© Photos by Sherri Tilley
Susan Pringle Frost, Preservationist and Suffragist
Make new friends, but keep the old.
Charleston, South Carolina | The Holy City
Preservationist and suffragist Susan Pringle Frost founded the Preservation Society of Charleston in 1920 and is, in many ways, responsible for protecting some of the city's oldest landmarks. Her passion for saving old houses from demolition drove an advocacy of early zoning ordinances which brought a marked designation to what ultimately became the nation's first historic district. Unable to complete the renovations on six buildings which had fallen into disrepair after the Civil War, she in turn sold a section of the houses on East Bay Street to Dorothy Porcher Legge and her husband. When Legge painted the homes a pastel pink color reminiscent of a colonial Caribbean color scheme, neighbors followed suit and to this day the Rainbow Row of houses draws delighted tourists from around the globe.
There are so many wonderful things to see and do in Charleston that we suggest breaking up your sightseeing into three stages: driving tours, guided tours, and walking tours.
Upon arriving, we took a preliminary car ride around town to experience outlying locations like Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum (home to a fleet of historic ships), Boone Hall Plantation (where portions of the movie The Notebook were filmed), the Morris Island Lighthouse (now actually sitting offshore), and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (which you should take measures to avoid at rush hour). A late-day stop at BLU Restaurant located within the Tides hotel on Folly Beach provided upscale oceanfront dining, and the nearby 1,045-foot fishing pier was a nice place to casually enjoy coastal views and an ice cream cone afterward.
We wound our way through a scenic tunnel of oak trees on the outskirts of Charleston before pulling into the beautiful Middleton Place, home to America's oldest landscaped gardens. The house museum interprets four generations of Middleton family members, some of whom played prominent roles in colonial and antebellum history including a President of the First Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The estate also features a restaurant, carriage house, 55-room inn, and a touching
Beyond the Fields exhibit on display in Eliza's House which gives a respectful account of the enslaved people who lived and worked on Middleton properties. Other nearby plantations worth visiting also include Magnolia Plantation and Drayton Hall; but plan to stop by during the cool of the day, and be sure to allow plenty of time for reflecting and meandering at an unrushed pace.
Guided tours are a great way to not only see Charleston but to also get a condensed history of the city and its former inhabitants. Our one-hour, fully-narrated Palmetto Carriage Works Tour was led by a very knowledgeable guide and powered by a sturdy pair of mules lovingly referred to as Carter and Cash which conveyed us along one of three possible routes through the history-rich streets of Charleston. We then walked just around the corner to Bulldog Tours for their Savor the Flavors of Charleston Tour, a walking exploration of the local food scene which includes several stops for hearty portions of regional favorites like stone-ground grits, benne wafers, pecan pralines, flavored sweet teas, high-end spices, and more. For an on-water option, SpiritLine Cruises also offers fantastic tours showcasing the Charleston Harbor as well as nightly dinner cruises with live musical entertainment.
Lastly, you're going to want to simply hit the pavement at some point and explore Charleston by foot. Begin in historic downtown on King Street, voted one of 10 best shopping streets in America, where you'll find antique stores and art galleries along with specialty shops and designer boutiques. At the Charleston City Market a few blocks over, you will find a host of local artisans and vendors selling a variety of commercial and handcrafted goods.
From there, we set out on an evening walk starting at Waterfront Park which features a large fountain in the shape of a pineapple, a common motif in Charleston. Strolling south along the water's edge as sailboats cruised nearby, we meandered down the whimsically-colorful Rainbow Row, strolled past wartime monuments in the Battery and White Point Garden, and admired the spectacular architecture of impressive mansions such as the Edmondston-Alston House, The Battery Carriage House, Two Meeting Street Inn (the oldest and most recognized Charleston inn), the stunningly elegant Calhoun Mansion (which offers tours daily), Nathaniel Russell House, John Rutledge House Inn, and more.
Be sure to set aside plenty of time to progressively take in Charleston's celebrated lowcountry cuisine. The city boasts three James Beard award-winning restaurants in Husk, FIG (Food is Good), and the casually-charming Hominy Grill which made us feel right at home with its boiled peanuts, deep-fried cheese grits, and perfectly-seasoned collard greens. We also opted to have a late-night dessert at Kaminsky's Baking Co. where we selected from a variety of freshly-made pastries enticingly on display in the glass case near the front door.
Beginning early morning, Callie's Hot Little Biscuit serves seven varieties of its nationally-recognized handmade biscuits along with accoutrements such as cinnamon whipped butter, pimento cheese, and bacon gravy; and we found Magnolia's to be perfect for an upscale lunch. An afternoon drive out to the Charleston Tea Plantation will yield a one-of-a-kind experience with spectacular views and tastings of the world's second most-consumed beverage, while The Rooftop bar at The Vendue art hotel serves deep-fried Oreos and offers sweeping views of the Charleston Harbor. Highly-suitable recommended options for dining also include Hall's Chophouse, Charleston Grill, Cru Caf?, Grill 225, Slightly North of Broad, Poogan's Porch, Cypress, The Ordinary, Low Country Bistro, McCrady's, and Peninsula Grill which is famous for its 12-layer coconut cake that Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay calls his
all-time favorite dessert.
Overnight guests can experience Charleston like a local at the quietly unassuming 45-room Fulton Lane Inn which is nestled along a quaint alleyway that juts directly off King Street in the heart of the historic downtown district. The low-key hotel is part of the Charming Inns collection of properties which is additionally comprised of the John Rutledge House Inn, Kings Courtyard Inn, Kitchen 208, and the award-winning Circa 1886, one of Charleston's best fine dining establishments. This four-star restaurant, located in the original carriage house of the historic Wentworth Mansion, is ranked among the top restaurants in the United States.
Founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti and Christopher Keene along with others, the Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston's theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces for 17 days and nights each spring. With a mission to present programs of the highest artistic caliber, this internationally-acclaimed event is recognized as America's premier performing arts festival and brings together world-renowned artists and emerging performers in the disciplines of opera, theater, and dance as well as chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz music.
Since completing this tour of the Deep South, people repeatedly ask us which was our favorite city; and we always respond emphatically with a resounding,
Charleston! There is, without a doubt, a reason that Charleston, South Carolina, repeatedly ranks near the top of lists of America's best cities. Resplendent southern charm is evident almost everywhere you look as stately three-story mansions seem to rise from near the water's edge and kiss the sky. Storefront windows of quaint boutiques and antique shops entice a steady stream of casually-strolling shoppers on the cobblestone streets outside, and the rhythmic clip-clop sounds of horse-drawn carriages fill the air adding excitement and expectation to what is already a bustling wonderland of historical architecture in the modern era.
Our full review of the Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited, which was driven on this 3,000-mile trip through six southern states, examines ten unique aspects of the practical yet elegant upscale sedan.
Cutting-edge technology is coupled with a distinctive overall silhouette to convey a type of power and elegance which is unique to the Toyota Avalon. Sharp lines, strong edges, and a sweeping outline are highlighted alongside a chrome-accented grille housing two Quadrabeam headlights which focus light from a single bulb into two individual lenses to help better illuminate the road ahead on dark nights. During the day however, the Avalon Limited's power tilt/slide moonroof with sliding sunshade also adds unmistakable character and a bit of undeniable sexiness ... especially while cruising the sandy beaches and visiting the brightly colored lighthouses that dot the nation's southeastern coastline.
For more information about Charleston, South Carolina, please visit:
Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau