Have you ever visited a city that has left you feeling like a love-struck teenager? Since visiting Charleston, South Carolina a couple of months ago, I find it hard to think of anything else and can often be caught daydreaming about moving to the Holy City and calling it home. One reason that it was challenging to get Charleston off my mind is that it seems like every time I turn around, there is another article in my Facebook news feed reminding me about the wonders of this picture perfect city. Condé Nast Traveler 2014 Readers’ Choice awarded Charleston No. 1 City in the U.S. and No. 2 City in the World. Travel and Leisure also put Charleston on top as well. Charleston is also on Travel and Leisure’s 2014 America’s Favorite Cities list. Charleston ranked in the top five for historic sites, antique stores, architecture and cool buildings, cleanliness (yep, they clean the streets twice a day), peace and quiet, public parks and gardens, attractive people, notable restaurants, stylish people, relaxing weekends, romantic escapes, and girlfriend getaways. I echo both publications but came up with my list of why I am now plotting my next big move to Charleston.
1. Friendly People - From the moment Phil from Primetime Charleston picked me up at the airport, I felt like I was home. Phil gave me a historic tour to and from the Grand Belmond Charleston Place. He was so sweet that I stored his number in my cell, so I could call him the next time I was in town. I also was lucky enough to meet some very nice gallery owners like Lynn from Lowcountry Artist, Ltd. In addition to friendly chats I had with the locals, I also noticed that I never heard any ugly words or vulgarity the entire time I was in Charleston. A stark contrast, considering I currently reside right in between New York City and the Hampton’s which both received rude and snobby mentions from Travel and Leisure.
2. History & Architecture – I love stories which are why I love historical towns. I get a kick out of trying to vision the daily life of Americans that wandered the cobblestone streets centuries ago. You won’t find any skyscrapers in Charleston. The only thing that ventures into the sky are the many church steeples, which is part of the quaintness of the city. Side porches with sky blue ceilings that capture cool cross breezes, pineapple signs on the gates, gas lanterns, cobblestone streets, back alleys and brick courtyards are just a few of my favorite things that take me back into time. Historical attractions seem to be around every corner. There are many historic homes like the Aiken-Rhett House which showcases the antebellum life and unexpected finds like the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon where American Patriots were held prisoner during the Revolutionary War. You also don’t have to go too far to check out famous historical sites like Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War rang out or Boone Hall Plantation.
3. Culture and the Arts – One reason why I know that Charleston could be my forever happy place is that I could always explore something new between museum and art gallery exhibits and theatrical and music performances. A great place to catch a musical act is The Charleston Music Hall. The music venue once was a train station in 1849 and the stage was a turntable for locomotives. Kind of cool, right? The Dock Street Theatre also is steeped in history dating back to the early 1800s and is a beautiful place to see a play.
Charleston is home to numerous art galleries and some of my favorites were on Broad Street where part of the street is known as “Gallery Row.” While visiting the Ellis-Nicholson Gallery, I fell in love with Mary Veazzie‘ artwork. I also stumbled upon Jennifer Koach’s artwork at Art Mecca of Charleston on King Street and ending up placing a consignment order, which turned out fabulous. Jennifer captured the fun that my friend and I had at the Blind Tiger.
This old city host many great museums including the Gibbs Museum of Art, the Old Slave Mart Museum, the Confederate Museum, the Citadel Museum, the Charleston Museum and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. All I can say is this is museum heaven for a culture vulture like myself.
4. Food and Drinks – Growing up outside of New Orleans and living in New York for the last twenty years has made me a lover of great food and one of my favorite things to do is dine out. When I was in Charleston this past July, I quickly realized that I was in a foodie paradise. After scouring over reviews and getting a couple of recommendations from the concierge, we enjoyed several great meals including breakfast at Another Broken Egg Cafe, lunch at Jestine’s Kitchen (Best fried chicken recommended by both Phil & the Bellhop) and dinner at High Cotton. We also loved the Pavilion Bar and The Rooftop at the Vendue Hotel which hosted fabulous views. Republic Garden and Lounge had the most incredible cocktail on the menu called the Venetian 24. I still can taste it in my dreams.
Charleston has so many restaurants that you literally could eat out somewhere different every week. In fact, there is a saying that “Charleston taste as good as it looks.” I still want to try Brassiere Gigi, Hominy Grill, Fig, Sermet’s Downtown and Social Restaurant and Wine Bar. One night during our visit we did sample a little of the nightlife when we took part in a pub crawl which was a ridiculously good time, and we discovered Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap and the Blind Tiger.
5. Coastal Living – Although I was only in Charleston a short period, I was still able to take in the beautiful water views from Waterfront Park. I spent some time relaxing over a tasty orange cream smoothie from Bakehouse Bakery Cafe as I parked myself on a bench with a view and spent the time daydreaming about how I could visit the park often when I moved to Charleston permanently. Surrounded by several islands and plenty of water, Charleston sits on a peninsula. One of my favorite things to do is paddle a kayak, so luckily there are some great places like Shem Creek, which seems to be an excellent place to paddle. Also, Folly Beach is about fifteen minutes from downtown and offers spectacular surfing on the east coast, which will make my son happy.
6. Lovely Landscape – Palm trees and colorful Crepe Myrtles dot the streets with beauty. The warm climate also lends itself to the growth of many tropical plants like oleanders which is one of my favorite plants that doesn’t grow in New York. Everywhere you look, you can see lush plants and flowers from window boxes through neighborhoods to planters while walking about town. White Point Garden is worth a stroll too.
7. Shopping- There is no shortage of great places to browse and shop in Charleston. From the famous King Street to Broad Street and back to East Bay Street to the Charleston City Market, I weaved myself through cute boutiques that were unique to Charleston coupled with national chains. Some of my favorite finds were Lily Charleston that catered to my love of Paris and Spartina 449 where I had a hard time deciding what fabric to select for a new handbag. I also couldn’t leave Charleston without purchasing something with a pineapple, so I picked up a wrought iron pineapple wall plaque from the Historic Charleston Foundation to hang by my front door in New York. At least until I can make a move permanently, my new plaque along with my flowered window box can transport me back to Charleston every time I arrive home.