The history of Charleston dates back to the 1600s. In 1670, English and Irish colonists sailed into the Charleston Harbor, naming the city "Charles Town" for King Charles 11. Of course, my husband, who is part Native American, always aks how can you claim something that already has people on it? Anyhoo, the city flourished and slipped into the 18th century and evolved into the Golden Age. Colonists had to overcome attacks during both the Revolutionary and Civil War (or as it is know around these parts, the War of Northern Aggression). But somewhere in between, the city was renamed Charleston and people came to accumulate wealth through the cotton and tobacco industries. Industry thrived and the wealthy began to build beautiful Victorian- and Gothic-inspired houses. Charleston survived Yankees, earthquakes, yellow fever, and even bowevils. Eventually, many of these ancestors could not afford these once-grand homes. Like many towns after the depression, a large portion of the city sat and languished while people moved out into the modern suburban area. But just like many areas in the 1970s, economic development moved in and saved this dying city. Instead of doing like many cities and trying to modernize, residents stuck with what they already had. People started to move in and restore these grand dames of society to their former beauty. Many places were listed on the register of Historic Places. Soon Charleston once again shone in the bright Southern light.
Today, Charleston is once again a thriving community with a commitment to its past. Many of its former residents would see a place that hasn’t changed a lot since the Golden Age of many years ago. Could be that is why Charleston is filled with so many ghosts? Heck, I love Charleston and can see why anyone would want to stay around, even after death. Today, Charleston relies heavily on its tourist trade, as well as the movie industry. Movies such as The Patriot, Forrest Gump, and Glory Days, as well as TV movies like Queenie and The North and the South have used the beauty of Charleston as their backdrop. Visitors to Charleston can walk along its historic streets, taking the time to stop and admire the beautiful historic homes along their paths. You can visit many of these homes and can even stay in many of the homes now converted to bed-and-breakfasts. Charleston is also set to once again become a major port city. More and more cruise lines are offering cruises from Charleston. And with the events of 9/11 and people wanting to stay close to home, cruise lines are offering American tours, having Charleston as one of its stops.
Today, you can take in Charleston in any number of ways with the many tour companies in town. You can take tours by foot, trolley, or carriage. You can enjoy the many plantation houses open to the public. You can check out the many historical museums found throughout the city. Several times of year you can get lucky enough to take a tour of these lovely historical homes from the inside. The wonderful aromas from wisteria and azaleas can be found in gardens all over Charleston, including the famed Magnolia Gardens. Charleston is a shopper’s paradise. The gamut runs from beautiful antiques to tacky tourist T-Shirts and everything in between.
The arts are alive and well and well represented in Charleston. The Spoleto Festival is a 17-day arts festival brings the best of the arts world to its doors. Jazz, opera, theater, and dance explode in this city every year in May or June. If you can’t get enough, stay for the Picolo Spoleto, which focuses on regional talents, that follows. And the MOJO arts festival celebrated in September celebrates the African-American and Caribbean arts. There are a number of local theater groups. Charleston also boasts the Charleston Ballet Theater, The Robert Ivy Ballet Company, and the Charleston Symphony, all which are amongst the best in the country.
Food connoisseurs will also love this place. The diversity of foods abounds in this city. The regionally specialty is Low Country and Southern cooking. These meals blend both African-American and Caribbean influences. While many people think of fried chicken as the only Southern dish, we have evolved way beyond that. Today, healthy Southern meals can be found all over Charleston. Also make sure to check out some Southern barbeque, especially at Sticky Fingers, which has several locations in Charleston. Since Charleston is near the sea, seafood abounds in this charming city. And many restaurants offer stunning views of the water to go with their fish. Food TV chef and super-cutie Tyler Florence is from here and got his start in several local restaurants. With all the food that abounds, I guarantee you won’t go hungry.
There is not a bad time to visit Charleston. Each season brings its unique charms to this grand lady. Spring is my favorite time, when everything is anew and the gardens are bursting with flowers of every variety. The summer is the busiest, bringing many visitors, and many places extend their hours to accommodate visitors. In the fall, the visitors and intense Southern heat have been replaced by cooler (but still nice) 70°F weather and the luminous colors of the fall sky. In the winter, many snowbirds are enjoying the warmer climate, and you will find fewer crowds that at any other time of the year. Summer, Christmas, and during Spoleto are the busiest times of year and require advance planning.
You won’t find any mega high-rises here or an explosion of theme parks and shopping malls. Charleston charms its visitors with its Southern hospitality, slow-moving pace, and a chance to soak up some history. Chances are you will not be able to see everything in one trip. That is okay, though, as this city has been around hundreds of years and has no plans to go anywhere soon. Once you visit this most charming city, you will already start planning when to come back. For more information on one of my favorite cities to visit, please go to www.charlestoncvb.com.