36 Hours in Charleston, S.C. (Travel article)
36 Hours in Charleston, S.C.
A horse-drawn carriage along Meeting Street.
By CHRIS DIXON
Published: March 11, 2007
Charleston has became a new city in 2005. Once choked off from its northern suburbs by a pair of dangerously obsolete trussed spans, residents can now zip over the Cooper River along the new Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge — a 3.5-mile-long, eight-lane wonder. More than a traffic shortcut, the Ravenel Bridge fundamentally altered Charleston's psychology. Nowhere is this more true than on the bridge's wide bike-and-pedestrian lane. Suburban moms from Mount Pleasant rub elbows with families from gritty downtown Charleston. And Lycra-wearing cyclists whiz past iPod-clutching joggers from the bustling Citadel and College of Charleston. It's a perfect symbol for Charleston, straddling the Old and New South.
1) IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD
While Charleston cannot boast as many oak-ringed parks as Savannah, the four-block Gateway Walk is just as beautiful, with a series of interconnected and semihidden gardens. The walk is lined with moss-laden oaks and takes you past the city's most historically significant churches. Among them are St. John's Lutheran Church (5 Clifford Street, 843-723-2426; www.stjohnscharleston.org), whose building goes back to 1817, and St. Philip's Church (142 Church Street, 843-722-7734; www.stphilipschurchsc.org) whose steeple was once used as a lighthouse.
2) MEET AT MARKET
The intersection of Meeting and Market Streets is dominated by Market Hall, a Greek Revival temple built in 1841 that houses a vibrant open-air mall. The northern end has a number of small, enclosed shops that sell hats, jewelry and Christmas ornaments, while the southern end is filled with jewelers, antiques dealers, painters, potters and weavers who make sweetgrass baskets — an African-American art form that was recently named the state's official handicraft. Noteworthy vendors include Turtle Creek (843-884-7521; www.puzzleboxguy.com), which sells hand-carved puzzle boxes made of cedar, walnut and canarywood (from about $20), and Else Olsen, who sells handmade jade and tiger eye necklaces ($25 to $45).
3) FIND YOUR INNER SNOB
Good food is a big deal in Charleston, and East Bay Street has a glut of exceptional restaurants. Grill 225, Cypress, High Cotton and Magnolias have all garnered accolades, but the spotlight this year is on Slightly North of Broad, better known by its acronym SNOB (192 East Bay Street, 843-723-3424; www.mavericksouthernkitchens.com). The restaurant may be less formal and more intimate than its neighbors, but what sets SNOB apart are fresh ingredients, largely supplied by organic farmers on nearby Wadmalaw Island. Try the local shrimp and grits, made from heirloom corn grown and milled nearby ($14.50). Expect local peach cobbler and peach sangria soon.
4) PIE, CAKE OR WINE
Stroll along picturesque Market Street and end up at Kaminsky's Most Excellent Café (78 North Market Street, 843-853-8270; www.tbonz.com/kam.asp), a boisterous spot for sweets like Toll House cookie pie ($3.95 a slice). For a quieter setting, head farther north to the City Lights coffee shop (141 Market Street, 843-853-7067). It's an intimate spot to unwind with a glass of wine or delicious carrot cake ($4.95).
5) PROPOSING A TOAST
Tropical Toast at Diana's (155 Meeting Street, 843-534-0043; www.tropicaltoast.com) looks fairly plain on the outside, but inside, you'll find a cozy place decorated like a Jimmy Buffett song with a thatch hut bar and palm tree motifs. The breakfasts include currant French toast stuffed with apples or peaches ($7.50 single, $9.79 double), and Eggs Meeting Street ($11.99) — a stack of poached eggs, fried green tomatoes, crab cakes and rémoulade.
6) COUSIN ARTHUR
Named after its dogged champion, a former state senator affectionately known as “Cousin” Arthur Ravenel, the $632 million bridge is a graceful, arching ribbon supported by a pair of 572-foot-tall towers laced with 128 suspension cables. But its beauty belies its strength. The bridge was designed to withstand a 7.3 Richter scale earthquake (like the one that nearly leveled the city in 1886). The real winner is the greenway, popular with bicyclists and joggers. Bike the Bridge Rentals (360 Concord Street, 843-853-2453; www.bikethebridgerentals.com) rents bicycles starting at $15 for three hours.
7) WHY IT'S CALLED PLEASANT
Explore the historic village of Mount Pleasant, settled by colonists in the late 1600s, a mossy and oak-shrouded community that is among the prettiest in the Lowcountry. Historical highlights include the Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church (302 Hibben Street, 843-884-4612; www.mppc.net), which once housed a school for freed slaves, and the Pitt Street Pharmacy (111 Pitt Street, 843-884-4051; www.pittstreetpharmacy.com), which dates back to 1938. Order a cherry Coke float from the old soda fountain ($3.25). Or hop across the Sullivan's Island Causeway for Poe's Tavern (2210 Middle Street, 843-883-0083), a popular lunch spot in an old beach house. Try the spicy yellowfin tuna tacos with pineapple relish ($10.75).
8) GULLAH TOUR
To learn about the culture of Lowcountry African-Americans, hop aboard the Gullah Tours (843-763-7551; www.gullahtours.com) led by Alphonso Brown, a lifelong resident who demonstrates his native Gullah tongue. Mr. Brown displays an encyclopedic knowledge of oft-overlooked sites like the Brown Fellowship Graveyard for Light Skinned Blacks (not to be confused with the Thomas Smalls Graveyard for the Society of Freed Blacks of Dark Complexion just next to it). The two-hour tour meets at Gallery Chuma Art Gallery (43 John Street) and cost $18.
9) HANDBAGS AND OTHER PEARLS
King Street is the city's retail strip, and mixed among the Urban Outfitters and Quiksilvers are local treasures. The chic handbag maker Mary Norton has her flagship store, MooRoo, at No. 316 (843-724-1081; www.mooroo.com). Geo. C. Birlant & Company (191 King Street, 843-722-3842; www.birlant.com) is among the largest of the area's antiques dealers. And Croghan's Jewel Box (308 King Street, 843-723-3594; www.croghansjewelbox.com), which has been in the same family for 92 years, carries an impressive collection of estate jewelry, including Tahitian and South Sea pearls.
10) OAK ON THE MENU
Bring your shopping bags to Coast (39-D John Street, 843-722-8838; www.coastbarandgrill.com), a casual, hip restaurant in a former indigo warehouse. It has open oak grills and tin-roofed booths that draw savvy locals. The menu, which specializes in local seafood, includes a tangy shellfish and watermelon ceviche ($12.95) and daily catches that are grilled and served with sauces like rémoulade or pineapple-chili salsa ($18.50 to $19.95).
11) OLD TOWN IN NEW LIGHT
For a scenic nightcap, head to the popular rooftop Pavilion Bar at the Market Pavilion Hotel (225 East Bay Street, 843-723-0500; www.marketpavilion.com). Order a Paviliontini, made with Absolut Citron, pineapple juices with a splash of orange juice ($7.50), and gaze out over the town's steeples and dark waters of Ashley River. To the north, the illuminated Ravenel Bridge rises above the U.S.S. Yorktown Museum.
12) HEARING BELLS
Old Charleston is made for walking. Start your Sunday constitutional at St. Michael's Episcopal Church (71 Broad Street, 843-723-0603; www.stmichaelschurch.net) and hear the enormous bronze bells ring at 9:40 a.m. sharp. The surrounding streets are residential, and it's easy to imagine what life was like here 150 years ago. A walk along the waterfront will carry you past grand mansions to White Point Gardens (East Battery Street and Murray Boulevard). It was at this oak- and palmetto-lined sanctuary where townspeople watched the first shots fired on nearby Fort Sumter in 1861.
13) AMONG THE DOLPHINS
Charleston may be among the country's oldest cities, but there is still plenty of wildlife nearby. If the sun is out, go sea kayaking along Folly and Sol Legare Creeks, home to more than 250 species of birds. The waters teem with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, which exhibit a fascinating behavior known as strand feeding. Groups of dolphins run schools of shad and mullet out of the water and onto mud flats and then eat them. Coastal Expeditions (2223 Folly Road, 843-406-0640; www.coastalexpeditions.com) has three-hour trips for $58 a person.
Last edited by drake3781; Mar 21st, 2007 at 04:42 AM.