Going to Charleston, South Carolina feels like peeling back the layers of an onion, except without the tears. The more I go, the more I discover to love about the charming southern city. You first heard from Alison and me about the Holy City when we both went separately in the spring of 2013 in Charleston When You’ve Only Got a Day. This summer LDB and I carved out a long weekend to visit our son in temporary residence for a summer internship, and I couldn’t wait to share my latest discoveries from embracing Charleston in 48 hours.
Take a Walking Tour
When I told bJm where I was going she said, Oh you must do a walking tour with Tommy Dew! A native of RVA but a 30-year transplant to Charleston, Tommy has led history tours of his adopted hometown for 20 years. I wasn’t sure how much new I would glean, but I thought it sounded like a lovely way to spend a pretty morning while LDB and JDB were golfing.
Let’s just say I was humbled. Mr. Dew weaves southern history, architecture, preservation, religion, slavery, politics and humor into his 1 hour, 45 minute tour. I highly recommend his excursion to any visitor to the Holy City, whether its your first trip or fifth. Reservations are required and best secured by phone. Click here for Tommy’s website.
Visit Middleton Place
Established in the late 17th century and acquired by Henry Middleton through marriage in 1741, Middleton Place is the grand homestead of what became 50,000 acres of rice plantations along the Ashley River 15 miles northwest of Charleston. Until 1865 it played a vital role in US and southern history. Notably, it
- is the site of America’s oldest landscaped gardens, designated by the Garden Club of America in 1941 as the most interesting and important garden in America
- enslaved 800 people
- is home to the Middleton Oak, believed to be 1000 years old
Now owned and operated by Middleton Place Foundation, an educational trust, this destination is worth the drive.
A day at Middleton offers a glimpse into the planter, resident and slave life on a working rice plantation. We roamed the expansive and varied formal gardens on a self-guided tour, learned about rice farming on a plantation, and dwelled on the lives of the slaves that Middleton depended on for its success.
Middleton Place hosts numerous events on its vast grounds, including the closing show for the Spoleto Festival. Fellow Zinger workout buddy hWm, a Middleton descendent, has fond memories of attending the finale, including seeing the great Ella Fitzgerald accompanied by orchestra, and actor Frank Langella reading the Emancipation Proclamation.
If you go to Middleton Place, set aside several hours if possible. You can tour the grounds and interactive educational exhibits, or add other activities like the house tour and carriage rides. With lunch and restroom amenities, Middleton Place offers a beautiful, relaxing setting and educational nourishment for the visitor. hWm says the best time to visit is April because the gardens are spectacular.
Shopping on King Street
King Street offers a wide assortment of shopping options, from the Charleston Shoe Co.
The shop’s proceeds fund the missions of PS of C. It’s a shop local destination, and LDB and I whiled away our precious time perusing books by local authors and hand-crafted products like the Brackish bow ties made in Charleston.
While King Street is home to numerous antique, gift and ladies’ clothing stores, it’s not too large of a district that it overwhelms.
Food and Drink
The first question people ask when they hear you’ve gone to Charleston is, Where did you eat? It’s hard to go wrong in Charleston. This trip we discovered The Gin Joint
on East Bay Street for excellent cocktails and appetizers. Dinner our first night was at McCrady’s Tavern, a repeat for us. The second night we scored a table at The Macintosh, a hip, locally-sourced American dining establishment headed by a five-time nominated James Beard Award chef. All lived up to our heightened expectations.
Author Ashley Farley and I compared notes on our recent visits to Charleston and I thought you’d like to see her list of restaurant recommendations:
- 167 Raw
absolute fav – A tiny place across from the Harris Teeter that you can’t make reservations. Great for a late lunch or early dinner. Best oysters and lobster roll.
- Peninsula Grill (amazing)
A-men Street (raw bar)
Hanks (great seafood)
Five Loaves (awesome for lunch)
Tavern and Table (Mt. Pleasant on Shem Creek)
Charleston Grill in the Charleston Place
Many places accept reservations; plan to book your table well in advance in this foodie town.
Take a Pedi Cab to Dinner
Wayyyy more fun than an Uber
Also known as a bike taxi, these urban chariots ferry tourists all over the city. Yes, it’s touristy but so fun and practical. Our driver gave us his cell number so we could call him to pick us up after dinner ~ how’s that for service?
While waiting for our pedi cab after dinner, we looked up into the night sky and were greeted by Old Glory
reminding us of Charleston’s historical significance to our country.
Can we all agree it’s vital to consult your friends when planning a trip, like dNz reinforced in our Tried and True Travel Tips post? So if you plan a trip to Charleston, consult this post in our Outta Town category. If you go, let us know what you discover.
August 15, 2017