As I mentioned a few posts back, we loved New Orleans. And Savannah was as wonderful as they come. But Charleston – with its Southern charm, deep history, lovely homes, overflowing window boxes and coastal location – it won us over BIG time.
We started our tour of the city with a carriage ride through town.
We learned from our time in Savannah that getting a quick lay of the land and abbreviated history lesson is the best way to be introduced to the city. Our driver was a licensed tour guide who grew up in Charleston and was full of knowledge. I just soak up these types of talks. I could listen all day long. My kids, however, get a little bored so we try to mix it up.
From the carriage I snapped a million photos. It seemed like everywhere I looked there was another perfectly historic home.
Here’s a random thing I learned: all of the homes were built with brick (made at a local brick plantation with slave labor, sadly) but stone was perceived as more en vogue. So the builders covered the brick with plaster or stucco and drew in lines to give the appearance of a stone exterior.
After our carriage tour we walked through the old street market where these sweetgrass baskets are plentiful.
We ate so well in Savannah and had heard such great things about the restaurants in Charleston but we just were not in mood for fancy food that day. It was super hot, the kids needed a less-refined dining experience and so rather than Magnolias where we were planning on doing lunch, we hopped over to Fleet Landing.
The food was good, and the atmosphere was fun and friendly.
Fleet Landing is down on the water where there is a gorgeous park with benches and trees and a couple of fountains.
Next we made our way over to The Old Exchange Building – the old center of town where all of the trade came in and out and where politicians met, entertained and performed business.
The Old Exchange Building now houses a terrific museum. We met a docent who was so knowledgable about the early Colonists, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and how Charleston tied in with it all and he encouraged us to check out the museum.
It ended up being so informative and enjoyable. There is a dungeon under the building that was at one time a prison for pirates, at another a secret storehouse for gun powder while under British control and the whole place was soaked in history.
Outside the Exchange Building is where much of the slave trade occurred. Just standing at the tree marking the square was so gripping. Its so hard to even imagine what those scenes must have been like. A sad part of American history, for sure and for a girl from the Pacific Northwest where slavery feels so removed, it was powerful to hear stories and stand in places where history happened.
We took one more walk through the beautiful streets lined with gracious homes before declaring that we will for sure be back for another visit.
Probably next time without the kids :)
What a lovely city. We truly can’t wait to return.
We were just in Charleston last weekend – we only live about 3 hours away. Had I seen you in Fleet Landing, I would’ve come over and hugged your neck (Greetings from the South!)!! Next time, try Hyman’s and, of course, Bubba Gump’s. Ha!
I’ve enjoyed “travelling” with you! Thanks for all the posts/pictures/comments!
Charleston is the best! Heading there for a conference for the hubs and some R&R in a few weeks. Can’t wait!
Also the home of my favorite band, need to breathe, who have a new album out as of last week!
This is the gal from Iowa who is saying in a kind, gentle, and good way, “I told you so,” after your post about New Orleans. Our first visit to Charleston/Savannah was with our two teen-aged daughters; the second, to Charleston only, as a couple. Both visits were outstanding, but the second one allowed us to peel back that first layer of discovery and truly to “learn” the city. A great trip. The politeness and hospitality of the people of that area made both visits even more enjoyable.
I’m so glad you loved the Holy City. Charleston is one of my favorite places; my husband and I spent our honeymoon there 34 years ago. We moved back home to South Carolina 29 years ago and I’m thankful every day! You’ll have to get a copy of Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure by Idella Bodie, a native South Carolina author, for your children. It’s a great novel; our 5th grade students read it and then take a field trip to Charleston to see the places mentioned. And if you enjoy novels, you must read books by Dorothea Benton Frank and Mary Alice Monroe, both lowcountry authors. Two of my very favorites and both live on Sullivan’s Island.
I miss Charleston. I graduated from the College of Charleston and had incredible college years in the city with lifelong friends. My bridal shower was at Kamiskys.
Charleston has so much history and DEsiGN elements. The second visit we made to Charleston, we rented a house ‘South of Broad’ which gave us a real flavor of living there. Also, as a designer you’ll love the plantations; Boone Hall, Middleton Place, Drayton Hall–there I learned the difference between restoration and preservation. In the art of Johathan Green, you have feel the wind blowing. Then, finally the food: how many fabulous restaurants can you sample? The last time we were there, they were filming a TV series, setting up for Fashion Week, and we ran into Bill Murray at one of the fabulous restaurants I mentioned. Your blog makes me want to go back. I miss it!
Did you camp close to Charleston? If so, would you recommend the campground?
We camped in Mt Pleasant at the KOA. It was a good place and about 20 minutes from Charleston.
My husband and I are from Michigan but he is a Citadel boy. I am convinced that his time in Charleston made him identify as a southerner. We love Charleston deeply.
I recently went to Charleston for the first time and LOVED it as well! I can’t wait to go back. From one historical fiction lover to another, I highly recommend The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd if you haven’t already read it. It takes place in Charleston. :)
I read that … but now that I’ve been to Charleston I’ll have to read it again!
I told you you would love it! We do too!!
CONFESSION TIME. I had a very small vision of America and hoped to visit one day, romanced by pictures of autumn colours, New York not to mention Washington. HOW WRONG was my thinking. I AM SMITTEN! Your family holiday has inspired me, you have taught and showed me so much of your beautiful country! The history, arts and culture.
Thank you for sharing this once in a life time trip with me. I am left inspired.
I am with you, Dawn, and this is my home! I really had no idea how BIG and diverse America is. Please do come visit!
Charleston is my favorite, too!
My husband and I spent a short day and a half there a couple of years ago and loved it for the same reasons you have mentioned. I hate to admit it, but as a northwest girl, the thing that amazed me the most was the southern women’s ability to look fresh and have silky, shiny, bouncy hair in that late-July humidity! I was a frizzy, drippy mess! Our next visit will definitely be during the cooler months–and I’ll pack lots of hats!
This is where I moved from Michigan to in April. Love it!!!
Thank you for your acknowledgement of the slave trade as an important piece of Charleston’s history. It’s such a painful part of the American experience, yet you did not shy away from this uncomfortable subject. Your observations say something about you, Emily. Your compassion shines through!
I am so saddened and fascinated and curious about slavery. I could study and read for days. It’s something that deserves respect and forgiveness and a gentle handling – and I do have so much compassion for those who were made slaves and the families that came after.
If you haven’t read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd- you will love it. It is a must read and having read how much you enjoyed your time learning about the history of our beautiful southern cities I am positive you will enjoy it.
(I have read your blog for a while now but have never commented until now- but feel sure you must read this book!)
Love love love the city so much that this Ohio couple got married there !!! Couldn’t wait to hear what you thought!
Seems certain your tour guide told you something about Charleston Green paint on many of the shutters & doors. If not, here is one of the tellings of the origin of the color. :)
I’ve been to a lot of US cities and Savannah,GA and Charleston, SC remain my top two places! So glad you are enjoying your southeast trip.
Charleston, SC is my absolute favorite city to visit. My husband and I go to Charleston the last weekend in January every year. Our favorite restaurant is Anson which is at the Market next to the barn where some of the horses are and where some of the carriage rides originate. They serve what I consider the best She Crab soup in Charleston and I have had a lot of that dish!!!!! I have been to Savannah but to me nothing beats Charleston. Please do go back again and try places like Bubba Gump’s, Kaminski’s and of course all of the candy stores on the street where the market is located.
KiKi, I agree they have great SheCrab soup but next time you must try 82 Queen’s SheCrab soup. It’s legendary.
Yep, love Charleston, also…but I must stick with Savannah being my favorite….since I lived there for four years as a child. If you go back to Savannah, a great place to stay is Miss Elizabeth’s Inn…like a bed and breakfast……wine and cheese every afternoon. One day we bought grapes at the grocery store and that became our meal. We then just went out for dessert for the evening. I think we should have bought a lot more grapes because someone asked us where we found the grapes! Our bad…It is right down the street from Mrs. Wilke’s boarding house. Discovered my note to you about Mrs. Wilkes was way too late…..you had already come and gone from Savannah. :( Anyway, thoroughly happy for your family’s adventures. As much as I love the south, I am an Arizona girl now. The humidity making the salt harden, items molding and the hair thing..not fun but I love to visit.
Hi Emily! I am a Midwest girl and my husband and I visited Charlesron for our 25th anniversary last Sep and loved it also! We walked All over for 3 days! Loving your posts!
The military brought us to Charleston 7 years ago and we refused to leave! It’s my happy place and I have to pinch myself everytime we go downtown. So glad you enjoyed your visit and you most definitely need to come back. We could eat somewhere different for date night every week and we’d never run out of places! It’s truly an awesome mix of history, beach and southern culture. Xoxoxo
We were there last July, took the carriage ride and I swear I have the same photos. ;) We had kids with us and chose Bubba Gump’s for lunch – we weren’t disappointed! Did you cross the bridge and go to the naval ship? Awesome for sure!
Hi Emily. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your family’s trip across America. I especially enjoyed your review of Savannah, and now of Charleston. Aren’t those window boxes beautiful? My husband and I used to live in Augusta, Georgia, and we often drove to Charleston and Savannah for weekend trips. Both wonderful cities with so much southern charm. If you ever do go back, I highly recommend staying in one of the local Bed & Breakfast. They are wonderful! This all makes me so homesick for the south. We now live in Texas but my husband is actually from Burien, WA and he misses Seattle terribly. I’m a true southerner at heart though. I hope you guys got to try some true southern style “grits”. Thanks for sharing this with us and safe travels!
Oh my! We just moved from Charleston a couple of years ago and I miss it so much!!! There is just no place like it. Next time you go make sure to have a lovely dinner downtown and then walk along the battery and all the little side street south of Broad after dinner. It is like going back in time! Now you’ve made me homesick! ?
I lived there and adore it as much as you do! It truly is the most beautiful city!
My husband and I went to Charleston for an anniversary trip, and it was my favorite, too. I couldn’t get enough of just walking by the gorgeous homes, soaking in their architectural and landscaping details, and the fascinating history within the city. The food was amazing every place we ate–French, southern, foodie, wine and cheese bars. I’m so glad you plan to get back there some time without the kids. It made for an immensely enjoyable anniversary trip!
We live in SC and love being close to Charleston (The Holy City). If you need suggestions on dining, do what we do…ask a local. They will direct you to the less touristy places for the best food. Also, this is another city known for its “ghosts”. Take a night tour for the best frights. Also, ask about the wrought iron work. It is some of the most beautiful to be found.
Charleston just has everything…the beach, the shops, the food, the beautiful architecture, the history!!! Thank you for bringing back some vacation memories:)
When you go back, you and your husband MUST stay at Zero George. I wrote a short post on it a while ago on my blog. We’ve bee twice now.
You actually have a picture of half the outside of Zero George.
Their complimentary European breakfast is luxurious and the in-house restaurant is the best meal you can imagine. Also, their sister restaurant Canon Green is amazing too.
Hi, Emily. It looks like another successful stop on your road trip. Charleston does indeed look historically captivating, beautiful. Your photos make me yearn for a visit.
@ Rebekah, I envy that you now live in Alexandria. I’ve visited a couple of times and fell in love with it. A friend once took me for a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant where a costumed Benjamin Franklin regaled us with stories replete with historic intrigue (so sorry, I don’t recall the restaurant’s name).
My husband and I toured Savannah and Charleston last summer and I relived our trip as I looked at your pictures and read your words! I loved the stories about the pirates :-)
Thank you so much for all of your posts, Emily. To say I’m envious of your experience is an understatement. I’m so happy for you and your family getting to see our beautiful country in this way. I’m doing my own personal “bucket list” based off of your recommendations. Charleston has been on my list for awhile and I’m even more excited about it now! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us!
I was born in the South and have lived here all of my life. The South is rich in history and Southern Hospitality and I am so blessed to live here. I’m so glad that you have found your travels here to be so rewarding. Living here, I sometimes take for granted what I have right outside my front door!
I sure hope that you can come back and visit again when the heat and humidity is not so bad (maybe in December ;).
I have so enjoyed reading about your cross country adventures with your family!
Charleston is wonderful! So many beautiful homes and streets along with all the history! Single houses, joggling benches, homes with walls that are 10″ thick, the basket weavers on the streets that don’t want their photo taken because of the “haints.” And the fact that all of the ironwork is post Civil War restoration because the city took every bit of the original ironwork and melted it down for ammunition…fascinating! Glad you enjoyed your trip. I want to go back again :-)
I have loved following your adventures these last couple months. We just moved to Alexandria, VA last year and have, like you, loved all the rich history of the east coast that you just can’t find in other places. And the architecture… I’ll take old and quaint and historical over new and modern any day. :) Thanks for sharing your lovely travels with us.
Your trip has been TOTAL EYE CANDY! Thanks for sharing!
Beautiful homes! Gosh I love the south!
Her Heartland Soul