Not too long ago, we took a road trip from Brooklyn, New York to Orlando, Florida. It was interesting, especially with a little-one in the back seat. Often entertaining, at times monotonous, we passed many towns and cities along the way as we scuttled down I-95 S. One city that thoroughly stood out as we made our way deeper south was Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston is beautiful!
Strolling through downtown Charleston, one truly gets a sense of the old south. Immaculately preserved historic architecture proudly bears witness of Charleston's vibrant (and at times dark) past.
On historic Rainbow Row, you'll glimpse 18th century Georgian townhouses.
On gorgeous Battery Row, you'll find towering waterfront mansions.
The city of Charleston has no shortage of public gardens and green spaces. I loved the seemingly tropical surprise of palm trees set against elegant colonial architecture.
Charleston is elegant!
Downtown Charleston is full of dainty and eclectic boutiques. A city on the water, gracious mansions with ornate lighting fixtures pose before the gentle lapping of the Charleston harbor.
Horse drawn carriages carry tourists around town and along rustic cobblestone streets. Charleston knows how to eat!
You will find no shortage of great food in Charleston. From savory barbecue to fine French dining, Charleston has a rich culinary tradition.
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Rue De Jean per my friend Susan's recommendation. Rue De Jean was cozy and intimate. The service was wonderful and our dinner and dessert were spectacular. Despite being a relatively upscale eatery, they were ready for Ohm, presenting him with a high chair and crayons and a gourmet kids menu. They even warmed some milk up for us to go at no extra charge- mamma loves that!
Charleston is a modern city, with a deep and at times dark past.
Charleston is a surprisingly hip and modern city with an old and layered soul.
Modern art boutiques boasting everything from blown glass jewelry to oil paintings depicting the lives of the Gullah people and elaborate polo matches can be found throughout the city.
Locals, stroll the streets with yoga mats slung to their backs, lattes in hand, or on bike. Downtown Charleston is very walkable. As a walkable city, where people spend a lot of time outside, it is also fashionable. This wasn't a sweatpants and sneakers type of place. Charleston loves Vera Bradley. There was a lot of floral- a lot!
Charleston has always fancied itself a fashionable city. It was on the streets of Charleston two centuries ago, where Southern belles donned corsets and parasols and showed off their finest silks and satins. Charleston's past isn't all fashion, mirth and fluff though.
It was at the ports in Charleston, South Carolina where numerous slave ships docked, bringing human cargo from West Africa to the Southern states. Over 40% of slaves brought to the American colonies, passed through Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston's economic survival as a colony and later as a state was secured on the backs of these slaves, most of whom worked the dangerous rice plantations. The reminders are everywhere, from the sprawling plantations, the prominent Gullah culture, the civil war monuments to the Confederate soldiers who perished in "The War of Northern Aggression," and in the confederate flags that defiantly wave beneath the mild blue sky. Dixie devotion runs strong.
Charleston is an interesting city. Progressive and polite at first glimpse, it is an affluent and historic cookie cutter marvel, yet despite the surface polish, one can't help but notice the distinct difference between the haves and the have-nots. Where in many modern cities, you will find diverse groupings of people from a variety of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, downtown Charleston was quite homogenous leaving one to wonder how far this city has truly evolved from its early days.
Overall, the city of Charleston has a lot of strengths. What is Charleston, South Carolina like? It's a living window into America's past.
Charleston is a great city to visit if you're a history buff, a shopper, a foodie or in search of a quick weekend getaway or place to pull off the road during your next road trip!
What are your impressions of Charleston?