Visiting a Charming Southern Lady
Charleston -- the city has been here from the beginning, surviving wars, hurricanes and economic upheaval - yet, she’s more beautiful today than ever before.
Charleston is a town where people still say “Ma’am” and “Sir” and eat grits because they like them, not because they’re a novelty. She’s a town with “family” heritage that goes back almost 350 years - and folks around here can still tell you all about it.
She’s a place where artists capture her classic beauty for the ages, writers preserve her Southern charm for eternity and visitors keep a bit of her timeless soul with them forever.
If you ever experience this grand old lady of the South, you will never forget her.
The heart of Charleston’s Historic District is where you’ll want to base yourself, perhaps at the DoubleTree Charleston, on the corner of Church and Market streets, adjacent to the Charleston City Market. The DoubleTree is a bit pricey, but it is a luxury hotel and this is the high season.
However, the King Charles Inn, on nearby Meeting Street, is also a great location and has very nice accommodations for about half the price. And after all, you won’t be spending much time in the room - not in Charleston.
The best way to get to know the town is to sit back, relax and let the horse do all the work. Carriage rides around Charleston are a great way to spend an hour and get an idea of the history of the town, find places to visit and decide what you’ll want to do and see - like the Charleston City Market.
Facing Meeting Street, Market Hall - built in 1841 - is the main entrance to four blocks of open-air venues that make up City Market. Here you’ll find vendors selling everything from original paintings and custom jewelry to food, fashion, fragrances and even Charleston's famous sweetgrass baskets. There is also plenty of casual and fine dining in and around the Market.
Hank’s Seafood Restaurant is a great fish house and saloon-style bar. It features the personal touch of Chef Frank McMahon and his unmistakable signature dishes, including his Charleston Oyster Stew, Low Country Bouillabaisse and She Crab Soup and those delicious Pan Fried Crab Cakes that Hank’s has made world famous.
Of course, there is always that Southern favorite, Shrimp and Grits, so good that, had they served them to the Yankees out on Fort Sumter at the outset, we might have actually been able to sit down and work out that whole disagreement.
Speaking of such, you can tour the fortification that witnessed the start of the Civil War. Fort Sumter is a national park and is accessible via regular ferry boat trips to and from the island fortress located at the mouth of Charleston Harbor.
You can also visit the first combat submarine in history.
On Feb. 17, 1864, just outside Charleston Harbor, some four miles off Sullivan's Island, the H. L Hunley - a primitive, first-of-its-kind submersible - sank the USS Housatonic, which was part of the Union blockade of the Confederate port city. At some point after the sinking of the Housatonic, the Hunley also sank, killing all eight crew members onboard.
In August 2000, the Hunley was raised and is now on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston where it can be viewed by the public on weekends.
Getting to Charleston from Peachtree Corners is easy and takes about five or six hours. Just head down to the Perimeter and take I-285 East around to I-20 East and then straight on to Columbia, S.C. When you get to Columbia, take I-26 South to Charleston. Meeting Street is at Exit #221B.