As the second largest city in South Carolina (Columbia, the capital is first), Charleston’s population is 107,845 residents. Charleston’s location makes it a regional hotspot drive-market for tourists from the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia. Its cruise port lures the world’s most esteemed Cruise brands, including Celebrity, Holland America, Regent Seven Seas and Princess. Visitors can also take a short boat ride to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. A growing influx of history buffs and foodies nationwide scurry to the town known for its historic inns, B&Bs, military forts and award-winning “low-country” cuisine. The historic district showcases buildings dating back before the Revolution, with many from the late 18th to early 19th centuries.
High-dollar shopaholics will be more than satisfied by the town’s outlay of retail therapy. And to satisfy those on the souvenir list, there’s the five-block Old City Market, offering a plethora of local foods, crafts, artifacts and casual garb. Golfers can get in the swing of things too, on over a dozen courses sprawled throughout the area. It’s no wonder that tourism is Charleston’s largest industry.
Craves Soul Food, a family-owned and operated catering company, serves Gullah/Geechee Soul Food that upstages that of any restaurant in Charleston. Though the family specializes in the greens, sweet potatoes and fixings that their ancestor’s grew in the area, they’ve catered functions for companies nationwide, including conventions and employee appreciation luncheons. www.cravessoulfood.com
No need for a cab. You can easily navigate downtown Charleston by foot. If you get tired of walking, jump on a bus, trolley or horse-drawn carriage.
Pack your binoculars and your walking shoes.Birding tours and activities such as canoeing in the marshes and fly-fishing are available on Kiawah Island, about 45 minutes south of Charleston. In Charleston, you’ll need your flats to traipse downtown’s boutiques, parks, shops and historic buildings.
Spend a few cozy nights at Charleston’s five-diamond Wentworth Mansion, (www.wentworthmansion.com), a 21-room luxury property that oozes authentic antebellum appeal. The 24,000-square-foot storied downtown mansion was originally built as a Second Empire Victorian family home in 1886 by a wealthy cotton merchant. For a workout, climb the spiral staircase to the top floor of the Wentworth Mansion. On the cupola deck, you’ll take in 360-degree views of the city’s quaint tin rooftops, lush parks and the sea beyond. Beach bums can dart over to Sanctuary at Kiawah (KEE-a-wah) Island Golf Resort for a totally different experience. Kiawah Island earns its name from the Native American tribe who lived there during the 1600s. The waterside resort unfolds a 150-room inn, five championship golf courses, two award-winning tennis complexes, a 21-acre Night Heron Park, three pool complexes, and 500 villas and luxury private homes.
The Charleston area offers countless eateries for biz execs to gather for “food for thought.” For a one-on-one business lunch, the quaint, open-air 82 Queen is ideal. (www.82queen.com) Then, for top dinner destinations (not open for lunch), there’s the intimate and historic Circa 1886. (www.circa1886.com) Or, take a leisurely drive to The Ocean Room at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. (www.kiawahresort.com/dining/ocean-room.php) A parting tip: Order fried green tomatoes any place they’re offered — I’m hooked. She-crab soup is another local must-do.
Magnolia’s Restaurant is the go-to spot for an unrivaled taste of the South. After devouring an appetizer of fried green tomatoes over grits, with local goat cheese and tomato chutney, followed by Pan Seared Sea Scallops, it was difficult to make my exit.
You’ll smell like a delectable dessert and your limbs will be as limp as Jell-O after The Avocado Coconut Wrap at the luxurious nature-based Sanctuary Spa at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. First, I was drenched in a hydrating body mask of luscious avocado butter blended with omega-rich coconut oil which was massaged into my skin. Then, a mini facial massage and scalp massage was icing on the cake. www.kiawahresort.com/accommodations/the-sanctuary/
Footloose & Fancy-Free
Charleston was once the capital of Southern slavery, and no visit to the area is complete without a tour of its many plantations. As a humbling reminder of how far the country has come, stop by Magnolia Plantation. You’ll explore four original slave cabins, as well as a neighboring cemetery. (www.magnoliaplantation.com) The Aiken-Rhett House, a former governor’s mansion built in 1818, offers an audiotape tour of the house and its slave quarters. www.historiccharleston.org
Thanks to our friends at the Charleston Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and other tourism destinations, for providing data, facts and figures for this article. www.charlestoncvb.com AT