“Discover an innate sense of peace and calm, all against a beautiful pastel-colored backdrop”
By: Marla Horn Lazarus
According to luxury travel experts, “Charleston is a remarkably dynamic place, so it’s no surprise that it has achieved its highest ranking ever as the year’s best city in the world.” It’s the first time a U.S. city has received the top honor, but Charleston has been ranked the No. 1 city in the U.S. and Canada for four years running. The city has shown incredible resilience and, as some say, there is still “no place quite like it.” In addition to historic battlegrounds and jasmine-scented streets, Charleston is home to award-winning hotels and restaurants. Antebellum charm, excellent boutiques, and the beautiful waterfronts at Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach make this city one of the most beloved in the U.S. and now, the world.
For more than 300 years, Charleston’s evocative beauty has inspired artists, travelers, writers, foodies and musicians. Take a trip back into American history as it’s called “The Holy City” for its many church steeples and historically early religious tolerance. Charleston’s great tale began when King Charles the second of England chartered Carolina to his 8 Lords Proprietors.
Its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel antebellum houses, particularly in the elegant French Quarter and Battery districts, define Charleston, South Carolina’s port city. You will find Southern hospitality at its finest in a town raised with “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am.” Charleston demonstrates its southern hospitality in every aspect of life. The friendliness of locals and strangers is noticeable, and anyone on the street is willing to point you in the right direction or give insider recommendations. They have even been named America’s Most Mannerly City more than 10 different times and certainty well deserved!
One of the joys of Charleston and best ways to tour historic downtown are by the horse-drawn carriages. Located at The Big Red Barn, you will find Palmetto Carriage Works. Always a highlight, take a trip back in time, as you sit back and relax in a beautiful carriage ride throughout the city with knowledgeable guides and majestic horses. (palmettocarriage.com)
Restaurants hold their staff to the highest level of accommodations. The local culinary scene has gained national attention for its distinctly southern flavors, uniquely modern restaurants, and talented newcomer chefs. As a foodie city, local fresh ingredients have always been a point of pride for area restaurants, and in recent years Charleston’s finest have rallied behind a standard of using only fresh, locally sourced foods. In this way, their classic Southern recipes are maintained, created and served right from the source, showcasing a truly authentic taste of the lowcountry. Charleston, known for comfort foods with a Gullah influence, and famous for such dishes as Shrimp and Grits and Hoppin’ John, is so much more. For a special treat, Magnolias Restaurant, where the soul of the South meets the spark of innovation, remains a forerunner in an upscale Sothern cuisine, blending traditional ingredients and cooking techniques with modern flair for artful presentations. (magnoliascharleston.com) Hymans Seafood, a Charleston landmark, is still operated by the original family 126 years later and lives up to it’s reputation with every bite. (hymanseafood.com) World-class jazz music meets mouth-watering cuisine at Charleston Grill. Their outstanding menu is divided into four categories, Pure, Lush, Southern and Cosmopolitan featuring a heavenly mix of delightful dishes for an exceptional gourmet experience. (charlestongrill.com)
Charleston’s early history states that the residents of the city were concerned that property tax would be calculated on the street width of the house, rather than the length, creating a preference for the long, narrow houses that are signature Charleston style homes today. Beautifully pastel colored antebellum mansion homes can be found on East Bay Street on Rainbow Row and at the Battery on Murray and South Battery Streets. Most of these picturesque dwellings also contain shady secret courtyards and black ironwork gates where you can take a stroll and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Three beaches are located just a short drive off of the peninsula even though Charleston’s downtown itself is a harbor town. Isle of Palms, the furthest beach from downtown, is full of upscale beach condos and remains relatively quiet most of the year. You can’t talk about Charleston area beaches without including Folly Beach. Besides the sand and waves, Folly Beach is known for its state park and water sport rentals and is the ideal choice due to the abundance of gourmet delights. However, Sullivan’s Island, only about 15 – 20 minutes away by car, is a flat sand beach with beautiful homes and rentals, unique bars and restaurants, and is the home of Fort Moultrie, a defensive fort used in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
With beautiful weather, I love to check out the local markets to really get the flavor of a city. The Historic Charleston City Market is perhaps the most visited destination in downtown Charleston. Always bustling with shoppers and sightseers, the City Market is open 365 days a year, and showcases local Charleston vendors, their unique wares and crafts, as well as casual and fine dining to go for a wonderful picnic. The Market, constructed between 1804 – 1830, was originally used as a meat, vegetable, and seafood marketplace. Stop by to pick up souvenirs, snack on local goods, or just to leisurely stroll and people watch. Charleston’s famous sweet grass basket weavers can also be found practicing their craft along the Market’s open-air stalls.
A visit to Battery Park and White Point Gardens is a must as it is the quintessential image of Charleston for most “Holy City” locals. Walking along East Bay Street, with the famous Battery mansions to one side, the Charleston Harbor to the other, you’ll be able to spot Ft. Sumter in the distance, and imagine the first shots of the Civil War that took place here in 1861. Over many centuries, the Battery has seen many wars, such as the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, and was even the hanging grounds for famous pirate Stede Bonnet, among others.
An iconic row of ancient live oak trees welcomes you to Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, one of America’s oldest living and working plantations, and one of the most famous plantations in the Southern states. The majestic plantation, set on 783 acres and established in 1681, and opened to the public in 1956, has been the filming location for dozens of movies and TV series with its historic buildings and old slave cabins still perfectly intact. Boone Hall offers guided tours of the elegant house, through the slave quarters, and a carriage tour of the extensive gardens.
Always end your day on a beautiful walking path as you explore on foot, past 18th-century mansions along the waterfront, or down quiet streets dotted with boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes. Don’t forget to turn off the main road as the little detours often lead to the best discoveries.