If you enjoy reading books by southern authors like I do, then you’ve probably already been to Charleston, whether your feet have actually touched those cobblestone streets lined with moss-draped oaks or not.
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One of the best-known southern authors is Pat Conroy, whose South of Broad traces the lives of several Charlestonian families from the 1960s through the 1980s. In true Conroy form, the beauty of the city is marred by the personal tragedies his characters face. But their love for this place shines through.
About an hour and a half northeast of Beaufort, Charleston and the Lowcountry are settings for many books by Conroy as well as a number of other southern authors. The sights and scents and personalities woven by these artists draw us into their worlds, and we definitely feel as if we’ve traveled there with them.
Known as The Holy City, probably because of the large number of churches and various Christian and Jewish places of worship, Charleston was voted #2 in Conde’ Nast Traveler’s “Top 25 Cities in the World: Readers’ Choice Awards 2014.” That’s behind #1 Florence, Italy! Quite a distinction! And as you might imagine, there are those who agree and those who disagree. It’s a great city, whatever the number.
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But first, we’ll start with Charleston’s long and diverse history. From the time it was settled in 1670 through the beginning of the Civil War, Charleston thrived as an agricultural hub and busy seaport.
The first shots of the Civil War, fired upon Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861, began a devastating period of destruction.
When the war was over, Charleston didn’t have much in the way of financial resources, so they chose to repair their damaged buildings rather than tear them down and rebuild. These repaired and restored buildings are now part of the National Historic Landmark District, the center of tourist activities.
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Although the 1886 earthquake damaged more than 2,000 buildings in Charleston, and Hurricane Hugo in 1989 damaged or destroyed most of the homes in the historic district, Charleston bounced back each time, repairing and rebuilding the beautiful old homes and buildings, with hundreds or thousands (depending on which resource you read) surviving today.
Historic Charleston is a major tourist destination with cozy bed and breakfasts and inns as well as numerous hotel and motel chains. There are award-winning restaurants, historic hotels, numerous museums and lovely parks. And beautiful beaches are just minutes away.
If you want to know more about the city, there are walking tours, guided tours, bicycle tours, carriage tours, African-American/Ethnic tours, Jewish History tours, ghost tours – just about any kind of tour you can imagine!
In addition to the tourist traffic, Charleston is still an important seaport, as well as a center for medical research. But tourism is probably the main reason people visit historic Charleston.
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Special events are planned almost every weekend, with things like the Palmetto Brewery Loading Dock Concert Series, every Friday and Saturday night through May; the Lowcountry Cajun Festival on March 29. Sherlock Holmes and the Charleston History Mystery continues through August.
An Easter Sunrise Service at Magnolia Gardens is April 5 on the banks of the Ashley River. The Church Street Daughters of the Late Unpleasantness Garden, Gun & Gin Club Mystery, continues through August.
If festivals are your thing, there are lots to choose from! March 27 – 29, there’s the Flowertown Festival. And on April 10-12, you’ll enjoy the World Grits Festival! April 17 – 19 there’s the East Coast Paddlesports and Outdoor Festival. And from March 19 – April 19, be sure to check out the 68th Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens.
April 10 and 11, you can enjoy the 80th Annual House and Garden Tours. Proceeds from this event benefit the Charleston community, helping maintain many of the historic areas.
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There are lots of different home and garden tours, so you’re sure to find one that suits your schedule and interests!
You might also enjoy the 15th Annual Kiawah Art and House Tour on April 10, where you’ll get a rare peek at the art and architecture of five private homes in this gated community. There’s also the 11th Annual Blues by the Sea on Kiawah Island on April 12. It’s free!
And there’s the Reggae Nights Concert Series starting on April 17 and continuing through July. Bob Dylan is even appearing in concert on April 17, but I’m not sure you can still get tickets. Party at the Point begins on April 27 and continues through June. And on April 26, there’s the Old Village Home, Garden and Art Tour.
So whether you like to just stroll down the tree-lined streets, looking at the gorgeous homes and watching the ships in the harbor, or taking a tour of fabulously restored buildings, or listening to live music, or enjoying an evening of theatre, there’s so much to see and do in Charleston. Let us know what your favorite spots and events are!