Condé Nast Traveler readers have just named Charleston, South Carolina as the #1 city in the country (out of 10). Pretty impressive seeing as most of the competitors are larger cities like San Fran, Seattle, Boston, etc. I too love Chucktown….what’s not to love really? There is so much to explore- gorgeous homes, gardens, FOOD, interesting shops, bars, music, history, coastline… Here are some of my favorites in Charleston.
This is the Nathaniel Russell House located near the High Battery. It’s a gorgeous example of a Federal style town home and interprets the lives of the Russell family, who were part of the wealthy merchant elite. The home is set within formal gardens and decorated with period antiques, and the highlight is it’s flying staircase in the middle of the home. If you love the decorative arts- this house museum is a must see.
Also called the Holy City, Charleston has many different churches within the city’s downtown. Because of the low rise cityscape, the steeples of these churches can be seen from a significant distance. My last trip to Charleston, my group and I decided to leave our maps behind and follow the steeples around town. This was a fun way to explore the city because each church has a unique architectural style, and by walking to each steeple we were able to enjoy the different neighborhoods as we went.
Amazing homes and gardens everywhere you walk…
Charleston became even more prominent during the plantation era when cotton became king. Today there is an abundance of Antebellum homes still standing and well preserved. One of the most interesting homes from this period is Drayton Hall. It is located just outside of Charleston, but definitely worth the drive if you have any interest in architecture, historic landscapes, or plantation history. This property is owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and it is strikingly different from most historic house museums on view today. Rather than being restored back to its period of significance, it stands as an artifact; having survived American Revolution, the Civil War, the earthquake of 1886, hurricanes like Hugo, and urban sprawl. It is considered by most, the crown jewel of Palladian architecture in the South.
While sightseeing takes up most people’s time in Charleston, don’t forget to do a lot of eating and maybe some bar hopping. One of my new favorites is Fuel Cantina located on Rutledge Avenue. This Caribbean inspired cantina is perfect if you are on a budget and want to go somewhere the locals hang. I love adaptive reuse projects and this is an excellent one! The chef at Fuel, Justin Broome, wanted to create a new restaurant using an older building, and found a 1950s gas station turned fish market that was perfect for him. He rehabilitated the building, keeping the 1950s aesthetic and historic fabric, while adding open-air porch seating behind the building. Fuel has an eclectic and nostalgic vibe and serves up excellent Caribbean inspired dishes incorporating local ingredients whenever possible.
Another popular spot is Closed for Business on King Street. If you consider yourself a beer aficionado, you need to go here. With 42 taps and counting, they pride themselves on offering unusual, one of a kind beers from South Carolina and beyond. They also feature a Southern inspired pub menu using local ingredients.
Another excellent restaurant highlighting low country fare- Hominy Grill. If you have more money to burn and love a traditional steakhouse, check out Hall’s Chophouse.
Last but not least, Charleston is a great place to see live music . There are many talented musicians in the South, and one of my favorites to come out of Charleston recently is Old You. In 2011, they won the battle of the bands in Charleston, were named Up-and-Coming Act of the Year by the Charleston City Paper, and have shared the stage with national acts like the Futurebirds, and Robert Randolph and the Family Band.
More about the band: “Welding a clever mix of jazz, blues and acid rock to the boisterous soul-bearing of vocalist Young-Mi Feldsott, Old You constructs a sturdy yet sleek vehicle of sultry and emotive blues/rock. When put in motion, it sounds like a time warp from the ’60s to the distant future and back within one song.”
They do an awesome version of “White Rabbit” that even Grace Slick would be proud of.
Charleston- a Southerner’s playground full of columns, culture, and culinary delight. No wonder Garden and Gun has its headquarters here… So if you have never been to Charleston- Go! If you have been, what are some of your favorite spots??