Let's just say it straight out. Charleston is a Southern city. And it
does romance right. There's something about the harbor and the foliage
and the ancestral buildings that seem to whisper "Tara Hall, Tara Hall"
that ever so gently quickens the pulse. Is that Rhett Butler about to
enter that mansion? Yes, Rhett Butler was a bad boy but he never
existed. But ahhh the romance he inspired. You can feel it peeking
at you, lighting your way with evanescent sparks as you stroll through
the streets of Charleston. If these streets could talk, they'd say, "How
y'all doin? Why don't you set a spell? Can I freshen your iced tea?"
There's more to Charleston than the whiff of "moonbeams and magnolias." True the home of Fort Sumter remembers its role in the history and culture of the American South. And yes, there is the city's well-tended 19th century architecture. The city has a huge historic district. Some might feel the city itself is a huge historic district. And okay, the NAACP is encouraging people to boycott South Carolina because the state can't let go of the Confederate flag.
We grant you all that.
But then the slightly manic joy that comes from staging the 17 or so day long- Spoleto Festival, one of the world’s great annual arts festivals persists and pervades year-round. A thriving college community provides a bit of perspective and alt.juice. The schools are College of Charleston (the nation’s oldest city college); Medical University of South Carolina; The Citadel (a/k/a the Military College of South Carolina); Charleston Southern University; and Trident Technical College.
Charleston’s ongoing love of the water on which it stands ripples with all sorts of activities and sights. Witness its fairly new and extremely breathtaking aquarium. And there’s shopping.
Charleston needn’t depend on its history to inspire consistent
appeal. In recent times it has garnered all sorts of recognition
from all sorts of sources
? FamilyFun Magazine picked Charleston as the #4 top southeast vacation city for families
? Bride’s Magazine called Charleston one of the top 14 American honeymoon destinations.
? In November 2000 the American Sail Training Association (ASTA) named Charleston the Port City of the Year for 2000.
? Etiquette Expert Marjabella Young Stewart has consistently called Charleston “Most Mannerly city in the US.”
? Charleston continually shows up on the must-go Christmas destination lists compiled by organizations that know about such things.
Traveler stayed at The Mills House (115 Meeting Street) where many
grace notes combine in a stately concerto of comfort. Perhaps that’s
spreading it a bit thick; but the attention to detail (demi-canopied
beds and dataports in the rooms), the genial surroundings (freshly cut
flowers, marble floors and vintage crystal chandeliers in the lobby and
individually decorated period furnishings in the rooms), and the staff’s
desire to please make the Mills House desirable, comfortable and
amiable. Its wonderfully convenient location is another plus.
The Mills House Hotel actually is a (pardon the expression) reconstruction of the original hotel (bearing the same name). The predecessor said nighty-night to such historic figures as Robert E. Lee, President Theodore Roosevelt and Stephen Douglas.
But enough of this namedropping. Despite its gentility and -- okay -- southern hospitality, The Mills House is a full service hotel with glamorous meeting rooms: The Signer’s Ballroom (meeting capacity 350) boasts all kinds of period doo-dahs - sconces, chandeliers and mirrors;
Round it all off with three on premises opportunities to unwind - The Barbadoes Room, the restaurant with luxuriously red tablecloths and a menu, rich with low country fare plus sumptuous Sunday buffet; The Best Friend Bar, a clubby wood-paneled establishment; and The First Shot Lounge which overlooks the fountain courtyard. To learn more, call 843-577-2400 or 800-874-9600 or click here.
Market Pavilion Hotel
225 East Bay Street
New, intimate, gracious and designy, the market Pavilion is located in the City Market.
(843) 723-0500 or 1-877-242-4765 or click here.
Charleston Place Hotel
205 Meeting Street
Part of the Charleston Place complex, it's simply elegant.
843-722-4900 or 800-611-5545 or click here.
Hampton Inn Historic District
345 Meeting Street
Once an 18th century burlap bag factory, this restored building has a brand new bag as a stately hotel.
843-723-4000 or 800-HAMPTON or click here.
The feeling you get when you stroll through antique shop after antique shop? Priceless! Discovering something you must have? Fulfilling! You’ll find those sensations on King St. Its antiquing district begins on lower King St. (found just a couple of blocks from the Mills House) where most of the shops can be found.
|Check out Peacock Alley (9 Princess St., near King St.) for its Chippendale chairs, Pembroke tables and other assorted English and early American furniture pieces.|
|For a concise sampler of what’s available, plunge into the King Street Antique Mall. Located at 495 King St., it’s actually located on upper King St., and it has been joined by 11 other antiqueries. In the mall, you’ll find a full range of offerings which include furniture, collectables, decorative objects, art, photography, mirrors, toys, kitchen & garden objects, as well as assorted architectural, nautical and railroad items. And, of course, there’s a goodly assortment of glass, silver, china. linens and carpets.|
A walk along King St. is a shopper’s safari. When you get past the antique district, you will find some decidedly upscale emporia.
|Magar Hatworks (557½ King St. is a chapeau chapel for worshippers of headgear and its original offerings come from the head of milliner Leigh Magar.|
|The Shops at Charleston Place (130 Market St.) is the upscale shopping destination that is bundled with the Charleston Plaza Hotel. Safely and seductively harbored inside are April Cornell, Cache', Chico's, Laura Ashley, The Limited, My Friend's Place, Express, United Colors of Benetton, The White House, Crabtree & Evelyn, Yves Delorme , Gucci, Mori Classics, Oroton, Brookstone, and as a special test of everyone’s will power both Godiva and Lindt Chocolate.|
If you’re on the prowl for gifts that say Charleston, here are a few to consider.
|Sweetgrass Baskets – These baskets are made of pine needles and sea grass sewn together with palmetto leave splits. The sewing technique for this basket weaving tradition came to Charleston with the slaves who were kidnapped from West Africa. Today’s basket artisans use both traditional and modern forms. You can find baskets just about anywhere in Charleston; but for an amazing array of sizes, shapes and patterns, you’ d do well to stop at the City Market, Meeting and Broad Streets – just a short walk from The Mills House.|
|Joggling Boards were used in the early 1800s for loads of fun. You put the pine boards on your porch and bounced on them. This was before cable, you know. Actually, an alternative to the porch swing, joggling boards assisted in canoodling endeavors. You can get them at the Charleston Joggling Board Company,|
|Silver-Plated Rice Spoons – Charleston families have been dishing out the rice with long-handled spoons like these since the 18th century. You can get yours at the Historic Charleston Foundations Gift Shop (108 Meeting Street), the Preservation Society Shop (147 King Street) and Crogan’s Jewel Box (308 King Street).|
As you proceed along King St., you’ll begin to hit some of the tony local and national shopping havens It’s heavily laden with comforting logos. Still further along, you’ll find some college-friendly places.
Walk! No, Run! Maybe, even swim to Charleston’s South Carolina Aquarium.
In the aquarium’s 60 exhibits you can see river otters, turtles, birds, alligators, sharks, snakes, and -of course - all kinds of fishies. In fact, the aquarium is where some 4000 animals hang their hats in 60 exhibits. A walk through the aquarium is a stroll through recreated environments of the region. (Where there’s fauna, can flora be far behind?) Exhibits resonate with the particulars in which our fine, finny friends live. You start at the Mountain Forest (made dramatic by waterfalls and ravines) and proceed through The Piedmont (ooo look at the turtle), The Coastal Plain (by gar, did you see those snakes?), The Saltmarsh (Did that crab cast a sidelong glance?), The "Coast (jellyfish, their radiant tendrils softly waving in the water), and, at last, The Ocean (sharks, angelfish, grouper and an occasional human in a diving suit, looking like an ornament).
General information 643-720-1990, Click here. Also completed in 2000, and right next to the Aquarium, is the new IMAX Theatre.
Christmas in Charleston
Charleston Boat Show
Lowcountry Blues Bash
Spoleto Festival USA and Piccolo
Juneteenth Freedom Festival
Fall Candlelight Tour of Homes and Gardens
MOJA Arts Festival
Here are some other notable restaurants.
Carolina's (10 Exchange St.) serves eclectic
American cuisine, and received an Award of Excellence from The Wine
Info 843-724-3800 or or 888-486-ROSE or click here..
Charleston Grill (224 King St.),a Mobil Four Star Restaurant and winner of Wine Spectator's "Best of Award of Excellence." offers lowcountry and coastal specialties and is nestled in the above-mentioned’ Charleston Place. Info 843-577-4522 or click here..
Vintage Restaurant, Inc. (14 North Market St.), another restaurant smiled upon by The Wine Spectator, serves "new-American cuisine." (843) 577-0090.
Click here for an online site that offers discount tickets for Tours, walks, sites and wonders -- and free coupons for discounts at restaurants, local cruises, carriage rides and don’t forget etc.
It also serves as a bit of a portal for Charleston links and online hotel booking.
ABOUT THE BOYCOTT
We can’t report about Charleston without telling you that for the past few years, the NAACP has been encouraging a boycott of South Carolina. The issue is the state’s official use and placement of the Confederate flag. In terms of compliance, the boycott has been getting some respect. A number of conventions and conferences have chosen to stay away. Some have not. In some cases, groups expressed a desire to see for themselves what the issues were and what life is like in Charleston. In terms of spotlighting the continued use of the Confederate flag and keeping the pressure on for positive change, the boycott has been successful. What should you do about it? That’s for you to decide.
CONTACT Traveler's USA Notebook