Charleston, South Carolina: The New South
A colonial classic, Charleston might initially come off as a little ye olde. But if you look more closely, this 340-year-old harbor city actually lives in the present. Bars reinvent Southern spirits, boutiques showcase new spins on cotton, and the annual Spoleto Festival (May 25 through June 10) draws world-class actors, dancers, and musicians.
By Andrew Sessa, AFAR Contributor
Charleston is the perfect city for anyone who loves the South, filled with everything that makes the South so charming: pecan pralines fresh out of the oven, huge oak trees draped with Spanish moss, romantic horse-drawn carriages, dramatic antebellum mansions. Wander down any alleyway or side street and you'll see homes that are completely modern on the inside but still rustic and weathered on the outside, adding to Charleston's character and sense of history. Beautiful Charleston is a must-see on any trip to South Carolina.
Perfect Place For a Mint Julep
Charleston is a perfect town to explore on foot, with atmospheric buildings and stately moss-draped oak trees around every corner. Wander down the historic Battery along the Ashley River and you'll see the best of the city's antebellum mansions, each with a wide porch designed as a place to sit and enjoy the cool breeze coming in off the river—you can practically see the Southern ladies of a century ago sitting there enjoying their mint juleps while they catch up on gossip. One of the most unique things to do from late September to late October is to take a home and garden tour sponsored by the Preservation Society of Charleston. The nighttime tours are the most fun, with the lighted mansions glowing invitingly, welcoming you to see what's inside.
The Walls Are Alive
One of my favorite things about Charleston is its beautiful antebellum mansions, most of which have a postcard-perfect garden filled with wonderful-smelling magnolia bushes, brightly-colored flowers, creeping vines, bubbling fountains, and wrought-iron fences and gates. Charleston's gardens are so worth seeing, in fact, that the Preservation Society of Charleston regularly offers garden tours that allow you to experience the lush gardens close up - a must-do for any garden lover. Proceeds from the tours are applied directly to the town's historic preservation efforts, so you can have fun and support a good cause at the same time.
One of the best things about Charleston is its historic architecture. From Rainbow Row, with its brightly-colored antebellum mansions, to stately its white government buildings, Charleston offers something special for every architecture fan. The town's colorful buildings, like this orange mansion that's been converted into an upscale restaurant on the first floor, brings an extra bit of whimsy and cheer to Charleston that not a lot of other towns have.
A Quiet Place To Sit
Wandering around beautiful Charleston, you come across countless porches, balconies, and gardens that call out for you to sit, enjoy a cool drink, and relax for a bit. For fans of the South you just can't beat Charleston. It's filled with everything that makes the South so wonderful, from wide, shady porches to charming antebellum mansions to romantic horse-drawn carriages. Not a place to be missed!
"What You Lookin' At?"
Ever since taking a Southern Literature class in college, I've been hooked on the South - its history, culture, food, and traditions all charm and fascinate me. Charleston, South Carolina, is one of my favorite cities, offering the best of all the above. If you're looking for a quintessential Southern experience, check out beautiful Charleston, which is especially nice in the spring when the magnolias are blooming and the whole town smells wonderful.
Rooted in history as it is, the South has a patriotic spirit about it that a lot of other regions seem to lack. Wandering around Charleston's historic streets and you'll see many American flags hanging proudly in windows, on porches, and from flagpoles. The displays of patriotism add to Charleston's already immense charm and character.
Happy Halloween, Charleston Style
My husband and I were in Charleston late last October and were so surprised at how much the town celebrates Halloween. We had to laugh at this strangely cheerful little guy, out on the balcony of a beautiful antebellum mansion enjoying some late-afternoon sunshine. If you find yourself in charming Charleston during Halloween you're in for a treat - this town takes decorating to a whole different level!
We spent a day in May wandering the fragrant Antebellum streets of Charleston, SC... At first, we were puzzled by the omnipresence of, wait--is that the scent of root beer? Of all things, that's what our noses first told us--and then we realized it was all of the 'confederate' jasmine in bloom everywhere. The entire peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper rivers was full of the heady scent. Others' noses might register different olfactory allusions, but for my wife and me, the scent of Charleston's jasmine was chest-fillingly specific...
By Joseph Cyr, AFAR Local Expert
Exploring the neighborhoods of Charleston
No matter if you live in or simply visit Charleston, walking around the many neighborhoods is a must. On a Sunday morning in spring, there is nothing better than exploring the city by foot and taking in the remarkable architecture, history, and culture. This picture was taken in Ansonborough just south of Calhoun Street.
Second Sunday on King St
Try to time your visit to Charleston to coincide with the second Sunday of the month. King St, the city's main shopping and entertainment artery, is closed off to cars from 1 PM onwards. Boutiques put out sale racks, restaurants move their tables out into the street, and street performers, such as these guys, set up shop for the many passersby. I can think of few nicer places to take a stroll than Charleston on a warm blue-sky Sunday, along the back alleys and quiet streets lined with immaculately maintained 18th century antebellum mansions. Turning onto King St was a chance to see what all the locals were up to.
Feels Like This Is My Second Home
We began making trips to Charleston several years ago. We go there with a couple friends of ours who love the city as much as we do. They had actually stayed there before as we had only done day trips to Charleston from Myrtle Beach with family before then. It is a charming city with so much history. Our favorite experiences are the carriage rides and the boat rides. We have taken haunted boat rides twice now and it is our favorite with Sandlapper Boat Cruise. The sunset cruise is nice too as you can see so much of the homes known as The Battery and yet get that water view of Charleston too. We were not a fan of the Dolphin cruise as they left you on an island for about an hour with nothing to drink and it was really hot. Make sure and visit the old slave market and if time allows visit one of the fabulous mansions or plantations -Calhoun House in Charleston or nearby Boone, Middleton or Magnolia are our faves.
By Letina Kelly
Charleston’s calendar is filled with events and festivals that highlight local history and unique culture. Whatever your passion—garden design, music, cuisine—you’ll find travelers and locals who share your interest. At the beginning of March, the Charleston Wine + Food Festival (March 4-8, 2015) provides an opportunity to sample the distinctive flavors of the South at various tastings and to interact with the chefs and farmers who are making Charleston a must-visit for foodie travelers. Praised as one of the top five food and wine festivals in the U.S., this three-day extravaganza celebrates the Charleston area’s nationally recognized culinary scene. The BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival spotlights more than 160 chefs and authors from Charleston and across the country with more than 50 food and wine themed events. Another highlights of Charleston’s many events each spring is Historic Charleston Foundation’s Festival of Houses and Gardens (March 19-April 19, 2015), when the scent of Carolina Jessamine, honeysuckle, and Lady Banksia rose mingles with briny Atlantic Ocean breezes. For 17 days each spring, Spoleto Festival USA (May 22-June 7, 2015), Charleston’s internationally renowned arts festival, brings together dance, theatre, jazz, chamber music, and opera for 120 performances that illuminate traditional and unexpected performance spaces.
Sponsored by Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau