Fun In Charleston
Recently we moved away from Charleston, a place we’d called home the previous five years. It’s funny to think that I somehow found myself calling Charleston home again. Previously, I’d spent two years in the early 90’s stationed at the Naval Station in Charleston. Back then I wasn’t much older than my oldest child is today!
I was excited at the prospect of moving back to Charleston after so many years away. With only a little effort, I found I was able to pick right back up where I had left off. Many of the places I wanted to re-visit were still there and area’s I had never been to were full of exciting new opportunities.
This return to Charleston allowed me to have two different experiences in the same city at two different times in my life. I found a lot of my favorites from earlier in life were still my favorites now. I was also able to add more favorite places things to my list that I’d never had the chance to experience before.
Reflecting on my two different experiences living in Charleston gives me a pretty good perspective on what the city has to offer. What I’ve done is put together a list of some of things I miss most dearly now that I no longer live there. I’ve tried to highlight portions of life in Charleston and the surrounding area that make any visit worth the trip.
1. Boone Hall Plantation
Located in Mount Pleasant, this is the definitive old school southern mansion from the old days. As you approach the home, you are given a picturesque view of large oaks lining the drive up to the plantation. However, the beauty doesn’t stop there. An all-inclusive fee gives you the chance to tour the house, gardens, and even the slave quarters. The entire estate is spread out over several acres and is easy to explore thanks to the plantation’s open-air tour bus.
2. Kiawah Island
This is a barrier island that boasts a cute little town with both private and public beaches. The public beach is known as Beach Walkers and is my favorite beach in the whole Charleston area. The beach is about a forty-five minute drive from Charleston and totally worth the time spent getting there. Apart from the pristine beaches and the beautiful little downtown area, Kiawah has several miles of bike paths perfect for exploring with family and friend.
3. Cypress Gardens
Located in Monk’s Corner, thirty minutes outside of Charleston, this garden preserve contains a large variety of attractions perfect for the entire family. The largest appeal of Cypress Gardens is the black water swamp, which is the pride and joy of the attraction. Every visitor has the chance to enjoy a boat ride on the swamp along with a visit to both the butterfly and reptile houses. There are also a number of walking paths that surround the swamp. You are certain to catch a glimpse of a few alligators while also taking in the beauty of this attraction. Famous movies like The Patriot and The Notebook were filmed at this location due to its incredible scenery.
4. Charlestown Landing
The first permanent settlement of the English in Charleston, this preserve hosts a replica ship from the 1600’s, an animal forest that houses native North Carolina animals, colonial houses and gardens. The walking and biking trails weave throughout the property and give a bird’s eye view of the river intertwining the history of the site with the beauty of the area.
5. Mt. Pleasant
Mt. Pleasant is my favorite town in the entire Charleston area. It’s simply adorable and has that small town feel while still maintaining all the comforts of a larger town. The shopping centers are amazing and the park near the sound is a real treasure. And best of all, it is only a five minute drive to the closest beach, the Isle of the Palms.
6. Open Air Market
No trip to Charleston is complete without a visit to the open-air market. This piece of land was first stipulated as the city’s market back in 1788 and has remained the same ever since. It is an eclectic collection of vendors from almost any industry a person could ask for.
7. Patriot’s Point
Home to the USS Yorktown, this vessel houses a maritime museum and the Medal of Honor museum. Located on the Cooper River in Mt. Pleasant, Patriot’s Point is more than just a large aircraft carrier though. Visitors can visit a destroyer, a submarine, and get a feel for what the Vietnam experience was like. It is certainly a must see for anyone to pay homage to those that have served and paid the ultimate sacrifice and to get a glimpse into the life of a veteran.
8. Rose’s Fine Food and Cocktails
I had to include our family’s favorite place to eat on this list. Only a couple miles from Charlestown Landing, this restaurant serves all the comfort foods of the South with an elegant twist. A fabulous brunch is served on Sundays. The prices are reasonable and the food is better than you’d ever imagined.
9. Waterfront and Battery
I combined these two areas though they are actually two different landmarks. The Battery is the seawall defense that runs the length of downtown Charleston. The Waterfront is a twelve-acre park that over looks the Cooper River and the scary as hell Ravenel Bridge that connects Charleston to Mt. Pleasant. This is home to a large Pineapple fountain, indicative to South Carolina. Both areas are both beautiful and peaceful and have some really captivating views.
10. Charleston Museum
This eccentric museum is the oldest museum in the United States. Along with admission to the museum, membership includes the ability to access the Hayward-Washington House whose owner signed the Declaration of Independence and housed George Washington when he visited Charleston. The Joseph Manigault house is a prestigious piece of history in Charleston that showcases a Federalist style home.
11. The South Carolina Aquarium
This is a family favorite. The exhibits often change so even frequent guests can enjoy a different experience each time they visit. Some of the highlights of this aquarium include a 385,000 gallon, two-story ocean tank that houses a two hundred plus pound sea turtle who goes by the name Caretta. With daily dive shows and exhibits that showcase the geography of South Carolina, the aquarium is by far a must see for any family.
12. Morris Island Light House
Located on Folley Island, the half mile walk out to this light house will give you time to really take in the surroundings the beauty the beach offers. I have several pictures of us at Morris Island Light House that are some of my absolute favorites. You need to be aware that there is absolutely no swimming permitted here due to the rip tides.
13. Rainbow Row
This historic site boasts thirteen row houses, the longest consecutive cluster. It is located on Tradd Street (anyone who is a fan of Karen White books will recognize that famous street from the book The House on Tradd Street).
As I look back on the last five years my family had called Charleston home and add in the two years I lived there previously while in the Navy, I know I was lucky. Charleston is a beautiful city rich with history and if you get a chance to visit, please do. Do yourself a favor and make a stop by Summerville (the town we called home) on your way out of Charleston, which is the birthplace of sweet tea then enjoy a hot dog at Perfectly Franks, for me.