local culture than by meeting some locals as you sample craft beers with a bowl of boiled peanuts or a burger.
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    Day 4
    Depart Charleston
    After breakfast at your hotel, take a final stroll along the Battery at the tip of Charleston, before you check out and begin the journey home.