Monday, October 17, 2011

Have we done (the) Charleston?

Some days I can't believe how long we've lived in South Carolina. Has it really been almost 6 years?? Is our household really made up of 75% Carolina boys and girls? We've done a lot of the touristy things around here, but now it appears that Charleston tops Conde Nast's list of most visited American cities! Really, don't get too excited; let's consider who the Conde Nast consumer is, why don't we? The rest of the top 10 included Santa Fe and Carmel, so this is a pretty rarefied group.

However, I thought perhaps we should make sure we have done it all, all those things that bring these tourists to see us. Because you never know when we might pick up and leave some day! A quick perusal of some "what to do in Charleston" lists tells me that we'd done a pretty good job of hitting most of the recommended sites. Let's review those, shall we, and see how we're doing.

The Battery/Rainbow Row: There isn't much to DO here besides walk and enjoy the architecture and the water, but we've done that countless times and do enjoy an early spring or late fall stroll down in these parts. Our family pictures were taken in Battery Park, so we've even documented our visits! And we were just there last month for the Lowcountry Heart Walk.

South Carolina Aquarium: Until recently, J was a bit afraid of sharks, so we han't gone here much, but now he loves visiting, and we definitely recommend it to visitors, particularly those with children. It contains one of the deepest ocean tanks anywhere, and you can touch live horseshoe crabs! What more do you want?

Old City Market: This was once a slave market but now hosts vendors selling everything from sweetgrass baskets to Christmas tree ornaments to kitschy apparel to modern art. It's best, we've found, to visit the market on weekday mornings, before the rest of the tourists wake up or show up on the weekends.

The plantations: We appear to have been woefully inadequate in visits to plantations. We've spent time at Drayton Hall but have completely skipped Middleton Place Magnolia Plantation and its famous gardens and Boone Hall and its numerous festivals. We really need to get on the ball there, since plantation visits are sooo Charleston.

King Street shopping: Been there, done that every afternoon while I was working downtown at the College of Charleston, which borders King, more or less. The addition of an Apple store and still more high end boutiques has cemented King Street as a chic shopping destination if you're into spending lots of money.

Patriots Point: We spent our first fourth of July here...and vowed never to return, at least for that celebration. TOO HOT!! However, climbing all over the air craft carrier is fun but NOT for the faint of heart, those with any limitation on their mobility, and strollers. There are also other ships to explore, sometimes even a submarine (also not for those listed above), so it's worth a visit.

Museums: Almost every house in downtown is either historical or contains a museum or both. There is also an art museum, a children's museum, and a general historical museum. We've been to many of the notable houses and seen many more on various carriage tours, which we highly recommend as an interesting and stress free way to see downtown.

Forts: I've been to see Fort Sumter many moons ago, but we haven't made it there as a family yet. The Fort is free, but you have to pay a steep price for a boat ride to get to there. There are also other forts you can visit, such as Fort Moultrie or Fort Dorchester, which are much less well known, so if you really want to see where the Civil War began, Sumter is the way to go.

Churches: They don't call Charleston the Holy City for nothing. There are many, many churches downtown, almost all notable for being the first or oldest in the South or even in the United States. We have been in quite a few and the husband has even performed in a couple, so we will count ourselves as having seen a representative sampling.

Our Off-the-Beaten Path favorites: We love, love, LOVE the Serpentarium and advise all visitors to get there, especially on a day when they feed the snakes! If you're here around Thanksgiving or Christmas, you must also see the Holiday Festival of Lights at the James Island County Park. It is an impressive display of acres of lights in every imaginable holiday theme alongside huge communal fire pits for roasting marshmallows, a kiddie train ride, sand sculptures, and artwork by local kids!

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