Charleston: The Holy City
FUN FACT: I lived in Charleston for 14 years. That sounds crazy when I say it out loud, but it truly is the place that I call home. It’s the city I’ve lived the longest in. It’s also where I grew up and became an adult. And it’s one of the most tremendously charming cities in the world. Yes, WORLD. Conde Nast has voted it the top city in the world on multiple occasions. But when I think back on my time in Charleston, I think of it fondly and with a bittersweet twinge of happiness.
During my time in Charleston, I…
- went to camp for the first time
- got my first dog
- went to the same school for 6th-12th grade
- got my first period (yay womanhood!)
- learned to drive
- went to prom
- graduated high school
- pursued my calling of being a Physician Assistant
- started my blog
- got married to my best friend
But enough about me, let’s talk about Charleston!
Charleston is famous for its history, culture, food, and hospitality. It’s been famously coined the ‘Holy City‘ because of its dense population of churches and worshipping congregations. It was founded in 1670 under the name of Charles Town in honor of King Charles II of England. It’s the oldest city in the state of South Carolina AND the largest city, also formerly the capital of SC. Unfortunately like many southern cities, its history and progress is attributed to the furthering of the slave trade industry. It’s difficult to separate the two when talking about the city’s prosperity and growth. However, recognizing how slavery has played a lead role in the affluence of this city is an integral part to learning and unlearning.
Although I know many people frown upon the idea of visiting a plantation, I’ve found it to be an eye-opening practice. Knowing the truth and working to be better/do better for the sake of equality is a positive byproduct of the South’s inhumane history. I couldn’t recommend a plantation tour more in light of what’s going on in our world and country. You can’t unsee the barbaric living quarters that slaves were subjected to. Charleston is truly a beautiful city full of charm and finesse, but it wouldn’t be what it is today without the subjugation of our black brothers and sisters. So I implore you on your next visit to Charleston to see and experience the good and the bad. Don’t turn a blind eye to the hate and discrimination of the past. Because our history is what makes us human, but our desire to pursue innovation and equality gives us integrity.
So here are my favorite sights and bites in the Holy City of Charleston!
Angel Oak Tree: located on Johns Island within walking distance of the church my dad pastors (St. Johns Parish), this impressive oak tree is approximately 400-500 years old with branches of up to 187 feet in length. Admission into the park is free and it’s a great photo opportunity on your way to Kiawah or Seabrook Island.
The Battery: a Civil War seawall defense that borders the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. Flanked by a number of Antebellum homes, The Battery is an outstanding site for taking in classic Charleston architecture and the waterfront. Take a stroll through White Point Gardens with its beautiful gazebo built in 1907.
Boone Hall Plantation: founded in 1681 by John Boone as a lucrative plantation. It’s one of America’s oldest plantations still in operation today. Famous for its picturesque avenue of Southern oak trees planted in 1743.
Charleston City Market: Charleston’s #1 Most Visited Attraction. Created in 1788 by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney as an open-air market which is now one of the oldest in the country.
Charleston Tea Garden: the only tea garden in North America located on Wadmalaw Island. No admission charge unless you want to take the trolley tour, which I highly recommend. It’s 45 minutes with a great tour of their state of the art greenhouse and grounds.
Charles Towne Landing: located off the Ashley River at the site where the English settlers landed in 1670 to found the city of Charleston. Hop aboard the Adventure, Charleston’s only 17th-century replica sailing ship. See cannons fired and walk the grounds with over 80 acres of gardens and an elegant live oak alley. Don’t forget to take a tour of the Legare Waring House.
Drayton Hall: the only plantation house on the Ashley River to survive both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. An outstanding example of Palladian architecture.
Fort Sumter: a sea fort in Charleston where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The only way to get there is by boat, so bring your sea legs!
Magnolia Plantation: founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, it’s the oldest public gardens in America. Boasting over 900 varieties of camellias, a wildlife refuge, wetlands, and a Slavery to Freedom historical tour, this plantation is a must-see in Charleston.
Nathaniel Russell House
Old Exchange Building
Rainbow Row: 13 colorful historic homes on East Bay Street representing the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States.
South Carolina Aquarium: Home to the deepest tank in North America. With 10,000+ plants and animals on display. The facility also is home to a Sea Turtle Hospital that works in conjunction with the state’s DNR to rehabilitate injured sea turtles and release them back into the wild.
Waterfront Park: located along Concord Street downtown Charleston with 10+ acres of green space to roam. Check out the famous Pineapple Fountain and take a swing along the pier.
City Market, The Battery, Rainbow Row, & Waterfront Park
Charles Towne Landing
Charleston Tea Garden
Butcher & Bee
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Millers All Day
Ms. Rose’s Fine Food & Cocktails
The Park Cafe
Butcher & Bee and Millers All Day
Five Loaves Cafe
Hen and the Goat
Mex1 Coastal Cantina
Boxcar Betty’s, Mex1, Tattooed Moose, & Hen and the Goat
Rodney Scott’s BBQ
Swig & Swine
Lewis Barbecue, Swig & Swine, and Rodney Scott’s BBQ
The Darling Oyster Bar
The Royal Tern
The Royal Tern, The Darling Oyster Bar, Leon’s, Hank’s
39 Rue de Jean
Slightly North of Broad
Wild Olive & 39 Rue de Jean
Brown’s Court Bakery
Off Track Ice Cream
3 thoughts on “City Series: Charleston”
This is great! Nice to hear of the historical context on many of the sites. Looking forward to trying some of these places when we visit Charleston.
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Thanks Alex! Tried to be as comprehensive as possible, definitely feel free to reach out if you need help with any recs for your upcoming trip!